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Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Soggy Summer of 2013

The soggy summer of 2013

It’s July 18, 2013 and I’ve yet to enjoy the first tomato from the garden, or bean, or cucumber. This time last year I had two pressure cookers humming, two food dehydrators desiccating tomato slices. I was happy, blissfully happy while putting up food for my family. Not to be this year my friends. The weather pattern has shifted. We’re in a rainforest this year (not complaining after so many years of drought). It’s not the rain that is worrisome. I can live with the rain; it is the complete lack of sunshine. In fact, July 16 and 17 were the first full-sun days since May.
I had already told Farmer Billy we needed to give up. Stop planting seeds because we were just wasting our time. Kelle’s brought seedlings over (they drowned the next day following a rain storm), I’ve planted bean seeds. She’s planted corn; all for naught. Yesterday, Billy tilled up the chicken lot. The raccoons got his chickens after a summer storm blew the door open in the middle of the night. Once they gained access they returned every night, despite reinforcing the pen, the coons systematically murdered all but seven of his chickens.
It has not been a good year for farming.

Sad cucumbers hoping to one day see the sun

Sad cucumbers hoping to one day see the sun

Yes, we are so desperate for beans we're planting in the chicken lot

Yes, we are so desperate for beans we’re planting in the chicken lot

But yesterday, with a never-give-up farming spirit, Billy and I planted beans in the chicken lot. I told him, begged him really, to “lay a tarp over the dirt in case it storms tonight.”

“They’re not calling for much. Says if it rains it’ll just be a few drops.”
It rained an inch and a half last night my friends.

An inch and a half!

And with that, I have declared war on Mother Nature. I have pulled out what I call the lettuce grower. A cold frame I used this February that grew Botanical Interests lettuce that was so beautiful I didn’t want to cut them.

Scrawny depressing tomato plants...be gone. And, check out how the rain has beat the paint off the wood of my deck!

Scrawny depressing tomato plants…be gone. And, check out how the rain has beat the paint off the wood of my deck!

I’ve pulled up the tomatoes. (they have zero blooms anyway) and I erected the cold frame making tiny teepee structures for the cukes to climb upon. I replanted beans, believing that when the rains come (and they will come) the structure will keep the ground relatively dry. And because the sun may or may not shine, I’ve also snaked the Christmas Tree lights through the structure.

Beans, please, please grow!

Beans, please, please grow!

Yes, my back porch would make Granny Clampitt proud. Regardless of what it looks like, I’ll have some beans and fresh cucumbers or die trying. For newbie gardeners, be not distressed. This just isn’t a good year for growing in most of the South East.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at http://www.reneawinchester.com

 

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Pretty, Pretty, Pretty

Pretty, Pretty, Pretty

It is the year of the house. Most of you recognize that statement knowing it means major home improvements. My husband and I belong to the DIY club. We can do most work better than hired contractors. This year, unfortunately, our DIY projects were outside. We’ve had a tarp draped from the front porch since May. The tarp protects our work in progress. It also blocks any light from entering our dungeon-like office.

We are weary of this, my husband and I. Weary of the rain, the lack of light although we are just-now complaining about it. Atlanta has been in the midst of a drought for so long that we have forgotten how thirsty the soil really was. But God knew. He knew the earth was parched just like He also knows our souls are cracked, in need of Him. We Southerners can’t understand why it is so dry out west, yet in our neck of the woods decks mildew from excess, basements fill with water. We want to send the rain to our friends, truly, we do.

If you read my blog regularly you know that we will have no vegetables this year at Billy’s farm. Seeds have rotted, plants blighted, fields flooded. Our hearts are broken, by nature we must harvest, can, dry, put up food for the winter month. Perhaps we need this time to rest and search within ourselves, settle down and be still.

This morning, the birds are singing. The cardinal sings, pretty, pretty, pretty to the top of his little red heart. I have missed the birds, their joyful alarm-clock waking me each morning. Missed them just as I have missed the sun and being outside. I have missed being outside and the feel of the sun on my neck.

But somehow, remarkably, my perennials have survived, and bloomed where planted. 263003

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

 

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The Biggest Gambler

July 3, 2013

Summer: At least that is what the calendar says, that it’s summer. Time to clean up the grill, assemble the neighbors and enjoy extended daylight hours and fresh vegetables from the garden.

Only this year there are no vegetables.

None.

Zero.

Nada.

We have had so much rain, so little sun that beans have yellowed on the vine, and tomatoes, well the ones planted at my house aren’t even blooming. Growing yes, blooming, no. This time last year I was in a summertime frenzy of picking, chopping, slicing, stirring, canning and dehydrating. I was blessed with an abundance, Billy was also. He had “the best garden ever.”

But that was last year. We’ve had rain and very little sun. This year no tomatoes, beans, chickens or corn. The last two have been systematically murdered and eaten by a legion of raccoons that we can not capture, despite having traps set.

Last week a friend traveled from Cartersville to Roswell, equipped the farm with a camera. But I also found tracks. Coon tracks.

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

If Billy could afford critter eradication, trust me, he would. You see, recently a developer began removing trees from a large piece of property just down the road from Billy. The coons have two places to go: Target Supercenter Shopping Center, and Billy’s Albertson’s farm. What we need is a truckload of Good-ole-boys with a couple coon dogs. But coon dogs aren’t quite as popular in Roswell, Georgia as a Pomeranian or a Bulldog. The critters have taken over. The garden has fed them, not humans.

Progress=tree killing

Progress=tree killing

Those who haven’t liked his FB page missed the news, last week a raccoon killed all of Billy’s hens, save two or three.

We are:

Discouraged

Downtrodden

Disheartened

Done

We are done my friends. Even the Outside Man himself is done, said, “I’ve give up. I’ve been farming all my life and I’ve never seen it so bad. It’s just terrible. I don’t have anything no more.”

The critters have taken what little God did provide. Eighty-year-old Billy just isn’t able to keep up with the varmints that see his farm as an all you can eat buffet. We can’t keep putting effort and energy into the saturated soil. Most-likely Billy will not open his vegetable stand this year. If he does the harvest will be a scant handful of vegetables. Kelle and her boys as well as many other volunteers have helped. We have planted, replanted and fretted along with Billy. We have prayed while dropping beans into the ground only to see those beans again after three more inches of rain washed the soil away, or worse never see a single sprout because the seeds rot in the ground.

This makes me sad; it makes the helpers sad. Billy is deeply frustrated.

Below are shots from the garden. As Billy Albertson once said, “A farmer is the biggest gambler there is.”

This year we gambled and lost.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

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