Antique Gravenstein Apple Rubber Stamp
I'll admit that Mike & Frank are my idols. I watch American Pickers every chance that I get and each episode I'm sitting there wishing that I could squeeze in between Mike & Frank to travel the countryside in search of antique and vintage finds. I love how they get to immerse themselves on the property that they are picking and hear the stories first hand. When I buy at estate sales, I have to piece the stories together by what I see in the house. It's like a puzzle that I don't always discover the answer to.
This last week I got to somewhat experience what they do by picking an old apple farm in the Sebastopol countryside. I walked side by side with the owner and heard his incredible stories. In our area, apple orchards are falling to the ax, and vineyards are replacing them. Apples are part of our history here in Sebastopol. The Gravenstein apple is our most famous local apple. Luther Burbank was once quoted "It has often been said that if the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year, no other apple need be grown."
From Wikipedia: "During the first half of the 20th century, Gravensteins were the major variety of apples grown in western Sonoma County, and were the source for apple sauce and dried apples for the U.S. troops in World War II. Most of the orchards in Sonoma County are now gone due to a combination of suburban development, a shift to wine production, and economic changes in the apple industry. Only six commercial growers and one commercial processor remain in Sonoma County as of 2006. In 2005, Slow Food USA declared the Gravenstein apple a heritage food and included it in their Ark of taste. Slow Food USA reports that production in Sonoma County is currently 750,000 boxes (15,000 tons) of Gravensteins a year; a third of the fruit (250,000 boxes) is of premium market quality."
I am not a wine drinker and for me it's disheartening to see food (that doesn't come with much profit) disappear only to be replaced with wine (lots of profit). Thankfully some of these apple farms are being saved and their history preserved. Flatland Flower Farm converted to organic and sells their apples throughout the Bay Area Farmer's Markets.
At the apple farm I bought vintage rolling carts, an olive picking bucket, old milk crates and a box of vintage Apple Variety rubber stamps.
Jonathan Apple Stamp
Golden Apple Stamp
I found the stamps in a file cabinet drawer that was in the back of a shed. My thrifting buddy Joel and I were on the pick together and he heard my loud gasp from 2 sheds away. He knows me enough by now to come running to see what I had found. I love old stamps but to find an entire box of Apple Varieties made my heart dance.
I've priced some of them and dropped them off at the store yesterday. Some of them I'm going to be displaying in my kitchen and the rest will be set aside for Alameda. I've saved the best for the Antique Society with hope that the stamps will stay local. I may take a handful to the Western Sonoma Historial Society and see if they would like some to display.
My favorite part of that day though was connecting with the apple farmer. I hope that as my business evolves, more of my time will be spent on private picks where I can speak to the seller and see history through their eyes. To me, that is what this business is about. It's hearing their stories and learning about daily life in the past. To look into the apple farmer's eyes and see his pride when he talked about his farm made owning the items that I bought, an honor. I love what I do, I love the money that I make, but my passion is driven to save these items more than anything else. If I have stories to go with them, it gives the items even more meaning. It gives them life again. That to me is priceless.
Have you gone on a private pick that is a part of your local history?