Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Apple a Day

 Repost from September, '07:
Tomorrow, September 26th, is the birthday of Johnny Appleseed!

Born John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusettes in 1774, Johnny Appleseed is one of the American legends, that unlike Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, was a real, live human being. And the fact is that what we imagine of his personna is perhaps a humble understanding instead of an exaggeration!

This was an amazing man! He started out on his westward journey in 1801, heading west across the Ohio territory with the express purpose, just as the story goes, of planting orchards. With his packet of seeds and a pack on his back, and, as some legends go, barefoot and with a pot on his head, John Chapman set out to bring to the pioneers of the west the goodness and health of this wonderful fruit.

It's often imagined that individual trees were actually planted by Johhny Appleseed, but, in truth, his aim was more particularly to provide the seeds to the western settlers, as their faithful tending would be needed to bring the seeds to seedlings and the seedlings to bearing trees. He had also planted nurseries of his own in Northwestern Ohio. The caretakers he left in charge sold the apple trees on shares and Johnny would return every couple of years to retrieve his profit and check on his trees. Though he was not interested in being a millionaire, and if he were, his bad bookkeeping would have prevented it anyway, the small amount of money he made kept him afloat.

John Chapman was the first to see the need to introduce these trees to the west. Did you know that it was a requirement in America at the time of westward expansion that homestead claims have an orchard? The apple tree isn't native to this country and had only come to the American eastern coast from Europe with the first settlers. The pioneers didn't have seed catalogues from which to order, of course. So, it was a mission of far-seeing charity that motivated Johnny.

It appears from early accounts of his life, that John Chapman was a welcome visitor wherever his westward wanderings brought him. Though he was quite an eccentric ~ a vegetarian who, more often than not, dressed in rags ~ he was known for being a gentle spirit, as well as a generous one, and apparently had more than one brush with heroism. He is known to have been an intermediary between settlers and Indians, solving various disputes. One story goes that during the war of 1812, when Johnny was in Mansfield,Ohio, the murder of a local merchant gave rise to fears of an iminent Indian uprising. Johnny, with all the walking he had done, seemed to have developed the swiftness and stamina of a marathon athlete, as he volunteered to run to the nearest town, Mount Vernon, to get help. This was a 26 mile run!

Johnny planted his first orchard near Licking Creek (Yeah, that's really the name!), Ohio, and I haven't been able to find if there are actually any more of his orchards or original trees in existence. If anyone knows of any, please let me know!

But you can get a graft from original Johhny Appleseed stock at raintree nursery. How cool would that be?

To celebrate the day, I think we'll go up the street to the farmstand and get some of the apples grown up the hill from us ("Honey Delicious"----SCRUMPTIOUS!), and make some baked apples, using Clarice's recipe over at Storybook Woods.

I think we may try Dawn's apple stencil idea at By Sun and Candlelight. The Littles may even be able to manage this one and a good time and a mess will be had by all (I say this with a smile on my face, really!).

I hunted around and found a fun, educational 'puter game called Bad Apple for the children to play as a treat. And maybe we'll go outside and see if we can find any apples on our 100% organic (read: "full of worms") apple tree to eat or make into applesauce.

It's good to be homeschooling again, so I'm spurred to do all this fun stuff! (*Lisa in 2011 -- misses doing all these things with all her children around her...)

Happy Johnny Appleseed Day, everyone!

Here is a sweet and simple little prayer to end with -- attributed to the original Mr. Appleseed.

Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.

(Is there a candy bar holiday coming up??)


eileen said...

My inlaws once had a home in "Apple Valley" (a vacation/lakefront community) Ohio, right outside of Mount Vernon. They had said the name came from the fact that Johnny Appleseed came through there, but I never heard the entire story...thanks for the history lesson :) !

davisfarmmom said...

&:o) Love to learn this stuff, too... My pleasure!

auntie said...

How appropriate that I am eating apples as I read this. Johnny Applesead is a favorite around here. Now is the time for us to get the apple press out of storage and make homemade cider!

Natalie said...

Oh wow! I didn't know that apples weren't native to America. I wonder now how the saying "American as Apple Pie" came to be. Thanks for sharing Lisa!