ASK MARTA MCDOWELL what she’s harvesting in her garden this fall, and here’s the kind of answer you might elicit:
“I’m off to pick the overflow crop of ground cherries that I planted, because of a letter that Ma Ingalls wrote to her daughter. Ground cherry preserves anyone?”
Well, the Ma Ingalls in that reply is none other than the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved “Little House” books.
So why does Marta McDowell, a gardener and landscape designer in contemporary New Jersey, take her cues about what crops to grow from the vintage correspondence of others? Apparently, that’s a side effect of delving into their backstory deeply enough to write “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books,” which McDowell has just published.