Keeping the Old Car Running

Gail Martin wrote this advice piece for the eHow website over 10 years ago.

The car is getting old, but there’s no money in the budget to replace it. What do you do? Here’s our experience of how to keep that older car running so you don’t lose your mobility. Ours has over 200,000 miles on it now.

Mom and Dad's old car

Here’s their faithful old car that lasted for years.

Ideally, you have some mechanical aptitude and can make repairs to the car yourself. This saves a bundle over taking it to a mechanic. My husband and son both taught themselves to fix most car problems we had. This is easier to do with an older car that doesn’t have lots of computerized parts in it.


Clyde Martin kept the family cars going for many years.

If you don’t have a friend who can show you how to fix things, look for a class through adult continuing education or a local community college. Something like a “powderpuff mechanic” or a “shade tree mechanic” course.

Go to the public library and ask to see their auto repair manuals. Usually, the Mitchell manuals or Chilton manuals are in the reference section or they might have it on a computer. Copy or print out the pages that tell how to fix your car’s problem.

Get the parts for the repair at the cheapest place, usually an auto salvage yard. If they don’t have the model or part you need in a junked car, then you’ll have to go to an auto parts store.

If you are unable to fix the car yourself, find a mechanic. Try to build up a relationship with one place so there’s less chance they will try to take advantage of you. Usually, a small mechanic’s shop will charge less than an auto dealership.

Tune up the vehicle regularly, so you don’t ruin it by letting it run out of oil or something else that’s preventable.

Keep some emergency repair items in the trunk. I recommend having some cans of extra oil, a charger to jump start the engine, and an air compressor that you plug into the cigarette lighter to reinflate a flat tire. It’s also handy to have a rug to lay on if you need to get under the car and some rags to clean your hands after a fix-up.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t raise the car just with jacks and get under it. We knew someone who was crushed this way.
car repair pixabay vintage advertisement

Vintage car repair advertisement from Pixabay

Make Molasses Taffy

This old-fashioned candy recipe is one my mother-in-law, Cora Martin, made back in the 1920s. It takes two people to pull the taffy after it’s cooked. You can even make a party of it. Here’s how to make it.

Things You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • egg sized lumps of butter
  • vanilla (to taste)
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the vanilla in a pan (molasses, sugar, vinegar, butter).
  2. Bring it to a boil on the stove top. Boil for 10 minutes. Stir frequently. She always used a wooden spoon for this.
  3. Add vanilla to taste.
  4. Remove it from the burner and allow it to cool enough to be handled.
  5. Coat your hands with butter, then pull the taffy with each person holding an end.
  6. When the taffy becomes light in color, it has been pulled enough.
  7. Twist the candy, then cut it into small pieces.

Cora and Ren Martin with their children in 1925.

My folks had taffy pulling parties when my older sister, Melba, was in her teens. There was so much fun and laughter as we paired up to pull that yummy stuff. Then we cut the taffy into strips to eat. The pulling and the togetherness made this a wonderful winter treat.

1938 – Pauline Bolte, Melba McGhee, Twila Yeager, Gail McGhee and little Carol McGhee.

(Article previously published online on eHow by Gail Lee Martin)

Make Salmon Patties

They say to eat more fish. Fresh salmon can be expensive. Here’s an easy way to add fish to your menu plan without a lot of expense or trouble. These salmon patties are made very much like potato cakes.

Can of salmon (photo courtesy of Amazon)

Can of salmon (photo courtesy of Amazon)


Things You’ll Need:

  • can of salmon (pink is OK and cheaper)
  • saltine crackers
  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • dash of pepper
  • iron skillet
  1. Put the canned salmon, including the bones, skin, and liquid, into a bowl. Stir it to separate and fluff it. Use a fork to crush the small bones that are in with it.
  2. Beat the two eggs with the fork, and mix them in with the salmon.
  3. Crush some crackers and mix with the salmon and egg mixture. The amount to add depends on how soupy it is. The crackers absorb the excess salmon broth and eggs.
    Once it thickens enough with the crackers, form it into patties.
  4. Heat up an iron skillet on the stove top so it’s sizzling. You can grease the skillet with a butter wrapper to use up the remnants of butter or margarine. It’s OK to use a cooking spray instead, but it won’t have the same flavor.
  5. Start the salmon patties or cakes to cooking in the skillet. Reduce the heat and cook until they brown on the one side. Turn them over and brown them on the other side.
Gail Martin's frying pans

Gail Martin’s frying pans

Tips & Warnings
  •  Keep canned salmon and a box of crackers in the pantry so you can make this at any time.
  •  You can substitute other kinds of canned fish for the salmon. Cod fish is available in cans.
  •  Be careful not to splatter yourself with hot grease when putting the cakes into the skillet.

Comments from the eHow Website

Parollins said on 3/12/2009 – My Mom makes these and now I do. I make them with potato pancakes and it’s the best. I add dill to mine too. Love this article.

Wordstock said on 1/17/2009 – I love salmon patties, but didn’t know how to make them. Thanks!

Cherst1031 said, on 9/5/2008 Thanks for the info on Salmon Patties, I have the ingredients, I just wasn’t sure how to make them. Now I will give it a try, sounds delicious and healthy!

Vanillatte said on 9/5/2008 – Oh, Wow! I love salmon patties! Will have to make these soon. Great article!

(this article first appeared online at eHow in 2008 – written by Gail Lee Martin)

How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty

How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty By Gail Martin

Nature provides free food that most people don’t slow down enough to even see. There are wild food and unpicked crops going to waste. Having grown up in the 1930s, we hate to see food being wasted. Here are our methods for using these wholesome and free foods in meals.


  • basket to gather fruit in
  • fishing equipment and bait
  • bucket for berry picking
    • Free Mushrooms – Maybe your grandmother gathered edible mushrooms and green plants that spring rains made plentiful. Even here in town, I can make our meals colorful and different by picking Inky Cap Mushrooms to add to soups, scrambled eggs, and gravy. The come up in the same spot in our yard after a rain.
  • Wild Plants – I also pick Poke, Goose Weed, and Lamb’s Quarter and cook them like spinach. Don’t eat the beautiful poke berries as I understand the seed is poisonous. Just pick the leaves.

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

  • Free apples – When we drive around town or in the country, we watch for fruit trees that aren’t getting picked. Maybe the owner is elderly and can’t climb anymore or it might belong to a career person without the time or interest. I knock on the door or call the person and offer to pick their fruit for them on a fifty/fifty basis. Half for them and half for us, for our effort. Sometimes they say, just go ahead and take it all. Even fallen apples make great applesauce or get baked into pies. We return year after year with the same offer. Sometimes they even call us to say the tree is ready for picking.

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

  • Nuts – The same technique works for getting free nuts. People often don’t want to be bothered gathering them. We would collect bushels of black walnuts which are quite laborious to hull, crack and pick out the nutmeats. The results are worth it. Some of the nuts we made into candied nuts for Christmas gifts and even sold them packed in decorative tins.

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

  • Gooseberries – As a child, I went camping with my family near the river. We would gather mulberries and tart gooseberries. These made a good dessert when cooked together to go with the fish we caught and we never got tired of eating them. Lots of people use them for making pies.


  • Catfish – I still love eating fried catfish. Mother always coated the fish fillets with flour and fried them in lard in our biggest iron skillet. Sometimes at night we would catch bullfrogs and their hind legs were good eating too. We mostly lived off the land as we had no refrigeration when we were at camp in those days. When I look back at those wonderful carefree days I don’t envy the fancy campers or motor homes. I’ll bet they don’t experience half the thrills that I had with my parents in those long ago summers on the Cottonwood River.

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

  • Carp – In our retirement, my husband and I fished a lot using a boat and also from the shore. One fish that others don’t keep is carp because the many bones made it impossible to eat. We found that we could pressure cook it in canning jars (bones and all). Then we use it like salmon for fish cakes.

    Clyde was so excited about the 30 pound grass carp that he cut off Gail's head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

    Clyde was so excited about the 30-pound grass carp that he cut off Gail’s head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

Tips & Warnings

  • Always ask before gathering fruit or nuts from a tree in someone’s yard or farm.
  • Even tart fruits like gooseberries or sand plums make good jellies.
  • Don’t pick wild plants in areas that might be protected (like a park) or where chemicals are used (like near a golf course).
  • Get positive identification on mushrooms before eating any. Some edible ones look very similar to poisonous ones.

(article by Gail Lee Martin, first published on eHow in 2008)

Make Rose Hip Extract for Tea or for Jelly Making

This is a very old family recipe, going back to Kansas pioneer days. They picked rose hips from wild roses and made this extract. The extract was then used to make rose hip jelly and a tea as well.


Rose hips (photo by Virginia Allain)


Things You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup rose hips
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • stone crock
  1. Pick the rose hips. These are the round bulb that forms where a rose bloomed.
  2. Remove the blossom ends, the stems and the leaves.
  3. Wash quickly to avoid any loss of quality. If unable to prepare right away, chill them to prevent enzyme action.
  4. Bring the water to a boil in a pot, then add the rose hips.
  5. Cover and simmer for fifteen minutes.
  6. Put the rose hips and the liquid into the stone jar. Cover and let it steep for 24 hours.
  7. The next day, strain out the rose hips, then save the juice.
Tips & Warnings
  •  This recipe is from Mary Black, (of Black Jack, Kansas) granddaughters of the earliest doctor there, Moses O’Neil. Dr. O’Neil’s wife, Eleanor (called Ellen) O’Neil was a sister to our great-grandmother, Elizabeth Jane (Rosebaugh) Kennedy. Elizabeth was the wife of David Greacen Kennedy, my husband’s great-grandfather.
Rose Hips Card
Rose Hips Card by awhitelaw – Available from Zazzle

Comments from the eHow site (go to the top of the page to leave a comment):

JackLTrades said, on 10/27/2008 – I made this as a kid on the farm in South Dakota. Also catnip and nettle tea. We had plenty of stuff growing all over. I had forgotten how much I loved making tea on an open campfire.

(First published on eHow in 2008, by Gail Lee Martin)

Making Pickled Beets

Our family is very fond of eating the sweet pickled beets that we preserve from a recipe in Kerr Canning Book (now the Ball Canning Book). We like to grow beets that are a dark glossy red color and look beautiful when added to a veggie plate of celery and carrots sticks and clumps of cauliflower or just served in a dish on their own. Either way, place a pickle or salad fork with them for easy serving. Since we can them in the summer time, they are ready to remove from the pantry and take to the Thanksgiving dinner so all the Martins can enjoy them. I just remove the canning ring and pop the flat from the jar and they are ready to serve.

When you are gardening you soon find out that you can’t eat all the produce that just keeps growing. Then you try giving it to your friends and neighbors, but that doesn’t work either. Very few people know how to cook produce fresh from the garden if it isn’t the basic tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes. Few know what to do with beets freshly pulled from the garden.

Beets is one vegetable that is a little hard for a beginning cook.

Look at the rich color of these pickled beets. (photo by Virginia Allain)

Look at the rich color of these pickled beets. (photo by Gail Martin)

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:

  • Ball canning book (latest edition)
  • canning jars, lids, rings
  • beets from the garden
  • spices
  1. You should never cut the root of the beet and always leave an inch of the stems where the leaves were. That inch of stem needs to still be on the beets for cooking. If the beet is cut before cooking, the color will bleed out while cooking changing the pretty beet to an unappetizing looking beet.
  2. Wash the beets to remove any dirt.
  3. Cover whole beets and stems with hot water and boil for at least fifteen minutes for medium size beets. More time for bigger ones.
  4. Drain and add cold water, then slide the skin off. You can test one beet to see if the skin is ready to slide off.
  5. You can get your canning book from Ball (link below). By following the instruction in the canning book, add the spices, then fill the canning jars and place in a boiling water bath. We follow the directions carefully.
  6. When the specified time is up, set the hot packed jars on a towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough, you can hear the tin lid ping as it sucks down on the jar rim and is sealed.

Tips & Warnings

  •  Cooked beets can be sliced, salted and buttered to taste after boiling. I never can resist eating some right then.
  • We don’t wait to eat them just at Thanksgiving and at turkey time. We share the delightful taste of sweet pickled beets with our large family anytime we gather together. Keep them in your pantry for a quick side vegetable for any meal.
  •  You also can dice the beets and make a corn starch sauce with a dash of sugar and couple of tablespoons of vinegar and butter to make Harvard beets.

(Written by Gail Lee Martin and first published in 2008 on eHow)

Make Wagon Wheel Rugs from Rags

My husband, Clyde, and I revived a long-lost family craft by making Wagon Wheel Rugs.

Using a combination of oral history and a trial and error method, we have succeeded in making the rugs the same way his Great-grandmother Kennedy probably did. Our great-grandmother was Elizabeth Rosebaugh, and she was born on the western frontier of Pennsylvania in 1826. In raising a large family, Elizabeth always had to make do with what she had, so it would be natural for her to come up with the idea of the wagon wheel rugs.

Wagon wheels from an old wagon

Difficulty: Challenging


Things You’ll Need:

    • cotton sheets or material
    • a wagon wheel rim (without the spokes)
    • an old blanket
    • pins

Today we make them from cotton sheets, as well as dress material. The hardest part of the whole rug process is finding suitable cotton material. We search garage sales looking for cotton sheets for making the rugs. Most sheets with a blend of fifty percent cotton work well. If there is too much man-made material in the fabric, the material stretches as you weave and the rugs won’t lay flat. In fact, some of my first rugs looked more like baskets than rugs.

Most sheets from garage sales are on sale because the owners have changed bed size or are redecorating and changing color schemes. These sheets are usually still in good condition and can be purchased for a dollar or so in our area. The rugs can be made with brand new material but that would add to the price of the rug. Pioneers didn’t have the opportunity to make designs like we can, using the vivid colors of modern sheets. Depending upon the color scheme, some of the rugs have vivid spokes that dominate the rug, while others have a solid band of color going around, giving the rug a wheel effect. Flannel sheets make warm rugs for the winter.


  • Tear the sheets into long strips.
  • The old iron rim of the wagon wheel is over 140 years old and is still being used. We wrapped the iron wheel with strips of an old blanket.

    Clyde Martin, early stages of the wagon wheel rug

    Clyde Martin, early stages of the wagon wheel rug

  • Then pin the cotton material to that to form the spokes. The early pioneers tied their strips to the rim. We start by crisscrossing the rim with an odd number of spokes, usually nine and pin the ends.
  • Then we start weaving in the middle where the spokes intersect. As the rug making continues, more spoke strips are added and the weaving resumes. In the process, the wheel rolls round and round many times before the rug is finished. This makes for strong, arm muscles.

    The rug is about 1/4th done.

    The rug is about 1/4th done.

  • On the large wheel, the completed rug will be 33 to 34 inches across with a 2-inch fringe. Clyde found a smaller, easier to handle wheel that we can make smaller rugs about 24 inches across that are ideal for small areas like the bathroom. I use this wheel when demonstrating our craft.

    Finished rug, still on the loom

    Finished rug, still on the loom

  • Clyde also experimented with making half rugs that are so attractive and handy by the kitchen stove or sink area. He says that half rugs are the hardest to make so he just make them for family.
  • The rugs last a long time. To wash them, gently slosh it around in a sink of sudsy water. A washing machine, even on the gentle cycle, is too rough for them. Rinse, then lay out flat to dry. Press down any areas that lump up.
Partially completed wagon wheel rug

Partially completed wagon wheel rug

Tips & Warnings
  •  The wagon wheel rugs can be used in many ways. A small rug tossed down on a wall-to-wall carpet for accent is an ideal accent for a large basket of flowers.
  •  Draped over a small antique table they make an attractive addition to any room.
  •  These rugs are as useful today as they were in bygone days as they are reversible as well as washable.
  • We have used other circles to make rugs but some worked and others didn’t. We used Hula Hoops with fair success. The flexibility of the Hula Hoop is a problem. The best modern results came from having a machine shop make us an inch and half wide rim with a 30-inch diameter of metal welded into a hoop. It is not as heavy as the real wagon wheel and I use it for demonstration.

    Gail Martin demonstrating wagon wheel rug making at a pioneer day.

    Gail Martin demonstrating wagon wheel rug making at a pioneer day.

  •  Since we retired we demonstrated our rug-making skills as we travel across the state to craft fairs. Rug weaving is a time-consuming occupation, so we set up the wheel and weave wherever we are and soon find ourselves the center of attention and a topic of conversation. Probably Great-grandmother Kennedy did the same.
One of the finished rugs made by Gail and Clyde Martin - blue/white/yellow

One of the finished rugs made by Gail and Clyde Martin – blue/white/yellow



veryirie said on 1/6/2009 – Excellent pictures and instructions. I’ve done off-loom weaving, but I don’t know where the heck I can get hold of a big wagon wheel over here. I’m determined to think of something to use though. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful craft!

smidgen said on 1/2/2009 – This is wonderful and so practical! I bet that you sell tons of these at craft fairs that you go to and sell! I love the pictures and directions!
prism said on 11/25/2008 – It is so wonderful that you are passing on this skill! I’ve never seen these before but I can tell they are sturdy and last a long time. Growing up in New England, I am more familiar with braided rugs that have that same look and quality. I know there are still many in our family made by my Grandmother.

 From the Wayback Machine, I retrieved these 2008 articles from eHow for other methods of making a round rag rug.

(Article first published on eHow in 2008 by Gail Lee Martin)