Entertainment TV Inside 'Little House on the Prairie' Star Melissa Gilbert's Country Life: 'What I've Always Wanted' The actress and her husband bought their run-down mountainside cabin in 2018 and gave it a full renovation — now they're raising chickens and growing their own food in the garden By Emily Strohm Published on May 5, 2022 03:54 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Melissa Gilbert. Photo: George Holz Growing up as a child actor in Los Angeles, Melissa Gilbert always dreamed of living on a farm. "I experienced the Hollywood version while working on Little House on the Prairie," Gilbert, 57, says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. The actress played Laura Ingalls Wilder ("Half-Pint") on the beloved TV series from 1974-1983. "There were chickens, cows, I even had my own horse named Peanuts," she recalls. "I loved playing Laura because I wanted to be like her." Now, nearly 50 years after her first days as "Half-Pint" to Michael Landon's TV "Pa," Gilbert — whose new book, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Discovered, is out May 10 — is finally getting her wish. Melissa Gilbert and her husband Timothy Busfield. George Holz Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Gilbert on Aging: 'I Finally Feel Comfortable in My Own Skin' In 2018, the actress and her husband of nine years, actor Timothy Busfield, 64, bought a rustic cottage on 14 acres in New York's Catskill Mountains. Trading the spotlight for tranquility has been a dream come true. "This is what I've always wanted," she says of her quiet, mountainside life. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. George Holz The pair, who have eight grandchildren between them — Gilbert was previously married to Bo Brinkman (with whom she has a son, Dakota, now 33) and Bruce Boxleitner (with whom she shares son Michael, 26) — have a garden at their rustic cabin, and enjoy growing their own food. They also raise chickens and just got a new puppy named Chicago. Additionally, Gilbert has embraced a more natural lifestyle. Though she previously got Botox, fillers and plastic surgery, that all changed when she had a midlife reassessment. "I grew up in an industry that values the outside considerably more than the inside, and I was caught in that wheel of trying to stay young," she says. George Holz Why Melissa Gilbert Had Her Breast Implants Removed and Quit Botox and Fillers "I finally woke up and went, 'What am I doing? I look like a carrot top, and I'm not happy,'" she continues. "My mindset was, 'You have to stay thin. You have to be seen in the right places, wear the right shoes and drive the right car.' That was so drilled into me by all the outside forces. But it never sat right." After choosing to embrace a more natural lifestyle, Gilbert says she's never been happier. "I was always trying too hard to fit the mold that someone else wanted," she explains. "I'm finally happy in my own skin. I'm so grateful and relieved and so much happier." For more on Melissa Gilbert, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.