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.

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.

The Victory Garden

In times of stress, it isn’t surprising when people turn to gardening. There’s something soothing about working with the dirt and the plants. In addition, you end up with something edible for your effort. In the 1940s, these were called Victory Gardens and everyone considered it one of their contributions to the war effort. The gardens served to supplement each family’s food supply during a time of food rationing.

grow vegetables seeds advertisement 1922grow vegetables seeds advertisement 1922 Thu, Mar 2, 1922 – Page 4 · The Coffeyville Daily Journal (Coffeyville, Kansas) ·

During the previous decade, planting a garden was a necessity as businesses closed and banks failed. There were bread lines and families turned out of their homes. The Great Depression of the 1930s put a lot of pressure on families. Growing their own food was a necessity.

I’m not sure what we should call the current surge of interest in gardening. Are these Pandemic Gardens? Maybe Survivor Gardens would be a suitable name. I plan to survive this terrible epidemic and growing my own food is one way to minimize my outings to get food. Each time that I leave my home, I risk exposing myself to a deadly virus.

Since I can’t plant a garden in my yard due to our community restrictions, I’ve resorted to grow-bags in my patio. Acquiring dirt meant a trip to Lowes where we picked up some tomato and pepper plants as well. Even wearing the mask and gloves, it was a relief to get in and out quickly and return home with our planting supplies.

We’d ordered the grow-bags from Amazon and a big batch of various vegetable seeds. I can’t wait to get the lettuce and herbs started. I’m afraid it’s too late for peas which like cooler weather. The tomato plants are blooming already and I’m checking each day to see if the carrots, beets, yellow squash, onions, and potatoes might be sending up sprouts.

pandemic garden june 10

There are plenty of reasons to plant vegetables this year. Buying the containers, soil, and plants means every tomato or carrot harvested costs more than the actual food would in a supermarket. It’s worth it to me to reduce any possible exposure to the virus and to protect from possible food shortages. Disruption of the food supply is quite possible if the necessary workers become sick.

Beyond that reason, food that you grow yourself does taste better than some varieties designed for shipping and longer shelf-life. There’s also the psychological benefits of planting a garden. It’s an affirmation that you expect to be around to tend and harvest it as the months progress. My 2020 Victory Garden is my statement that I will survive this pandemic.

There may be a shortage of plants and seeds as more people catch the gardening bug. People who never planted anything before are suddenly inspired with the idea of growing their own food. Have you started your garden yet?

Here’s the link for updates on how my Victory Garden is growing.


K is for Kids’ Cards

I found a bundle of handmade cards from school children. Mom had saved these thank you notes dating back to 1994. The notes, decorated with colorful, childish art, thanked her for visiting their classroom and telling them stories.

kids cards to gail

The most popular story was about a snake apparently and some children even drew pictures of a snake. I knew she must have told them about chasing rabbits with her dog and getting bitten on the cheek by a rattlesnake.

cards to gail

The occasion for her visit was to promote reading and Kansas authors on Kansas Day. Here are some of the notes:

  • Dear Mrs. Martin, You’re a great speaker. One of the best speakers I’ve had. Thanks. I had fun, learned a lot, and was stunned. You’re an interesting (spelled enter resting) woman, a fabulious speaker, and such a talented changer. Sincerely, Crystal
  • I hope you can come again to 5th grade Lincoln. Sincerely, Candice T.
  • Thank you for playing the part of Margaret Hill McCarter. The magazines, the calendars and the newspapers were interesting. And the snake bite story was great! I hope you come again. It was very fun having you here. Sincerely, Jessica
  • Dear Gail, I think it is great that you write stories about your history. I also wanted to thank you for coming and sharing your stories with us. My favorite was the one about you getting bit by the snake. Thanks again! Sincerely, Laurie M.
  • Thank you for insperting (inspiring?) my writing. I hope you like my writing couse (cause) I like yours.
  • Thank you for coming to our rooms for telling us about Kansas long ago.

more cards to gail

I puzzled a little over the “such a talented changer.” Mom would dress in pioneer style to demonstrate her wagon wheel rugs and would dress up with a flowery straw hat to talk as Margaret Hill McCarter, a Kansas author that she admired. Perhaps she switched persona and made a wardrobe change by swapping out pieces of clothing during her talk. I’ll have to ask my sister if she ever saw Mom perform for the school classes.

Gail Martin Portrays Margaret Hill McCarter

Gail Lee Martin visits local schools with Margaret Hill McCarter presentation.

More Notes from the Children

  • I think you and Margaret are very good actors and very good people. I liked listening to you and Margaret. I’m sorry about hearing that you got bit by a snake.
  • You gave a good story. It was funny. I like your book collection. It must be worth some money. I like to read books, but I don’t read books that big. Oh, when it comes around, I wish you a happy 70th birthday. Sincerely, Billy C.
  • Thank you for coming to our school. We really enjoyed reading your stories. All of your stories are good. I would really like for you to come to Lincoln School again.
  • Dear Mrs. Martin, Thank you for coming to our school and telling us about the author. I also enjoyed you becoming her. That was very interesting. Not many people do that. The things you told us about were neat. Sincerely, Janna L.

She visited even the kindergarten class and the teacher had each child put their thumbprint on a card and write their name. Each thumbprint had bunny ears or rabbit ears added and a tail. This was sent to Gail after her visit and she saved it.

card to gail - thumbprint

Make Ice Candles

A how-to article by Gail Lee Martin that was originally published on the eHow site.

ice candles on pinterest

Ice candle examples that I found on Pinterest and pinned to my Craft Ideas board there.

“My son used to make these striking candles back in the seventies. I think it’s a craft that’s worth bringing back. The finished candle looks quite sculptural, but they’re really pretty easy to make. Here’s how to do it.

Things You’ll Need:

  • cardboard milk carton
  • candle wax
  • a single candle (or wicking)
  • ice cubes
  • a double boiler


  1. Start with a clean cardboard milk carton, the quart-sized ones. Open the top so it’s square all the way up. Once you’ve made a few of these, try it with the larger milk cartons.
  2. Heat the wax until it’s liquified. This is what you use the double boiler for. The wax chunks go in the top and the water goes down below. You can also use one of those candlemaking machines to melt the wax.
  3. Place a wick (tied to a crossbar) in the center. The crossbar will rest on the top of the milk carton. The wick needs to go all the way to the bottom. Tie a flat washer to the bottom of the wick to give it weight and make it stay straight.
  4. Pour in a layer of wax to form the bottom of the candle. Let it set slightly. This gives it a solid base. Keep the wick as straight as possible.
  5. Pour the melted wax into the milk carton, then drop in the ice cubes. Don’t splash the hot wax.
    The ice cubes will melt, but they are cold enough to start hardening the wax. There will be interesting crevices and open spaces throughout the candle from the ice.
  6. He also added bits and pieces of crayons for unique colors. (remove the wrappers)crayons-pixabay.jpg
  7. Don’t try to move the candle until it has cooled and the wax has hardened.
  8. When the wax was set, he poured out the water from the melted ice cubes and tore the box from around his creation. They were so beautiful when lit as the overall candle had holes here and there that let the light shine in so many different ways.

milk-carton pixabay

Tips & Warnings

  • Use great caution with hot wax as it can burn you badly.
  • I wouldn’t work on this project with children around or any distractions.
  • Do not move the candle until the wax has hardened completely.
  • Check Pinterest by searching “ice candle” to find examples and more instructions.

The Wooden Nickels

“Don’t take any wooden nickels.” This old saying wasn’t adhered to by Gail and Clyde Martin. They actively sought out wooden nickels for their collection which they displayed on their living room wall.

wooden nickle collection

Gail and Clyde Martin’s wooden nickel collection.

They had vintage ones and new ones too. Sometimes local businesses would print up some as an advertising gimmick. Gail and Clyde found so many that they wouldn’t all fit into their display cases.

wooden nickels - advertising

An assortment of wooden nickels

Here is a sampling of ones they picked up over the years.

  • Dalton Museum – Coffeyville, KS
  • Greenwood County Historical Museum – Eureka, KS
  • Pony Express Museum – Marysville, KS
  • Chamber of Commerce – Waterville, KS
  • Madison Kansas Centennial

Friends and family found some further afield and sent them to boost the collection. For their 40th wedding anniversary, their daughter, Virginia had wooden nickels printed for them to give to the guests.

anniversary wooden nickel

Their specially printed wooden nickel for their 40th anniversary.

I’m sure Gail researched the history of wooden nickels and found that the earliest ones go back to the 1880s and were issued at times of coin shortages. They became popular in the 1930s when the tokens were issued at fairs and festivals to commemorate the event. Merchants also issued them offering something free if the wooden token was presented in their store.

Have you ever found a wooden nickel?

Plants From Your Pantry

(post by Virginia Allain) Last year in the spring, I took cuttings from some sweet potatoes that sprouted in my pantry. Covering them with a little soil in my patio pots enabled them to start growing. Before long they sent out nice vines that trailed nicely down the sides of the pots.

Sweet potato vine on the patio

Sweet potato vine on the patio

Now and then, I trimmed them back so they wouldn’t get too jungle-like. It reminded me of childhood times when Mom showed us how a carrot top or sweet potato cutting would put out roots if you placed it in some water.

That fall, I turned up the soil in some of the planters to put in fresh plants. To my surprise, my trowel struck something large and solid. Digging around the object, I turned up a large sweet potato. I checked all the pots where I’d put the cuttings and ended up with about 5 meals worth of the tubers.

Cooking sweet potatoes

I boil the sweet potatoes, then remove the skin, and mash them. Then I add cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and brown sugar before baking it in a casserole dish.

I don’t usually grow vegetables in my containers on the patio, but since it was so easy to raise some sweet potatoes, I planted more this year. My crop wasn’t quite as big, but it took only a minimal amount of effort and it was free.

Have you tried planting anything from your kitchen scraps?


Pass-Along Plants

I saw a post on Facebook that resonated with me. Here’s what Linda H.R. was lamenting:

Anyone besides me remember the days of “Passalong Plants”? These were plants that were handed from one person to another. Nearly every time we would visit a relative or they would visit us…there was always a walk in the garden “to see what was blooming or coming up.” There would be newspaper to wrap them in to take a cutting or some plants home.

My first home after I got married…my parents visited with a cardboard box with irises wrapped in newspaper to plant which I did all up the side of the yard. Another memory was my grandfather telling me this this was his mother’s rose…I never thought about keeping that tradition going. I wish I had a cutting of that rose now.

Gail Lee Martin was one who loved to give away cuttings from her garden and divide her iris to share. Yes, they were wrapped in damp newspaper to keep them happy until they reached their new home.

Now, I have my own version of pass-along plants. When I take cuttings or divide plants, I put them in a shady place in my driveway. Then I put a notice with photos on the Next Door Neighbors page for my retirement community. Before very long, all the plants get picked up.

The most recent batch included red sisters which were too leggy, some moses-in-the-cradle, an asparagus fern, and some baby elephant ears. I hope all plant lovers keep the tradition going of sharing their plants.

Free plants for my neighbors.

Photos of the Wagon Wheel Rugs

Post by Virginia Allan
My mom and dad tried out a lot of crafts after retirement. One that they revived was the almost-lost art of the wagon wheel rug. The metal rim of an old wagon wheel serves as the base for tying the strips of cotton cloth before you start weaving.

They used old sheets torn into strips and turned out many colorful rag rugs woven on the wagon wheel. Although these are intended as throw rugs for the floor, I’ve seen people use them on a round table or to drape across the back of a sofa or chair.

They even demonstrated this technique at various pioneer days and at local history museums. Mom and Dad would be thrilled that a growing number of people are taking up the weaving of wagon wheel rugs.

There’s now a Facebook group where those making these round rag rugs are helping others to learn the craft. The folks would be so pleased that the skill is being shared with new people. Almost 200 people have joined the Facebook group and are sharing tips on making the rugs.

Photos of Gail and Clyde Martin’s Wagon Wheel Rugs

I asked my family to send me photos of their rugs made by Gail and Clyde Martin. My sisters and nieces shared the pictures below. Thank goodness for email and digital cameras which made it easier for them to send these along to me.

It seems that family cats are also liking the wagon wheel rugs. They are just right to curl up on for a cat nap, it seems.


Nikki’s cat and blue rug

nikki's rug blue

A wider view of the blue rug

Here are some more rugs from the family.


orange and white wagon wheel rug made by Gail and Clyde Martin


Close-up of the weaving


Spokes of the wheel

I’m leaving the photos full-size so anyone trying to make these kinds of rugs can see the details.


Wagon wheel rug made by Gail and Clyde Martin


Detail of the center of the rug


Detail of the spokes of the wagon wheel rug

Even more wagon wheel rugs –


I Love Cemeteries

I’ve always found old cemeteries fascinating. You never know what you’ll find there. Perhaps I inherited this interest from my mother. Gail Lee Martin spent many hours in graveyards while tracking down ancestors and looking for birth and death dates to add to the family tree.

Pause for a minute to scan the moss-covered stones and trace a finger over the engraved lettering.

longmeadow cemetery

I visited this cemetery in Longmeadow, Massachusetts some years ago.

Who was this person that lies beneath this gravestone? What was his life like and why did he die? Sometimes you find family groupings and can piece together the family’s story. Perhaps the father died in the war, leaving a young widow. Nearby is a stone for their child who died too young. Was it an accident, an epidemic or other misfortune?

child grave ky

A child’s grave in Frankfort, KY.

I’m always intrigued by the long-lived ones, octogenarians and even ones who lived into their nineties. It’s particularly striking when the stone is for someone who lived in the 1700s or the 1800s. In those days, the life span was much shorter, but you find some who were remarkably long-lived.

As a genealogist, I’m usually looking for specific ancestors as I wander through a cemetery. Still, I can’t resist checking out other people’s dead relatives while I’m there.

There’s something timeless and soothing about a sunny day of wending ones way among the marble markers that represent lives of those long gone. Here’s an old graveyard that I discovered in New Hampshire called the Perkins Hill Cemetery. You can read about the interesting graves I found there.

I’ve even stopped by a cemetery on a snowy day. This photo is from Ohio where I lived in the 1970s. The sky was threatening more snow and I couldn’t resist stopping to capture it with my camera. I wish I’d had a better camera back then.

ohio cemetery

A cemetery in winter near Chardon, Ohio.

Do you find graveyards scenic and interesting?


(all photos by Virginia Allain)