In the acre lot on which I grew up, Papa planted many apple trees. He was a preacher, but deep in his heart there was a yearning to till the soil and harvest the fruit of the land. Our yard was a virtual Garden of Eden overflowing with vegetation of every kind—including Papa’s beloved apple trees. We had Jonathan Apple, Macintosh Apple, Crabapple, Red Delicious Apple, Cortland Apple, Red Rome Apple, Japanese Apple, and three or four other kinds of apples I have blocked from memory.
Papa practiced thriftiness and each and every apple—picked fresh, fallen to the ground, wormy or bird-pecked; each one, had to be saved. They were eaten raw or cooked up as applesauce or in pie but most were just canned and lined up in never-ending rows of shiny mason glass jars jam packed with apples.
Each apple had to be processed which meant that every summer thousands of apples had to be peeled, cored and cut, by my sister and I. Oh, I really hated those apples but I was the fastest Apple Peeler and Chopper in the state of Minnesota. Nothing could end the eternal March of the Apple.
But despite the hard work that came with such a bountiful crop of apples, I learned to love gardening with Papa. We spent many hours in the sunshine, sometimes in silence and other times just talking about life as we dug our hands deep into the earth. He taught me everything I know about growing strong and healthy tomatoes, cucumbers, chili peppers, beans, eggplants, even roses. And of course; Apples.