Wilted Wild Greens or Lettuce

Here’s another recipe that Gail Lee Martin submitted to the Grandmother’s Legacy: A Collection of Butler County Recipes from the 1920’s and 30’s. The cookbook is out-of-print and is hard to find now.


Lamb’s quarters, a wild plant that is used in salads. Photo from Pixabay.

Wilted Lettuce or Greens

Dandelion leaves, few flowers

Wild lamb’s quarter

Goose grass



8 slices bacon, reserve the drippings





Optional additions: green onions, radishes, hard-boiled eggs

Gather the wild plants in early spring while still tender. Wash well, tear into bite size pieces and drain. (Add chopped green onions and radishes if wanted). Fry the bacon slices crisp, cool, and crumble. Mix together one-half cup of bacon grease and one-half cup of vinegar (or equal parts). Cover and reheat.

Fry the bacon slices crisp, cool, and crumble. Set the bacon aside to use later on the salad. Mix together one-half cup of bacon grease and one-half cup of vinegar (or equal parts). Cover and reheat those.

Add salt, pepper, and sugar. Add enough sugar so the mixture is slightly thickened. When hot, pour this over the greens, onions, and radishes. Cap the skillet on the top to wilt the greens. Stir the wilted greens, then serve. Garnish with bacon crumbles and slices of hard-boiled eggs if desired. Lettuce, by itself, can be served this way also.

lettuce from 2015 garden NH

Greens from Virginia Allain’s garden

Iris – A Favorite of Mom’s

Gail Lee Martin’s daughters all feature iris in their gardens. It’s a tribute to their mother’s love of this stately flower. For much of the summer, the plant is mostly spiked leaves, but the dramatic flowers in spring brighten any flower bed.


Many old homesteads in Kansas have decades-old clumps of iris that come up year-after-year. The small flower heads and limited colors pale before the appearance of the hybrid iris.

Gail planted the showy hybrid iris around a tree by the driveway at the farmhouse near El Dorado where the family lived for eight years. She created a walkway of native stone to lead from the garage down to the family vegetable garden. Along those steps, she planted iris and some wild plants plus low-growing hen and chicks.

Eventually, when she and Clyde bought their small home in town where they lived through their retirement, the flower beds naturally featured handsome clumps of iris. El Dorado had an iris grower and Gail couldn’t resist bringing home new, dramatic colors of hybrid iris for their yard.

eldorado iris gardens by eva tower

El Dorado iris garden (photo by Eva Tower)

The collage of iris above are ones photographed in Cindy, Ginger, and Karen’s yards. Yes, they all love iris. The iris garden photo is by Eva Tower.

Gail’s Memory of Her Mother’s Apron

For Mother’s Day 2017, I’ll share with you one of Gail Lee Martin’s most popular stories. It’s a nostalgic piece about her mother’s apron. It was also recorded and you can hear the story in her own voice on the Our Echo site: Mother’s Apron.

“Mother’s aprons
I grew up in the oilfields of Greenwood County Kansas in the dusty thirties but I remember Mother’s apron always kept her neat and clean. She made aprons to cover the whole front of her dress and tied with a bow in the back. Her aprons had two large patch pockets on the skirt and Mother used them in so many ways.

On washdays, she carried clothespins out to the line in her pockets instead of juggling a separate clothespin bag. She also picked her pockets full of peas or other produce for lunch as she left the garden after her daily hoeing. With aprons protecting her clothes, she could wear the same dress for several days. A real plus when you had to haul all your water during the dust-bowl days.

Two or three safety pins adorned the bib of her apron and even a threaded needle so she was always ready for a quick repair of our clothes or on the spot splinter removal. I recall her using a corner of her apron to wipe her sweaty brow and my childhood tears.

While cooking, a corner of her apron became an instant potholder. Each evening she would shoo the chickens into their pen for the night by flapping her apron skirt. My fondest memory is Mother coming in with her apron full of chilled and mewing kittens followed by an anxious mother cat. She warmed them by the kitchen fire and saved their lives.

In the 1930s chicken feed & flour companies began using an attractive print material for sacks to hold their product. Mother was in seventh heaven with this new source of material. She made dresses, skirts and blouses, and more everyday and fancy aprons.

When company came to visit Mother would whisk off her apron. As she greeted her guests, they saw no trace of her work-filled days. Her dress was spotless.”


Clarence and Ruth McGhee – This is the only photo I could find of Ruth wearing her apron. In all other photos, she’s removed it.

Grandma’s Lye Soap Recipe

Gail Lee Martin submitted this recipe when the local historical society wanted recipes from the 1920s and 1930s. It appeared in the book, Grandmother’s Legacy: A Collection of Butler County Recipes.



Homemade Lye Soap

5 lbs of grease

1 quart of water

1 can of lye

Save clean fat scraps from meat, lard, and hog scraps. Melt into the grease. Strain through a cloth and let cool. Add the lye gradually to one quart of water in a stone crock and mix until dissolved. Pour this mixture into the grease. Stir thoroughly until congealed. Pour this mixture into cardboard box molds to cool. Let stand a couple of days. Using a wire, cut the soap into usable size pieces.

Recipe Notes: On wash days, my mother would use her paring knife to shave slivers of this soap into her copper wash boiler where it slowly dissolved. Clothes came out very white in those days. It was also used as a poison ivy medicine. Melt and put warm all over the blisters.

2008-11-02 gail and ks photos 001

To find lye, look for Sodium hydroxide. It is also called caustic soda. Store it safely, as it is quite toxic if ingested.

Vintage Westerns: My Dad’s Favorite Reads

Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, B.M. Bower, William McLeod Raine… do those names ring a bell? These are authors whose vintage westerns continue to have a strong appeal.

Westerns were in heavy demand at my library when the retirees flocked to the area for the warm winters. These older men grew up watching Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry weekly at the movies. Cowboys wore white hats and overcame the bad guys. From the 1920s to the 1950s youngsters imitated their favorite cowboy, wearing a vest and a cowboy hat, and gripping a six-gun in each hand.

Vintage Humor, Cowboy Singing Music to his Horse Classic Round Sticker Vintage Cowboy Singing to his Horse Round Sticker

Their movie heroes are long gone, but the western novel remains popular with this audience. The faithful readers may be seventy, eighty or ninety but as long as their eyesight holds out, they’ll read their westerns.

B.M. Bower Western books

Dad’s collection of B.M. Bower westerns.

Memory Flashback to 2007: Reading is a pastime that brings lifelong pleasure. My dad keeps a stack of his favorite westerns on a bookshelf near his comfortable chair. They are ready for re-reading at any time. In between, he goes through lots of paperback westerns. His family keeps him well-supplied with the paperbacks picked up at yard sales. Eventually, those get recycled to the used bookstore in town or donated to the library’s book sale. Then he returns to reading Zane Grey and B.M. Bower once again.

reading a vintage western

Clyde Martin, reading once again an old favorite western by William McLeod Raine.

I Loved Reading Vintage Westerns Too

Back when I was in school, I started reading the old westerns that filled the shelves in our home. Those were favorites of Dad’s. I found I liked them a lot, so started picking up additional titles at the public library that were missing from Dad’s collection. Later, I’d watch for the old hardcover classics from the 1930s and 1940s whenever I visited a flea market.

I still had a lot of those vintage westerns on my book shelves but needed to thin down my collection. Since I didn’t want to just give them to the thrift shop, I started passing them along to Dad the last few years of his life. Even if he had read them several times before, he was always glad to read one again.


I should have gotten Dad a mug like this for his coffee.

Thundering Herd 1925 movie ad Mug

Thundering Herd 1925 movie ad Mug

(This essay was previously published on Squidoo by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia Allain)

Sunday Drive with Gail

Guest Blogger: Gail’s daughter, Karen Kolavalli.

Remembering another special day with Mom and my daughter five years ago. A Facebook chat memory.

Gail Lee Martin: Enjoyed a Sunday drive along Butler county back roads with Karen and her daughter. Saw lots of beautiful wildflowers. Returned home to see vases of Karen’s special iris blooms and to watch the cubs ballgame that had been on a rain delay for 2 hours and 40 minutes.

karen's iris

Iris from Karen’s yard

Cj Garriott: Sounds like a delightful afternoon!

Karen Kolavalli: Gail Lee Martin, my daughter, and I had a great time puttering along the back roads of Butler County–wildflowers, birds (scared up a big ol’ turkey!), and even a box turtle.

Karen Kolavalli: Was that one flower you were trying to remember a “mock orange”?

Gail Lee Martin: Yes that was what it was. Thanks ·

Karen Kolavalli: yay! Glad we didn’t make you miss the Cubs’ game!

kk photo road trip with gail

Some of the scenery on the Kansas road trip. Photo by Karen Kolavalli.

kk road trip 3 with gail

Wild plant photographed by Karen on the road trip with her mom.

KK road trip 2 with gail

Kansas sunlight filtered through the trees. Photo by Karen.

Memories of Barefooted Summers

Written by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia.

I grew up in the fifties and sixties. Summers were carefree times of playing in the creek and rambling in the woods and fields. Our feet were bare.

When I look at the old black and white photos, they bring back so many memories. Seeing my age 5 smiling face flirting with the camera takes me back to those happy times.

Ginger and Cindy Martin with teacher Miss Shimp

In the photo above, the lady is our older sister’s second-grade teacher from Madison. I’m the curly-headed child on the left. My little sister, Cindy, got to cuddle with the teacher, Miss Shimp, and I was dreadfully jealous. I’m not sure why Susan isn’t there for the photo with her teacher.

Sometimes being barefooted wasn’t fun. For instance, the honey bees loved the clover in our yard. When I stepped on one of those, my poor foot would swell up and throb fiercely. Mom would put baking soda on it and wrap it in a cool damp cloth but little else was done for it. I’d stretch out the situation, whimpering and hobbling around, to get the maximum attention from Mom that I could.

Photo from our family album

The photo above is me at a younger age. Barefooted again and with an armful of puppy. I’m betting that’s a red wagon that I’m sitting on but I don’t remember that far back.

Were you allowed to play outside barefooted in the summer way back when?

(previously published on Niume)