Posts Tagged ‘The Long Winter’

“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Little House in the Big Woods”

That little girl’s name was Laura. She grew up to become one of America’s most beloved children’s authors with her books, commonly known as the Little House Books, still in publication.


Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday.

Those of you who have been visiting with me here on the Cutoff for some time know of my love of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her stories growing up on the vast prairies of the midwest in the second half of the 19th century. You know how I often read “The Long Winter” during snowstorms and of my visits to several of the Little House sites, most recently the one in Burr Oak, Iowa. If you are new to my site, or don’t know about the Little House books, please feel free to click onto the links to learn a bit more.

It is “Little House in the Big Woods” that has started countless schoolchildren on the long journey with Laura and her family that begins in the North Woods of Wisconsin and is one of the first “chapter” books read aloud to children in schools.

This one little book. written when Laura was in her sixties, is a chronicle of midwestern settlers who formed and farmed the heartland of the United States.

“Little House in the Big Woods” was followed by more books that chronologically tell of the Ingalls’ journey across frozen Lake Pepin to Minnesota and Iowa and the Dakota territory. Laura Ingalls Wilder brought the pioneer spirit alive. She still does as her books take us into their sod house, log cabins and shanties, enduring grasshopper plagues, near starvation, and illness that leaves Laura’s sister Mary blind.  Ma’s cheery disposition and ability to cook anything and Pa’s fiddle strings playing the girls up to their beds at night and all the adventures, both big and small, continue to entertain, educate and inspire children young and young at heart

I was so excited to learn of her birthday today that I just may stop right here and read the first chapter of “Little House in the Big Woods” . . . well, you know what will happen if I do that, don’t you?


Read Full Post »

“In 1906 Laura Ingalls Wilder visited her daughter, Rose, in Kansas City, MO. While she was there this studio picture was made. Her life in the LITTLE HOUSE books was just a memory and her writing career had not begun.”

From a postcard of Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, Mansfield, Missouri

If you guessed Laura Ingalls Wilder as the lady in yesterday’s post, you were correct.

It was many years after posing for this picture that Laura began writing what became known as the LITTLE HOUSE books. When most of us think of Laura Ingalls Wilder, we think of a little girl with her long hair flowing and a bonnet hanging down her back, for Laura did not like to wear hats. We may think of her as the matronly woman below, but, we rarely think of her striking such a pose. It tickled my fancy when I saw the postcard in the gift shop in October when Tom and I visited one of the Laura Ingall’s Wilder sites in Burr Oak, Iowa.

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know my love and appreciation of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her children’s books. The LIttle House books are the story of Laura and her family as they travel from Pepin, Wisconsin to the vast, unsettled prairies, living in cabins and depots and sod houses. Hers is the story of family, with all the hardships and joys that life has to offer, especially during the second half of the 19th century as families moved further and further west, seeking good farm land and opportunities. Her books are the story of the pioneering spirit that settled much of the United States.

Those of you unfamiliar with my ramblings on LMA and this remarkable series of books that have delighted children, and children at heart like me, might want to start at the blog I wrote last fall. That one will lead you to others if you wish more. You can find it here.

Better yet, forget my blog. Go right to the books, starting with Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. If you are stuck under several feet of snow, read about The Long Winter.

You were such good sports about not telling who the lovely lady was, and patient in waiting if you did not.  Thank you.

I have always been in awe of Laura. She wrote for local newspapers during her adult life, but it wasn’t until she was 65 years old that her first book was published. Her books have remained on the bookshelves in stores, libraries, and homes ever since and have brought to life a unique time in American history.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how a picture on a postcard can become an online conversation in a blog? I wonder how Louisa, and other writers as well, would feel about this thing we call the internet and about blogging.

Our tea was delightful. I wore a feather in my flowered hat, and will tell you all about it in another post.

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