Johnny_Appleseed_1972_post_card

My eyes are burning. I don’t know exactly why. It could be allergies, but it’s raining right now, so that seems unlikely… Who knows? I’m going with my standard home remedy – cheap red wine. The stuff I’m drinking now claims to be Cabernet Sauvignon. It came in a large glass bottle with a cute little screw top, for freshness and convenience. It might be working. I say “self,” you say “medicate!” On a count of three…

The oaks have their leaves again. This amazes me every year. One day the trees are bare and ominous, the next they are joyous, and sprouting pale, green foliage. I’m trying to enjoy the magic spring brings along with it, but sometimes all I see is grass; grass growing six inches a day, grass that needs to be mowed. I curse my suburban upbringing and a certain segment of our society’s ridiculous obsession with well-manicured lawns and crystal-clear swimming pools. Life isn’t well manicured, and it isn’t crystal-clear. Imagine the time we spend, collectively as a society, simply edging the sod where it butts against our immaculate, concrete borders. Don’t put your control issues, and your fear of the unknown, on me. Ah, but it’s too damn late – the issues are there. The growing grass freaks me out. I thank potential God everyday that I don’t have a swimming pool. The scars from my childhood run deep.

We have a cider orchard. I guess right now it’s more of a mini-orchard – we’ve only got about ten trees right now. Seven were grown from seed, so we have no idea what they will produce. Modern apples, like those you get in the store, are all hybrids, meaning different varieties were crossed to come up with the type that produces the desirable fruit. The hybridized variety is then cloned so it retains its characteristics such as color, flavor, and size. This is a form of genetic engineering that has been going on for centuries. When you plant the seeds from an apple, the ensuing tree will revert to an earlier genetic type – sometimes an ancient, wild variety. The nice thing about this, from our point of view, is that many of these early varietals produce a fruit that is very good for making cider.

The other three trees in the mini-orchard are meant specifically to produce cider apples. One is a type that allegedly comes directly from old Johnny Appleseed, a historic figure who has attained mythic status. Often portrayed as an altruistic nature-boy, it turns out Mr. Appleseed, born John Chapman, established apple nurseries in areas where he knew settlers would soon be moving to, and then may have leased the trees to cider producers. Depending on the sources you choose, Chapman was either a hippie or an entrepreneur; a gentle animal-lover or a misogynistic zealot. He was born in 1774, and it is impossible to know with certainty the truth regarding his life and temperament. In this case we’re only talking about a couple of hundred years and some change; imagine the distortions that occur with the passing of millennium.

But I digress. The truth doesn’t have much to do with words anyway. Words represent, truth is. I’ve been reading too much Lao-Tzu, and the medicine seems to be working. My eyes are still burning, but I feel fine.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.