Book Review – The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books

Book Review
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books
By Marta McDowell

Did you grow up traveling the prairies and woods with the Ingalls family? I got lost in Laura’s adventures as she grew up and never paid any attention to the details about the30 Little House 2 flora in the different locations. This book uses many passages from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to chronicle the agricultural practices, home gardens, seasonal chores, and daily activities the Ingalls family engaged in to grow, harvest, and preserve food for storage.

The book makes use of archival territory and plat maps of locations the Ingalls family lived from Wisconsin to Minnesota to North Dakota and more. It also verifies many events and observations Laura weaves into her stories by including newspaper articles, agriculture circulars and historical photos. Plants mentioned in her stories are often depicted by not only original Garth Williams line drawings, but also period botanical illustrations and contemporary photographs.

31 Little House 3While McDowell’s book is not a how-to-garden directive, it does show the deep connection to the seasons and land that beloved children’s author and pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder shared subtly through her childhood stories. It is satisfying to see that even with changes to our climate and the urbanization of Laura’s frontier landscapes that many of the plant species continue to thrive.

~ Review by Elizabeth Waddington

Helping Bees

Bees and other pollinators are in decline. In the summer 2019 issue of “Permaculture” magazine, there is an article entitled “Bee Roadzz” by Milly Carmichael that offers some hope. The following is a synopsis of that article.

In 2014 in England the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) wrote the 10-year National Pollinator Strategy to improve the state of bees and other pollinating insects and to monitor progress. Yet despite this focus on the pollinators’ plight, bees are in trouble still. The reasons for the decline in population of honeybees and other bees are manifold and complex and include loss of habitat. “…in the UK, in the last 60-70 years we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows, 300,000 km. of established hedgerows and 80% of flower-rich chalk downland.”16 Helping Bees 2

A group of people in the village of Marlborough decided to tackle this problem from a local perspective. Knowing that honeybees can travel up to 4 miles to find food and that their nearest village was 7 miles away, the people of Marlborough met with their neighboring village and set up a “bee road” between the 2 villages. They met with many different people in the town as well as farmers in the adjacent area. The first step was to work with existing resources, then re-assess and take the project further if successful. “Whatever can be done is encouraged, whether it is: reviewing garden plans and choosing more bee-friendly ones; sharing those plans with friends and neighbors; taking part in national monitoring schemes; reducing pesticide use; creating hibernation and nesting habitat for solitary bees; landowners surveying field margins for wildflowers and seeding the less rich areas…planting dozens of honeysuckle cuttings in the hedgerows; or letting a corner of a churchyard grow wilder.” Farmers were encouraged to increase wildflowers in edges of fields as well as in meadows, re-introduce hedgerows, and plant flowering trees.

In addition to increasing food sources in the farmland between the towns, creating bee habitats in yards and gardens was encouraged. “There is growing evidence that allotments, domestic gardens and community green spaces in urban environments offer enormous potential for increasing pollinator populations and protecting genetic diversity.”

17 Helping Bees 3

Now more villages are becoming involved in creating bee roads. The Marlborough group’s goal is to cover the country with “Bee Roadzz” so bees have habitat and food sources continuously available instead of islands of food and shelter surrounded by deserts without these resources.

In Montana our towns are many miles apart, so creating bee roads like these would be hard. But in urban areas we could work to make our yards and gardens more bee-friendly and also work with farmers and ranchers to increase food sources and habitats for bees similar to the English project.

~Submitted by Ann Guthals

A Blast from the Past

The late Dr. Bob is the father of Montana’s Master Gardener program. When he taught the classes nobody ever fell asleep. He was a writer of a great many articles on gardening. The following is just one of several hundred in my files.

A question to Dr. Bob: “How can I increase germination of my garden seeds?” (March 2002) Gardeners all over the country are right now wondering how to get better germination in the vegetable and flower seeds. Of course, start with good seeds and in most cases you’ll have good germination, but some seeds are notoriously tough with hard seed coats. Now, researchers in Georgia have found a common household substance that increases germination in watermelon seeds.

The seedless watermelon cultivars on the marker are for the most part, triploids. That means that they form fruit that has no developed seeds. While they are no good for seed-spitting contests, the melons do make great eating. The triploid cultivars are expensive to produce and, unfortunately, the seeds have thick coats that interfere with germination. Researchers have found that soaking the seeds in 1 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide at room temperature and in the dark greatly improves their germination. After just a day or two in the solution, the seeds germinated readily in petri dishes and would no doubt do so in the garden soil.

The 1 percent solution does not damage the emerging radicle, but solutions two percent or higher do severe damage to the young seedling. The hydrogen peroxide is generally available in the drug store and is a three percent solution, so you must dilute it with water. You can do that by adding two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. So far, researchers have only tested the solution on watermelon seeds, but they suggest that it might also improve germination in a wide range of “hard-coated” seeds, such as those of cabbage and broccoli.

Moss Mansion News

Moss Mansion Features Summer 2018 Farm to Table Exhibit

Family diaries are among the interesting documents to be found in the archives at the Moss Mansion in Billings. Though Melville’s are the most numerous, she wasn’t big on painting detailed pictures with her writing. Even so, it is clear she enjoyed baking, and together with several cookbooks and recipe boxes it’s clear that food was a central part of many family traditions. After exploring the subject for the last couple of years, staff at the Moss have developed the material for this year’s summer exhibit – FARM TO TABLE: Family and Food in the Yellowstone Valley.

The exhibit explores the concepts of farming, agriculture, cooking, sustainability, and tradition in Montana over the last 150 years in the Yellowstone Valley. For the Moss family, like all of Billings, local agriculture and food traditions were integral to daily life.

In this exhibit visitors will find original farm equipment used on the agricultural land owned and developed by PB Moss, Moss family recipes, and insight into PB’s entrepreneurial spirit and success that was deeply tied to local agriculture. Stories will be shared from local families and tribes about their own experiences and food traditions that have developed in the local area.

Visitors can also expect to learn about contemporary producers and how local agriculture continues to be part of the fabric of Yellowstone Valley life in 2018. We have partnered with Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council’s Food Hub to connect our community with those local producers. Watch our calendar for upcoming dates for food and agriculture events related to this exhibit in 2018.

Moss Mansion 2

FARM TO TABLE: Family and Food in Montana is an accompanying art exhibit to the Moss Mansion’s 2018 exhibit. The art exhibit explores farming, agriculture, cooking, sustainability, and tradition in Montana over the last 150 years. Twodimensional works in a variety of media and styles are included in the exhibition which will be on view to a local, national, and international population from May 2018 – September 2018.

~ Written by Jennette Rasch, submitted by Corinna Sinclair

Nigella

Among the interesting flowers that are easy to grow from seed are the intricate and dainty nigella, or Love-in- a-Mist. Grown in Elizabethan cottage gardens and popular for centuries, they are not the fan favorite in nurseries and garden centers these days since they are not great transplant candidates. They are so easy to grow from seed that it is truly a shame if you never try them for medium-height, season- long delight in any sunny location.

To create a display from mid -spring to late summer, sow successive plantings from early spring to early summer. Plant when weather ranges between 65-70 most of the day in full sun with a little space for each plant to reach out. They don’t require much but decent drainage for soil, so water when dry and apply a little fertilizer in July and August. Watch for the deeply cut first leaves to break through in about 10 days and then prepare to enjoy the show. Multiple branches on 1-2’ plants will produce blooms rad intricate stamens and pistols. The leaves are finely divided and lend an airy quality to the middle of edge beds and cottage gardens.

The show doesn’t stop with the bloom – the seed pod is just as delightful with a balloon-like case tipped with spikes and surrounded by the net-like collar. These can be dried for quaint little arrangements or left to self-seed for next year.

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair

 

GARDENING IN THE 18TH CENTURY

It’s mid-June and the spring planting rush is over. Thank heavens for all of the resources we have at our fingertips—from nurseries, seed catalogs, the library, and the internet to our own Master Gardeners’ private cache and network.

Such a plethora begs the question of how people got their gardening information before the modern advantages we all enjoy.

Plants and information moved much more slowly but I think you might be surprised at the variety available to people living in a four-mile-an-hour world in which most people seldom left their counties. Here are three examples.

William Faris, a silversmith, clockmaker and avid gardener, lived in Annapolis, MD across from the state capitol from 1728-1804. Because of his prime location, he had contact with everyone from local slaves to the governor and he discussed gardening and traded seeds with anyone he could. He was, in fact, the hub of a very democratic gardening network. In addition, because Annapolis was an international port, Faris had early information of which ships arrived from where and what plants, seeds and people they carried. He had access to seeds and plants from around the world. Luckily for us, Faris kept a careful diary of his gardening, including sketches of his garden layout and the plants he and his slave cultivated. You can read more about Faris in Gardens and Gardening in the Chesapeake, 1700-1805 (Baltimore, 1998) by Barbara Wells Sarudy.
Also, read her excellent blog about all things gardening in early America at this link:
https://americangardenhistory.blogspot.com.

Charles Carroll, Barrister, lived in Annapolis at the same time as William Faris and surely knew him. As a young man, Carroll decided to build a country house on the Patapsco River, in what is now Baltimore, on land he owned and on which was an
iron mine. A wealthy bachelor, Carroll planned a showpiece plantation, Mount Clare, that included an extensive orchard, a kitchen garden and a greenhouse (in which he and his wife later grew pineapples.) If he got seeds from William Faris, he did not make note of it. Rather, many of the varieties of fruit trees and vegetables he grew at Mt. Clare came directly from England. It was a slow process but Carroll wanted to do everything according to the latest standards of the time. The process began when Carroll shipped iron from his mine to London. He sent with the captain a very long shopping list of all the fruit trees, vegetable seeds and latest gardening manual he wanted the captain to bring with him on his return to Maryland. Dozens of varieties were available to him. Three months later when the captain arrived in London, he handed the list over to Carroll’s agent in London who did the shopping and delivered the plants, seeds and book to the ship. That may have taken several months. It was at least a three-month journey back to Mt. Clare and the condition of the plants depended completely on the diligence of the captain in seeing that they were watered and protected from the sea weather. Many of the plants must have survived the trip because the grounds of Mount Clare were well-known once they were established. For pictures of Mount Clare, see 
http://www.mountclare.org/.


John Bartram (1699-1777), a Philadelphia Quaker and botanist, traveled up and down the eastern colonies collecting native American plant species in the early part of the eighteenth century. He took them back to Philadelphia and established a plant nursery. In addition, he began to collect seeds, plants and knowledge from correspondents, many of whom were in England. Bartram’s Garden became the first plant nursery in the colonies and had customers from the colonies as well as England. In 1765, King George III named Bartram his “Royal Botanist”. Bartram’s son, William, also a naturalist and plant explorer, ran the family nursery after his father’s passing. After 1810, John Bartram’s granddaughter, Ann Bartram Carr and her husband, Robert, took over and expanded the gardens. At one point, they offered 1400 native species and over 1000
exotic plants to their customers. The gardens closed for business in 1850. Luckily for us, though, the gardens were preserved, first privately and now as a public historic site. You can learn more about Bartram’s Gardens at
https://bartramsgarden.org/about/history/horticulture/.

To my knowledge, no one has made a comparison of the species and varieties available to early Americans and those available to us today. I suspect that they would find that while we enjoy a wide number of genera native to many parts of the globe we have
lost what people in the past had—a smaller number of genera and a larger number of species and varieties. It gives one pause.


Submitted by Trudy Eden