Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

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First, I want to say that a five-acre farm is large enough for the support of a family. This has been proved by actual experience so that the financial part of this small home is provided for. Conditions have changed so much in the country within the last few years that we country women have no need to envy our sisters in the city.

We women on the farm no longer expect to work as our grandmothers did.

The $2.25 Farm House @ the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead

With the high prices to be had for all kinds of timber and wood we now do not have to burn wood to save the expense of fuel, but can have our oil stove, which makes the work so much cooler in the summer, so much lighter and cleaner. There need be no carrying in of wood and carrying out of ashes, with the attendant dirt, dust and disorder. Our cream separator saves us hours formerly spent in setting and skimming milk and washing pans, besides saving the large amount of cream that was lost in the old way.

Then there is the gasoline engine. Bless it! Besides doing the work of a hired man outside, it can be made to do the pumping of the water and the churning, turn the washing machine and even run the sewing machine. On many farms running water can be supplied in the house from springs by means of rams or air pumps and I know of two places where water is piped into and through the house from springs farther up on the hills.

This water is brought down by gravity alone and the only expense is the pipeing. There are many such places in the Ozark hills waiting to be taken advantage of. This, you see, supplies water works for the kitchen and bath room simply for the initial cost of putting in the pipes.


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In one farm home I know, where there are no springs to pipe the water from, there is a deep well and a pump just outside the kitchen door. From this a pipe runs into a tank in the kitchenand from this tank there are two pipes. One runs into the cellar and the other underground to a tank in the barnyard, which is of course much lower than the one in the kitchen.

When water is wanted down cellar to keep the cream and butter cool a cork is pulled from the cellar pipe by means of a little chain and by simply pumping the pump out doors, cold water runs into the vat in the cellar. The water already there rises and runs out at the overflow pipe through the cellar and out at the cellar drain. When the stock at the barn need watering, the cork is pulled from the other pipe and the water flows from the tank in the kitchen into the tank in the yard. And always the tank in the kitchen is full of fresh, cold water, because this other water all runs through it.

This is a simple, inexpensive contrivance for use on a place where there is no running water. It used to be that the woman on a farm was isolated and behind the times.

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A weekly paper was what the farmer read and he had to go to town to get that. All this is changed. Now the rural delivery brings us our daily papers and we keep up on the news of the world as well or better than though we lived in the city. The telephone gives us connection with the outside world at all times and we know what is going on in our nearest town by many a pleasant chat with our friends there. Circulating libraries, thanks to our state university, are scattered through the rural districts and we are eagerly taking advantage of them.

The interurban trolly lines being built throughout our country will make it increasingly easy for us to run into town for an afternoon's shopping or any other pleasure. These trolly lines are and more will be, operated by electricity, furnished by our swift running streams, and in a few years our country homes will be lighted by this same electric power. Yes indeed, things have changed in the country and we have the advantages of city life if we care to take them.

Besides we have what it is impossible for the woman in the city to have.

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We have a whole five acres for our back yard and all out doors for our conservatory, filled not only with beautiful flowers, but with grand old trees as well, with running water and beautiful birds, with sunshine and fresh air and all wild, free, beautiful things. The children, instead of playing with other children in some street or alley can go make friends with the birds, on their nests in the bushes, as my little girl used to do, until the birds are so tame they will not fly at their approach. They can gather berries in the garden and nuts in the woods and grow strong and healthy, with rosy cheeks and bright eyes.

This little farm home is a delightful place for friends to come for afternoon tea under the trees. There is room for a tennis court for the young people. There are skating parties in the winter and the sewing and reading clubs of the nearby towns, as well as the neighbor women, are always anxious for an invitation to hold their meetings there.

In conclusion I must say if there are any country women who are wasting their time envying their sisters in the city—don't do it. Such an attitude is out of date. Wake up to your opportunities. Look your place over and if you have not kept up with the modern improvements and conveniences in your home, bring yourself up to date. Then take the time saved from bringing water from the spring, setting the milk in the old way and churning by hand, to build yourself a better social life.

If you don't take a daily paper subscribe for one. They are not expensive and are well worth the price in the brightening they will give your mind and in the pleasant evenings you can have reading and discussing the news of the world. Take advantage of the circulating library. Make your little farm home noted for its hospitality and the social times you have there.

Keep up with the march of progress for the time is coming when the cities will be the workshops of the world and abandoned to the workers, while the real cultured, social, and intellectual life will be in the country. From Mrs. Wilder's Nature Songs.

Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Editor's Note:—Among the stories received in the course of our farm home story contest, the following came from Mr. Wilder, with the request that it be published, if worthy, but that it be not considered an entrant for any prize. We certainly consider it worthy—one of the most helpful and interesting— and believe all contributors to this feature will approve of our giving it good position on this page since we cannot give it a prize. The list of winners will be found on page 5.

To appreciate fully the reason why we named our place Rocky Ridge Farm, it should have been seen at the time of the christening.

To begin with it was not bottom land nor by any stretch of the imagination could it have been called second bottom. It was, and is, uncompromisingly ridge land, on the very tip top of the ridge at that, within a very few miles of the highest point in the Ozarks. And rocky—it certainly was rocky when it was named, although strangers coming to the place now, say "but why do you call it Rocky Ridge? The place looked unpromising enough when we first saw it, not only one but several ridges rolling in every direction and covered with rocks and brush and timber.

Perhaps it looked worse to me because I had just left the prairies of South Dakota where the land is easily farmed. I had been orderedsouth because those prairies had robbed me of my health and I was glad to leave them for they had also robbed me of nearly everything I owned, by continual crop failures. Hines places the essays in their biographical and historical context, showing how these pieces present Wilder's unique perspective on life and politics during the World War I era while commenting on the challenges of surviving and thriving in the rustic Ozark hill country.

The former little girl from the little house was entering a new world and wrestling with such issues as motor cars and new "labor-saving" devices, but she still knew how to build a model small farm and how to get the most out of a dollar. Together, these essays lend more insight into Wilder than do even her novels and show that, while technology may have improved since she wrote them, the key to the good life hasn't changed much in almost a century.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist distills the essence of her pioneer heritage and will delight fans of her later work as it sheds new light on a vanished era. In the late s and early s, the state of Kansas was finally closing its few remaining country schools. We country children thought we knew who had the best of it. But, frankly, the school closings were long overdue. Some of our teachers, and they tended not to last long in the one-room-school setting, were often still working to earn their primary degrees.

We had approximately four shelves of books, which extended only partially along the west side of our small room. In the Little House series, I found a family much like my own, with a strong father and mother and with children who mostly obeyed but who spent a great deal of time quarreling and competing with one another.

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They were a family who struggled against the elements of nature and misfortune, trying to make a more secure place for themselves in a challenging world. Yet they had an eternal constant in family love.


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  6. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis Before Laura Ingalls Wilder found fame with her Little House books, she made a name for herself with short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers.

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