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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mainely Musings: For The Love of Books

I read once that Seattle Washington is the most literate city in the US. The writer described a community of authors and readers living together in the perfect world, a place where reading is important and bookstores cherished. However, I propose that the person who wrote the article has never visited Maine. If Seattle is the most literate city, Maine is the most literate state.

My husband and I love the adventuresome route, an off-the-beaten-path journey free of tractor trailers and bothersome billboards. While traveling in Maine we encountered what I can only describe as reader (and author) heaven. Everywhere I looked someone had converted extra space into a bookstore. There were bookstores in barns, bookstores in art galleries, and a used bookstores in what looked like an avid reader’s garage. In that particular store I sensed her books only went home with worthy readers.

Admittedly, my husband and I didn’t have much time to plan our trip. Had pre-planning been possible I would have visited even more bookstores during our stay. Our cussed home improvement slate project lingered, consuming most of our time. Mercer University Press accepted my next book: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches (Thank you God, and Marc Jolley). While I waited for the grout to set and rain clouds to pass I printed, polished and assembled the manuscript. So the dream trip to Maine my husband and I wanted became a “grab and go” trip. We would plan in the car. I knew I wanted to attend the Lobster Festival held in Rockland, Maine, anything else we would figure out when we arrived. After spending a few hours at the festival, my husband and I walked the streets of downtown Rockland. There we found three, count them THREE, book stores all on the same street.

This was common practice. In Maine, as in the rest of the country, there are enough readers to go around. For some stupid reason (sorry Mom, I know you told me to never use that word), bookstores in the South are in stiff competition with each other. Again, let me stress, there are enough readers to go around. In Maine, each store had a specialty and let me tell you, business is booming. Everywhere I looked parents led children into stores and actually asked, “Do you want to go buy a new book today?”

Are you paying attention Southern Mammas? Children were NOT plugged into electronic gadgets, they were poured into books. In the middle of tourist season children weren’t whiney and ill-mannered, they were full of joy, rested, polite. Everywhere I looked people sat, heads down, deep inside the magical world of the book they were reading. They were riding the reading rainbow.

Beautiful steps inside a bookstore.

Beautiful steps inside a bookstore.

Dear Ones, if you haven’t gathered by now I am head over heart in love with Maine and her people. IN LOVE! Allow me a shameless plug, please send me a friend request on Facebook, and please subscribe to my blog. I love hearing from you. I want to meet new Maine friends and I hope my words offer a glimpse into the true pulse of your state. And yes, if you feel so inclined, you can order my book through my website. (Sadly, it is currently out of print and Indie bookstores can’t order it for you, but I am working to remedy that).

Now, it’s time to talk about bookstores. Let’s start with Belfast, Maine.  Belfast boasts a population of around 6,600 people. To put the population in perspective, my daughter’s high school has 2250 students. There were four bookstores (that I found) within walking distance to downtown proper. Unfortunately, I only had time to pop into two of them. Old Professor’s Book Shop is the kind of place where you want to pour a cognac and snuggle into a leather chair. The store has the feel of a luxurious library with wall to wall wood and books so special you can feel goodness pouring from the pages.

Bella Books is a precious little store filled with carefully selected books. There were neat little sitting areas where you could hide away, open a book and fall into another world. Belfast is known as a “City of Books,” perhaps that is why I felt so at home. Please, I beg you, City of Belfast, I must come to your book festival next year.  My visit was heaven. I am at home when I am walking your streets.

Hello Hello books is a funky little store in Rockland, Maine that is filled to the brim with bright lights and lots of love. This is the kind of place where you sit where you want, read books, buy books and repeat the process to infinity and beyond. If you’re in a bad mood, the workers at Hello Hello are on a mission to bring a smile to your face.

Still on Main Street in Rockland Maine, I became enamored with George Parks owner of Door Yard Books. Had their been room in my car I would have brought him home. Kathy Patrick (who is the Queen of books in a tiny little town called Jefferson, Texas) when I found out that he was a Texas man I could have hugged his neck. He will be heading to the GREAT state of Texas around November. According to George, his customers prefer hardback copies. Door Yard Books is a wall-to-wall, basement to attic nirvana for avid readers. George doesn’t need a website, or computer, he recalls his stock from memory. While I was easily overstimulated by a spectacular variety of used books, I observed that he knows where every single book is located. While I purchased my books, he told me something about the author. I had found two southern authors and he immediately spoke of them as if they were blood kin.  Mr. Parks knows books which is why he gave a knowing nod when my husband purchased Build the New Instant Boats: Take Plywood Cut To Shape Smear on Glue Drive Nails Stir Paint and Presto!-You have Built An Instant Boat. Quite possibly the longest book title ever and yes, my beloved is hammering away in our basement as I type.

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Stop & Think from 10-5.

Maine2013 138In Seal Harbor we encountered a store for which there are no words. Only pictures will do it justice, and even then, my attempt will fail. The store is eclectic, unique and I think were I to spend a couple days lingering inside the four walls, my IQ would jump. The Naturalist’s Notebook offers classes that expand the mind, teaches you to draw, paint, think, experience life outside of the box. Seal Harbor is a town that boasts a smidge over 2,000 residents.

At the Naturalist's Notebook you can learn how to milk a cow. Now that my friends, is a bookstore!

At the Naturalist’s Notebook you can learn how to milk a cow. Now that my friends, is a bookstore!

Notice the trend here folk? These towns are tiny speck on the map places where if you sneeze while driving you’ll miss something, yet bookstores serve an important purpose. There are subdivisions in Atlanta with more residents than these towns, yet these brick and mortar buildings hold the town together. The towns I mentioned aren’t dried up, boarded up towns, they are THRIVING pieces of America.  In Maine, bookstores, build communities. One can almost hear the planning board members saying, “What we need here is a bookstore and while we’re at it, let’s place it in our historic district.” So I must ask, why doesn’t the same ring true in the South?

By the way, I only saw one Walmart the entire time I was in Maine. No Target. No Big Lots. No Rite-Aid or CVS on every corner. That my friends is a good thing. Atlanta has overdeveloped every durn’d thing and in the process not only destroyed the environment by ripping up trees, they have desscimated the very thing we crave, a sense of place and a feeling of belonging. For that, we should be ashamed. To the people of Maine, I miss you. I can’t wait to see you again. There is something extraordinary about towns where books outnumber the residents.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes  and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.  In 2014, Mercer University Press will release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester

 
 

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A Gift for Billy

If you have liked the Facebook page I created titled, In the Garden with Billy, you have read about Billy’s struggles to grow vegetables. This year, Atlanta is not “hot-lanta” but “wet-lanta.” One third of Billy’s garden was unplanted this year. What we did plant we lost to rot, disease, or critters.

In addition to running a roadside vegetable stand, Billy’s daughter and I descend during harvest-time. We pick, break, string and “put up” beans. His daughter shells peas and slices okra. We sweat, work, hydrate and repeat.

Not this year.

This year there was not enough vegetables to open the stand, or put up. I brought Billy a box of beans from my parents and I’ve carried jars of green beans so he would have something to last through the winter. For you see, Billy Albertson does not buy produce from the grocery store. Ever.

It was this casual mention that Billy and I had not partaken of our seasonal “sammich” that triggered an uprising of goodness in a Facebook friend. Angie didn’t know me or Billy from Adam’s housecat, but she had read my book. She had tomatoes, giant cat-head size tomatoes.

ar3So it came to pass that on her birthday, yes HER birthday, she sent Billy Albertson a box of tomatoes and peppers with a precious note tucked inside. Angie is what I call the goodest of all good people (and yes, in the south, that sentence is grammatically correct).

Billy refused to slice the first mater until I arrived. “I want you to get a look at what somebody done,” he said while pointing to the box

Billy had already written a thank you note, tucked it into the mailbox and raised the flag, even before we had a sandwich. While I sliced the tomatoes, he collected the seeds “as instructed” in Angie’s note.

Before we eat, we say grace. Billy and I take turns saying the blessing when we gather around his table for dinner (we don’t eat lunch, we have “dinner”). This time he said, “I believe it’s my turn,” then bowed his head.

Now when Billy bows his head, he doesn’t tuck his chin, he lowers his head, curls his shoulders inward, lowers his voice and says, Our Father, as we bow Lord, we want to thank you for another day.”

All of his prayers begin with this. He meekly approaches the throne of Grace. And as he prayed for God to heal my mother of “that terrible disease called cancer,” and as he said, “Father thank you for the many friends you have given me,” as he praised God for Angie and thanked Him for her gift, tears slipped down my cheeks.

They always do.ar1

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This, my friends, is why the next book is titled: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches.

Her gift gave me pause. Pause to hope that there is still much goodness in a world where everyone seems to be out for their own best interest. Pause because Angie’s gift was more than a box of “tow-maders.” She shipped a little bit of love as well. This is what we are supposed to do . . . give. Even though it costs a small fortune to ship a box. Give, because it makes someone feel loved. For you see, without the vegetable stand open, without those visitors clogging the driveway, Billy Albertson has been very lonely; that my friends was the message behind In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes.

This word is filled with hurting people. I can think of nothing worse than being alone. So today I want to say “thank you Angie” for your precious gift and for others who reach out to the sick and the lonely, “thank you.” If my blog posting has triggered something inside of you; if you’re thinking you know I need to stop and check on my neighbor. Please. Please, do so today. And if you haven’t tried a fried bologna sandwich, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are delicious, especially when shared with a friend.

 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes  and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Her latest release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2014. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures

 

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Friends don’t let friends read bad books.

I recently closed a book. Closed it Dear Ones, not because I was finished, but because on page 106 the author wrote something that could not have happened. That which he wrote had not been invented. 

I actually said, “Aw c’mon now. . . really? Please don’t let me down.”

He-who-shall-not-be-named has received critical acclaim for this book leaving me wondering, did I misinterpret the time frame? Perhaps this book is set in 2013. I re-read the back cover, the beginning, and a few introductory chapters then asked myself Am I the only person who knows this isn’t physically possible? As a reader I was hurt. Most avid readers have towering stacks of books and limited reading time. This is why I closed the book. Trust me, this hurt. I am injured because I loved the characters; I am wounded because the story had potential; I am angry because I was “all in” for one hundred and five pages. Here is the problem. If page 106 isn’t physically possible then neither is anything written afterward. (Pages 1 thru 105 are highly suspect as well). It is rare that I speak ill of a book. Rare because I know the arduous journey every single author makes from inspiration to publication. It is not my place to be critical. I am a mistake-maker also. Instead, I’ll just encourage y’all to pick up another stronger, better-written book.

I am not the kind of friend who will let you waste your precious time reading a bad book. That is why I’m sharing four books with you. Yes Dear Ones, four.

Let’s start with Jolina Petersheim’s book, The Outcast. outcastThe PR behind this book reads “A modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter.” Well, I guess I agree with that statement, in part. For me, The Outcast reminds me how difficult life is for single mothers. Even today women are burdened with poverty and loneliness while the men -who play a part in creating these outcast children- have minimal consequences. Society still punishes the women and children; the men, not-so-much. Jolina writes a popular blog and The Outcast is her debut novel. Take a chance on it. You’ll be glad you did.

chimesSusan Reinhardt is what we call down here in the South “a hoot.” She and the Cracker Queen, Lauretta Hannon, should do a big ole southern tour. A columnist for the Asheville Citizen Times and Sarah Palin impersonator (no, I am not kidding), her latest novel Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle provides exactly what the title implies, entertaining stories that y’all know happen every single day in the South. She writes the same way we talk; only we whisper our words. Susan shouts prose atop a unicycle (again, not kidding). Read an excerpt here (Swoon alert: the excerpt isn’t for “proper” Southern Belles). You must order yourself and a friend a copy of Chimes.

Ann Hite blew my hair back with the release of Ghost on Black Mountain, a book that won her the Georgia Author of the Year Award. If you haven’t read this book then you are missing out on one of the best books of last year. I remember as I neared the end of Ghost I said, “Brilliant, Ann. Just. brilliant. You weren’t predictable. You landed this plane without a bump.”

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At the time I didn’t know Ann from Adam. Today, I couldn’t even tell you how we met. I only know that she’s the real deal. I’ve got to say that I take issue with those who compare Ann’s work to others. I take issue because Ann has worked hard to create her own voice. I believe it is disrespectful to compare her, or any other author, to another. Her voice, her work is unique. This Little-Author-That-Could has two releases churning hot off the press: The Story Catcher and a novella titled, Low Country Spirit. Her collection makes readers sit up straight and beg for more. Be sure to click this link to listen to Low Country Spirit. One listen and you’ll be calling your favorite Indie Bookstore begging them to order all three.

Y’all do know that Indie Bookstores will order books for you…right? Just give them a call. Some even ship books to your door. Find your Indie here.

motherofrainBalancing the group is Karen Spears Zacharias. Karen is a mother and a patriot. She has a journalist’s heart and has written an armful of non-fiction books. Her works of non-fiction prick the heart, call us to action and make us want to be better people. I’ve got to be honest with y’all, from the moment I heard Karen was writing her breakout novel I have been waiting for the release of Mother of Rain. In fact, when I learned that another author got a sneak-peak of the manuscript I had myself a big ole pouting spell, even sent Karen an email titled “pouting.” My little episode earned me the ultimate sneak-peak of Mother of Rain. 

Glory be! I sat up the entire night, devouring Maizee Hurd’s story. I placed sticky notes in places I wanted to revisit. I clutched my heart. I fell, headlong into the manuscript. The next day I sent Karen an email, a long rambling mess of an email telling her how much I loved the characters. I wrote about Burdy and Leela-Mai. I demanded, yes, demanded to know when Karen planned on writing the sequel. Friends, this is the book to read. I haven’t been this excited about a breakout novel in a long time.

Now Karen hasn’t posted an excerpt on her website, so I’m going to have to do my best to tell you about Mother of Rain without giving away the prize. Maizee Hurd is like many women of Appalachia in the 40s. She has a hard life. Her husband is fighting in World War II, and her beloved son Rain is rendered deaf after an illness. Back then, living in the hollers of Appalachia wasn’t easy even under the best circumstances. Karen doesn’t gloss over the hardships. Her voice is authentic, draws you into the Christian Bend community and plunks you down in a rocking chair. Trust me Dear Ones, you must add Mother of Rain to your reading list. In fact, you should order it directly from Mercer University Press by clicking this link.

For those in the Georgia area, meet Ann and Karen in person at the Decatur Book Festival, or catch them as they tour together. Their schedule is listed here.

I hope you will buy all of these books. They are each well written with strong prose and unforgettable characters.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes  and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Her latest release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2014. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Mainely Musings: Bread Pudding and Wild Blueberries

Mainely Musings: Bread Pudding and Wild Blueberries

I was going to write a single blog post about the food of Maine, but alas, one post can not do it justice. Today, I break the food into two categories: dessert and…well, breakfast dessert. My dad is a strong believer in breakfast dessert, thinks there is no better way to finish off a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, and toast than with something sweet. Blame him for this post. I am my father’s daughter.

While my husband and I tootled around Maine it became apparent (to me) that we were there during the perfect part of the year, blueberry season. Everywhere I looked signs announced BLUEBERRIES FOR SALE. But y’all know me, I am a pick-your-own kind of gal. Purchasing a pint of blueberries someone else has plucked is sacrilegious. I can’t be writing about picking Billy’s vegetables, then pull over at a farm stand and buy blueberries. Heavens no! Fortunately I found a website that lead me to an area near us. We settled on Staples Homestead, home of certified organic, wild blueberries. Located on Old County Road in Stockton Springs, this little strip of land has been family owned since 1838.

What more did I need?

Now here in the South blueberry tree-tall, six feet high in some cases. The blueberry ladies in my Georgia town boast an operation whereby you can pick a bucket full of thick, fat berries in no time flat. But in Maine, blueberries are God-planted teeny tiny tart nuggets of deliciousness. Picture the berries found in a can of blueberry muffin mix, that’s the size. Maine blueberries don’t grow in neatly formed rows either. You can not stand beneath the shrubs and scoop berries into your bucket, you bend at the knees, or the waist, and use what they call a rake.

This, my friends, is bliss!

This, my friends, is bliss!

Unless you’re like me and must touch every single berry. Let veteran pickers rake and dump the berries in the winnowing machine. A winnowing machine removes leaves and stems, effectively cleaning the fruit. As for me, I picked by hand, doing so bonded me to Maine’s countryside. I was one with the blueberries, with the breeze caressing my face. I was near the clouds and the God who had planted the berries. And in that moment, while I crouched and touched the berries, I fell more in love with Maine. Every touch, every taste, every moment drew me closer to this land.Maine2013 440

We were famished by time we finished. Since we were inland, finding immediate sustenance wasn’t easy. Praise the Lord, urban sprawl doesn’t exist in Stockton Springs, Maine. I don’t want fast food and a drug store on every corner.  As luck would have it, I had one of those “let’s see where this road goes” moment. A moment that lead us to Just Barb’s. There are some who would call Just Barb’s a hole in the wall kind of place. It is located on 24 West Main Street. This isn’t a place with fancy napkins, it’s a fill your growling tummy kind of place. At 2:30 all of the tables were full. Packed with locals enjoying plates piled high with shrimp, fish, fries and steaming bowls of chowdah. The waitress poured tea from a gallon jar (we call ‘em jugs down South). Any eatery pouring tea from a gallon jar ranks high on my list. The service was excellent and the food satisfying. It was while looking around the dining room that I noticed two words written on the dessert menu which hung on the wall  BREAD PUDDING.

Nobody move.

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Bread puddin’ with blueberries. Doesn’t this look delicious?

I’d recently enjoyed my first taste of Bread Pudding when author, Erika Marks, visited the Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia to talk about her books. If you haven’t read Little Gale Gumbo click here for a sample. Miss Erika and I are kindred spirits. She’s the kind of gal you love immediately, the kind you’ve know your whole life but haven’t yet met. She once called Maine home, but now lives in North Carolina. When I told her that I once called North Carolina home and would soon be visiting Maine we squealed like elementary kids. Erika’s husband had cooked a big ole batch of gumbo, she brought bread pudding. Now I should let you know that Miss Erika sneaks in a bit of chocolate into her puddin’ (in the South we don’t add g’s when we make pudding. G’s ruin the recipe).

Back at Just Barb’s, I ordered a fish sandwich and a bread puddin’ for breakfast.

“Just put that bread puddin’ in a to-go cup and I’ll be good.”

My husband’s eyebrows arched. “Bread pudding?” He asked in his proper English.

“We are in Maine. I must eat bread puddin’ and pick blueberries. I’d be in the cranberry bog if it were the season.”

Bless his heart, he understands me.

Prior to eating at Just Barb’s, my intent was to stir wild blueberries into Greek Yogurt for breakfast; but dag-dabbit I was on vacation. The following morning I heated the bread pudding and sprinkled blueberries on top.

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Do you think I added too many berries?

I took a bite. Merciful heavens it was divine. Warm and ripe with the flavor of Maine. I decided more berries were needed, and because I am health conscious I broke up a couple of pieces of dark chocolate.

You know what they say about dark chocolate; it’s health food.

Friends, even as I write this post I miss Maine. She has wrapped her arms around me. I hope the natives do not mind me calling her home, even if it was for two short weeks. Thank you for reading my post. Please follow this blog and share.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes  and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Her latest release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2014. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester

 
 

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Thankful Thursday: What are you thankful for?

003I don’t know why we sometimes see the bad instead of the good, the dark instead of the light, but we do don’t we? Even through our trials, disappointments, and heartaches we are still blessed.

So today, as we near the weekend, I’d like you to tell me what you are thankful for. I’ll start us off:

I am thankful for my husband’s job.(we’ve seen our share of unemployment)
I am thankful that Mercer University Press accepted my manuscript.
I am thankful that my children are well (as I pray for parents who struggle with their child’s illness).
I am thankful for my dog, who places her chin on my knee when I don’t feel well/
I am thankful for you my friends, for your comments, your prayers and reading my books.

Now it’s your turn. Through the difficult journey of this life, what are you thankful for today?

Renea Winchester is the award winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.

 
 

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Mainely Musings: Wordless Wednesday, No words, just images of Maine

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Mainely Musings: The Road-Trip North

Mainely Musings: The Road-Trip North

After getting my mother-in-love settled down for two weeks of pet sitting, my husband and I dropped Jamie at my parents and away we went. My husband is from Tennessee, I from western North Carolina. We both grew up hiking the hills and hollers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here in Atlanta, each new development, each grind of the chainsaw presses hard on us. But the road trip…my friends, the road trip restored our faith that –at least for now-the entire world isn’t being raped and paved over to make way for a new shopping center.

It goes without saying that I am IN LOVE with farms. Why else would I write about farmers. As the car headed for the Northern Country, the burden of living in the city slowly slipped away. Everywhere we looked farms flanked the interstate.corninfield

As an aside, if you’re a farmer in Tennessee, Virginia or Pennsylvania and you care to put me up for a week (heck even a weekend) I’m your huckleberry farm hand. I may be only five feet tall, but I can do something to help out (just ask Farmer Billy here in Atlanta). I especially want to visit during corn harvesting time. Planting time also interests me. Y’all know I’m serious. If you know a farmer in the area, share this blog, direct them to my website where they can contact me. My reason is simple, farmers are givers and sometimes my soul needs to be around folk that respect the land. Now don’t go off half-cocked and tell me about the evils of GMOs. I know that. You know that. We all know that. I’m talking about farmers that have busted the dirt for decades, held on to their acerage because it was their dad’s land, and their grand pappy’s land before that. Men clad in stained overalls that refuse to sell their land for the installation of another strip mall.

There is one particular farmer in Tennessee, whose name I do not know, that erected a sign on their property NOT FOR SALE. I really want to meet that farmer. I want to shake his (or her) hand, hug their neck, bunk in the barn until Jesus comes back.

Farmers give life. Farmers partner with land. Both work hard to feed a hungry. Being near them restores my soul. I don’t guess too many Farmers have a 401k plan. They’ll retire when they’re planted in the ground they love.

Whew, I didn’t expect to get off and chase a rabbit through the corn. Beg your pardon. I told ya’ll in the first post that I really needed some time away from the city.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

My husband, who is not known for many words because I am always rattling off at the mouth, said “I didn’t know huge chunks of land like this still existed.”

We marveled, truly marveled at the beauty of cornfields, of sweet tater vines (they probably call them yams, but my people call them sweet taters). Cows enchanted us, and the barns…lawd have mercy, it was all I could do to keep from yelling “STOP THE CAR!” just so I could touch a piece of rough hewn lumber. I am IN LOVE with farm country.

As we traveled through the Shenandoah Valley, my husband asked, “Do you think all of this undeveloped land is National Park or Forest land?” my husband asked.

Shaking my head, I replied, “Don’t know.” I secretly wished that I were driving. I would have long since pulled over and parted the barbed-wire fencing.

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One of many beautiful scenes in Maine

It didn’t matter if the land was a National Park or if the dirt was working hard to feed us. What did matter was that during our two-day drive from Atlanta to Maine we felt the stress of city life and the dissatisfaction of eternal busy-work slowly slip away. Maine called and we hurried to answer her call.

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2014 Mercer University Press will release Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She loves hearing from you. Feel free to share this blog post, leave comments, or contact her directly through her website.

 

 
 

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Mainely Musings: A Southern Girl heads North

Mainely Musings: A Southern Girl heads North

I’ve been wanting to visit Maine for many years now: Acadia National Park, lobstah, chowdah. Need I say more? Unfortunately, I could never afford the trip. I (like most authors) struggle to turn a profit. I write because words are on my heart. Realistically, writing does not pay the bills. Were it not for my husband’s support I’d be holed up in the rabbit cage nibbling on the carrots. Authors are a different breed of “starving artists” with a scant few affording vacations as luxurious as a jaunt to Maine.

Enter my friend Debbie. She had posted pictures of her recent trip to Maine so I asked if she could suggest places to stay on the cheap. Figuring we could pack enough groceries if we found affordable accommodations, I was shocked when she and her husband offered her “camp.”

Mainers don’t have summer cabins, they have camps. One of many things I learned during my time in Maine.

I was over the moon. My life-long dream seemed possible. Let me pause to say that I have trouble accepting gifts from people. I will gladly share my home, (heck I had just offered my home to fellow author, Jolina Petersheim when she visited FoxTale in Georgia to launch her book The Outcast).

Jolina, Me, Misty and Charlie celebrating a great event at FoxTale

Jolina, Me, Misty and Charlie celebrating a great event at FoxTale

However, being on the receiving end of a generous gift makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like being indebted. My friend Tommye Cashin offered her home a couple years ago and I accepted, but that was different. Her home was on St. Simon’s Island, in the heart of the south where I feel at home. A place where people don’t think I talk funny. I fell head over heels in love with St. Simon’s Island. My daughter is still pouting that we didn’t return this year. (That’s a hint Tommye).

My mother has chastised me, told me that I “need to learn how to let people do good things for me.” She offers examples of things I do for others and has told me that I am “robbing people of joy when you don’t allow them to do things for you.”

My mommy is wise.

To recap our spring, my husband and I were in project mode. In May, we began a simple project that should have taken no more than two weeks, tops. The first weekend in May, we laid down concrete backer board, carted enough slate to cover our massive front porch, and grabbed a couple tarps just in case it rained. As most Atlanta folk know, it rained. It rained like pouring you-know-what out of a boot, like a cow you-know-whatting on a rock. During the month of May there was so much rain that frogs took up residence in the blue tarp covering our porch. The downpours did not stop until the day Jolina and Misty came, the day before I left for Maine. (Three months to be exact but who was counting). Lake Lanier filled. Towns flooded. I gave up on my garden. Yes, me, advisor to the newbie gardener, gave up on growing any food this year.

I have been very depressed. Very, very depressed, and tired.WP_001680

While my husband worked his paying job, I cleaned the slate that had been stored in the basement for almost a decade (we purchased it on clearance). I poured my depression about the dreary weather, my lack of a book contract, and my general concerns about how I would pay for my daughter’s college all went into the work at hand…the front porch. My daughter sealed the slate and every afternoon my husband and I hung the tarp and prayed the rain would hold off long enough to finish the job. Rains continued and the project drug out. I loved the slate. I hated the slate. I dared anyone to use words that even rhymed with slate. (And don’t even get me started on the grout!) Hampered by bad weather, the project lingered. We sorely needed a break from what we now called the “year” (not month) of the house.

With Momma’s words tucked in my heart, I told my husband about Debbie’s offer, of her priceless gift. Could we actually accept her offer?

We did. We finished the slate, folded the tarp hours before Jolina arrived. We packed a suitcase and a cooler then pointed the car North toward the Yanks. Yes my friends, we drove. Y’all know my middle name is “LetsGo,” Renea LetsGo Winchester. I love seeing this great country and the road trip allowed me to fall in love with a whole lotta country (mainly farmland). Now, I wouldn’t be a true southerner if I didn’t say that this trip concerned me. Lawd knows I’m not a world traveler. Washington DC is the “most Northern” state I’ve ever visited (Senior trip in the year 19 mumble….mumble). I was afraid folk would make fun of me, be rude, wouldn’t like me. And ya know what? None of that happened. Those Mainers are good people. They are just like us (or us’ns if for those living in the way, way back woods). The only difference I could gather is that most of them drink Pepsi and unsweetened tea. I believe that can’t be helped because Coke controls the market down here in the south. I also believe they drink Pepsi because the cans are red, white and blue. Lawsie those Mainers are a patriotic lot. I have an entire blog post in the works about the patriots.

Maine2013 001The trip was wonderful. Some of the things I experienced are so precious I must keep them tucked inside my heart, but in the future posts I will introduce you to the people and the beauty of Maine. For newbies just finding this blog, let me say “Welcome. I’m glad you’re here.”

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I think you will fall in love with Maine’s people as much as I have. Please, please share my blog post with others. If you don’t subscribe to this blog, please do so.This world is a small place and I’m sure someone will recognize some of the people in my posts. In my heart I hope I honor the people and the state that I have fallen in love with. And again, this one tiny little word “Thanks” can never express my gratitude to Debbie and Carl.

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2014, Mercer University will release her next book: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

 

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