Posts Tagged ‘Little House on the Prairie’

With Maple Lake and its forested splendor just a few miles south, the Wolf Road Prairie is equidistant north of our Cutoff. It sits, quietly hidden, just off two bustling metropolitan thoroughfares. I’ve been wanting to take a walk there for quite some time.

On Sunday afternoon, we took that walk.

Illinois is known as The Prairie State, and for good reason. 70% of Illinois was native prairie two centuries ago. Early explorers wrote of a “sea of grass” as far the eye could see. It was not uncommon for men to become lost on the prairie, whose miles of grass stood twelve feet high. Children of pioneers sometimes disappeared, never to be seen again, as the tall grasses would seem to swallow them up. The prairie was a perilous place to raise children.

Today, there is precious little native prairie left in Illinois; much of it was claimed as farmland during the great migration westward, for here lies the richest soil in the country. Bustling towns, housing developments, shopping malls, interstate highways, and the folly of man captured the rest of Illinois’ prairie. Fortunately, the Wolf Road Prairie, 80 acres of meadowlands, oak savannah, and wetland, was saved from a planned housing development, plotted for 600 homes, in the 1920’s, by the Great Depression. As we entered the prairie, we walked for a short spell on sidewalks originally laid for that development.

We parked our car at one of the two car banks, checked out the map of the terrain, and entered the trail, passing through the coolness of the oak trees.  The

Big Bluestem. Image from museum.state.il.us

sidewalk abruptly ended, opening onto the prairie path. Under the sky blue canopy and the warm glow of the sun, it was easy to imagine the Potawatomi moving slowly through the big bluestem , hunting deer, gathering seeds, and fishing in the nearby creek. One could almost see the ghosts of pioneers, the ruts from their wagons forming all but hidden paths like the one we were walking, wild indigo brushing their long skirts and homespun shirts, the vast sea of grass before them and behind them for days on end.

I feel yet another reading of  “LIttle House on the Prairie” coming on.


Read Full Post »

The first day of spring usually has us covered in snow with temperatures below freezing and a mighty March wind blowing. This year – well,  this year has given us the oddest of winters and record-breaking high temperatures. Trees are in leaf with fruit trees in blossom, the daffodils are nearly spent, and the mosquitoes are already on the offensive.

Can a game of tag be brewing?

Yes it can.

Sunday Taylor, who pens the exquisite post Ciao Domenica, recently “tagged” me, along with several other bloggers. I was happily reading her post, learning eleven things about her, enjoying her fabulous photographs and absorbing her well written words, when I came to her list of the eleven bloggers she was tagging. There sat my very own name . Surprised, I did a double take, smiled at the sweetness of recognition, not only of myself but of several other wonderful bloggers I frequent, and was excited to read some new ones.

Sunday then posed eleven new questions for each of us to answer and a challenge to “tag” eleven others.

Taking a cue from Perpetua, who creatively responded to a Kreativ Blogger award recently, I decided to bend the guidelines a bit as we play tag on my little playground here. Instead of answering all eleven questions in one post, I will do it in several, “tagging” a blogging friend each time along the way.

I will also invite you, dear reader, to answer the question as well.

Ready. Set, Go!


This is a hard question for someone who likes to read as much as I do, but, when pushed on the playground of life to answer, I would have to say that my favorite writer is Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books. Though it is difficult to say which one  is my favorite, Little House on the Prairie defines the series and the spirit of the Ingalls family, especially Laura.

I admire Laura’s sense of adventure and her appreciation of the wide open prairies which, to me, also signifies the wide open possibilities of life. Being the oldest, I’m more like Laura’s big sister Mary; quiet and well-behaved, studious and proper. I would much rather be like Laura, running through fields of wildflowers with my bonnet off or watching the wolves baying in the safety of Pa’s arms.

I love the sense of place that the Little House books bring; the story of the homesteading spirit that moved families across the prairies and settled much of the United States, with a young girl named Laura being the story’s protagonist.

I often post about the Little House books and have visited several of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, most recently this past Autumn. The fact that Laura first started writing the Little House books at the age of 65 gives me encouragemen. Maybe, I, too, can write such a book. How does Little House on the Cutoff sound?

Rachel over at Book Snob was also tagged by Sunday. I encourage you to visit her wonderful blog.. As part of her year-long experience in New York, Rachel set out  “reading America” and included several Wilder books in her quest. Rachel’s well written book reviews, worthy of literary publication, bring a new generation’s perspective to these classic stories. One of her posts on Laura’s books can be found here.

Who is your favorite author?

Read Full Post »

Saturday’s road trip had the pioneering feel of the Little House on the Prairie books. Maybe it was the aura of visiting the Burr Oak/Laura Ingalls Wilder site earlier this month.  There we were, Ma and Pa, off to market in the buckboard. Okay, it wasn’t a buckboard. It was our 21st century mocha colored VW with a latte interior. We were loaded down with provisions. Well, not really provisions. A cooler with soda and granola bars and apples. Does the bottled water count as provisions? The sun was our guide as we headed southwest. I know, it was really the GPS system/mapquest/google earth that we navigated by. We didn’t want to get lost.

The rattling started as we merged onto Route 66. Well, not really Route 66. The interstate that replaced it. Interstate 55. The rattle was real. As we accelerated, we heard a thumping sound that seemed to come from the rear. Pa pulled over to check those things Pas check when it sounds like the wheels of the buggy are coming off. The wheels, er, tires, were just fine, and off we went again, only to hear the rattling again at about 55 mph. Pa suspected a loose belt, while Ma fretted that her own belt was too tight. A little more horsepower, and the rattling abated.

I didn’t hear the honking horn, nor did I see the driver motioning to Pa and pointing to the roof of our mocha machine. I was surprised when Pa pulled over, emergency lights flashing. “Well, Ma,” says Pa, “that driver was pointing and had his fingers up to his ears like he was trying to tell me something”. Was it a seatbelt hanging out? A walnut hidden for the hard winter by a squirrel? A branch, perhaps, from the grass where we have been parking the car while the tar dries? What in tarnation was it?

Pa poked his head in and said “open the sunroof”. Huh? “Just open the sunroof, Ma”. So, open it I did. A bit of a sound, then Pa’s handsome but sheepish face peaking in.

The rubberized cover of Pa’s iPhone, which had inadvertently been left on the roof of the mochamobile while Pa was loading provisions, had, just barely, gotten stuck in the trim of the sunroof, where it rattled away at the posted speed limit, hanging on for dear life. Did you know that was an iPhone application? *** UPDATE BELOW

Enough excitement for one post. I’ll tell you about our  arrival at the 3 French Hens Market and then to the prairie later. In-the-meantime, make sure when you are loading up your buggy for a ride that you leave nothing to chance – not even your iPhone.

*** It was the entire iPhone that was on the roof. The edge of the cover was what saved the phone from oblivion.

Read Full Post »

Driving away from the Effigy Mound National Monument, we wandered a bit west, near the border between Iowa and Minnesota, to the little town of Burr Oak, Iowa. It was enough west from our earlier ride for the landscape to flatten out. It was still rural and picturesque. Soon, we found ourselves on the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic route. Fancy that!

In her “Little House” books, Laura Ingalls Wilder omits the few years her family spent in Burr Oak where they helped run the hotel for room and board. It was a sad time for the Ingalls family. The only son, Freddy, a baby, died there. It was a hard existence inside the hotel. I don’t mind that this has been left out. The “Little House” books are based on Laura’s childhood pioneering homesteads. The books are novels for children. They remain favorite reads.

Modern Burr Oak is a very small town of a few businesses, a grill, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum. Here I am, happy as a lark, about to enter the Visitor’s Center, where we got our bearings, inquired about a place to eat, and made plans to come back in a short while for a docent tour of the Masters’ Hotel across the road.

A few pork tenderloin sandwiches and a lot of calories later, we began our tour with a small gaggle of women out for the day, only one of whom was a kindred Wilder spirit. Tom was a real trooper.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a series of children’s books about her life as a pioneer girl from the north woods of Wisconsin to the prairies of Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa and the Dakota Territory. She published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, when she was 65. Eight more books, and generations of boys and girls, and me, have delighted in her simple stories of life homesteading, braving blizzards, making do with what the land yields, and, well, the pioneer spirit that broke the soil and settled our vast land. An unpublished memoir of Laura’s documented the Ingalls’ stay in Burr Oak. To see this site and some of Laura’s belongings was supreme joy for me.

Click on to get a clearer view of the hotel/museum.

In the Long Winter, which I have read again and again, the Ingalls spend the winter in town, where they and the townspeople nearly perish from starvation as the winds and snow of the great blizzard ravage the prairie. Laura helps Pa make twists of hay to throw into the fire for fuel. The scene plays out in page after page of the book, but, I could never quite visualize what these looked like. Here it is.

At the time the Ingalls lived in the hotel, living in a single room, cooking meals for up to 25 boarders, three times a day, up to 200 wagon passed by each day, filled with all the worldly possessions of folks looking for a better chance at life. It was a time of economic depression, plagues of grasshoppers, failed crops, maddening blizzards, and hope. The docent pointed out a framed document showing that even Laura’s Pa, Charles Ingalls, a hard-working and self-sufficient man, needed a little help from the U.S. Government in 1875.  It was for a half bushel of flour valued at $5.25.

 I was so excited to be there and already knew most of the Ingalls story, that the docent finally said “If you have any question, just ask Penny.” It was fun to learn that his wife’s nephew had worked for a time with our Jennifer. It is a small world, isn’t it?

Tom and I both saw this dresser in one of the boarding rooms at the same time. His mom’s family had one just like it. Tom’s maternal ancestors were homesteaders in Ohio. We still have furniture from the farm, but, not the chest, which also knew Jennifer for a short time.

Can you imagine sleeping on this bed? Three to a bed? The little cozy on the chamber pot is rather cute, but, I’m grateful for our indoor plumbing with flushing toilets, aren’t you? Every few days, the bed coverings would be pulled back and the ropes would be pulled and tightened. The coverings would be aired out and beaten to remove any bugs. This is where the phrase “sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” originates.

We spent a few hours in Burr Oak and have loads of pictures of all of the artifacts there, but, I’ve taken up enough of your time, so, will say goodbye for now, dear reader. I think I need a bath and I’m certainly glad I don’t have to pay extra for hot water.

Have you read any of the “Little House” books? Do you have a favorite?

Read Full Post »


writing about the environmental issues nobody is writing about.

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy


Barnstorming: Seeking Sanctuary in the Seasons of a Rural Life

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago


Chicago's Weekly Wildflower Report, News, Best Nature Hikes & Outdoor Getaways

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

The Pioneer Girl Project

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Middlemay Farm

Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

Book Snob


teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Andra Watkins

Acclaimed Speaker ~ New York Times Bestselling Author

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Begun in 2010, this blog offers analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the life, works and legacy of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Susan is an active member and supporter of the Louisa May Alcott Society, the Fruitlands Museum and Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.


Reducing stress one exhale at a time

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland