Ruth Stout was born June 14, 1884 in Girard, KS to Quaker parents John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Elizabeth Todhunter Stout. Her brother Rex Stout, also an author, was famous for the Nero Wolfe detective stories.Stout moved to New York when she was 18 and held a variety of jobs over the next twenty years which included bookkeeper, secretary, business manager, and factory worker. She owned a small tea-shop in Greenwich Village and even worked for a fake mind-reading act.In 1923 she accompanied fellow Quakers to Russia to assist in famine relief. She met and married Alfred Rossiter in June,1929. Rossiter, the son of an American businessman, was born in Germany in 1882. His family relocated to New York City in 1894. In March 1930, the couple moved to Poverty Hollow,Redding Ridge on the outskirts of Redding, Connecticut.Ruth would continue to use her maiden name as her pen name but used Rossiter as her official name.
The Rossiters retired to country living when they moved to the 55-acre farm in Poverty Hollow. Fred, who was a Columbia-trained psychologist followed his passion for wood turning and subsequently became known for his wooden bowls. Ruth decided that she would try her luck at gardening and in the spring of 1930, she planted her first garden.
During the first year and for many after, Ruth employed conventional techniques and practices in her garden with mixed results. What disturbed her most was the fact that she had to wait for someone else to come and plow the fields before she could start. This gentleman was frequently late or delays would occur due to mechanical failures. Wasted time would lessen the already short growing season of Redding and her patience. Furthermore, the manual labor involved in planting a traditional garden became more than she could handle by herself. In the Spring of 1944, Stout decided that she wasn't going to wait for the plowman, nor was she going to plow herself. Instead, she chose to just plant the seeds, cover them and wait to see what happens.
As the years progressed, Stout refined her techniques eventually adopting a year-round mulch which virtually eliminated the labor associated with traditional gardening. Her minimalist approach spawned a long-running series of articles in Organic Gardening and Farming magazine as well as several books.Her husband, Fred, died on November 24,1960 after an extended illness. Her sister, Mary, who also lived at Poverty Hollow for over 40 years died August 20, 1977 at 88.