There really was a Granny Smith

images 2In case you were worrying that this most popular of apple varieties was named as a marketing stunt, you can relax now. Granny Smith was real. And she was really cool.

Maria Ann (Windsor) Smith, who was born in England in 1799, emigrated to Australia with her husband, Thomas, a farm laborer, and their five children, in 1838. They built a successful farm and orchard, and had another child. They may have been illiterate.

There are several colorful stories about Maria’s discovery of a new apple, a mutation that occurred in a cross between a crab apple and a domestic apple. What is not in dispute is that she was 68 at the time, her husband was an invalid, and she did the work to both cultivate and claim the new variety.

Smith died two years later; so did not get to see the success of her apple. Because it kept well, was slower to turn brown, and was excellent for cooking, it quickly gained international popularity. By 1975, 40 percent of Australia’s apple crop was Granny Smiths.

Because the Granny Smith was a mutation, the seeds grow into a more tart apple with less appeal. So most apples are direct descendants of the original Smith tree. Australia celebrates with an annual Granny Smith festival, complete with Festival Queen and fireworks.


Silly old songs

IR-443.1LThere is a certain category of song that somehow slipped my mind all the time that I was a parent, but has bubbled up through my grandmother brain. These are tunes that I learned as a child. At the time, they were laughably out-of-date. Now they are quaint. We are probably talking 1920s and ‘30s. They send the kids into peals of laughter every time.
One of the best is Go On Home; Your Mother’s Calling:

Go on home; your mother’s calling
Your father got stuck in the garbage can.
Go on home; your mother’s calling
They’ve come to collect your old man.

A second verse involves the dad getting stuck in the wash machine (they can’t get the laundry out clean.)
This song invites — no, demands — that everyone add their own ridiculous verse. I notice that my additions involve rhyming, as well as some relation between the place where the father gets stuck and what happens afterwards. For the smaller kids, just thinking up any new verse is giggles enough.
Oddly, this song has become a favorite part of the good night routine. You would think that the kids would want the reassurance of a soft lullaby, with protestations of love, or at least the quiet tone that helps you drift off to sleep. But maybe the funny bone must be tickled one last time before it, too, can settle in to rest.