Sunday, February 15, 2015

Excerpts from "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

"That's so," said Pa. "These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves- they're good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em."

I guess I was procrastinating writing this blog post. I had some ideas for it like more area barns, or some of the beautiful tropical places we visited in Florida last year, but with so much of our Country and neighboring Canada in a deep freeze, I decided last night to write about The Long Winter.

This past fall I made the promise to myself that I would not complain or whine about winter. And I kept that promise. It hasn't been that bad. At least we could get out if we had to; we're never actually ever "snowed" in. The roads have been plowed. The stores stay open their regular hours and we have heat. It's cold today. We made it up to 2 so far. Don't think it will get much warmer. (Note to husband: I'm not complaining- just stating the facts.)

I can't remember when I started reading the "Little House" books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but it must have been after the series "Little House On The Prairie" was on tv. Actually, I never realized that the series was based on books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was such a sweet, innocent tv program of life in the early pioneer days of our Country. Laura wrote about growing up on farms in the 1880's. Her books were published in the 1940's.

I remember the first time reading one of her shortened versions in the Reader's Digest. It was such an interesting and entertaining read that I wanted to read more right then. This was back in the 1970's so it wasn't like I could download a book on a Kindle or something. I actually had to go to the library and look up in the card catalog (what does a card catalog look like these days anyway?) the books written by her. I was amazed at the number of books in her series, and I wanted to read them all and of course in order (that's my concrete-sequential thinking). Actually, if you never read the books you would not realize that The Little House On the Prairie was not the first book in the series. The first book in the series was Little House in the Big Woods which was about life in Pepin, Wisconsin.

Well, you could imagine my disappointment when the first book in the series was not available at our local Mexico Public Library (NY), but had been taken out. (It must have been that someone else read the story in Reader's Digest and wanted to read the series, too.) So I borrowed the books that were available and read them as quick as I could. I should mention that these books were written for YA (Young Adults) so they are very quick reading.

One of the first books I read was The Long Winter. Oh, the trying times of these people. What they had to endure in their many hardships, but still maintain a positive outlook for their children. This book was one of her most historically accurate novels that she wrote. The area sustained several months of blizzard weather, and because of all the snow and winds the trains were no longer able to reach the town with food and supplies. Another part of this book that was impressionable on me was where at one point she describes the snow and wind being so bad, that they had to run a clothes line to the barn so they could hold onto it when they had to do barn chores. That's because it was blowing so bad they couldn't see the barn from the house.

Another important aspect to me of these books were the illustrations by Garth Williams. He was not the first illustrator for the series which were written in the 1940's, but his images were included in the 1950's. His images certainly ties me to the 1950's when I was in elementary school. How many other readers remember the beautiful, vivid images of Dick, Jane, and Sally?

Several years back after reading the series, when we were on a vacation heading west, we were traveling through South Dakota after visiting the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. Well, what do you know? Checking the maps out we were only about 40 miles off the Interstate from De Smet, South Dakota. This was the setting for five of her novels. Well, of course I managed to talk my husband into taking a little side trip there. I was looking for one of the places where they lived: the Surveyor's House. We found it, but it was April so not much was open to the public other than the library and a little diner. So I got some information from the library and we had dinner at the diner. The Surveyor's house in De Smet, was where the family lived during the winter of 1879-1880. That building and the family's home built in 1887 by her father, are still open to the pubic today for tours. They now have a visitor center and about 20,000 people tour the buildings each year.

I know I have pictures of the Surveyor's house, but I think they are on slides. If I took the time to look for them now and transfer them to a jpeg file this blog probably won't get posted for another week or so. Maybe at some point I might add them later.

Almanzo Wilder, Laura's husband, was raised in Malone, New York. Laura wrote about Almanzo's life on the farm in her book titled Farmer Boy. The Wilder Homestead is open to the public as well. We visited there about ten years ago.

So today, many people around the area here in northern New York, are shoveling out their driveways, walkways, mailboxes, and roofs.
Yes, now there is so much snow here the roofs have to be shoveled off so they will not collapse under the weight of all that snow. We have a lot of snow, but we're not snowed in (at least not yet, hahaha).

Want a good read for long, cold winter nights? Check out (or download) some of the "Little House" Books.

Ingalls Homestead
Wikipedia- The Long Winter
The Almanzo Wilder Homestead, Malone, NY

Thanks for stopping by 
our northern homestead. 
Hope you enjoyed your visit. 
Feel free to leave me a note
 in the comment section. . .


  1. My mother bought me the whole series of Laura Ingall's books,and I devoured them! And I enjoyed the TV series also.Boy,you sure brought back memories with the Dick and Jane books.

  2. Thanks, Chris. They were such an enriching, historical and educational series. From reading about how they dealt with the Indians crossing the prairies, to everyday on the farm. It really made you appreciate what you had.
    I purchased the set for my daughter one year for Christmas, too.

  3. Sue, I too did not know about these books until after the series started. I do remember the Dick and Jane books and illustrations. I think somedays that we are dealing with a long snowy winter, but not with our modern technology. I am not whining either just stating facts. I will grow tired of it all by March and spring.

    1. I was hoping for an early spring, but with all the snow we have I think that's questionable. At least living in the north we are prepared and expect cold temperatures and lots of snow, where in the south they certainly can not handle all the snow, ice or severe cold. At least February is a short month and March will be here in less than two weeks so that's a good thing.
      Thanks for your comments, Donna.

  4. My grandma gave me the first four books and eventually I read the whole series. What struck me in those books was how they created straw bricks to burn to survive the cold. I thought of that a lot that October we were without power here in CT.

    1. There are so many details in those books that come to mind and I remember that as well about the bricks being made with twisted straw. When it's snowing really hard and blowing around here I think of the clothesline attached to the barn that they had to use to guide them to the barn. And I can see how that could have happened in the open prairie. Around here it blows pretty good in the open fields. But with all our pine trees in our yard that helps break the wind and snow so you don't realize how poor the visibility is until you drive down the road.
      Laura Ingalls Wilder's books have become very popular, and there is a new biography coming out on her. Thanks for commenting, Cynthia.

  5. Sue,
    This is such a fun post and it did bring back childhood memories Dick and Jane will always be part of that wonderful childhood.
    Ted on the roof reminds me of why I am in DC, but then again today we are under snow for this town. Thinking of you and hope you have a safe trip to the warm state of Florida later this month.

    1. Thank you, LuLu! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It was fun putting it all together. All the photos in this post were taken in just a three day period. It's been below freezing here since our first snow fall in early January. So even though we did not get that much snow earlier it never melted. And then we got quite a bit of snow last week on top of it. Still below freezing here, but at least we made it up to about 20 today.
      I read on the news about the snowfall and ice in DC. Hope it doesn't last too long there.
      Thanks for thinking of us, and see you in a few months (in warmer weather)!

  6. I really liked reading your post on the books and all your snowy images. I especially like those with the falling snow and the last one in the evening. I cannot image how hard winters were in the 1800's. Not getting their supplies and enduring blizzards like that. We kinda take it for granted that our homes remain warm and we get food at the grocery. Plus we still have transportation even in bad weather. It really puts into perspective any complaining we might do on winter storms. Like you we a buried in snow, but also like you, our area just deals with it. I hope May is snow free. We have had snow into May and this year looks like winter will last long like it did last year.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Sometimes, like you, we get the Lake Effect snow which is light and has very large snowflakes. And that type of snow can come down hard and pile up fast. I was trying to get some photos that showed how heavy the snow comes down at times around here.
      At least February is a short month and it's more than half over now. A few of my friends are excited because they've seen robins already (however I do realize that some robins that never leave the area). But the red-wing black birds will start showing up in a couple of weeks and that's a sure sign of spring. It won't be long now. We might still have snow on the ground, but on the calendar it will say "Spring"!