A Little Something About Johnny Applseed
My fiance and I are fairly new to Hollywoodland, having only lived here for a little over a year. But, we’re excited that this movement is happening and we’re excited to be a part of it. My contribution to this blog will be an attempt at learning and conveying some history about the Hollywoodland community, agriculture in general, and/or wherever else the journey may take me. I am, by no means, a history expert. But, I am certainly someone who likes to dig and find where things come from. Being new here, I am open to any and all ideas. So, if you have any good places to start digging (any books to read or sites to visit- online or in real life), or some great anecdotes, I’m all ears.
For now, though, I can think of no better historical tidbit than this one:
Our nation comes from a deep-seeded respect of community and sustainability. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better personification of that than the life of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. In fact, he was born just as the United States was being born (around the time of the Battle of Bunker Hill). But, through the creative paintbrush of legend, many people have a somewhat distorted vision of Johnny. At best, hs is depicted as a pan-helmeted renegade guerilla who hurled appleseeds like grenades upon an unsuspecting public. And, at worst, he’s seen as a mischevious colonial version of Dennis the Menace, throwing seeds all over his neighbor’s porch while a powdered-white-hair-wigged Mr. Wilson shook his fist in the air and shouted, “APPLESEED!”
And, as fun as that is, it is not the real Johnny Appleseed. In fact, the real Johnny Appleseed was much more amazing. He did not chuck appleseeds willy-nilly. He was a few steps ahead of other pioneers and would try to predict where they would settle. When he found a suitable place, he planted seeds, built a fence around the area to protect it from animals, and waited. And, when settlers finally arrived, he would have young apple trees ready to sell. When Autumn came, Johnny would entrust the care of the nursery to a local person until he could return again. And he would go back to his home orchards in Allegheny county for more seed. Then, by the following spring, he would revisit all the nurseries he had started throughout the country, repair fences, and help with problems. In the end, he planted over a hundred thousand square miles of apple orchards in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. His whole operation was one of community and sustainability.
Even one of our country’s most notable loners knew that the only way to root into the Earth as a human was to sink yourself into community and leave something to pass on to the future.
*Special note: Another historical clarification about Johnny Appleseed is that, during his time, apples were not grown for eating. Apples grown from true seed tend to be bitter and close to inedible. Sophisticated grafting and patience are needed to make edible apples. But, what the people of Johnny Appleseed’s era did use apples for was to make a delightfully fermented cider. Yep, Johnny made sure each and every town and community in the wilderness of early America had some spirits to drink. Talk about community and sustainability!
You can find all of this and much more in Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany Of Desire (you can also find a nicely abbreviated version here).