Ruth Stout, the lovably eccentric advocate of simple living and especially no-work gardening, sprinkles all her work with wise and funny observations. Here are my 15 favorite Ruth Stout quotes from her book, Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent:
“You can, of course, just promise yourself that you will reform and will do better next time, but broken vows, even those made exclusively to oneself, can be rather uncomfortable to live with.”
“If there’s anything more foolhardy than digging down under the surface of a compliment to try to decide whether or not it’s sincere, I don’t know what it is.”
“My guess is that if our homes weren’t quite so ‘pretty,’ our faces would, often, be more so; that is, pleasant and relaxed-looking.”
“From time to time we run across some new item someone has thought up to distinguish man from mere animals, and here is my contribution; animals kill other living creatures at their convenience, unhampered by any ideas about loving kindness or brotherhood, because they have no such thoughts. Men do have these lofty ideals but they also are unhampered by them.”
“I read somewhere that a shallow pan of beer put into a garden at night will do away with slugs. (Whether they are dead or just dead-drunk in the morning, I don’t know.) I wrote this to one inquirer and he answered: ‘I’m certainly not going to carry beer out to the garden for slugs. If they want beer they can come in the house and ask for it, like everybody else.'”
“In my early childhood I had some kind of vague yearning to Save the World from something or other; now all I ask is to save a small part of it from over-working in the effort to produce things that are good to eat or are lovely to see.”
“A dentist in Pennsylvania and a doctor in Oregon have both written me that they keep a copy of my garden book in their waiting rooms. Or at least try to; the dentist has had twenty-three copies stolen, the doctor, sixteen. I am not exactly boasting that my idea turns people into thieves, but I can scarcely help feeling flattered. It’s a fair sized job to write a book that people can be bothered just to read; when they begin to steal copies of one you’ve written you are really getting some place.”
“I have been told that garden clubs would stop asking me to give talks when they found out that I couldn’t seem to resist discussing growing vegetables. That hasn’t happened, although it’s true that almost without exception the clubs who have asked me to talk to them about my method are made up of people who are interested primarily in flowers. Since there’s no need to encourage them on that score, I just go ahead and talk about vegetables, and when they find out how little work there is to producing them with my system, many of them probably begin to grow them.”
“I have many things to do, some of which I am obliged to do in order to keep up my end in this business of daily living. But much that I do (this includes growing our vegetables) is done because I want to and enjoy it. I like to keep those two reasons for all my activities in a nice balance. If I deliberately and unnecessarily added a job here and there which I felt I must do, and particularly things which had to be done at certain times, I would soon begin to feel pushed and ordered around and hectic.”
“Some people simply have to know why, even if the answer is wrong.”
“Recently I heard that Amy Vanderbilt, the latest etiquette expert, says that, now that many women no longer have servants, one shouldn’t drop in on them without warning. In my ignorance I thought she meant that women shouldn’t be interrupted when they’re busy doing their housework, but it seems I’m wrong. I believe that she explains that a woman is now helpless, having no servant to tell the invaders she isn’t at home. This aspect of it has never affected me either way; I never did hire anyone to do my lying for me. When nothing else will serve, I’ve always handled my own.”
“The most fascinating subject in the world can become boring if harped on too constantly.”
“In a sense, scientists are like gadgets—sometimes they are dependable, sometimes they aren’t. But at least we know when a gadget isn’t working properly, while with a scientist we often can’t tell until, perhaps, it’s too late. So when can we believe them, trust them, follow their advice?”
“That’s the trouble with experts; if they were always wrong we could forget about them and relax, but every now and then they hit the nail right on the head.”
“If you have the soul of a gardener, not for anything would you work with gloves on.”
You’ve Read the Quotes, Now Get the Book!
There’s plenty more where that came from, plus a delightfully simple and down-to-earth gardening method in Ruth’s Gardening Without Work.
Her no-till, no-work method uses a thick year-round mulch (straw, hay, leaves, chips, or whatever you can find) for both vegetables and flowers. The mulch eliminates the need for weeding, adds nutrients, and reduces water consumption. And, best of all, it’s simple.
She also talks about organic vs. chemical methods, how to lay out a garden, hints about growing and preparing vegetables, and much more.
I first read Gardening Without Work as a child, during my first gardening phase, and when I read it again as an adult, I was struck by how much of its life lessons I had retained across the years. Ruth always strives to make things simple, because life doesn’t have to be so hard!