Check out Jerry's Blog Books Jerry has written Biography Workshops that Jerry teaches Other writings and media


Home > Books > Rural Life Series


Rural Life Series | Historical Books | Other Country Life Books

Rural Life Series

Purchase on Amazon

Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflections on Water (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, January, 2017)

Purchase on Amazon

Growing up on the family farm, Jerry Apps learned from a young age that water was precious. The farm had no running water, a windmill pumped drinking water for the small herd of cattle, and Jerry and his brothers hauled bucket after bucket of water for the family’s use. A weekly bath was considered sufficient. And when it rained, it was cause for celebration. Indeed, if ever the Apps boys complained about a rainy day spoiling their plans, their father admonished, "Never curse the rain," for the family’s very livelihood depended upon it.

In Never Curse the Rain, Jerry shares his memories of water, from its importance to his family’s crops and cattle to its many recreational uses—fishing trips, canoe journeys, and the simple pleasures of an afternoon spent dreaming in the haymow as rain patters on the barn roof. Water is still a touchstone in Jerry’s life, and he explores the ways he’s found it helpful in soothing a troubled mind or releasing creativity. He also discusses his concerns about the future of water and ensuring we always have enough. For, as Jerry writes, "Water is one of the most precious things on this planet, necessary for all life, and we must do everything we can to protect it."

Check here for a review of the book

Purchase on Amazon

Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, May, 2015)

Purchase on Amazon

In these times of technological innovation and fast-paced electronic communication, we often take nature for granted—or even consider it a hindrance to our human endeavors. In Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir, Jerry Apps explores such topics as the human need for wilderness, rediscovering a sense of wonder, and his father’s advice to “listen for the whispers” and “look in the shadows” to learn nature’s deepest lessons.

Combining his signature lively storytelling and careful observations of nature, Apps draws on a lifetime of experiences, from his earliest years growing up on a central Wisconsin farm to his current ventures as gardener, tree farmer, and steward of wetlands, prairies, and endangered Karner blue butterflies. He also takes inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Richard Louv, and Rachel Carson. With these eloquent essays, Jerry Apps reminds us to slow down, turn off technology, and allow our senses to reconnect us to the natural world. For it is there, he writes, that “I am able to return to a feeling I had when I was a child, a feeling of having room to stretch my arms without interfering with another person, a feeling of being a small part of something much larger than I was, and I marvel at the idea.”

Bill Lueders, Wisconsin State Journal: ...his memoirs are what for me rise to, if not greatness, then at least exceptional goodness, putting Apps in the company of our region's finest nature writers: Sigurd Olson, August Derleth, Ben Logan, John Hildebrand and, dare I say, Aldo Leopold...These essays...radiate simplicity, one of the most complicated things for a writer to do. You can pretty much open the book at random and read something beautiful...Apps is what his father taught him to be: a thorough and thoughtful observer of the natural world. He describes not just Wisconsin, where he grew up and still lives, dividing his time between Madison and his farm in Waushara County, but other favorite haunts, including the Boundary Waters and Yukon Island in Alaska. He [Apps] describes the wildflowers he loves, the animals he watches, the nature writers who inspire him, the family excursions he cherishes. He makes the natural world palpable, as when he tells of how “dew hung heavy on the grass, the little beads of moisture reflecting the first rays of the sun as it climbed above the eastern horizon,” or his evocation of wood smoke as “a primitive smell rich with history and memory.”

Check here for another review of the book

The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters (August, 2013)

Purchase this book

“As I think back to the days of my childhood, the frost-covered windows in my bedroom,
the frigid walks to the country school, the excitement of a blizzard, and a hundred other memories, I realize that these experiences left an indelible mark on me and made me who I am today.”—From the Introduction

Jerry Apps recalls winters growing up on a farm in central Wisconsin during the latter years of the Depression and through World War II. Before electricity came to this part of Waushara County, farmers milked cows by hand with the light of a kerosene lantern, woodstoves heated the drafty farm homes, and “making wood” was a major part of every winter’s work. The children in Jerry’s rural community walked to a country school that was heated with a woodstove and had no indoor plumbing. Wisconsin winters then were a time of reflection, of planning for next year, and of families drawing together. Jerry describes how winter influenced farm families and suggests that those of us who grow up with harsh northern winters are profoundly affected in ways we often are not aware.


Limping Through Life: A Farm Boy's Polio Memoir (April, 2013)

Purchase this book

Families throughout the United States lived in fear of polio throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, and now the disease had come to our farm. I can still remember that short winter day and the chilly night when I first showed symptoms. My life would never be the same.
- from the introduction

Polio was epidemic in the United States in 1916. By the 1930s, quarantines and school closings were becoming common, as isolation was one of the only ways to fight the disease. The Salk vaccine was not available until 1955; in that year, Wisconsin's Fox River valley had more polio cases per capita than anywhere in the United States. In his most personable book, Jerry Apps, who contracted polio at age twelve, reveals how the disease affected him physically and emotionally, profoundly influencing his education, military service, and family life and setting him on the path to becoming a professional writer.

A hardworking farm kid who loved to play softball, young Jerry Apps would have to make many adjustments and meet many challenges after that winter night he was stricken with a debilitating, sometimes fatal illness. In Limping Through Life he explores the ways his world changed after polio and pays tribute to those family members, teachers, and friends who helped along the way.

Jerry Apps has been a rural historian and environmental writer for more than forty years. He has published fiction and nonfiction books on many rural topics, including Ringlingville USA, , Horse-Drawn Days, Old Farm, and Garden Wisdom for the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. He is a former county extension agent and professor at the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Jerry and his wife, Ruth, divide their time between their home in Madison and their farm, Roshara, west of Wild Rose.


Rural Wit and Wisdom: Time-Honored Values from the Heartland (May, 2012)

Purchase this book

In an updated and expanded edition of a timeless classic, best-selling author Jerry Apps has written and collected oft-spoken phrases, observations, comments, and conundrums celebrating country life and rural living. Black-and-white photographs by Steve Apps, an award-winning photojournalist, complement the text, which offers humorous, touching, and unique glimpses into the lighter side of life in the Midwest.

Jerry Apps writes novels and nonfiction about the outdoors, country life, and rural living. He received the 2008 First Place Nature Writing Award from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and the 2007 Major Achievement Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. He and his wife live in Madison, Wisconsin.

Steve Apps is an award-winning photojournalist with twenty-five years in the newspaper industry. As a Wisconsin State Journal staff photographer, he has covered a wide range of assignments, including the Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin–Madison sports.


Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days (June, 2007)

Purchase this book

In his signature warm-hearted style, Jerry Apps traces the wisdom gained in living a country year, chronicling each month with a tale about growing up on a Midwestern dairy farm in the 1940s. Wearing his hard-earned wisdom lightly, Apps accompanies each month’s tale with farm country aphorisms and the occasional recipe for good measure. By turns witty and profound, Living a Country Year reaffirms our nation’s rural heritage. 


Every Farm Tells a Story (March, 2005)

Purchase this book

Fork handle—$.65 Mash for chickens—$7.15 One milk pail—$1.15 Horse collar and pad—$8.15 Gloves for Herm—$.52

"Chores started on the home farm when you were around four years old, depending on, as Pa would say, ‘how much meat you have on your bones.’. . . "

So begins Jerry Apps’s "Every Farm Tells a Story," a collection of true tales inspired by entries in his mother’s farm account books. The values recorded in the account books prompt recollections of Jerry’s childhood and the traditional family farm values and ethics instilled in him by Ma and Pa. <more on this title>

Country Ways and Country Days

Country Ways and Country Days: From Weathervanes and Tractors to Auctions and Outhouses . . . Remembering Rural Life (July 2005)

Purchase this book

Outhouses. Weather vanes. Draft horses. Threshing machines. Barbed wire fences. Rural mail carriers. Gristmills. Barbershops. One-room country schools.

Such objects of our vanishing rural past are today’s reminders of our country ways and country days: early home life in the country, work on the farm, how rural people kept in touch, the importance of community, and how farm folks relaxed and had fun.

In “Country Ways and Country Days”, you’ll go back in time and learn a bit about each item’s special role and its importance in country life. Noted storyteller Jerry Apps presents short essays on farming life and memories, drawn from his own experiences growing up on a small farm. These charming anecdotes are followed by brief histories of each item’s development and background.

Apps’s reminiscences about the things that kept life humming on the farm and enriched the rural experience will leave you nostalgic for a time when working the land was its own reward.

Country Wisdom: Timeless Values and Virtues from the American Heartland

Country Wisdom: Timeless Values and Virtues from the American Heartland (July, 2005)

Purchase this book

The wisdom of the upper Midwest is found in the minds and hearts of the people who live there. Wisdom is expressed in the stories that people tell of earlier days and earlier times. Stories of happiness and hard work. Stories of hardship and joy. As rural people tell their stories, remember these tales, for in these stories are the values and beliefs that have been passed on from generation to generation, and make the upper Midwest what it is today.

Some bits of country wisdom: -The two most important things we can give our children are roots as deep as a giant oak’s, and wings as strong as an eagle’s. -Work is never done, so take time to play. -Living to accumulate money is not living. -When you hear the flocks of migrating Canada geese each spring and fall, look upward. See the grace and beauty, cooperation and respect.

Noted author Jerry Apps collected these oft spoken phrases, observations, comments, and conundrums. Together with photographs by his son, Steve Apps, staff photographer for the “Wisconsin State Journal”, the statements lend humorous, touching, unique glimpses into country life in the upper Midwest.

Humor from the Country (Amherst Press, 2001. Voyageur Press, 2006)

Reviews | Purchase this book

Life during the early to mid part of the 20th century is often viewed as a time of backbreaking work for meager returns. Often, the strength and resiliency of family and neighbors are overlooked. In Humor From The Country, master story teller Jerry Apps gives us insights into the lighter side of country life. Through stories based on childhood memories. Apps shows us that country folk knew how to have fun too. <more on this title>

When Chores Were Done (Amherst Press, 1999. Voyageur Press, 2006)

Book Sample | Purchase this book

The Midwest in the 1930s, '40s and '50s was a place where parents and children worked side by side to eke a living from the land, and neighbors stuck by each other through good times and disaster. In this affectionate, insightful memoir, Jerry Apps takes us to that world. Here we meet Frank, Pinky, and Harry, three farmers whose love of music could transform an entire community; Morty, the odd loner whom only a few wild animals could understand; and Fanny, the extraordinary collie whose role on the farm was as important as that of any human.  <more on this title>

Rural Life Series | Historical Books | Other Country Life Books


©2017 all rights reserved.
Website by Matt Apps
Last updated: 08/01/2017 09:18 PM CST