Alumni Outlook Magazine


UW-Stout alumna Ruth Apps contributed recipes to her husband’s latest book, “Garden Wisdom.” It will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Her daughter-in-law, Sandy Apps, is a UW-Stout alumna, ’89.

The Apps family enjoys a common thread: love of the land and the history of rural Wisconsin.

Ruth Apps ’59, son Steve and husband Jerry have combined their talents in the new book “Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening,” published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Jerry Apps, a rural historian and environmental writer, retired from UW-Madison in 1993 to devote himself to full-time writing. He has written more than 30 books on Wisconsin rural history and life and at least 16 on education-related topics. In “Garden Wisdom,” he combines advice for garden success with thoughts on how tending a garden leads to a deeper understanding of nature and the land.

Steve, a photojournalist and staff photographer for the Wisconsin State Journal, captures the bounty of the family garden throughout the growing season in his photographs. And Ruth, for the first time, will have her name on the front cover of one of her husband’s books. She has been and continues to be his first reader and editor; in this book she also contributes recipes, which she is well-equipped to do.

The recipes ─ hers as well as those of family and friends ─ have been adjusted where necessary to be used by today’s cooks, she said. “The dressing for leaf lettuce was from Jerry’s mother. She mixed the ingredients together and tasted until it was right,” Ruth said.

The youngest of five, Ruth grew up on a farm in Westby. She has a degree in home economics education and worked for two years as a UW-Extension home economics agent. She was a stay-at-home mom in the ’60s and in the mid-’70s taught a beginning clothing class for a Madison technical school. She taught at nights “so Jerry could care for the children,” she said. Ruth chose UW-Stout because of the influence of the home economics teachers she had in high school. The friendships she made at the university remain. “I still get together with five women and spouses at least once a year. We lived together as freshmen in Tainter Annex,” she said. 

The Apps’ other two children, Sue Apps Bodilly and Jeff, are gardeners and UW System grads. Sue, like her father, also is interested in history; she is finishing her first book, on the history of one-room schools, for young readers. It will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Jeff’s wife, Sandy Apps, is also a UW-Stout alumna, ’89.