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) · Newspapers.com

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

ice-cubes-pixabay

  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.

blue-rug-and-gray-yarn-cat-and-basket-nikki.jpg

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.

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

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Close-up of the weaving

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Spokes of the wheel

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

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Wagon wheel rug made by Gail and Clyde Martin

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Detail of the center of the rug

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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)

Mom And Tiny Houses

On a rainy day last week, I got out my miniature birdhouses and decorated them with paint. It’s the sort of project that Mom would have had a lot of fun with. Gail Martin was an excellent crafter and there are many memories of her sharing her talent by teaching her children and later the grandchildren.

Last year, I’d picked up some miniature unpainted birdhouses from Michael’s for $1 each. What a bargain. This seemed the perfect time to pretty them up. I already had a stash of leftover oil paints from a paint-by-number kit. Remember those? That gave me a variety of colors to use on the tiny houses.

 

 

Here’s my first attempt, using some red fabric to cover the roof and adding some heart-shaped flowers. I’ll spray this with a sealant and hope it holds up for a summer outside if I put it in a sheltered area.

The second one ended up with a birch bark theme. It was a sheet of bark that I found in the woods last year. I’m such a packrat, but now I had a use for it.

 

I was surprised at how easy it was to cut the bark with ordinary scissors. My glue gun worked fine for securing the bark to the walls of the faux birdhouse. Do you think it looks OK with a white roof or should I paint that?

These are going into my planting areas to add a little color in a few spots too shady for most plants. I’ll tuck in some moss and a little fern for a fairy garden. That’s a huge gardening trend the last few years. I haven’t seen any fairies but maybe the availability of houses will attract some.

Fairy Garden with plants and little house

The plants are mouse-ear hawkweed, red crest lichen (also called British Soldiers), and a cutting from another plant with purple flowers.

I’m sure that if fairy gardening had been thought of in the 1950s and 1960s, Gail would have loved the concept and set her children to collecting pebbles and moss to make our own miniature gardens somewhere in the yard.

You can read more about fairy gardening online. Perhaps your grandchildren would like to create one the next time they visit. They could make little houses out of bark, collect stones for a path, make a little fence out of twigs. It’s great fun for kids or even grown-ups. Don’t wait for a rainy day.

Tiny fairy house

The round fairy house needs a few more plants and some moss to go with the fern.

Dad Loved to Fish

I remember tagging along with Dad a few times when he went fishing. To me, it was hours of boredom sitting on the river bank while bugs tried to bite me. The leaves made me itchy and the ground felt increasingly hard as I tried not to squirm which would frighten away the fish.

His fishing time was limited to times when the oil rig shut down and there was no work. Probably he hoped to catch enough fish to feed the family while there was no paycheck.

Later when he retired, he fished for fun at Sugar Valley Lakes in Eastern Kansas. Gail and Clyde became a frequent sight at the lake as they fished from the dock or went out in their boat. They caught bass, catfish, and grass carp.

Clyde Martin loved fishing

Catfish, grass carp, and bass caught by Clyde Martin

They took pride in their catch and took photos of the fish. Gail noted in a small notebook the length and weight of the catch each day.

They ended up catching so many that they couldn’t eat them all, so they held a fish fry for the small community of Prescott, Kansas. They wanted to show their appreciation to all the people who made them welcome at their getaway home there.

It was about a 3-hour drive from their home in El Dorado, so at first, it was a weekend retreat while Dad was still working. It was beyond the reach of a demanding job. Later, they spent weeks at a time there. They found it comfortably like the small towns they were familiar with growing up in the 1930s.