I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie book series aloud to our six-year old son, Liam. The cover just fell off “The Long Winter,” perhaps due to the irony that we’re reading it as the summer mercury swelters outside here in southwestern Wisconsin, but more likely because the paperback hasn’t been opened since I last read it in 1978.
For those of us who grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books, those images of independent Laura, the vast beauty of the prairie and butter churning prompted a generation of ten year old girls who wanted to hitch up the covered wagon and homestead. What would Laura think if she knew some of us actually did? As I re-read the books as a forty- something adult – surrounded by my five acre farmstead Inn Serendipity, my abundant gardens, pile of wood for the woodstove and starry open skies above – I realize what an impact those books had on me decades ago. Laura Ingalls went beyond my third grade Halloween costume; her words inspired me, in my own way, to become Laura Ingalls (minus the butter churning. I’ll let Organic Valley handle that).
Books also inspired my fellow farmer friend, Kriss Marion, who traded the Chicago scene in 2005 to launch Circle M Farm in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, running a CSA (community supported agriculture) and a fiber business. “People often ask me how it happened that we uprooted our city family and came to be market farming in southwest Wisconsin,” explains Marion. “The answer, plain and simple, is books.”
Marion chronicles this testament for books as a change agent in her farm blog post, “The Dangers of Book Reading.” Admittedly a lifelong voracious reader, Marion credits a friend introducing her to the work of James Herriott back in her Chicago days as the first step in her rural transition. Kindred spirits to my own journey chronicled in Rural Renaissance, Marion and I evolved from city to farm chicks for a variety of reasons, but grounded in a desire to live closer to the land, grow healthy food for our own families and others and feel like we’re living a daily livelihood reflective of doing our part to leave this world a better place.
Add a dash of new perspectives to your reading list and see what ideas surface. Marion’s favorite three authors provide an ample starter list:
* James Herriott
By drawing readers into his world of being a veterinarian in the 1940s and 50s in rural England, Herriott inspired many to follow their animal-loving dreams by living in the country. His semi-autographical books, often referred to collectively as “All Creatures Great and Small,” based on a series of short stories describing his life and passion for the land and all creatures that call it home.
“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs.” James Herriot
* Wendell Berry
Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry penned over 25 books rooted in the idea that one’s work and daily livelihood should be strongly rooted to a sense of place, a connection to and respect for the land surrounding you.
“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be — I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Wendell Berry
* Gene Logsdon
Writing from his farm in Ohio, Gene Logsdon blends the practical with the inspirational, eloquently exemplifying how a love for the land and raising our own food in a healthy manner go hand in hand.
“If gardening has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t separate ourselves from wild nature … We live in union with a wilderness fundamentally beyond our control or we don’t live at all.” Gene Logsdon
Please share some of your favorite authors and recommended books to cook up new perspectives.
Photo Credit: Lisa Kivirist