(Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Many of us remember sitting with our families for our weekly viewing of the classic television show Little House on the Prairie. Even if you didn’t grow up watching the beloved Michael Landon or reading the series of novels it was based on, you likely have an idea about its premise.
In 1932, Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first book in the Little House series, titled Little House in the Big Woods. The series tells the story of the Ingalls family surviving in the American West during the late 1800s as pioneers.
Little House on the Prairie aired from 1974 to 1982 and is available for streaming today on multiple platforms. Interestingly enough, the show is still growing in popularity and, as a result of streaming, is gaining a whole new audience–especially those who dream of homesteading.
Throughout the Little House on the Prairie series, fans get to watch the Ingalls family live, love, and survive. What may seem like nostalgic viewing or reading is packed full of preparedness tips that are still applicable today. We never know when we will be in a situation that requires us to take care of the ones we love without modern-day comforts.
On top of comfort viewing, it also teaches us about the need for self-sufficiency and the necessity of survival skills.
Comfort viewing for desperate times
As Americans sheltered in place this spring, they turned to comfort viewing, and the adventures of the Ingalls family provided an escape from the current reality. As Brooks Barnes explains, “[The show is] comforting and familiar and one of the first things I reach for when I’m feeling extra vulnerable, as has been the case lately in quarantine. It helps put the problems of today into perspective. ‘We’ve come through worse,’ Ma says wisely when anything bad happens.”
Moreover, the Ingalls family shows us that it is possible to survive and overcome great challenges, such as the outbreak of an infectious disease. The 18th episode of Season 1 is titled “Plague” and deals with a typhus outbreak. The families living in Walnut Grove are advised to “stay in isolation in their homes.” Additionally, the 13th episode of Season 3 is titled “Quarantine” and is about Walnut Grove residents quarantining to prevent the spread of a mountain fever epidemic. Something is satisfying about seeing history repeat itself – especially when you have seen your favorite characters survive.
For this same reason, Little House on the Prairie became known as “the book the depression couldn't stop.” Published during the Great Depression, the Ingalls family provided comfort to Americans who were struggling with their current circumstances. As they read about the Ingalls family learning to live self-sufficiently, it gave them hope that they could also survive independently.
The need for self-sufficiency
The Little House on the Prairie series focuses on how the Ingalls family lived self-sufficiently. The family did as much as they could independently without relying on the government or anyone else. Television viewers watched as the family packed up and relocated to a farm in Minnesota. The Ingalls family had “a house and life made entirely by their own hands – Pa even made his own bullets; only the nails were ‘boughten.’” From the furniture in their home to their actual shelter, they built their home themselves.
The importance of knowing how to make your own food
Little House on the Prairie also demonstrates why knowing how to make your own food is an important part of preparedness. The Ingalls family cooked meals from scratch using the ingredients they had on hand. And, much of what they had came from their own preparedness skills. For example, Ma Ingalls worked in the garden while Pa Ingalls worked in the crop fields – an essential source of food for the family. Additionally, the Ingalls family raised animals and livestock to have eggs, milk, butter, and beef.
Not only did they eat the food they grew, but they also sold their food to help cover costs for the things they had to purchase. Plus, they made sure not to waste any food and what was left over they stored for the winter. In Little House in the Big Woods, the narrator says, “Pa might hunt alone all day in the bitter cold, in the Big Woods covered with snow, and come home at night with nothing for Ma and Mary and Laura to eat. So as much food as possible must be stored away in the little house before winter came.”
The value of taking care of your own goods
The Ingalls family lived by the mantra, “Waste not, want not.” They strove not to waste their goods and to look for other uses. As the Little House on the Prairie blog explains, “Ma made all of the clothes for the family. She lovingly stitched each piece by hand. We are a culture of consumerism nowadays and can learn a great deal about simplicity from this one act of the Ingalls family. The Ingalls family was self-reliant and made do with what they had on hand, mended clothing, and repurposed scraps into useful things like quilts. Nothing was wasted.”
The necessity of survival skills in nature
Fans of the show, known affectionately as Bonnetheads, know that life wasn’t always easy for the Ingalls family. Part of the appeal of the show was seeing how the family survived different disaster situations. And there were many!
The Ingalls family battled the weather on several occasions. One memorable episode titled “Survival” was about the family having to use all their survival skills while snowbound with little food. In these desperate times, the family twisted pieces of hay to make fires to stay warm.
In a different blizzard situation in the book series, Pa Ingalls is trapped outside. According to Popular Science, “Pa holes up in a snow cave, keeping an air hole open while the storm rages for four days. He sustains himself by eating the candy that he had planned to give his daughters for Christmas.”
In addition to dangerous weather, the Ingalls family also faced serious threats from wildlife, including bears and malaria-carrying mosquitos. Their knowledge of nature helped them protect themselves and find food sources when they were desperately needed. Simply knowing how to fish, hunt, and identify different berries and edible plants provided nourishment on multiple occasions.
Watch and learn, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply