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When Tomatoes Take Selfies

When Tomatoes Take Selfies

What happens when our Botanical Interests Tomatoes decide to take Selfies:

Click the links to order your own Botanical Interests Seeds

Pictured: Cherokee Purple; Beefsteak; Romas; Indigo Rose

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Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

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Extending The Growing Season

Extending The Growing Season

After July 4, a panic fills my soul; fear that the growing season will soon come to a close. Admittedly, this year I have yet to put up the first jar of tomatoes as – again – the gardening began late due to cold weather. Last year it was too wet to plow. . . this year, too cold to start early.

Still, I can do the math. 30-60-90 means frost will be here before you know it.

Thankfully, Southerners experience two growing seasons.

Now is the time to plant late beans and squash, but most important, it is time to root tomatoes for an extended harvest.

Simply snip off a section of the plant (preferably one that already has blooms), and place the cutting in water. Seven to ten days later you have this. 

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After strong roots have developed dig a very deep hole.
Then add shredded newspaper and egg shells. Do not add fertilizer at this point. You will kill the plant.20140707_202512

Water well until the newspapers are a mushy mess and add tomato.

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Add Dirt. Add MORE water. I mean enough to make a puddle. Then wait a moment and let the newspapers absorb the water.

After that, water a bit more. Think of this as the mud-pie phase. 

 

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Then walk away. There is nothing more to do. Just walk away and let the tomato do its thing. This week is the perfect time to plant tomatoes. We’re getting a bit of daily rain and the plant shouldn’t even wilt. n the beginning you may have to water every other day, but please, for love of your tomatoes, do not water tomatoes every day. Why you ask? Because they will taste like water, of course, instead of having that rich flavor we all enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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 Two weeks after planting your rootlings, sprinkle a bit of fertilizer around the plant, FAR away from the stalk so that you do not burn the plant. Remember, most tomatoes fail and get blossom end rot because they are receiving too much water and too little calcium. Egg shells=calcium. Too much water=unhappy gardeners.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

My July Reading List

It’s Summer: the perfect time to wiggle your toes into the sand and lay back in a lawn chair while reading a good book. I don’t know about you, but July is passing too quickly. There are so many books, and so little time. So let’s get to it. Here are my summer read suggestions.

NEW BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ:

authornewslettersummerFrom Erika Marks, It comes in waves:Y’all know how much I loved Erika’s book, Little Gale Gumbo, well now she’s written about Folly Beach! ESPN invites Claire back to Folly Beach for a documentary on women in surfing, Claire decides it might be the chance she needs to regain control of her life and reacquaint herself with the unsinkable young woman she once was. But not everything in Folly Beach is as Claire remembers it, most especially her ex-best friend, Jill, who is now widowed and raising her and Foster’s teenage son. An unexpected reunion with Claire will uncover a guilt that Jill has worked hard to bury—and bring to the surface years of unspoken blame. Visit Erika’s website to learn more and follow links to buy a copy of her book.

 

 

 

From Mary Alice Monroe, The Summer Wind: If you ever have the opportunity to meet MAM, take it. After penning 16 books, and pursuing her passion for the environment, she has earned a place in my heart. She loves Monarch Butterflies, Baby Turtles, and although I have never witnessed it, I bet she has physically hugged a tree just to say thank you for providing me shade. She writes about the South and its people like none other. Pick up a copy of any of her books. You’ll be glad you did.authornewslettersummer3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

authornewslettersummer2For those on a Staycation: Meet Grant Jerkins and Eula Shook: Listen up, because this is important. If you’re stuck at the pool with the kids. If you’ve just started a new job and you don’t have a vacation planned, and if you like a short story that is flawlessly written, drop everything and download a copy of Eula Shook right now. Then, you’ll do what everyone else has done, snatch up the phone, call your bookseller, and reserve a copy of Grant’s other books. What else is Grant working on? Something wonderful….of course. Visit his website to find out.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams: For those who like a little tension and intrigue in their books, let me introduce Amanda Kyle Williams. Merciful heavens, take a look at the Book Trailer. Need I say more? You don’t have time reading what I have to say about this book, want to dive into Don’t Talk to Stranger. Available everywhere books are sold.authornewslettersummer1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FarmingcvrAnd finally, about me:I am counting the days until the release of Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. I am happy to release the cover to you first, before Facebook fans get a peek. The book will launch in September. However, you may preorder by clicking this link. While the website says Farming is “backordered” what that really means is printing hasn’t started. Preordering will guarantee that you receive a copy of Farming as soon as it comes off the press. Shipping is always free at Mercer University Press. For Amazon customers, I recommend ordering directly from the publisher. For those, like me, who are loyal to the brick and mortar buildings, all booksellers will  be able to order a copy of Farming. I am planning several events in Georgia and North Carolina, keep an eye on my website and do come see me.

Note: My selection process is one of personal taste. The authors chosen do not know of my selection and I do not receive compensation.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Coconut Macaroons for Patti Callahan Henry

Coconut Macaroons for Patti Callahan Henry

I met Patti Callahan Henry early in my writing career during a book festival in historic Marietta. Unlike people who like to sit in the back, I sat up front and center. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was seated beside Patti’s beautiful daughter. She and I chatted and when I asked, “Are you a writer?” She said, “Oh, no…my mom’s on a panel.”

Two minutes later, Patti Callahan Henry and Jackie K Cooper stole the show. Later, I was introduced and was certain I made a minimal impression. However, I fell head over heart in love with  Loosing the Moon and like most avid readers, once I read one of Patti’s books I was hooked and had to read them all. If you haven’t picked up a copy of her latest, The Stories We Tell get thee to an Indie Bookstore pronto! pcalstorieswetell

Before the release of my first book, In the Garden with Billy, the publisher required blurbs from authors, someone who would read my work and write a sentence or two that might cause readers of their work to read mine. I contacted Patti, reminded her how we met, and would you believe she wrote a blurb?

Patti doesn’t know it, but she became my mentor. She is one of the reasons I purpose to help other emerging authors. As a New York Times Bestselling Author, Patti is busy. She has less time than I do, and yet, she wrote the loveliest blurb. Not only that, I consider her a dear friend. And it is the story I had to tell, before I tell you how I learned to make Coconut Macaroons.

Knowing that I live near a Whole Foods, Cat Blanco, the owner of The Book Exchange in Marietta contacted me last week. “I’m having a Coconut Macaroon Emergency,” she said. “I am hosting a signing for Mary Kay Andrews and Patti Callahan Henry, and the Whole Foods near me is out…not even baking until after the event.”

Booksellers do this all the time; plan events that feature the author’s favorite sweets.

“Don’t worry. I’ll pick up some for Patti,” I said then headed to Whole Foods where I had the same luck. The shelves at Trader Joes were also empty. It appeared that June is National Coconut Macaroon month or something because I couldn’t find a single macaroon to safe my life. It was then I had the thought how hard could they be to make?

coconutmacaroons 022Grabbing a bag of Baker’s Coconut, I was thrilled to discover a recipe listed on the back. The stars had aligned. Rushing home, I stirred everything together, put the macaroons in the oven, then called Cat and said, “I’m making a batch. There almost done. I’ll let you know how they are doing.”

Minutes later, my timer dinged the same moment I received a text. ”Patti’s in the store!”

Pulling the macaroons out of the oven, I rushed to see my friend. People like to believe that book tours are full of glamor, but I knew that Patti was living out of a suitcase and might enjoy a little taste of home. I didn’t even remove the macaroons from the cookie sheet, just laid several towels in the back of the car and drove like a crazy person to The Book Exchange. That’s what friends do for each other, cool piping hot coconut macaroons in their car while driving like a crazy person. Anything for Patti, whom I hadn’t seen in years. coconutmacaroons 036

For those who haven’t attended an event with Patti, click this link to find out where to meet her in person. Not only is she a talented author, but she is charming. Rushing into the bookstore, I hugged her. I would miss her Atlanta events, I explained. . . Momma taxi duty, Bible School, a life that is too busy. She understood and would take my macaroons as an apology. Oh, how I miss seeing her.

Patti had less than two minutes to spend with me. She was on her way to FoxTale Book Shoppe for an author luncheon. Our time was short, literally enough time for a hug, a macaroon, and “I miss you!” before we each departed.

After picking up my daughter from Bible School, I remembered that I had been so excited to see Miss Patti that I forgot the most important thing, a copy of her book! My dear friend, Jean’s birthday was approaching and I always send her a copy of Patti’s latest. Glancing at my watch I called FoxTale and asked Jackie, “Is Patti still there? Can you have her sign a copy, oh, and can you mail the copy for me?”

Bookstores do that you know. They will save your life….at least an Indie Bookseller will. They will procure an autographed copy and ship the birthday present to the tiny town of Grover North Carolina.

After explaining that it was my dear friend’s birthday, Jackie passed the phone to Ellen who took care of everything. Need a signed copy? No problem !

Whew. Just another day in my life. Coconut Macaroons, a birthday present for my friend, and hugs from Patti Callahan Henry, what more can you ask for? Oh, I know, the recipe.

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Coconut Macaroons:

Ingredients

1 package (14 oz) Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut (do not scrimp on brand)

6 TBS flour

¼ tsp salt

4 egg whites

1 tsp almond extract (vanilla will do)

2/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Mix coconut, sugar, flour, and salt in large bowl. Stir in egg whites and flavoring until well blended. Dryp by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately remove from cook sheets. Cool completely.

Makes 3 doz.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
 

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The True Meaning of Community Gardening

This year in addition to having a tiny spot for tomatoes at Farmer Billy’s place, a friend and I decided to plant a row for the hungry at the community garden. I am breaking my promise to her with this blog post; we had vowed to keep our project silent, but today I must share how community gardens bring people together, and, sadly, how sometimes it brings out the worst in people.

aCommunity gardens require team efforts and most feature raised beds that are planted as a group. Come harvest, all participants share in the bounty. The one I belong to has individual plots that allow each gardener to grow what they want. This year we had trouble finding enough gardeners for all of the raised beds.  Johnson grass and weeds- the bane of existence for gardeners-quickly took over approximately 6 unplanted beds.

Enter the Garden Stranger

The church had opened a farmer’s market each Saturday and on one particular Saturday a man moseyed over to where I was hacking in the dirt, I was trying to get enough space to plant some sweet potatoes, which one of the ladies at church really like. Because the dirt is so rock-hard I was failing.

The man said, “I didn’t know there was a garden over here?”

What a mess this bed is...more grass than sweet potatoes

What a mess; more grass than sweet potatoes. But I’m trying.

By the way his eyes lit up, I could tell that he knew a thing or two about gardening. Straightening, and leaning into the shovel, I said, “It’s a community garden, feel free to come over and claim a spot.” I felt a bit embarrassed my the grassy overgrown plot I was working on, but I unhooked the gate then walked him through the area. A gate is necessary or deer will eat everything. This veteran gardener walked around taking in the peace that comes by watching things grow. Stopping at a particular plot he said, “They’re overwatering.”

“I know,” I replied with a nod. “Soaker hose.”

He nodded. “Ruination of many a garden,” was his reply.

Moving  to the next row I said, “Now I’m serious. Come over here and pick out a spot.” I gestured around. “All of those are empty. Then I squished over to the pipe and turned off the water. (which probably broke some unwritten rule, but bear with me).

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The Garden Stranger’s Plot. (Genius idea using straw)

The garden is my mission field. Beside the soggy soaker-hosed-raised beds, a nineteen-year-old young lady has started her first garden. She desperately wants to grow her own food, to eat healthier. She and I had pulled weeds, planted onions, beans, one tomato plant and some spinach. I want her to succeed. Want her first garden to yield something she can be proud of. Returning to the garden two days later, I noticed the Garden Stranger, had cleaned off two raised beds and planted some tomatoes. He had reserved the second bed for squash. I don’t know when he managed to get the work done, but our little community garden was looking great and yes, the soaker hose was still on.

Then Bible School week hit and I had the opportunity to reach more gardeners. A father of two walked over with his kids. He was having trouble with his tomatoes at home. By now the community garden was getting away from us. Weeds were growing fast and I hadn’t had the time to get all the stakes piled out of the way before I began the search for someone to cut the weeds around the raised beds. Each morning I dropped off my daughter at Bible School and then worked until the Georgia sun stole most of my breath. Then I hydrated and headed toward Farmer Billy Albertson’s place for more of the same. That particular day, I had several realtor signs I had recycled. Billy and I use them to let his customers know that fresh produce is available.

“I’ve got a problem with my tomatoes,” this gentleman said while his children chased each other. “Wonder if you can help me out.”

I let him and his children inside the gate and said, “Tell me the trouble.”

For the record, I don’t consider myself an expert on tomatoes, but one does learn a thing or two when she helps an 82-year-old farmer tend 300 plants.

“Well they are yellow and all wilted,” he said. “Kind of like those.” He pointed to the bed with the soaker hose attached. Again, I walked over and turned off the hose-which was unscrewed all the way to wide open. By now, the spinach in the neighboring plot next door had rotted.

After a quick discussion, the gentleman told me that his wife was watering his plants every single night. “It’s like a ritual at my house. She unrolls the hose and I can’t get her to stop. What should I do?” I gave him some suggestions and then had the idea of making a sign so everyone in the community garden would have success, and others who chanced by the garden might incorporate some tried-and-true tips. He snapped a picture of the wilting plants and said, “I’m going to show her these. We’ve got to stop watering. I explained that I rarely water my plants and more water equals a less-tasty tomato. “That makes a lot of sense,” the man said.

Tomato Love Sign with the help of Bible School kids

Tomato Love Sign with the help of Bible School kids

Retrieving a sign I jotted down the tomato tips. The man’s daughter helped. His son found a June-Bug. We had a great time.

Tomatoes  Love

-Eggshells, coffee grounds, tums, powdered milk (sprinkle around plant)

- Mulch

-Hot Dry Weather

Tomatoes Dislike

- Soggy, wet soil and wet leaves, water only once a week (too much water = rot and disease)

We placed the sign at the entrance of the garden where others who might be growing their own tomatoes could see. Then we walked around the garden and his children (ages 6 and 4) help weed. Even though they weren’t growing anything in the garden, his children begged to help.  I have found that most young children love the opportunity to learn about growing their own food. I invited them to claim their own spot, and I hope they do.

Then I sent an email to the community garden organizer and expressed my concern over the enormous amount of water being used by the soaker hose. No plant, not even grass, needs water every day. Too much water encourages shallow roots and breeds disease. And besides, it takes a lot of water to fill a raised bed, even more to rot the vegetables planted in the adjacent plot.

Figuring that my email would solve the problem, I didn’t give my suggestion much thought until I returned again and found more standing water. By now they had re-planted the tomatoes and were on the same path toward another failed crop. I unhooked the hose and wrapped it around the base of the pipe. I didn’t remove the soaker hose because it is beneath a layer of landscape fabric.

I am blessed with the ability to step on the toes of others because – apparently -my opinion about the water was not well received as evidenced by the writing on the sign which greeted me today. YOU WIN, WE GIVE UP. (As an aside, the birds didn’t like his message either!)

I Win? I Win what?

I Win? I Win what? Community Gardens are not contests.

This type of hateful attitude hurt my feelings (which we know was the intent). Stepping into my space I will admit that I cried a little and had a bit of a pity party. I was only trying to help, trying to make sure everyone was successful, that water was conserved, and their neighbor could grow her own food. The garden was becoming a mission field. Already four people had entered the garden and one felt welcome enough to return and plant two raised beds!

I sought comfort in the green peace of the garden. Moseying over to the Garden Stranger’s spot, I smiled to see his tomatoes growing strong and healthy. Then I noticed something that caused me to cry for another reason. Someone had tilled all of the spaces where nothing was planted, this same someone had cleared away the weeds and then scribbled upon the back of a piece of cardboard the following message I tilled this spot just to get rid of the weeds, feel free to use. Then I found another sign, and another, all with the same message.

This, my friends, is the note from a Garden Stanger who may just be a Garden Angel.

This, my friends, is the note from a Garden Stanger who may just be a Garden Angel.

Not only had he tilled the plot, he had removed all of the horrible roots and other junk that was in the beds. Hours of selfless work. This, my friends, was the work of the Garden Stranger, whose name I don’t even know. He understands the meaning behind the words community. He knows that when we all work together instead of getting hurt feelings, and lashing out in a juvenile, immature, not-so-Christlike-manner, everyone benefits. Some people- like me- might even catch a glimpse of Jesus in the freshly tilled dirt.

 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

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Growing a Mixed-Up Sack of Beans

Every now and then I get a little crazy, especially when it comes to beans. Each year I like to plant “something different.” One year it was peanuts, then sorghum cane. Another year I planted pintos. But now I have gone gaga over a bag of beans available only at the local Farm supply store. Now I have a little mystery on my hands that I need your help with.

Most of you know that I avoid “Big Box” Farm Supply stores like the plague. I like my local folk; independent farm supply stores who have provided seeds and fertilizer, baby chicks, and animal wormer to my family for generations. I am fiercely devoted to the independent Farm Supply Stores. Here’s why.

Inside stores such as these you’ll find seeds named after the farmer who brought them in. You’ll overhear someone whispering about Bill Mathis beans and you’ll almost push someone out of the way to get your hands on a sack of them. But my mom was in a hurry, so I didn’t actually push, but I did chat with my friend Yvette who went back to the local farm supply store and bought me a sack of beans. I didn’t know what the beans were, didn’t really care. All I knew was if some farmer from the western North Carolina mountains was selling the seeds he’d been growing for years, then I needed to get my hands on a handful…pronto.

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Yvette and I met – literally- on the side of the road where she presented me with a sack of seeds. And while some may think that I need therapy for this obsession (I do), I now have a bit of a mystery on my hands. Take a look at this.

Mr. Bill Mathis did not sort his beans!

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Bringing my bag home, I quickly arranged my loot according to appearance. Unfortunately, the bag only contained one seed of some of the larger beans. One bean! What if that particular seed was the last of its kind in the whole wide world! (Perish the thought). So, I determined that I best get to the garden and plant a test area, a place where I could grow these beans just for the purpose of having more seed next year. The only problem is that haven’t a clue what these are!mysterybean00

That is where you come in. Can you help identify any of these seeds? If you can, please let me know. Note: If you click the photo image, it opens a much larger image.

Numbering a piece of paper, I laid each seed out beside a number and took a picture. Does this help any of you seasoned bean growers identify what in the world I’ve planted?

mysterybeans (5)

Next, I went to the garden and planted each of these seeds beside a flag with the coinciding number. As the growing season progresses, I will share images with the hopes that you can help me identify what in the world I’m growing.

If you can identify any of these beans, and are on Facebook, please visit my page here and leave me a message. Or, contact me through my website. Just say bean number one is (insert name); bean number two is (insert name). Truly, I need your help.

Until then, I’ll keep growing, and searching for unusual seeds.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Mushrooms of Summer, a Wordless Wednesday post

 

 

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About Renea: Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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