Guest Post: “Apples Are Folkloric” by Steven Aultman
September 6, 2022
The following is a beautiful creative essay by one of our amazing Carterhaugh community members, Steve Aultman. He shared it at our most recent salon event (which you can join by clicking here) and said that it was inspired by our most recent course on Folklore and Resistance. We loved it so much that we asked if we could make it a guest post!
Apples are folklore-y. Ask Snow White. Ask red-haired Connla. Ask Bran, or the Goddess Idunn. Or Morgan le Fay, or Merlin. And there was that incident with Adam and Eve, way back when. I grow apples. Growing apples is an act of resistance.
It’s resistance to an industrial food system that produces perfect apples, shiny and waxed, that have been sprayed with malathion, or worse. It’s resistance to a system that imports apples half-way around the world, north or south, east or west, to keep them in the supermarkets year-round, out of season.
I grow apples, organically. Growing organic apples is an act of resistance.
I ate an apple right off the tree today, a tree in my Enchanted Forest Garden. It did not suck. It was, in fact, perfect. Sweet, juicy, and unblemished in any way. To me, it was a miracle. It made me feel happy.
You see, I have been waging a multi-generational battle with a pest called the codling moth. Not multi-generational in the sense that my ancestors have been fighting it, too. But in the sense that the codling moths mate, lay eggs, and die, right here in my elfin orchard, three or four generations a year. These nasty little dark faeries want to lay their little eggs, all over the tender skin of my enchanted apples. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the flesh of the apple, leaving a trail of frass when they come back out, to fly, mate again, and complete the cycle. I have been fighting those moths with one hand tied behind my back. Because you don’t put on Sauron’s ring.
I grow apples because reasons:
Because my first apple tree, planted when I was a kid in my mom’s back yard, got cut down before its time. Trauma.
Mom didn’t want anything blocking her line of site to the pool. She and dad loved the pool back then.
That pool cost me three trees: a shady fruitless mulberry, that got removed so the bulldozer could get through to the backyard to dig the pool. Trauma.
That old apple tree, which got too big for my mom’s comfort, ‘cause she needed to “see the pool,” or she didn’t want “leaves in the pool.” Trauma.
And a living Christmas tree that I bought and planted, in an act of green rebellion. Trauma.
But the main reason I grow apple trees is folklore-y. Because apples evoke Avalon. And apples are magical. And apples can be made into cider. But mostly, because cider can be made into wassail, and wassail is my most heart-felt tradition of them all. Homemade wassail, from home-grown apples, with home-grown friends. Healing. Healing. Healing.
“I hope that your apple trees prosper and bear, so we may have cider when we come next year.” Here’s to your health.
Once upon a time, Steven Aelfcyning Aultman read J.R.R. Tolkien, and was transported beyond the fields we know. Captivated, he went on to study medieval history, folklore, and fantasy role-playing at UCLA.
He entertained time-travelers at the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire for over a decade, singing folk songs and dancing with big sticks, whilst wearing an outrageous bycocket and a leather coat. Rumors of a leather purse containing a groat are greatly exaggerated.
Steve tends to the Enchanted Forest Garden, and lives with his wife, Lori, and his familiar, Finley, in Kensington, California.