Creating a Community Butterfly Garden

A woman in our community started a butterfly club and it attracted many members. The first activities included planting plants and flowers in their own yards that caterpillars and butterflies liked. They progressed from that to getting butterfly larvae to hatch and release. The next project was creating a butterfly garden for the whole community to enjoy.

Photo by Virginia Allain

They found a sunny, well-drained location adjacent to a lake and got permission from the community to use the land for a butterfly garden. This fun and rewarding project provides important habitats for local butterfly species. It became a pleasant place for people to go to see butterflies and we take our visitors to see it too.

Steps for Creating a Butterfly Garden

Identify the butterfly species in your area: Research which butterfly species are native to your region and which plants they prefer. Consider planting a variety of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for adult butterflies.

  1. Plan your garden: Draw a layout of your garden and decide which plants to include. Choose a mix of native wildflowers and shrubs that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous source of nectar for the butterflies.
  2. Prepare the soil: Clear any existing vegetation and loosen the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil quality.
  3. Plant your garden: Start with small plants, either seedlings or transplants. Water them well after planting and mulch around the base to retain moisture.
  4. Maintain your garden: Water your plants regularly and remove any weeds or dead plants. Avoid the use of pesticides that would harm the caterpillars and butterflies. Encourage community members to get involved in caring for the garden, and consider holding educational events or workshops.
  5. Monitor butterfly activity: Observe which butterfly species visit your garden and make note of their behavior. This can help you identify any areas for improvement in your garden design or maintenance.
  6. You can enhance the garden for visitors by adding a bench, plant labels, and mulched paths for strolling through the garden.

Creating a community butterfly garden can be a great way to bring people together while also providing important habitats for local butterfly species. With some planning and effort, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden that benefits both people and wildlife.

It would be a great project for a garden club, a scout troop, a 4-H club, or a school activity.

Plants That Butterflies Like

Butterflies have specific host plants on which they lay their eggs, and they also need nectar plants for feeding. Here are some examples of plants that butterflies like:

Host plants:

  • Milkweed (for monarch butterflies)
  • Pipevine (for pipevine swallowtail butterflies)
  • Parsley (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Fennel (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Dill (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Passionflower (for gulf fritillary butterflies)
  • Pawpaw (for zebra swallowtail butterflies)
  • Spicebush (for spicebush swallowtail butterflies)

Nectar plants:

  • Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
  • Lantana (Lantana spp.)
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

It’s important to choose plants that are native to your area, as they are better adapted to local growing conditions and provide a more natural food source for butterflies. A mix of both host and nectar plants will attract a variety of butterfly species to your garden.

If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.

The Little Free Library

Mom and Dad would have loved the concept of the Little Free Libraries, but I don’t think the idea had reached their small town yet. They always had a box near the back door where their already-read books ended up if they weren’t authors that they kept. It filled quickly as they were voracious readers.

The books went home with their daughters or were donated to the library book sale or taken to a paperback trade-in store when there was one in their community. More books continually arrived from discoveries at yard sales or brought by their daughters when they visited.

A continuous supply of books was always coming in and out of the house plus their old favorites filled the commodious bookshelves that Clyde constructed to fit the long wall in their living room. Still, they would have found pleasure in dropping off books to a Little Free Library to share their love of reading with others who might not have a ready supply of books.

How to Start a Little Free Library in Your Community

  1. Choose a location: The first step in setting up a Little Book Library is to choose a location. It can be anywhere you think people will be interested in borrowing books, such as your front yard, a local park, or a community center. Check that it is OK to put one there.
  2. Build or buy a bookshelf: You can either build your own Little Book Library or purchase one online. There are many resources available online for building a bookshelf, including free plans and tutorials. It needs to be weatherproof.
  3. Decorate the bookshelf: Once you have your bookshelf, you can decorate it to make it more attractive and eye-catching. Paint it a bright color, add some artwork or decorations, and make sure it is easily visible to people passing by.
  4. Stock it with books: Now it’s time to add books to your Little Book Library. You can start with books from your own collection, ask friends and family to donate books or you can purchase books from a secondhand bookstore or thrift store.
  5. Spread the word: Let your community know about your Little Book Library by posting about it on social media, putting up flyers in the area, and telling your neighbors. You can also add your Little Book Library to the official Little Free Library world map.
  6. Maintain the bookshelf: Make sure to check on your Little Book Library regularly to ensure it is in good condition and well-stocked with books. You may need to clean it, add more books, or make repairs as necessary.

By following these steps, you can set up a Little Book Library that will bring joy and literacy to your community.

Oatmeal on a Cold Morning

I remember Mama making a big pot of oatmeal on wintery Kansas mornings. It took a good amount to feed eight people. One kid was designated to tend the toast to go with the oatmeal. It was cooked on the oven rack and had to be watched so the toast didn’t burn. Another kid would set the table with the bowls and tableware. Toppings for the oatmeal included sugar and brown sugar then thick cream from our Jersey cow was poured over it. The toast was liberally spread with our homemade butter.

It made a good stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that prepared us for our morning chores of feeding and watering the rabbits and chickens before we walked up the long driveway to catch the school bus. Dad would be heading out for work on the drilling rig and a filling, hot breakfast was necessary.

It’s not uncommon to feel nostalgic about certain foods that we enjoyed during our childhood, such as oatmeal, thick cream, and brown sugar for breakfast. These foods may have been associated with pleasant memories and feelings of comfort, security, and love, which we sometimes try to recreate or relive as adults. I call it comfort food.

Oatmeal, in particular, is a classic breakfast food that has been enjoyed by generations of families. It’s a warm, hearty, and filling dish that is rich in fiber, protein, and essential nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. Keeping in mind that the thick cream and sugars are high in calories and saturated fat that can have negative health effects. Since I’m not exercising enough these days to counter that, I’ve had to modify my oatmeal toppings.

Oatmeal is easier to prepare these days with quick oats, some water, and a zap in the microwave. Then I top it with some fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and a sugar substitute. We make our own trail mix with a variety of seeds and nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans) so that’s easy to sprinkle over the hot oatmeal. For fruit, I think strawberries, banana slices, blueberries, blackberries, and even pineapple chunks go well with the flavor of oatmeal.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for oatmeal, thick cream, and brown sugar, why not try recreating this classic breakfast dish with a healthier twist? You can use low-fat milk or plant-based milk instead of cream, and swap brown sugar for natural sweeteners, such as mashed bananas, dates, or honey. You can also experiment with different types of grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat, or millet, to add variety and nutrition to your breakfast routine.

Feeling Artistic

Mom was always encouraging her children and grandchildren in their artistic endeavors. I wish I could share with her the latest artistic outlet that’s a lot of fun for me. The nifty part of this art, created with AI (artificial intelligence), is I don’t need to take a painting class, buy any paint or brushes or canvas, and don’t actually need any talent.

Two Pictures I Created with AI

The first pictures I made on NightCafe, the free AI site that I tried) were disappointingly murky, not distinct, and with odd anatomical issues. It turns out there is a slight learning curve to making art with AI. I joined a Facebook group where AI creators were sharing their tips and thanks to their advice, my AI art improved.

You write a prompt for the artificial intelligence telling it what you want the picture to look like and then you add the names of some artists that you want to influence the resulting image. I realized that I should have paid more attention 40 years ago in college art history class. Trying to visualize what Degas or Klee or Picasso would do with the picture I was trying to create wasn’t easy.

Fortunately, some creators show their settings so I could pick up artists’ names to apply to mine. Gradually, I assembled a list of old favorites to use (Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, Beatrix Potter). I also found some new-to-me artists to get the look I wanted (Dittman, Rutkowski, and others). I learned art terms like depth of field, volumetric lighting, maximalist, photo illustration, anime style, pointillism, and other art movements and styles.

Design created by Virginia Allain using AI on NightCafe

I learned from others how to screen out undesirable treatments by putting “negative prompts.” That reduced issues like poorly drawn faces, extra limbs, blurry, grainy, too dark, and other issues.

NightCafe gives users 5 credits each day to play around with. It encourages social interaction by giving more credits for liking others’ creations or following other creators or winning in the daily contest. Really dedicated users can also spend money to get additional features. So far, I’ve been quite happy using the free parts and learning how to make the scenes I want. You can see more of my creations at NightCafe.

The Shabby Old Quilt

My sister sent me a small heart made from a fragment of a worn-out quilt. Some people gasp in horror at the idea of cutting up a damaged quilt. To me, the horror is when I see people tossing a quilt on the ground for a picnic blanket or using it for their dog’s bed. “It’s old,” they say as an excuse for the careless treatment. Later, they look at its tatters and toss the shabby quilt into the trash. That’s sad.

Over the years, I’ve rescued old quilts from yard sales and stored them in my closet. Too worn out to display, but I feel protective of them. Someone spent hours, days, weeks even, sewing those pieces together to make a quilt top and then quilting and binding it. It was colorful on their bed and kept them warm. Maybe it was made as a gift to delight a bride or celebrate a special event.

So, the small heart that my sister cut from a quilt fragment held a special meaning for me. She added her own stitches to finish the edges and knowing my love of old quilts, she mailed it to me along with a larger piece of the quilt. I was fascinated to see the layers exposed that an even older quilt was sandwiched inside it. The colors and patterns of the fabric seemed to me quite old, likely from the 1800s.

The Vintage Quilted Heart

(created using ChatGPT with some adjustments by Virginia Allain)

The vintage quilted heart,
Stitched with love and care,
A symbol of the memories,
We hold so dear and rare.

Each patch, a moment in time,
Of laughter and of tears,
Of joys and sorrows intertwined,
Throughout the passing years.

The fabric, soft and worn with age,
A reflection of our past,
The colors, faded but still bright,
Forever may they will last.

And though the stitching may come loose,
And some patches fall apart,
I’ll keep this salvaged remnant
Made into this small heart.

For it is a part of us,
That survives despite its age,,
It’s part of who we are,
A symbol of our heritage.

So let us cherish this treasure,
And keep it safe from harm,
The textures and the workmanship,
It’s a talisman with enduring charm.

Remembering Childhood Television Series

It seems unbelievable to today’s generation but we didn’t have a television set when I was a youngster. I was in eighth grade when we acquired our first television. Here’s Mom’s story about that: The Christmas of Our First TV. Recently, my sister reminded us of the series we used to watch. There was Sea Hunt with Jeff Bridges, The Rebel (Johnny Yuma), Rifleman with Chuck Conners, Sky King, Maverick, and Circus Boy.

Sky King cast members (McCann-Erickson (ad agency) on behalf of the program’s sponsor, Nabisco., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

If you grew up in that time, you may remember these or have other favorites. These shows were popular in the 1950s and 1960s and were known for their wholesome family values, Western themes, and action-packed adventures. They often portrayed the American West as a place of heroism and adventure, with strong, dependable, and heroic lead characters. It’s considered a Golden Age of Television.

“Sky King” was an adventure series that followed the adventures of a former military pilot who became a rancher and used his aircraft to fight crime and injustice. The show was filled with action and kept us captivated with storylines that often featured the hero using his wits and flying skills to save the day.

“The Rifleman” was a western series that starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, a rancher and former Confederate soldier who uses his sharpshooting skills to defend his family and the people of his town. The show was known for its well-written scripts, character development, and exciting action sequences.

People who are nostalgic for these shows often remember them fondly for their simple, unassuming storylines and the sense of innocence and optimism that was reflected in the characters and settings. For many, these shows represent a simpler time in their lives, before the world became more complex and challenging.

Maverick starring James Garner (public domain picture from Wikipedia)

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in these classic shows, creating a new generation of fans who are discovering them for the first time. Many of these shows are now available on streaming platforms and DVDs, allowing people to relive their childhood memories or experience the magic for the first time.

Overall, the nostalgia for 1950s television series like Sky King and The Rifleman is a testament to the timeless appeal of these classic shows and their ability to evoke a sense of innocence, adventure, and hope that still resonates with people today.

I’d love to hear what shows you remember. Please share those memories in the comments section.

Remembering the Old Farm

Guest Blogger – CJ Garriott

Gail Martin’s younger sister shared these photos and family memories.

“More rummaging turned up these pictures –This is the farm where we lived when I was a teenager–approximately 1945 to 1951. As you see, I was smitten with snow from the git-go! I got my first camera as a gift somewhere in those years. Note the barn cats in front of the barn.”

A few years ago, CJ went past here on her way to put flowers in the Madison cemetery. The barn was still there.

Family Added Their Memories of the McGhee Farm

Various cousins responded with their memories of the farm. Tim H. remembered that he lived there for the first 2 or 3 years of his life till his parents bought their own farm. “Till I was about 3 I think. That would have been 1942 to 45,” he said. Bob H. commented that he remembered playing in that barn as a kid and helping put hay in it when he got big enough.

The Martin cousins added to that:

Cynthia R. wrote, “The barn was a fun place to explore. Grandpa let me keep the old, dirty, wooden, stirrups I found. I cleaned them up & used them as miniature shadow boxes in my room. We didn’t go inside the barn that often – maybe our parents warned us that it was Grandpa’s stuff.” Her younger sister, Karen K. felt sad that she didn’t remember it.

Their aunt, CJ, explained why Karen might not remember it. She said, “I remember Gail & children coming across and up the little hill behind the barn from the house across the street, which would have been before you were born in 1952. We moved to the oil lease house east of Madison the year before, so you guys could move into the farmhouse after the 1951 flood.”

More Photos of the McGhee Farm

A Tale of Two Bricks

Mom (Gail Lee Martin) wrote this story originally for the Kanhistique Magazine which published it in the August 1992 issue. She posted it later on the Our Echo website.

A Tale of Two Bricks

The next time you pick up a brick, take a second look. It might be a collector’s item. There has been a growing interest in bricks that feature pictures, slogans, lettering, patterns or dates. Many people collect bricks for their rarity and beauty. Members of the International Brick Collectors Association regard bricks as a part of the history of mankind, and each brick has a story to tell.

The story to be told by two bricks in an El Dorado, Kansas collection is about their humble beginnings in the small town of Tyro in Montgomery County, Kansas. The story begins with an incorporated town of 500 people that benefited from the discovery of gas in 1904. The Fawn Valley Oil and Gas Company struck oil and lots of natural gas just two miles northeast of town and soon had gas piped to all the residents and businesses at the cost of two cents per thousand feet.

One of the first industries to build in Tyro was the Tyro Shale Brick Company. They began building their plant the first of August 1906. They purchased all new machinery from the C. W. Raymond Co. of Dayton, Ohio. This plant was incorporated under the Laws of Kansas with the following officers, E. A. Denny, president; O.W. Buck, vice president; C. H. Pocock, secretary; and Dave Mahaffy, treasurer. The above four men and John Hooker were selected as directors, and they all listed their addresses as Tyro, Kansas.

The brick plant was leased and operated by Allison C. Darrow. By 1910 the plant was making 1,000,000 bricks a month. This company did not own a steam shovel early on, so employed about 40 men a day.

Almost eleven months after the first brick plant was built, O. W. Buck, vice president of the Tyro Shale Brick Co., started building another plant. It was named The Tyro Vetrified Brick Company. Again all new machinery was brought from Dayton, Ohio company, including a No. 2 ’Thew’ Steam Shovel. They produced vitrified or glassy bricks completely different from the other plant. By 1919 they were employing around 36 men and were making close to 1,400,000 bricks a month.

O. W. Buck became president and manager of the new plant and Joe Lenhart became vice president. E. Baur was appointed secretary and treasurer. The directors were Buck and Lenhart of Tyro and Baur of Easton, Indiana; Luther Perkins from Coffeyville, Kansas and C. D. Nesbit of Milburn, Oklahoma. Both brick plants were situated in the northeast part of the small town on the north side of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks. One of our story’s bricks has the name BAUR on it. It was named after E. Baur from Easton, Indiana.

Vintage postcard from Gail Martin’s family archive.

Three years later Tyro had 700 residents; nearly two miles of paved sidewalks and seven two story brick buildings. The Methodist Church membership built a “beautiful brick church, and laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1909,” according to the church historian, Mattie Broughton. The accompanying picture shows it still holds it beauty 97 years later.

Tyro had many brick buildings in its heyday.

The story of the two Tyro bricks plants probably ended around 1917 when the shortage of gas fuel caused them to close their doors. The McGhee family went to the Methodist Church and Mother’s folks the Vinings went to the Christian Church and the story of the two Tyro bricks in El Dorado continues on in this family’s memories.

Honoring Mom and Dad

Karen Kolavalli is our guest blogger today:

Mom and Dad have been on my mind a lot lately.  After they passed ten years ago, I acquired most of their extensive book collection.  In the years since they’ve been gone, the books have mostly stayed in boxes as I moved around the country, but recently I’ve been working to get them ready to sell.  The bulk of their collection consists of well-read turn-of-the-century novels, with “well-read” translating to heavily used, worn, and sometimes just barely holding together!  Booksellers will often list these as being in “rough condition”.  Indeed.  😉 

As I research the books, I’ve been surprised to find that many of them are quite rare and would command very nice prices–if only they were in better condition.  I spent a number of years as an online sales volunteer for a large Friends of the Library organization.  I had been a hobby bookseller online for a long time, but I definitely upped my game with the bookselling skills I developed working with the high-volume Friends operation. 

I started teaching myself how to do minor book repairs as a volunteer.  After I “retired” from volunteering and put more energy into my online bookselling business, I got serious about doing a better job on book repairs.  With the onset of the pandemic two years ago, I’ve had even more time to devote to restoring/conserving my folks’ books. 

Marie Kennedy Joy’s book (from the collection of Gail and Clyde Martin)

One of the first of those books was actually one that my paternal grandmother, Cora Joy Martin, had given to her mother, Marie Kennedy Joy.  It was then handed down to my dad, Clyde Martin.  Before I noticed the family connection, the book was headed to the donation box because it was in such bad condition.  But when I saw the personal inscriptions, I decided to give it a second chance.  “Helen of the Old House” was written by Harold Bell Wright.  Mom and Dad had a large collection of his books; Mom was proud that one of the characters in Wright’s “The Shepherd of the Hills” was based on her mother’s cousin, Fiddlin’ Jake Vining. 

Riddle me this–exactly how many copies of “The Shepherd of the Hills” does one family need, even factoring in the family connection to one of the characters?! 

Another project. Mom and Dad were huge fans of the western author Zane Grey.

It’s amazing that the paper book jacket survived over the years. Zane Grey’s The Man of the Forest.

My Neanderthal Genes

After taking the 23andMe DNA test, I found it interesting which traits I inherited from my Neanderthal genes. It showed that I had 2% DNA from long-ago Neanderthal ancestors. As of now, I don’t know if that’s from Mom or from Dad’s side of the family tree or both sides.

Here are some of the findings:

  • You have one variant associated with having a worse sense of direction. (Great, I finally have something I can blame for all those times I got lost.)
  • You have one variant associated with being more likely to prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate. (Who knew that Neanderthals even had chocolate???)

Some Neanderthal traits that did not show up in my DNA include:

  • You have 0 variants associated with having difficulty discarding rarely-used possessions. (Well, darn, this is a problem for me, but apparently I inherited it elsewhere or learned it.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with generally not feeling angry when hungry. (I do get grouchy when I’m hungry and apparently, so do Neanderthals.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to have a fear of heights. (Yep, I am afraid of heights.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being more likely to have a fear of public speaking. (I’m quaking in my boots before giving a talk, but I thought everyone felt that way.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being more likely to cry while cutting onions.
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to have a chin dimple. (Dad had a chin dimple, or maybe it was a scar from an injury.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to blush easily. (Yep, I have always blushed easily.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with eating leafy greens less frequently. (Actually, I’d rather have some dark chocolate.)

It sure would have been great to have gotten Mom and Dad to take a DNA test. Then we could have compared notes.