Take Time to Really See Insects

It’s summer and it’s likely that we’ll have some insect encounters over the past few months and into the fall. Your first instinct might be to reach for a flyswatter or some insect spray. I have an alternate suggestion for you.

Not all insects are out to sting or bite you. All have a role to play in our environment, so if the small critter isn’t attacking you, leave it alone.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The picture above is a dragonfly. These are fun to watch as they zoom and swoop over a prairie or around a lake. They are catching and eating mosquitoes and other small insects. Please, don’t kill them.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The caterpillar above might seem a bit bizarre, but take time to view the unique clusters sprouting from its body and the burgundy colored racing stripe down its side. Don’t pick this one up, as the spikes have an irritating effect on human skin.

Read up on the little creatures you see in your yard and you’ll have a new respect for them. The caterpillar above transforms into a small silk moth called the Io Moth. The moth is fairly nondescript until it spreads its wings. The underwings have a large black dot on them with a colorful background.

Photo by Virginia Allain

So, this is an ant hill. Probably you’ve seen these hundreds of times but never really looked at one closely. Again, this is another chance to observe nature right in your backyard. Look at the textures and shape of this ant hill. I found it fascinating.

Our mother, Gail Lee Martin, taught her children to observe and respect nature. That’s a good legacy to pass along to your children. For the future of our planet, we can’t just kill off everything that isn’t human or isn’t a pet or isn’t something that serves as food for humans. All creatures perform a role in balancing nature.

I hope you’ll take a little time this summer to observe the insects around you. Yes, some are harmful to you or to your garden, but you want to adopt a live-and-let-live philosophy for the most part. Use the flyswatter and the bug spray sparingly.

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Ladies Calling Cards

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain.

The image below is a calling card from the 1880s. It came to me with a batch of antique valentines for my collection. At one time, someone saved this many years ago and pasted it into their scrapbook.

Back in those days, ladies made formal visits to their friends. A card like this would be left on a fancy tray to show they had been to call. It’s sort of a lady’s version of business cards. Probably women saved them since they were so pretty.

Calling card from the collection of Virginia Allain

Notice how lavish the design is with roses and lily of the valley flowers, and along the edge violets. There are lace and lavender ribbon with a gold edge. The words in the center say “Peace Forever.

I like that thought. I wish we would have peace forever. Peace in our families. Peace in our communities. Peace in the world.

You can see a sampling of my ephemera collection on the Hubpages site. It’s called “My Tips for Collecting and Displaying Vintage Valentines.

When I shared this photo with my friends, here are their thoughts:

Chula – I’ve collected old paper since I was little. I love the calling cards. Even the plain ones with just names printed on them are fun to see. This one is very beautiful.

Karen – We used “calling cards” in the expat community in India when I lived there, probably a carryover from British colonial days. Most of them included a map on the reverse side giving directions to your residence. Addresses were long and complex and streets/roads often weren’t marked–you just had to “know” it was such-and-such street, hence the map.

Kathy – Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did have peace forever. I thought that was a curious thing for this calling card to say, by the way. It is lovely.

Marsha – I love the older cards like that. My mom has so many of them, including Valentines.

Pammie  – Wow that is cool, I had never seen such a card before.

Rachel – What a great old custom that was, dating back to a simpler time when manners still mattered.

Marilyn – I love it. It’s so pretty. I have scrapbooks of cards my mother collected. I will have to look and see if she had calling cards in her collections.

calling cards in a tray

Calling cards on a tray in a vintage house museum in Kentucky

 

Gail Lee Martin’s Favorite Things

I discovered a list of favorite things where Mom filled in her answers. If I were filling out the list for her, I’d have guessed the right answers for some:
Flower – iris
Type of food – chicken
Sport – fishing
Leisure activity – writing

Tall Bearded Iris Viva Mexico Print
Tall Bearded Iris Viva Mexico Print by ACrossPhotography

Others I probably would have missed. Here’s her choice for these:
Color – yellow
Perfume – Blue Waltz
Song – Oh, Lonesome Me
Dessert – lemon pie
Vacation spot – Ozarks

Copy the list of items here, but substitute your own favorites. Your friends will enjoy seeing these if you post them on your Facebook status.

Hot Times at the Ball Park

Baseball Memories of Gail and her family:

Ginger – I tried calling Mom one evening in July, but there was no answer. When I checked Facebook, I saw my sister’s status: July 8, 2012 – Karen was at McDonald Stadium in El Dorado.

Ginger:  Hmmm, that must be why Mom doesn’t answer her phone.

Karen:  We lost, badly.  It doesn’t help that Mom is always cheering for the visiting team.
Ginger: doesn’t she like the home team?
Karen:  She likes to be contrary.
Ginger:  I’m afraid we’ve inherited some of that too. Just wait until I’m 87.
87 year old Gail Lee Martin at the ballpark

At 87, Gail Lee Martin attended the Bronco baseball games frequently during a very hot summer.

Cj Garriott – As I recall, July 2012 was the host of those 100+ days that I arrived in time for a full week of? I remember thinking, how in Hades could it be HOTTER 700 miles north of where I was coming from.

Karen –  That was one hot summer, too, but Mom loved going to the El Dorado Bronco games in the stadium there at the fairgrounds. She flirted with all the good-looking college players when they came through collecting for the 50-50 drawing.

Mom and I were going to a lot of ball games that summer. The notes below were from the previous evening at the ball park.

kk fb rain at ballpark 2012

Virginia – I hope it did rain then.
Mom: We are living right! 3/4 of an inch right. Oh so sorry we missed the last inning when Dodge City beat the Broncos
July 8, 2012 at 3:10pm 

 

Karen: haha. I see what you’re trying to do, Mom–get me riled up because you always root for the visiting team! We won and we would have still won if we’d played that final inning!

July 2012 Rain at the Bronco ball park in El Dorado KS

Karen Kolavalli’s photo of the lightning and rain clouds at the McDonald Stadium (where the Bronco’s played in El Dorado, Kansas.

A Seed Packet Craft

Back in 2008, Gail Lee Martin put this craft article together for the eHow website. Her daughter recently recovered it using the Wayback Machine which finds defunct web content.

How to Make an Ornamental Birdhouse from Seed Packets

Make an Ornamental Birdhouse from Seed Packets
Don’t toss the colorful seed packages after planting time. Save them to make this easy and decorative birdhouse. Here’s how to do it.

moms birdhse_edited

Things You’ll Need:

seed packets
glue
black marker
decorative touches (spagham moss, ivy leaves, birds)

Collect seed packets with colorful flower pictures on them. Sometimes discount stores have leftover seeds at bargain basement prices when the planting season ends.

Choose one seed packet for the front of the birdhouse. Draw a circle with a pencil in the upper half of the packet front. This represents the hole for the bird to enter. Fill in the circle with a black marker.

Cut the front packet and the back packet with a matching peak for the roof.

Shorten two packets to serve as the side walls.

Start by gluing a front and a side seed packet together along the long side. Continue gluing additional seed packets (the other side and the back) until it forms a square. Allow those to dry between each stage.

Attach two packages with glue to serve as the roof.

Glue on some accessories (spagham moss, fabric leaves, and tiny birds) to complete the birdhouse theme. You can find these in the craft or floral section at discount stores like WalMart or click on this picture to order from Amazon.

Comments

prism said on 11/25/2008 “What a great way to reuse seed packets! Would make a unique gift for wild bird lovers like my Mom. Thanks!”

mactraks said on 9/28/2008  “I never fail to be awestruck at the “recycling” projects my big sister comes up with! This is truly spectacular and easy enough for even me to do.”

So Many Butterflies

Virginia Allain, Gail’s daughter, wrote this memory piece back in 2013:

“At one time, I lived in South Texas near the Mexican border. I remember that sometimes there seemed to be a population explosion of butterflies. It is still a mystery to me why there were so many.

Butterfly on purple flowers - Photo by Virginia Allain

Photo by Virginia Allain

I’d see hundreds of them as I drove down the Military Highway. They were so plentiful they would pelt the car windshield.

During that butterfly season, there was an intensely yellow one hovering around my honeysuckle. Then, as I played golf, a gorgeous black swallowtail flew past. There seemed to be so many kinds in the Rio Grande Valley at that time. It didn’t happen every year, so maybe the conditions had to be just right.

I wondered where they came from and what their names were. Was it the time of year for them to migrate south like the monarchs did or had the previous month’s rain encouraged many to emerge? There certainly was a bumper crop. Perhaps there was just the right combination of weather and available plants to draw them.

Black Butterfly with blue markings - Photo by Virginia Allain

Photo by Virginia Allain

Whatever the reason, it was a joy to see them fluttering past.”

Perhaps, this memory of all the butterflies came to the surface in December 2013, as that was the year of Mom’s death. Since childhood, I’ve stopped to look at insects with admiration for their versatile shapes and colors because Mom taught us about them when we lived on the farm. Three of my sisters took entomology as a 4-H project and collected, pinned, and labeled all kinds of insects from a humble, not-very-showy beetle to the glory of a colorful butterfly.

It’s summer time, so before you swat at the next bug that flies or strolls past, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the tiny critter. If it isn’t trying to bite or sting me, I let it be.

 

IMG_0669

Dragonfly photo by Virginia Allain

 

Gail’s Immigrant Roots

June was Immigrant Heritage Month! To celebrate America’s diversity and the monumental contributions immigrants make every day, I’m featuring my mother’s immigrant ancestors. I’ll have to go back quite far, as her family lines came to America many generations ago. Gail’s family name was McGhee and her mother’s maiden name was Vining.

Here’s the family tree showing the Vining line. John Vining was her immigrant ancestor for the Vining line, having been born in Wincanton, England in 1636. He died 49 years later in Weymouth in the Colony of Massachussets. Weymouth is just south of Boston.

vining family tree immigrant ancestor

As you can see, there are some gaps in the family tree for the Vining line. I’m working on it.

Of course, along the way, there were many other family lines joining in. Tower, Buckland, Ashcroft, Long, Pease, Stone, Prior, Marsh. About 250 years later, the Vining and the McGhee lines converged when Ruth Vining and Clarence McGhee met and married in Tyro, Kansas in 1918.

Gail Lee was their second child. When she was in her sixties, she plunged into tracing the family history back through the generations. Finding her immigrant ancestors and where they came from was a thrill for her.

mcghee martin family tree

McGhee – Martin family tree

Do you know when your immigrant ancestors arrived in America? Where did they come from? One wonders what motivated them to make such a big move.