Early one fall morning I admired the bright red apples on one of my brother’s trees.

He said that they were Mr. Caddy’s apples. Although Mr. Caddy died 93 years ago, we are rural so he is still a real person who is often a subject of our conversations. Although I can pretty well tell you where all of my apples came from, I didn’t know that my brother had grafted a scion from Mr. Caddy’s tree. While we were talking, I picked an apple and ate it – while thinking that Mr. Caddy’s daughter was the midwife who facilitated my delivery in 1936. Over 70 years ago I ate many of Mr. Caddy’s apples.

When you have always lived within sight of where you were born, you can’t even eat an apple but what you think, “This Black Oxford came from a graft I got from Forrest Wall.” Another apple might have come from a tree that belonged to Winslow Robinson or Reggie’s great-great-great-grandfather. It is important to know these things. One should record the provenance of all of one’s fruit trees. Tell the grandchildren everything you know about each tree every chance you get.

I like apples in all forms and was understandably upset when Nick told me that my favorite orchard owner in Thomaston got busted for in cider trading.

Johnny Appleseed always impressed me. You’ve seen pictures of him poking holes in the ground with a stick as he drops apple seeds. When I bought my farm in 1970 I didn’t need to plant apple seeds, as there were dozens of wild apple trees in the woods and back pastures. The trees in the fields were cut down or transplanted; I grafted Baldwins or Wolf Rivers on trees in the woods.

A friend with a backhoe dug up 28 or so of the small wild apple trees and planted them in rows behind my house. Each tree was around 1 inch in diameter and had a good start because it was transplanted with a lot of soil. In early spring I cut them off close to the ground and grafted them with Cortland scions that I got from UMaine’s Highmoor Farm.


A need for apple trees might be in my genes. Around 1895, when my Grandfather Gilchrest built the house I was born and brought up in, he planted apple trees on three of his four property lines. I also remember a pear tree and a plum tree that produced huge plums until I was an adult.

Plums do not do well on my farm, nor do cherries. I planted several plum trees and finally cut them down because of some kind of black knot. Only three houses down the road, my brother’s plums do well, probably because he snips off any infected branches before the plant disease has a chance to spread.

Grandfather Gilchrest had strawberry apples, an early soft apple, which I grafted onto several of my trees. He had a winter apple called Senators, which have also thrived on several of my trees. When I was a kid people were likely to put a barrel of rock-hard Senators in the cellar because they’d last well into the winter. I heard tell that my grandmother would use only the bruised fruit that had started to spoil, but Grandfather said, “Take the best and you’ll have the best.”

Johnny Appleseed was really an astute and prosperous pomologist, who made a name for himself by starting apple orchards in Pennsylvania. About half of the 28 Cortlands that I grafted were destroyed by my sheep, so I now know that Appleseed’s new orchards must have been well-fenced or animals would have gnawed or pushed his trees down to the ground. Because of the misleading illustrations in schoolbooks, for years I had the mistaken impression that he wandered about aimlessly, simply sticking apple seeds in the ground.

This is why any mention of Appleseed still brings to my mind a young man in Kittery who was charged with abandoning a child he fathered. Once in court it was discovered that an identical charge had been filed against him in Fort Kent – and that both children had been born on the same day. A very indignant judge scowled down at him from behind her bench and said, “How could you do such a thing?”

Whereupon, the defendant’s lawyer jumped to his feet and said, “He has a motorcycle, Your Honor.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:


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