20 Things I Learned From The Little House On The Prairie Books That Are Completely Useless


I have this problem where when I love something, I start obsessing over it, and the only thing that satiates my appetite is to consume them over and over and over again. Until I move on to the next thing. This happens a lot with food. Around the fourth grade, this happened with The Little House on the Prairie books, which I would read again and again, sometimes in order, sometimes out of order, until I moved on to the Anne of Green Gables series. And then Star Wars. And then the Emily of New Moon series. And then My Sassy Girl. And then the Studio Ghibli compilation soundtrack, which was the only thing that got me through my first post-college year. Oh, and most recently, this.

Anyway, the problem with this obsessive consumption is that 98% of my brain is filled with completely useless facts and plot points. Like, I will literally lie in bed at night and try to fall asleep, until I start going over the details of a particular scene where Emily Byrd Starr is busy sanding the floor of the New Moon farm kitchen in a complicated “herringbone pattern” while wearing an embarrassing wrapper when she catches site of a local gossip, and she jumps into the broom closet to hide from the detestable woman, but ends up stuck there and overhears all the horrible things this woman has to say about the Murrays. See what I mean? This is not photographic memory. This is STUPID.

Proof: I can list almost every random detail that Laura Ingalls Wilder provides in her beloved series (the books, not the stupid TV series, ugh), yet I cannot think of how any of this would apply to my life in 2015. For example:

1. The tail is the best part to eat when your Pa butchers a pig. Except the closest that your father has come to butchering a pig is opening a package of prosciutto.

2. You can use the pig’s bladder as a ball.

3. The fact that your suitor/future husband can span your waist with both hands is a sign of beauty and the only thing worth bragging about when your daughter immortalizes you in her books.

4. When your parents harvest sap during the maple sugaring season, a fun treat to make is pouring maple syrup into snow, despite the fact that you don’t have any maple trees around, you don’t know how to harvest the sap and the only time you can get snow in your city as at The Grove during Christmas time.

5. Salted pork comes in a barrel. This is a good protein option if you’re moving to another part of the country on a covered wagon. Otherwise, stick to your Blue Apron subscription.

6. Calico is a type of floral fabric pattern that you would never be caught wearing right now.

7. Sometimes, your Pa will wear blackface and put on a minstrel show with other townsfolk. If he tries to do this right now, stop him IMMEDIATELY.

8. To save your new crops from a deathly frost, you have to pour water over them. At least, that’s what Almanzo’s family did. I still don’t get it? Oh no. Time to read Farmer Boy again. BRB.

9. Trundle beds are a good idea for children if you’re living in a one room cabin.

10. If your beautiful older sister goes blind, you can always ship her off to some fancy school where she’ll come back even more beautiful (but still blind) and can show you how she can write using a weird stencil. (I still don’t get that either).

11. If your Pa gets lost in a freak snow storm on the way home from the general store, he will eat your Christmas candy as sustenance. You’re not allowed to get mad about this.

12. Anyone named Nellie is the worst.

13. If your family is starving during a long winter, you will find wheat hidden in the wall at a young man’s (a future son-in-law) cabin.

14. A good way to wash your sheep before shearing them is to soap them up with soft brown soap and drag them through a washing pen that you’ve constructed in the river next to your farm.

15. You can turn a hollowed out tree into a meat smoker.

16. It’s okay if your first doll is really just a dried up old corncob.

17. Beware of locusts. They ruin everything.

18. The best career option for any young woman is to become a teacher.

19. When baking a pie plant pie for your husband’s farm workers, don’t forget to add sugar.

20. If your family is still starving during a long winter, use your coffee meal to grind up wheat for bread.

And don’t get me started on all the intricate dress buttons from Little House in the Big Woods! But, really. Can any of this be useful?


  1. You are my spirit animal. I had my mom make me a sunbonnet (in a blue and white sprigged calico) when I was in 4th grade. And I actually wore it as an accessory. OF COURSE DOWN MY BACK. Any proper Laura does not wear it on their head.


  2. omg! I love you! I too read LITTLE HOUSE books obsessively as a kid. In 4th grade I moved from NY to CA and thought it was a splendid idea to wear a calico bonnet and matching dress on my first day of school. I can’t imagine why I didn’t have any friends throughout the rest of elementary school. I used to desperately try to make that maple sugar candy by putting a string in a jar and pouring syrup and ice cubes on it- but was sad that it never made candy- I also dorked out squashing acorns to make into “meal”. Not a proud moment.



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