Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Johnny Appleseed’s a Liar
Last night I attended a lecture on…wait for it….tree fruit gardening. It went over the finer points of growing fruit trees, different types of pests, fungus, and disease that destroy fruit crops, and how to go about growing healthy, productive fruit bearing bushes and trees. I was surprised by the number of people who attended (maybe 40), figuring that maybe it’d be me and a couple retirees in their 70’s. The gentleman that gave the talk was a master gardener at fruit growing, having worked for the Plymouth County Cooperative Extension for over 40 years, not to mention having an enormous backyard and fruit crops of his own his entire life. The fact that he was 84 was encouraging, especially since his recommendation for caring for apple and pear trees consists of spraying them with chemicals and oil every two weeks from before bud bloom until right before harvest. Apparently eating, spraying, and breathing those chemicals for 84 years has only acted as a preservative, ‘cause he looked pretty good. Except for the small fact that as the evening went on he would forget the names of the disease, or the pests, or the chemical used to combat it.
Him: “And here’s a slide of some apples that have been damaged…oh what’s the name of that….it’s that one called….see those marks there….see how there are brown spots right there….well, hmmm… I can’t remember it, but there it is…a damaged apple.”
I’m not trying to make fun of him (I have grandparents too), but for those of us taking notes, knowing what exactly the disease was called would have been helpful. (Question to self: “Forgetfulness a result of age or chemical inhalation?” hmmm…)
I’ll skip the rest of the meeting which was informative, but not as much as it could have been. At the end of the slideshow, they opened it up for questions. I asked about pruning large established fruit trees, others asked about fertilizing your blueberries, and still others asked about cherry flies, maggots, and winter moth. I live a very exciting life.
Then I raised my hand to ask—what apparently was—a stupid question.
“So when you were establishing your orchard, did you always order your trees from a nursery, or did you ever grow them from seed?”
His face lit up with a smile like he just heard a bathroom joke from his 5-year old great granddaughter and he laughed, “You don’t grow apple trees from seed! You graft them. No, no. Not from seed.” And he’s still chuckling and a few others in the group from the Traditionalist Generation are chuckling and elbowing each other as if to imply, “What a cute question! Apple trees grown from seed! HaHaHa!”
I was waiting for someone to come up to me and pinch my cheeks, exclaiming “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!”
So. Apple trees are not grown from seed, they are grafted. They had to have come from seed at some point, didn’t they? Are all the apple trees in the whole world some grafted descendent from the first apple tree ever? And did God just plunk down that apple tree along with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? I don’t remember any biblical stories on how the apple tree got there, just that it caused a lot of trouble once it did.
And what about Johnny Appleseed? According to the canon of American folklore, good ‘ol Johnny spread his seed across the country (apple seed that is—get your minds out of the gutter). Did he really go grafting his trees from coast to coast, but since it’s hard to illustrate a vagrant boy carrying lots of sticks and a pocket knife and much easier to illustrate a bag of seeds needing no weapon, did they change the story line?
I AM NOW QUESTIONING MY ENTIRE CHILDHOOD FORMATION!
Johnny Appleseed was either a liar, his publicist was a liar, or the very knowledgeable man giving the talk last night is a liar. I don’t know what the answer is, but maybe someone will shed light on the subject for me next Saturday, when I attend my second lecture on…wait for it….pruning fruit trees.
I’ll let you know how it goes.