"One of the reasons so many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the Little House books is because Laura was so descriptive; she was a natural storyteller.
She was also a little naturalist on the prairie."
February 10, 1957
On this day, the American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder died.
One of the reasons so many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the Little House books is because Laura was so descriptive; she was a natural storyteller. She was also a little naturalist on the prairie.
In retrospect, most folks are surprised by the amount of material in Laura's books devoted to the natural world - Ma's gardens, the landscapes that Laura and her family experienced, and her overall reverence for life - plants, animals, and people.
In 2017, the author, Marta McDowell, wrote a book called The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and in it, she highlights the "Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House books."
Marta's book sheds light on Laura as a naturalist. In a blog post, she challenged us by writing:
I'd like to suggest a thought experiment. Instead of categorizing Laura Ingalls Wilder as an American children's author, think of her as a nature writer as well…
Long before she was a writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a gardener and farmer, growing food for the table and raising crops for sale. Nature was her home, as well as little houses.
Through her life and work, Wilder sowed a deep appreciation for the world outside one's own door. Her books still inspire budding naturalists to plant, preserve, and appreciate their own wilder gardens.
Marta and I had a lovely chat featured in Episode 585 of the Still Growing podcast - if you'd like to check it out.
In the Missouri Ruralist, Laura wrote,
The voices of nature do not speak so plainly to us as we grow older, but I think it is because, in our busy lives, we neglect her until we grow out of sympathy. Our ears and eyes grow dull, and beauties are lost to us that we should still enjoy.
Life was not intended to be simply a round of work, no matter how interesting and important that work may be.
A moment's pause to watch the glory of a sunrise - or a sunset - is so satisfying, while a bird song will set the steps to music all day long.
In early February 1918, Laura wrote:
Now is the time to make a garden!
Anyone can be a successful gardener at this time of year, and I know of no pleasanter occupation these cold, snowy days then to sit warm and snug by the fire making a garden with a pencil and a seed catalog. What perfect vegetables do we raise that way, and so many of them! Our radishes are crisp and sweet, our lettuce tender, and our tomatoes smooth and beautifully colored. Best of all, there is not a bug or worm in the whole garden, and the work is so easily done.
In imagination, we see the plants in our spring garden, all in straight, thrifty rows with the fruit of each plant and vine numerous and beautiful as the pictures before us.
How near the real garden of next summer approaches the ideal garden of our winter fancies depends upon how practically we dream and how hard we work.