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Cultivating a New Culture (Closed: RiverEagle)


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Granola Gracie walked up to the farmhouse of Sweet Apple Acres. The sun had just set and the remaining ambient skylight was reflecting off the wet garbage along the orchard path from the week's long cider festivities. It had been a couple days since the cider rush had died down, but Granola figured the apples were prioritizing inventory before they clean up the farm. Applejack always ran a tight orchard. She visited the farm this evening in order to finally pitch to her tree-loving neighbor a new apple seed.

 

Granola was a botanist. She loved caring for plants and flowers but also enjoyed investigating new species of fauna and even resurrecting lost plants from the ages. Recently she happened upon a discovery that would lead her down the path of possibly inventing a new species of apple. And she couldn't think of another pony that would be more helpful on this task. The brown earth pony gallantly and with a smile, knocked on the door to the farmhouse. Hopefully, Applejack was not too tired to meet with her.

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Applejack was swimming in tasks she had to accomplish and never enough time to do them, not that she'd ever complain about it. It was the sign of a successful season when you didn't have a moment to step back but instead had to step forward into the tasks of inventory management and crop recuperation. As with anything farming, success always carried with it the smallest seed of potential disaster. You had to find it and pull it out of the ground before it had time to mature into an existential threat. In this case, that seed was poor inventory control. It was easy to be so depleted after cider season and similar events that the next few months became something of a chaotic mess.

They maintained their high standards and quality and the ensuing reputation because they had a mechanical precision borne of experience when it came to three important facets of their labor: Knowing the right apple for the right job, knowing the right job for the right season, and knowing the right season for the right apple. You could grow and harvest apples all year long as long as you did it right and that helped ensure steady success. But if they slacked off, the wrong apple at the wrong time, a hit to their reputation, harvesting schedule throw off...it didn't take a genius to see where it could lead.

 

So they had spent a considerable amount of time going field by field and cataloging what varieties were growing, when they were due, what they needed to get more of, and what they had a surplus of, along with cross-referencing it with yield patterns year over year, distribution operations, and the whole matter of wholesale. And that wasn't even touching any number of smaller projects and events that they had their hooves in. It was a massive doozy of an operation and it was one that, as she knew she would burn the candle late into the night, Applejack made sure to operate from a nearby silo that wasn't in use.

With the dim lamps and lights offered her and shelter from the breeze she counted and referenced and double-checked this, that, and the other. She was deathly tired and yawned, but jumped back into it. She had been up earlier than usual as had the rest of her family and had been working and crunching numbers all day. She could use a break from all this number talk!

 

From her window she saw somepony trot on up to the farmhouse. It took Applejack to notice who it was from the slit-view she had inside the silo but her mind eventually connected the dots. It was Granola Gracie, one of Ponyville's best botanists. Or maybe the best. There was fierce debate. In any case she put her quill and abacus down and left from the silo door, trotting towards the mare even as she knocked on the farmhouse front door.


"Howdy there!" Applejack yelled from a distance as she sliced the distance with an active trot. "Fancy seein' you at this hour, 'Nola. What brings you up here?" She asked after a yawn, resetting her stetson as she drew into normal range with the mare. 

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Granola grimaced at the immediate appearance of Applejack. The mare was indeed tired. She began regretting giving her more business to attend to, but she was tired of waiting to deliver this proposal to her and she knew if she attempted to backpedal now, Applejack would force her to spill her guts and stay for the next family meal as well. Applejack rarely said no to anypony willing to talk business, especially apple business. Granola turned. "Oh hi, Applejack. I've been trying to get in touch with you. I know this is a very busy time of year for you but this shouldn't take too long. I happened upon what I believe to be a new kind of plant that is had not been seen or grown in Equestria for possibly a thousand years. And seeing as the plant is an apple tree, I can't think of anypony else other than you that could help me with it." Granola looked around, the autumn breeze starting to chill the evening. "Uh, mind if we go inside and talk about it?"

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Applejack had to slow down Granola's words as they came in, the mare having a lot to say and propose in a short amount of time that made Applejack's head spin. Maybe it was the slow transference of numbers to words but she had to allow the paragraph to wash over her about three times before she fully realized what was being discussed. Not that she'd sit there like a nailed board in the meantime. After Granola spoke Applejack smiled and nodded her head towards the farmhouse. "Well, sure. Come on in an' take a load off an' we can get ta talkin', 'Nola," Applejack offered with a friendly smile as she took the lead inside. The house wasn't entirely silent. Big Mac was helping Abby out with her homework and Granny Smith could be heard gently snoring in the foyer next to the staircase.  She entered and led Granola to the kitchen and started to get the both some good apples to eat.

 

As she did that she allowed her mind the time to catch up and digest what was being said. Granola was by far and away the best botanist in town and one of the best in all of the Heartlands, and Applejack'd stand by that bit of town pride something fierce. She was a quiet enough pony though who wasn't one for running about trying to impose herself on others. This meant that when she did speak up everypony who had a bit of sense to them made sure to lend her their full attention. And today she was here to discuss something that was right up Applejack's alley. A new type of apple tree? Or more accurately, the revival of one? Well, she was never one to turn down a great idea when she heard one and this had all the makings of a real humdinger. "A new apple tree you say? 'Nola, you sure know how ta make a filly feel excited," She said as she sat down, tossing off a Fuji apple to Granola. "So lay it on me!"

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Granola sat down at the kitchen table with Applejack. She heard Granny Smith's snore and immediately felt like maybe she was invaded the family's privacy. She would strive for the perfect time so that it was most convenient for everypony, but beggars can't be choosers. Applejack threw her an apple and asked for the details. Granola caught the apple. At first she was pensive, but then gave a smug smile and took a bite out of the apple. She would pull out an apple of her own in her saddlebag, and toss this one to Applejack, almost like a trade. The apple seemed ordinary on the outside, one of the mostly red kind, with several grains of orange color streaming down the sides. "Take a bite, AJ." Granola couldn't possibly explain it, so it was best for Applejack to see for herself. When a bite is taken out of the apple, the flesh of the apple has a very shocking appearance. The apple tasted juicy and sweet, with a tart aftertaste that bites back friendly for a few seconds.

 

((What the apple flesh looks like when a bite is taken out of it:))

Spoiler

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An apple trade a day, they say, keeps the doctor away. She caught Granola's apple with a flourish, examining it. Everypony wanted to go right to taste and texture and those were the important tools of the trade of course, but how an apple felt, the shape, the size and weight- all of it was important. "This feels like a strange one!" She said excitedly as she put her hooves up. The main color was red but several grains of orange streamed alongside the sides. A crossbreed of some kind? Most pure apples retained a singular color while hybrids had mixed coloration. "Well, certainly looks tha part. What's tha name?" She asked as she took a bite, eyes closed so she could focus on the taste for a second.

 

It was very sweet. At first she was worried it would be too sweet. That would usually result in the texture and subtler flavor profile being missed. Luckily, a nice hint of gentle tartness swung in to make the save from a too-sweet fate, leaving a positive impression on the tongue. It tasted pretty darn good! The texture was snappy and different as well. It wasn't an easy apple to eat compared to others. Some varieties treated teeth like knives through butter. This one definitely was one of the harder chewing ones but that was just as well. That meant eating it would take longer and allow the flavors to be mixed in good time. She'd have to keep that in mind for when she took it to market-

 

-All of these thoughts flashed through her mind in the half-second when she had closed her eyes and came to a screeching halt when she opened her eyes. The flesh was...mesmerizing. She had to rub her eyes and get another look just to make sure what she was seeing was right. The flesh was colored much like the skin. Red, streaks of orange, some browns and greens. It all flowed together and it created a near hypnotic effect. "What in the wide wide world of Equestria is this?" She asked, her voice carrying hints of concern but mostly just plain old curiosity.

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Granola bit her lip when Applejack took a bite. "Well I wanted to be faithful to how I found it, but the old historic records I found pertaining to this type of apple are either lost, or have uninteresting names few ponies care to say. So I was gonna propose a name for it." Granola held her hooves up as if to measure her excitement. "The cosmic crisp apple."

Applejack was very good at apple-tasting. When the orange mare chewed it carefully in her mouth, she had the look on her face of all the different flavors and textures associated with the apple. But it wasn't until she opened her eyes from her concentrated chew that she saw what really made the apple special. A vortex of colors, instead of the yellow flesh of a normal apple, radiated from the bite Applejack took. Granola was excited to see her reaction, and was pleased when her eyes widened at the spectacle. The gloss from the apple pony's eyes reflected the colors she saw. The vortex of colors in the flesh of the apple faded away after about fifteen seconds, leaving the much more predictable white-yellow pulp.

 

Granola was so excited to tell Applejack everything. "Okay. So, about three years ago, I happened across a seed trader in Fillydelphia. I was in the market to buy rare plants and seeds for my own archival purposes. I was really just interested in collecting different flora. But one guy I bought from offered me a journal that belonged to an ancient pony farmer who collected seeds as well. I bought for quite a hefty price. At the time, I was afraid to admit to anypony that I did this because it had appeared I was swindled. Many of the texts in the journal talk about falsified fables and rumors of scientific findings that have no evidence or persuasion. But then, one of the pages talks about a rare type of apple that could be made if the seeds of three different kinds of apples were split into equal thirds and combined together."

 

Granola pulled out the book in question and opened it up onto the table. "It goes on to say that the three apple types are honeycrisp, enterprise, and something called a roygeebiv apple." Granola looked up. "We all know what honeycrisp are. I wasn't sure what enterprise meant until later on I read that enterprise is a combination of macintosh and granny smith apples. When I attempted to breed this kind of seed, I could see that the type of fruit that could grow would indeed be a viable apple, so it must have been what the author called an enterprise apple. That only left me with roygeebiv. My first guess was zap apples, you know 'cause of the rainbow colors, roygeebiv, the letters of the col-, yeah, you get it. But I wasn't able to take a zap apple seed and produce any fruit until, you know." Granola started gesturing in a funny way. "The wolves and the storms and stuff."

 

Granola paused to take a breath in her story, and she smiled. "But it turns out with a little patience and understanding how it all works, I was right." she tossed a few seeds from her bag onto the table. "These seeds are the combination of honeycrisp, macintosh, and zap apples. And when one successfully cultivates the seeds, with plenty of care and a little bit of time, BAM!" She pulled out another cosmic crisp apple and holds it up like a trophy. "The cosmic crisp apple."

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There was a certain way of things in the Apple family and Applejack wasn't about to allow tradition to die easily. She put the apple down on the table and smiled at Granola as she prepared to tell her story. "A moment, 'Nola. Need ta fetch somethin'," she said as she trotted into a backroom. In a few moments she would return with a massive, leather bound tome, quills, and ink. Far be it for her to not record this! "This here is tha Apple family history in regards ta apple varieties. An' Ah don't mean just Sweet Apple Acres, either. Every time we find ourselves encountering a new apple type we make sure ta log what we know. This is volume..." she trailed off as she looked at the binding, "four. Volume four," she said as she opened it up, a thin layer of dust falling like debris off of the binding.

 

It had earned its aged appearance. Apples from some of the oldest branches of their tree had started keeping track ages ago, centuries at the least. Yet for all that time the format had remained the same. A small block for an illustration and information. Enough to keep notes, describe it, and the basics on how to cultivate it. More information on specifics could be found in other books. What was important here, at least to Applejack, was the history it told. There was a specific quillship that was used in this book in order to maximize space for details and description. Someponies had a natural talent for it and others needed a lot of training, but every orchard needed at least one pony who could record in it. Applejack was well-taught and motivated to excel in this task and it was one of her many unique duties and pleasures at Sweet Apple Acres. After all, she got to maintain a special, unique connection to the whole Apple family tree through it. You could feel it in the details.

 

-CHOMP-

 

Her pa's short and concise words still managed to convey his excitement. Granny Smith's rambling was evident even from her earlier days as the allotted space was almost always filled up. Garden Royal's sharp, pointed quill that threatened to tear through the page as he wrote feverishly during the Seasons of Storms left little holes on top of his i's and at the end of some sentences. Ginger Gold's disregard for fine details in her younger years was clear as day, as was her devotion to the subject as she aged. Foxwelp's legendary output and decisive quillship was the standard that everypony compared themselves to, just like his business acumen. Stallion and mare after stallion and mare. During the Rough Times or the Famine Years you sometimes could feel the despairing strokes of a hungry colt. A hope this this variety would sell, that it would be a big producer, easy to grow. When things were going  well, the energy and excitement came through the writing. Risks were taken and hope sprung eternal

 

-CHOMP-

 

There were family histories and journals and tales and all that good jazz. But this was something different. Every member of the Apple family that was taught this exacting quillship was found in these volumes. You could spot the change in the Equestrian language to the extent that the first volume had been annotated by Sir Winesap in his twilight years to make clear the meaning on many words and phrases that had been lost to time. Even then this was a direct connection, and it would remain so. Generations from now when she was nothing but a memory (and a legend to many, she'd admit haughtily) and Sweet Apple Acres had evolved long past her wildest dreams, when Ponyville was a full-blown city and everything had changed, this book would remain. The collected knowledge of apple cultivars as discovered by the Apple family and recorded by those who encountered them would remain. What she wrote would remain. What her pa had wrote would remain. It would be added to and it always would. 


This volume wasn't just work: It WAS the Apple family.

A tear had started to form as her emotions got away from her. 


Luckily, Granola was telling her story so it was no big deal for Applejack to wipe it away. As she did, she had to admit that this was a real humdinger of a tale. She wasn't one for listening to tall tales or giving credence to strangers selling strange good, but her story gave proof to the lie that no good came from being bold. The fact it came from ancient times only made this success story all the stranger but Applejack wasn't one to stare a gift horse in the mouth. The ancient folk had to work a heck of a lot harder to get by so if they came by some of their success in weird ways she wasn't about to question it.

 

-CHOMP-

 

The hybridization process seemed a mite strange. Such a specific and exacting fraction of apple types and what types at that. The Honeycrisp was a common enough variety. The Duchess of Poneyburg and Golden Delicious had mated to produce the Lakelands Apple some centuries ago. When the Lakelands Apple mated the Keepsake- well, you had the modern Honeycrisp. But this ancient pony also mentioned Honeycrisp. That seemed strange! The records weren't wrong though. Couldn't be. Must have been a non-Apple apple farmer, back in the day that such a thing were even possible.

 

Then she mentioned Enterprise, and that was interesting. That had been 'discovered' more than a few times, proving to be one of the most interesting case studies. It was always a manufactured apple. Magically created to be disease resistant and in that it had succeeded. It shared a lot of parentage which made its successes and failures easy to understand. They had a nice kick and tasted pretty good too but they didn't keep well and they grew very poorly when tended by Earth ponies. If this farmer mentioned Enterprise, either he or she was a unicorn or they were working with one. Still, she had settled for Macintosh. Good, solid apple and one of the parents of the Enterprise.

 

Then there were the Zap Apples. That caused Applejack's ears to perk up in alarm, while not stopping her from writing. That was definitely a discovery (and trademarked property) of the Apple family. She'd rather not rely on such a rare cultivar for this, but there it was. She anted to protest the idea that some other pony could have discovered it before her Granny but truth was nothing Granny had done couldn't have been done a thousand or so years ago, or was even under her control!

 

-CHOMP-

 

By the time Granola had finished speaking, Applejack was putting the finishing touches on her little block of information. She had described the taste, texture, and unique flesh of the proto-named Cosmic Crisp and the basics of the varieties involved. She still had space for a picture and more information. Concise, clear, excited- just like her pa. He'd have been so proud of her if he could see her right now- what was she talking about, he saw her right then and there. She took a big breath to hide a happy cry, stifling it in her throat alongside a sniffle to hide a tear.
"Well Ah'll be, 'Nola. This is one heck of a cultivar. Like tha name too. How'd ya come by tha Zap Apple seeds? An' what're you lookin' ta do exactly?"

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Granola was so impressed with Applejack's soaking in of the spirit of plant cultivation. It was a creed that only a few earth ponies could be this passionate about. If Granola and Applejack were unicorns, they undoubtedly would have been peers of Twilight Sparkle in Celestia's School for gifted unicorns. They were both opening and cataloging all the science and history associated with apple findings. Granola salivated slightly when Applejack pulled out a volume in her own encyclopedia. She wondered if Applejack would ever be willing to let her borrow the editions or allow her to print a copy.

 

But then after the dust settled on what Granola thought was an amazing story, Applejack asked the question Granola was most fearful of. How did she get a hold of zap apple seeds? "Oh, the zap apple seeds?" She tapped her hooves together. "Ya see, there was a private auction on batch of zap apple seeds a few years back and I may have paid a small fortune for them." Granola's forehead started to sweat a few beads. Confessing such a sin against the Apple family, in their own house no less, was not a good environment to be in. But Granola would hope that Applejack's honest nature would provide some grace where it could be warranted. After all, Granola isn't trying to impede on their ability to master the art of zap apple farming. "I was assured by the seller that the seeds were not from Sweet Apple Acres, but from a stray zap apple tree that was found in the Everfree forest. I wasn't even sure that they were really zap apples until they started to bear fruit during the last window."

 

Granola decided now was the best time to show Applejack just the kind of pony she is. She wanted her respect and her guidance with cosmic crisp apples, and she hoped that it would be a beneficial partnership between the both of them. So she put her best hoof forward and attempted to ease into the apple mare's graces in the best way she knew how. She jumped down to the floor and groveled at Applejack's hooves. "Oh please don't be mad at me."

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A private seller of Zap Apple seeds? That was concerning. While the journal made clear that the Zap Apple itself wasn't a new discovery or invention, it was in the current day and year a trademarked, copyrighted part of the Apple family tradition. It only appeared in a few very specific areas bordering the Everfree. Ponyville and rather specifically Sweet Apple Acres was the national hotspot. A small area that was uninhabited near the Southern Everfree that was home to nothing more than a commonly abandoned farm that was whipped into shape when it was Zap Apple season. One location in the Allacor Mountains that was too difficult to properly farm and then the second largest concentration that was near Vanhoover and farmed by another branch of the Apple family. She wasn't willing to discount the chance that there were more sites out there but there weren't many.

 

That meant that private sellers of the seeds were very uncommon. Not unheard of, but uncommon. Truth was that using the Zap Apple seeds wasn't an easy feat. Most who tried simply failed to deliver and the seeds would go to waste. It took a skilled and intelligent botanist or farmer to make it work, so it hadn't hurt the Apples just yet. She reckoned it never would, not truly. After all, you had to keep the seeds within a certain radius of the Everfree, even when you had everything else going for you. That'd make it real easy to shut down any illegal Zap Apple operation. They had never been forced to do that however- all attempts had failed. 

 

As she pondered the meaning of copyright and the ways and means of finding out who this seller happened to be, Granola threw herself at Applejack's hooves. She was...groveling? Why in the wide world of Equestria would she go ahead and do that? Applejack gave her a cock-eyed look, even and without a response for a few seconds. Well, that settled whether or not she felt bad. And it also helped Applejack understand that she wasn't here to rub it in or try to get one over. It was still weird though. "Uhhh...'Nola, please get up off mah kitchen floor," Applejack said as she rubbed the back of her neck and leaned in, "it's mighty strange, heh," she laughed gently as she went to help Granola up. "Listen, it's all right. If we're gonna be in business together than we'll have ta look past some stuff, right? Now, what is it exactly you were wantin' ta try with this here Cosmic Crisp?"
 

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Granola faithfully picked herself up off the floor like her host instructed. She was thankful that she wasn't mad, and saw at least a little reason to speak truth to the information Granola was willing to offer. Reason enough to know that there might be something in it for both of them. The farm pony asked her what her proposition was. "Okay. So, right from the get-go, you can see that these apples have a very unique look to them when you bite into them, and at no cost to the taste and texture of the apple. I have proofs of concept that the cosmic crisp apple would be a consumer product that would sell well, but I don't have the means to grow it on a wide scale. It's my belief that this apple has special properties in it. Whenever I bite into it, I experience something I never experience with a normal apple."

 

Granola bites into another apple, one of the four she brought with her. She quickly chewed and swallowed her bite and gazed into the exposed inner-apple. The cosmic swirl danced and spun to Granola's amazement, and as she stared at it, she spoke out loud about her bewilderment. "Every time I look at it after biting into it, the apple takes me to a place I've never been before. It makes me feel warm and safe. But it also seems to whisper to me about the possibilities. Like it's telling me the secrets about the good fortune me and other ponies will have in the days and weeks to come, and it puts my mind at ease when sometimes I am unwilling to cope with things I'm nervous or stressed about."

 

The hypnotic effects of the apple wore off, and the apple returned to a normal apple visual appeal. She looked at Applejack. "I don't think these apples are just a good source of nutrition. I think they can be good for the pony's soul, a way for us to feel things we never thought possible, a feeling we can obtain that we have never experienced before." Granola took another bite of her apple, and through that bite mark, more galactic images entranced the brown earth pony. "You know, uh." She stared without saying much, but then looked back up. "Like a sixth sense."

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Granola wasn't feeding herself a trough of lies as she described how it had a unique look without sacrificing a darn thing about it. It may not have been the right juiciest apple she had ever tasted but it was a near perfect blend of tartness and sweetness with just that right texture to make it all dance just right in your mouth. She wasn't sure where the Zap Apple taste was supposed to be involved but she reckoned it could be any of the subtle variances with how it seemed to make everything interact. It was rightly justified as a good eating apple. Baking? She didn't know. All of the varieties that came together to form this cultivar were exceptionally good at a wide variety of roles, but that didn't mean she could jot it down as a superior baking cultivar. But really Applejack's mid was just trying to piece together some sort of resistance.

 

Because the hypnotic, anomalous effects of the apple was the real star. Applejack noted that it seemed like the apple had done a different number on both of them. Applejack hadn't been hearing any voices or felt like she had been brought to a warm, safe place. No for her it seemed...she didn't know how to phrase it. Even long after she had finished her apple it seemed to linger, but she seemed to take in her family's history even more. Her heart was pumping overtime trying to give her the mind able to expand to take in the enormity of her family line. She felt connected to each and every last one of them in ways equally unique and rote even on a normal day. Now? Now she looked at an ancestor's hoofwriting and felt like they were alive in her heart as real and true as she was. That her family from Dusk to Dawn and even, now, the Twilight, was alive and with her. It lifted her spirits and lifted her soul in a way she couldn't describe, though not to the intensity of her pal Granola there, if only because she lived with a level of such feeling all the time.

 

"Ah know what you mean. Well, not exactly what you mean, but what you mean what you mean. Mah reaction ain't tha exact same, no voices over here- err, not yet anyway. Ah feel like that there apple is opening up mah heart in ways Ah didn't know it could," she laughed, wiping a tear from her eyes before she shook her teary cheek and tried to refocus. A part of her brain. was telling her something was off. "Gotta say that Ah've known mah fair share of cultivars but this is special. All sorts of ponies would want one of these beauties. Bad day? Have a cosmic crisp. Gonna see a patient at yer head clinic? Cosmic Crisp. Just wanna feel like everythin'will be all right, or how about a nice snack? Cosmic crisp! Woooo-weee, Ah tell you, tha possibilities are endless," she said as she leaned back. "A sixth sense...a sixth sense. Empathy, maybe?"

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As Granola listened to Applejack take in the metaphysics associated with eating the apple, she noticed right away the words she used to lecture back to her resounded with the kind of affirmation she had been looking for. Several months had passed while Granola understood the progressive potential an apple like this one had, and this had been the first time she would publicize her findings with anyone. Who better but the best apple mare with a heartbeat in the Ponyville area? Granola smiled from ear to ear. "Yes! Exactly! You get it too!" She fawned excitedly over Applejack's explanation and perspective. It was almost like Granola's imaginary friends were speaking back with her own feelings and thoughts, except this time they weren't her feelings and thoughts!

 

Of course she would bring up baking. Never doubt Applejack's ability to brainstorm out loud and in a kitchen the practicality of every combination of elements known to ponydom. Granola rolled her eyes. But then she asked about a sixth sense being empathy. Granola leaned forward. "Oh." she didn't agree but she had no evidence to suggest its falsehood fundamentally. "Maybe. Or maybe it's like another world where we can see into a multiverse of possibilities, but only for a few seconds per bite. Like this is the key to a door that the nature of the Everfree has been trying to communicate with ponies for many millennia." She took another bite of the apple.

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Applejack smiled broadly as Granola exploded with happiness, It was rare to have two minds working as one sapling, even if it grew in different directions. That was what a marriage was when you thought about it hard enough and long enough. In a way, they were married. She had to market this apple for married couples. The official apple of Equestrian romance sure had a nice ring to it! "Well, uhh. Ah guess it could be. Ah dunno. It is mighty...strange. But in a good way, right?" She said with a whispered laugh and a good pregnant pause full of her gears turning. "Ah wonder if its different for different ponies. Gotta get a samplin' going on. Need a bushel of 'em at least ta get one started. See what exactly it is that this here apple does for others! Well, 'side from speakin' tha language of tha Everfree," she said as she got up and went over to another batch of papers.

 

These were contracts. She sat back down and started writing out the basic agreement between the two. As she did, something tickled the back of her had about these apples. Something off, something weird. As she finished writing the contract out it was like the whole back of her neck was on edge. She leaned back and rubbed it, feeling her muscles tensed up and taut. "Though...Ah don't reckon..." she began before shaking her head clear of the nasty thoughts that were trying to crowd out the wonderful feeling this apple gave her. "Nah, that's just stinkin' thinkin'. Here ya go Granola, these here documents cover what we're gonna do. We're gonna see about using tha southwest orchard's far fields- that there is our experiment field- ta grow a small crop of these her Cosmic Crisps. Gonna hold some taste testing and bake some pies and see how it all works out. If'n that goes well, why, Ah reckon we can dedicate whole fields to this thing!" She said excitedly as she gave the documents over to Granola to be signed.

 

As the mare did so or just looked them over, Applejack poured cups of cider for both of the businessmares.
"Granola, here's ta our partnership!" She said as she offered her mug in friendship.

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"A bushel!?" Granola thought out loud. All she had was a bushel. She tried rationing them, but she also realized that the apples would only survive off their stems for so long. She thought it would only take a few seeds, but Applejack was attempting to get things ramped up larger than Granola had expected. Perhaps she'll need to wait for the psychological experiments she planned on doing with the rest of the apples she had procured. "Um, okay. Yeah I guess I can do that. I'll need to go back to my shack and get the rest of the ones I had. All of them together should be close to a bushel." She was reluctant to rid herself of her supply of apples, but knowing how hard Applejack was willing to progress them into a bigger supply made Granola willing to agree with the fullness of the transaction she was preparing for.

 

Granola waited patiently as Applejack was writing up some legal papers. Her anxiety filled slightly at Applejack's diligence coupled with a slight hesitation from the farmer. But she smiled when the papers were smacked onto the table in front of her. She picked up a pen on the table with her mouth and commenced signing her cursive name with her best gritting of her teeth. When she finished, she dropped the pen on the table gracefully. "Do you think I can cut the apples up and just give you the seeds? Or do you need the pulps and skin, too?" She smiled eagerly.

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Applejack found herself placed on the backhoof in these most unusual of negotiations by how caught off guard Granola was. She wasn't asking for the bushel they were eating now. That would be silly since she not only was eating an apple now, but was wanting to continue to do so. She had big dreams and big ideas for this unusual cultivar, but she needed some testing first. Not right away, but after they had gone ahead and done their due diligence in growing them. The mare opposite Applejack seemed a little shocked, a little off-put, a little excited, and all sorts above her rate when it came to what they were discussing. Applejack'd have to walk her through it a little easier.

 

"Woah woah, sugarpie," she said with a smile as she shot a leg out to forestall any crazy plans of hers. "We don't need ta use these here apples for it. Their seeds, sure. But these apples, well, they're already claimed. By us," she said with a wink. "Ah have a special place in tha orchard for experimentin' with mah produce. Special patch of soil, very specific water, the right coverage- got it all figured out, plus whatever unique needs tha apple tree needs ta grow. Ah use it when Ah need ta grow somethin' fast. It won't be a big tree but it'll be a great test tree. And then if it all works out and after we name it, we transplant tha tree inta tha orchard for our first big tree for that type! Woo-wee, been a while since we've done that!" She said excitedly as she got upwith the paperwork and started filing it away.

 

"We just need tha seeds we have here. So throw me another of yer- excuse me, our- magic apples!" She said as she turned back around with a hungry look in her eyes. She was just so plum happy after all! Who could say no to a Cosmic Crisp?
Nopony, that's who.
Nopony.

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Granola's pupils grew to the size of saucers as Applejack detailed her method of planting new and experimental trees and plants. She did not know of this location and would have to investigate it, with the land owner's permission, of course. She gave Applejack her entire saddlebag which had the 3 remaining apples she had brought. Granola's fascination with the explanation was interrupted by her eagerness to name a tree. "Oh! Can I name the tree!?" Granola shouted loudly. She quickly held her hoof over her mouth and regretted her outburst. Hopefully she didn't wake anypony who was sleeping.

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"Of course, 'Nola. Ah wouldn't think otherwise," Applejack said with a smile as she patted the mare on the back. But now that the meeting was done, the real work was to begin. And for now, that work would have to be alone. "Alright. Just gimme yer favorite name an' Ah'll get ta work!" She said as she started to do imagine all of the required processes at play. In time it would become physical- Applejack wasn't a mare who went into anything half-cocked. And she'd be lying if she said she wasn't excited about giving Granola a tree of her own. After all, there was no higher honor and no great token of friendship the family could offer. And with this deal being done and with all the ideas Applejack had for it, Granola was certainly going to be close to this family for a long, long time. All she had to do was do the work.
And she liked work.


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She liked work, but sometimes she questioned how much she liked this particular work.
Bucolic springtime weather wasn't a cover for how sullen she had felt most of the winter as she had worked on this damn project. It was a one acre patch of soil in a faroff part of the orchard, home to a small shack and some prepared tree positions. The soil was magically enchanted. It had started with near-Everfree soil but over the years and the growth of the family, not to mention some Royal friends, other magical elements found themselves woven into the earth in this very acre. The irrigation pump nearby went to its own resevoir, which was manipulated to an exacting science, and it was given a perfect position in the orchard for sun coverage. In the shack was multiple notebooks, measuring equipment, and all sorts of odds and ends to help a farmer experiment.

 

And boy howdy, had this farmer experimented.
She knew why it had grown so poorly, so much so that her first few attempts had failed (not that she'd have the heart to tell Granola that). It was the Zap Apple part of the genetics. Those grew under such intensely specific conditions that trying to replicate even a part of that was difficult. As luck would have it though, they had a zap apple harvest late in the winter- those things came at the weirdest times- and the aftermath gave her an idea. She pulled water samples and had them tested- the residual zap apple magic? Still there. So she made sure to collect what she could and then modified the water table for the experimental acre. A tiny drop of Zap Apple runoff solved everything.

 

Granola needed to see the results, so as spring started up and the final touches were being made, she made sure to send her a letter. Applejack was excited to show off the little ol' tree and, if all went well, their first bushel for testing. Applejack was excited. Applejack was really excited.
Almost too excited.
Her mouth had been watering for weeks when she realized it was going to work. And so she sat on her haunches, studying the bark of a small apple tree again and again, her tail nearly wagging with nervous excitement as she waited for Granola to show up.
Applejack could hardly wait to eat them again.
She meant test. Test them.
Though a taste wouldn't hurt...

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