Category Archives: Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures

Potato Soup with Friends

In case you’ve missed the weather forecast lately, a “polar vortex” has descended upon Hot-lanta blanketing the region with temperatures we haven’t seen since 1996. In 1996, I still lived in my hometown: Bryson City, North Carolina. We didn’t have vortexes, we had cold snaps. Extended periods when the ground froze solid and your footsteps sounded with a crunch. I worried about cold back then. I knew to leave a trickle of water running (learned that the hard way). And my 1986 Dodge Colt stayed parked at the bottom of the hill. Except in extreme circumstances, work came regardless of weather. 

Courtesy Tracy Hoexter Photography All Rights Reserved

Courtesy Tracy Hoexter Photography All Rights Reserved

The weather yesterday in Hotlanta was extreme, as was the day before.

Knowing that Billy’s family had departed, Nanny goats held a meeting, determined that the coldest day of the year (six degrees to be exact) was the perfect day to start birthing babies. Those who have raised livestock are nodding right now. Cattle, sheep, goats, all seem to wait until the coldest day of the year to birth. They kick down stall doors, head out toward the top of the mountain where they drop their young.

Between New Year’s Day and January 6, 2014, Billy Albertson welcomed ten new baby goats, with more expected.


I thought about calling Monday night, thought I should remind Billy that he should trickle a little water in the bathroom, just in case.

Naw, I said to myself, he knows to do that. He’ll think I’m an idiot calling with a reminder.

Note to self: Always, ALWAYS listen to your inner voice.

Arriving at 11:45 am, I noticed Billy in the laundry room. The outside water had long-since frozen solid requiring Farmer Billy to carry water to the nannies. Nursing mothers need a lot of water to keep their milk flowing.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with this water?” Billy said, “seems to be loosing flow.”

But I knew. Rushing to the kitchen, I turned the faucet on full force. “You didn’t run the water last night?”

I soon had my answer.

Enter Kelle Mac, her three boys, Tracy Hoexter, her son and her husband. Using any excuse to both eat AND see the baby goats, we determined it was potato soup-baby-goat lovin’ time. Neighbor Joe had stopped by, poked his head into the well house and determined that a doo-hickey-valve-a-ma-bob needed replacing and that if he and Billy lit out after “dinner” he could remedy the water situation.

As Billy says, “that Joe shore is good to me.”

Photo credit: Tracy Hoexter Photography

Photo credit: Tracy Hoexter Photography

As we crowded into the tiny kitchen for a pre-dinner blessing, Billy’s voice cracked with emotion. He thanked “Our Father” for the meal, for the friends, for the children who stopped by. I am confident that were he to meet you, he’d thank Our Father for you as well.

Read more about Billy by downloading his latest story titled: A Hardscrabble Christmas. 

VIEW pictures Tracy took yesterday here. All Photo credits today belong to her. Thank you Tracy for sharing your gift with us.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. If you liked this recipe stay tuned. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures


Prayer Request: Aisle 12


Billy Albertson teaching students about growing their own food.

It wasn’t my usual grocery store, the one where I organize my coupons according to aisle, and can get in and out as fast as humanly possible. No. I dropped into this one because I was headed in that direction and needed to pick up a few items. I don’t like to dally at the grocery store, especially not with Thanksgiving just around the corner. I was standing on yon side of the store when an announcement came over the loudspeaker, “Billy Albertson come to the pharmacy.”

God has been doing this to me lately, dropping me in places where he can use me; like the gas station on Monday (more on that in another post), and the Christian Authors Guild on Monday night. He’s been pruning me, carving a little nick in my ear so that I will hear His call.

Knowing that there is only one Billy Albertson, and he isn’t on any medication, I drove my buggy to the non-yon side of the store eagerly anticipating one of those love-filled Farmer Billy hugs. Perhaps he was there for a flu shot, I thought. My stomach flipped and my heart hurt when Billy turned and I caught a glimpse of him.

He had aged, badly. His skin dull, lackluster. His stance, stooped over. His eyes tired.

“What in the world?” I asked while easing him toward the door. “What is going on with you?” Whatever he had, it was obvious he needed to be home.

“Doctor’s don’t know,” he pulled up his shirt sleeve revealing a puffy calamine-painted arm, “they’ve cut a hunk off’a me and sent it off.”

Dialing Daughter Number One I said, “Your father is ill. What is going on?”

I learned that Billy’s doctor-an incredible, and very competent and compassionate man- had spent two hours examining Billy, then sent him straight to the hospital earlier in the week for a variety of tests. Billy does not have shingles. Billy is home and for the family, neighbors, and concerned friends who may be reading this, we also need prayers for rest. According to all reports, no one really knows what is going on. This is a random ailment. All I know is that Billy is ill and he is not himself, and that we must wait for the biopsy results. Billy’s doctor is on this like a chicken on a June-bug, but the Great Physician is ultimately in charge.

Chicken Man and Friends: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Albertson

Chicken Man and Friends: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Albertson on Book Launch Day

“You read in the Bible where Job took pieces of broken pots and scraped his skin,” Billy said. “I am in such agony I could scrap myself clean to the bone.”

Sounds like Chicken Pox doesn’t it? It also sounds like Shingles. Right now I do not know, neither do the doctors.

What I do know is that God put me in the grocery store, the one I never visit so I could be placed in Billy’s path; so I could ask you to pray. Even though the biopsy is marked STAT, the doctor doesn’t anticipate receiving the results until Friday. Would you join me in praying that the results come sooner? Would you ask that the doctor know how to treat Billy’s condition?

And would you please pray for healing?

Blessings to you!

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 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at


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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


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 or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester


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


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The Storms of Summer

The Storms of Summer

I has been a wet summer in Atlanta, unseasonably drippy with rain coming when it darn well pleases, dumping as much as three inches of rain in forty-five minutes. Farmer Billy and I have endured this, watching helplessly as seedlings rot, as a river of muddy silt cut a path through the garden, as the pages of the calendar turn from May, to June.

Enter into this unpredictable season, storms that are so severe they smack the life out of trees, pull roofs from houses, cause severe damage. On Thursday, June 13th, the beloved and I were sitting in the office when it suddenly turned dark. We are accustom to this now, darkness at 6 pm., a time when the clouds dip low, heavy with rain.

“Best cover the porch,” I said.

We’ve been working on our porch since April. It should have and would have been finished by mid-May had it not been for the aforementioned weather.

The beloved is a storm watcher, the kind of man who stands on the porch ignoring the whine of the tornado siren. He did so last Thursday. Stood watching the rain fall sideways and fill the muddy front yard. From the corner of my eye I watched him, knowing better than to urge him inside. He never comes in. Then the rain stopped, the wind stopped, all fell silent. The sky took on a sinister hew. Mother Nature sucked the leaves back, pulling them close, inhaling them toward her. The beloved came inside. Said, “Get to the basement!”

Rushing to grab my shoes, the beloved pulled the dog with him. I crammed my feet into already-laced shoes and hurried down stairs just as Mother Nature exhaled hard. The power flickered. We heard a crash, all became dark.

By 6:30 the storm had passed. Without power, I trekked to the street to see if one of our pine trees had fallen on the line. Thankfully, it had not. Instead, a magnificent oak next door crashed to the street, one of its limbs hitting a car in the process. The driver had thrown the car in reverse, high-tailed it out as fast as possible. Lucky. Very lucky. Power lines sagged across my hedge bushes, hanging chest high, blocking our exit. My neighbors assembled quickly, checking on each other, reporting of trees just missing houses. We were all lucky.

We began directing traffic, flagging people, begging them to turn around. Warning them of danger, we all, every one of us shocked as time and again drivers ignored us. Even though we stood in the road, even though we yelled STOP!  Drivers swerved around us, speeding up until they encountered the oak.

Thus began my observation in the de-evolvement of mankind. I’m not sure that de-evolvement is even a word. I only knew our intentions were to keep everyone safe. Obviously with leaves strewn everywhere and a dozen people standing in the road, a reasonable person could imagine that there had been (at least) an accident. As night fell and the police still hadn’t arrived, one of the neighbors drove to the police station. We need something to keep people from running into the fallen tree.

Obviously, we had no phone coverage. Even cell phones didn’t work.

Billy's field. Literally, a river runs through it.

Billy’s field. Literally, a river runs through it.

Upon learning that Hardscrabble Road had also been hit, I could only imagine what Billy’s farm looked like. I would later learn he lost several trees, a fence, and experienced more flooding. In addition his church three doors down, lost three oak trees. His cleanup began at God’s house. Farm cleanup will begin next week.

Friday morning, the Department of Transportation had installed barrier fencing. The fence blocked both lanes, but did little to stop those who had pre-determined that the signage was not meant for them. Yes, power lines still hung in the road. Yes, the tree still blocked the road. It would not be removed until Saturday.

The first barricade.

The first barricade.

By Friday afternoon the Department of Transportation determined their barrier sign wasn’t sufficient. They placed a “Road Closed” sign further up the street. Now those who refuse to obey signs had to go around two barriers.

And go around they did.

Deeply concerned for the safety of these people, I wrapped caution tape around the first barrier, so that people couldn’t drive through. Three minutes later (what else did I have to do but watch traffic), someone drove through the barricade; and once one person drives through, the rest follow.

Road Closed. Please, do not enter. People there are trees down !

Road Closed. Please, do not enter. People there are trees down !

Enter now, the television station. Storm chasers, known for sharing shots of storm damage, also provided the exact location where the damage occurred. This opened the gates for a variety of people who were, shall I say, not-so-reputable.

It seemed that every meth-head within a fifty mile radius threw a chainsaw in the back of their vehicle and hit the road, hoping to find someone who needed a tree removed.

“You mean no one has tried to cut down that tree?” One particular addict asked. “I bet I could cut it up for you.”

I said, “Honey, the fire department cut on it for two hours. The tree is as big around as your car. I don’t think you can move it. You need to turn around and look for someone else who needs help.”

By the way, you can tell when folk are on meth. Their teeth give them away every time.

After the news crew (who also passed through the barricade and filmed from my driveway) reported the tree down, a slew of tree crews jammed the road only to turn around when they found no one willing to expense the removal.

I used this as a teaching moment, “You see, all of these people. They believe the rules do not apply to them. They are the type of people who will pass on through (while gabbing on their cell phone, with their children in the back). They are the ones who will get injured and then sue the City for lack of signage. When you are driving, do not cross a barricade under any circumstance.”

My daughter nodded.

By now it is Saturday. When my dad worked for the power crew, they kept a chainsaw, or three, in the vehicle. They didn’t need to wait for someone else to remove a tree. Apparently, this tree was the City’s responsibility hence the delay, the days without power as my food thawed and dripped from the closed freezer.

Hello saggy power lines.

Hello saggy power lines.


Welcome tree crew.

Welcome tree crew.

Disclaimer: After all was said and done, we suffered minimal damage. Nothing compared to others who have lost it all. Being without power for four days is nothing when compared to loss of life and loss of property. I am not trying to diminish the loss of anyone. Merely report that people have lost their minds and aren’t paying attention when driving.

I live in an area where most of the residents are college graduates, and (in theory)  believe they are more “intellectual” than those who live in the rural area I once called home.

That’s bull hockey.

After people watching for a short time I can state this as a fact. The people who shot through the barricade either believed the rules of the road don’t apply, or they are not paying attention, or they didn’t give a tinker’s you-know-what.

Had an oak tree fallen across the road in my home town a group of good old boys would have showed up with a wench and six or ten chainsaws. They would have yanked that tree off the line in no time. They would have restored the power in record time. They would have done it all not because they are college graduates, or because they needed someone else to remove the tree, but because they knew what needed to be done.

Oh, they also would have blocked the road with their vehicle and dared another human being to cross their barricade.

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


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Care and Maintenance of Newspaper Seed Starters

Care and Maintenance of Newspaper Seed Starters

Welcome new followers to my blog. Recently, Billy Albertson and I had the privilege of speaking to students at Crabapple Middle School.

Here’s a BIG Shout Out to all of the students we met !!!


Crabapple students waiting patiently to make seed starters

One never knows what type of students they will encounter on these trips. Sometimes, we encounter a class filled with unruly folk, those who aren’t interested in learning; but not at Crabapple. It seemed like the more Billy and I shared about gardening, the more they wanted to know.

Here’s a BIG THANK YOU to all the students. You were great !!!

Now, for those who missed class, or want to learn how to make your own newspaper seed starter, here is a link to my blog post. Truly, this little project takes only a few minutes. Of course, I had my trusty seeds from Botanical Interests (available locally at Pike’s). Botanical Interests does an excellent job of including clear instructions on how to grow the seeds you purchase. However, the seeds at Crabapple are still in the teacher’s rooms. You can either take them home or plant them in the school garden.

Also, remember that I took a group photo with each class. I can only post those if the school has a signed permission slip on file. Once I’m certain your parent has signed a release, I’ll post more pictures.


Farmer Sophie

So, what’s the next step with your seeds?

CMS Go Green Day1

A new farmer in the making

When will my seed sprout?

Pick one weekday to water your plants. Let’s use Wednesday for example. Each week on Wednesday measure one tablespoon of water and pour it directly onto the dirt (or plant if it has sprouted). Using more water will make your seed rot. For those who planted corn, watermelon or pumpkin seeds remember those seeds take a little bit longer to sprout. (like fourteen days). Please do not give up on the seeds. The weather has been unseasonably cold, AND, we have seen very little sun.

CMS Go Green Day5

Crabapple student eager to lend a hand.

Seeds need three things: sun, warm temperatures, and water. Give the seeds a bit of extra time before giving up on them. If possible, place the newspaper starter in a window where the sun can reach the plant.

CMS Go Green Day 6

Soon these will be ready to plant.

After the seedling breaks through the soil and displays a couple leaves, start thinking about where you want to plant. For those living in an apartment or subdivision, you can still grow beans and peas inside a plastic planter. If you do not have a planter, please let me know. I will bring some to your school. There is no need to buy an expensive pot. You can pick one up at the Dollar Tree. The important part is to get a large container that is 8 to 10 inches. Vegetables have deep roots.

Where do I plant my seedling?

Some plants, like beans, will grow in partial shade. Others require full sun. Here is list of where to plant.

Vegetable:                                          Where it likes to grow:

Beans                                                I will grow in partial shade, and/or sun.

Peas                                                  I will grown in partial shade and/or sun

Corn                                                   I must have full sun

Pumpkins                                            I prefer full sun and room to grow

Watermelon                                         I prefer full sun and room to grow

Pepper plants                                       I will grow in partial shade and/or full sun

How do I plant my seedling?CMS Go Green Day 2

Those planting directly into the dirt need only to dig a hole in the ground, (approximately 6 inches across and 3 inches deep. Break up the soil, place the newspaper seedling in the dirt. Cover and your’re done.

Plastic container instructions:

Fill a plastic container half-full of dirt. Wet the newspaper seed-starter until all of the paper is very wet.

Dig out a hole in the dirt.

Place the entire newspaper planter in the dirt.

Cover the newspaper with dirt (leave the tiny plant sticking out).

CMS Go Green Day3

Another seed planted :)

Water well. Then watch the plant grow.

Little known fact about the corn:

For those who planted corn let me tell you about it. My great-grandfather Lum Winchester, who died when I was eighteen years old, grew that corn. He once lived in Rabun County Georgia with his wife’s family, who were the Ridley’s. Back then, you didn’t go to the store for garden supplies. People saved their seed. The seed you planted has been in my family for many generations. It is not genetically modified.

Some people call it “field corn,” others call it “dent corn” because on the end of each kernel there is a small indentation or “dent.” This particular variety grows very tall, almost fifteen feet tall. While you can eat it fresh, with butter, the corn is best dried and ground into cornmeal or grits. Fresh corn will not be sweet like you are used to. This variety is highly prized in the Low Country for grits. Of course the Low Country is famous for shrimp and grits.

So how can I make cornmeal? Allow the corn to dry on the stalks. Eventually the outside will yellow and get very hard. After that happens send me an email at reneawrites(at) and I’ll make sure we convert your corn into meal.

This corn also makes excellent animal food. Since it has not been genetically modified, it is safe for everyone to eat. I think my great grandfather is happy you are willing to grow it.

Renea reading from her book about Billy titled: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Copies available locally at BOOKMISER.

Renea reading from her book about Billy titled: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Copies available locally at BOOKMISER.

For those who don’t have a lot of land, corn can also be grown in big buckets.(Think one of those Home Depot Orange Buckets.

Corn requires FULL SUN and a lot of water during the summer. But, y’all are Crabapple students; you can do anything!

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

Copies of her book are available locally at Bookmiser.


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Earth Day Activity: Making Seed-Starters from Recycled Newspaper

Earth Day Activity: Making Seed-Starters from Recycled Newspaper

Last week, while I was in the community garden ripping grass from the raised bed, I enjoyed a moment of being present. A moment where I felt the grime on my neck, the sweat trickling down my back; a moment of pure bliss. At that moment I thought if I could lead workshops, or teach people how to grow their own food that would be perfect.

I’m not big on perfection; but teaching others how to grow their food would be lovely. I would like to teach those intimidated by gardening that they can grow their own food. This was my focus as I tossed roots onto the compost pile, cursing Johnson grass.

Enter, Miss Liz, Go-Green Day chair at Crabapple Middle School. Someone suggested she contact me.

Would I speak to middle schoolers on Earth Day? she asked.

Would I ? Sign me up !

Deciding what to speak about was a challenge. At first I wanted to show them how to recycle newspapers in the garden. Then I determined that most of the students probably didn’t have access to a garden. (Being that they were trapped in the confines of a subdivision with a rigid Homeowners Association). That’s when the idea to demonstrate how to make a newspaper seed-starter emerged. WP_001385

Once I shared my idea with Liz, she suggested I have each student who visits my booth make their own seed starter. After the seeds sprout the students will plant them in their community garden. Imagine the Plant A Row for the Hungry concept. That’s what they’re doing.

Now we’re growing, and feeding the hungry nutritious vegetables!

For those interested in making these; or students who want to show their parents how to create a newspaper seed-starter, here are the instructions:

WP_001378Supply list:



Potting Soil (Note: try to feel the quality of the soil. If you feel small sticks and pebbles, most-likely you are purchasing woodchips, not potting soil).

Glass container cylindrical in shape. (Note: glass works best because it is sturdy and newspaper).


Fold one sheet of newspaper lengthwise.

Place glass on paper. Leave some newspaper hanging over the lower edge of the glass.

Place glass on paper. Leave some newspaper hanging over the lower edge of the glass.

Place glass on newspaper. Allow one inch of paper to hang over the bottom end of the glass. You will fold this later and form the bottom of planter.

Once you have wrapped glass, fold ends toward the center to create bottom of seed-starter.

Once you have wrapped glass, fold ends toward the center to create bottom of seed-starter.

Wrap the glass with newspaper. When you reach the end, fold edges inward to form the bottom of the planter.

Stand glass up and press down firmly to secure the bottom.

Remove glass.

If desired, staple top of planter to keep pages intact.

Fill planter with dirt. Each planter will use approximately half a cup of dirt.

A shout out to the Roswell Garden Club ladies featured in the newspaper.

A shout out to the Roswell Garden Club ladies featured in the newspaper.

Following the instructions on back of seed packet, press seed into soil. Water lightly. Don’t worry if water leaks through planter. Once seedling starts growing it is ready to plant in the garden. Dig a hole in the garden, place planter in the earth and fill with dirt. Water well. The newspaper will deteriorate and allow the roots to grow deep in the soil.

This is an inexpensive way to start seeds, and recycle. I want to thank Miss Liz for allowing me the opportunity to fulfill a dream. If your school or church has a community garden and you’d like me to teach the fledgling gardeners in your area, please contact me through my website.

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

Follow Billy on Faceboook HERE


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Wrapped up Tight

This year I was invited to attend the 13th annual Pulpwood Queen Gathering. For those who aren’t familiar with this club, Queen Kathy Patrick  works tirelessly to promote authors (both first-time and veteran). She created a book club that is the world’s largest; and, she owns the only hair salon/bookstore in the country.

She’s a powerhouse, that’s for certain.

Queen Kathy asked authors to contribute something personal for the silent auction which raises money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For weeks, I’ve pondered what to donate. Partnering with Botanical Interests and Nelson’s Grow-N-Thrive Plant Food, I assembled a basket.  The folk at Botanical Interests generously donated an exquisite 2013 calendar and many packets of seeds, a partial list is below: WP_000713

Basil, Beans, Carrots, Chives, Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, Radish, Spinach, Tomatoes (multiple varieties). In the flower category, the basket includes: Bells of Ireland, Calendula, Marigold, Nasturtium, and Sunflowers…just to mention a few.

Even as I type this Spring Fever begins to bubble up inside of me.

Those items, as lovely as they are (and they are lovely) aren’t “personal.” Yes, I only use Botanical Interests seeds and Grow-N-Thrive Plant Food which is why I want to introduce them to you, but readers want to bid on something more personal.

Bread & Butter Pickles, Japaleno Jelly and Spice Rub from Mr. Thomas.

Bread & Butter Pickles, Japaleno Jelly and Spice Rub from Mr. Thomas.

For that, I headed to the pantry.  Where I come from, nothing is more personal than homegrown goodies. I gathered into my arms a jar of Bread & Butter pickles, Dilly Beans, Tomatoes, Grape Jelly (made with grapes from the historic Hembree Farm) and a jar of Dry Rub using a top-secret recipe Mr. Thomas recently shared with me.

I squeezed all of this into a basket which I have used at Billy’s Farm. Then I placed a tiny cornhusk angel inside the basket, wrestled the crinkly wrapping around everything and tied the bow.

Re-reading Queen Kathy’s instructions I panicked for a moment when I learned that my donation needed to be autographed.


Peeking inside the basket, I thought about signing the wooden fibers. Then I thought perhaps the best autograph would come from Billy and me. He signed the Dilly Beans; I signed the tomatoes. WP_000715

This is who I am. This is how I give some of myself to you. Whoever wins this basket will receive delicious goodness grown without pesticides and stored without preservatives.

I can’t wait to meet all the readers in Jefferson Texas next week. For those who are on Facebook, please visit the page I created titled In the Garden with Billy.  Please “Like” the page and share the page. As always, I hope you enjoy your time spent in the garden with us.

Those attending the 2013 Pulpwood Queen event can bid on this basket filled with goodies.

Those attending the 2013 Pulpwood Queen event can bid on this basket filled with goodies.

Renea Winchester is an 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.      

Renea is represented by Sullivan Max Literary Agency. In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches will be released soon. She is working on her first novel titled Outbound Train Visit her at


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A Basket Fit for A Queen

Having my work selected by the Pulpwood Queen has been my dream since the release of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. I knew that given the chance Queen Kathy Patrick, founder of the largest book club in the world, would fall in love with Billy Albertson just like I, and countless others had.

Kathy not only loves books, she loves baby chicks which was why I sent her a copy of In the Garden.

A month passed, then another, until finally I shelved the dream of being picked.

If I’ve learned anything during this journey as an author it is to never, ever give up. During the summer as I sliced cucumbers and boiled the brine to pour my thoughts returned to the Pulpwood Queen. I was working on Billy’s sequel titled In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Fords & Fried Bologna Sandwiches.  (more baby chicks, and this time…recipes). Perhaps I would bring jars of pickles to events as door prizes. I thought the same when slicing jalapeno peppers for the pepper jelly and as I held my breath and mixed the spice rub ingredients.

Then came the news, Kathy selected In the Garden with Billy as a Pulpwood Queen pick. The news came during one of those dark times, one filled with self-doubt. As tears pricked my eyes I felt like Sally Field: Kathy liked me, she really liked me.

Or the baby chicks…it mattered not.

Kathy asks all authors to donate a personal item, autographed if possible, to her annual Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson Texas. This item is auctioned off with proceeds benefiting a cause dear to all of our hearts, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. And while being on a panel with New York Times Bestselling authors is a bit daunting, the basket I have assembled is fit for a queen.

Bread & Butter Pickles, Japaleno Jelly and Spice Rub from Mr. Thomas.

Bread & Butter Pickles, Japaleno Jelly and Spice Rub from Mr. Thomas.

It is filled with love and appreciation. Readers will bid on jars of Dilly Beans, Bread and Butter Pickles, Grape Jelly made with grapes from the historic Hembree Farm, and a jar of Spice Rub from Georgia’s own, Mr. Thomas. But that’s not all…tune in later for an image of the basket and a complete list of everything inside.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. headsho

She is represented by Sullivan Max Literary Agency. In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming Fords & Fried Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2013. Until then, she is hard at work at her first novel. Friend her on Facebook at: In the Garden with Billy, or visit her at


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The Next Big Thing

Ann Hite and Kimberly Brock asked me to answer ten questions about my current work in progress, but before I begin, I need to share that I have finished In the Kitchen with Billy, which some of you may know is the sequel to In the Garden with Billy. This book is currently being edited. I will let you know the moment I have a publication date. Now, on to the current work in progress:

What is your working title of your book?
Outbound Train

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for this book came from two experiences. I was riding with my brother in my hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina. We were stopped because the train was traveling through (it’s a small town, the train stops traffic); out of the corner of my eye I noticed a trailer park and imagined life there, beside the tracks. Then I came home and stumbled across a photo.  I printed the photo and it has been taped to my wall for two years. I look at this image, wanting to know more about the girl on the tracks. (Credit outboundtrain

What genre does your book fall under?
This is my fourth book, my first novel.  It is Southern Fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Sandra Bullock, of course, don’t we all adore her?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Girl dreams of leaving the small town that trapped the women in her family in a cycle of poverty.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is a work in progress and I am currently seeking representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The novel is still in progress. My previous nonfiction books, In the Garden with Billy, and In the Kitchen with Billy, each took a year. Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author took 9 months. You can learn more about Billy on the In the Garden with Billy FB page, or through my website

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Because I believe that each author has his or her own voice, I don’t like to compare my work with others.  I am surrounded by so many talented authors, I am honored just to be in the same room with them.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Many years ago, Wilma Dykeman, TN Historian, lover of Western North Carolina, and a pioneer of women’s literature, clasped my hand and told me that I could write anything. She believed in me. I cannot let her down.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Even though my first two books are classified as Memoir, Outbound Train contains tiny pieces of my heart woven throughout this manuscript. That is true with most authors. But in this manuscript,  I want to honor the people of my hometown, the hard-working factory workers who would literally give you the shirt off their back; those who live from paycheck to paycheck and understand hardship; people who are too proud to ask for help. To my southern friends and family, and readers everywhere who encourage me, I write for you.

Now, who to tag?

Donald Tadman (my friend from Down Under)

Lee Giminez

Bob Plott

and Gy Brown

Message for tagged authors:
Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. Be sure to line up your five people in advance. (I’ve seen these posts run with only three or four tagged writers, so no pressure.)

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures


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In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes Book Trailer

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Billy Albertson’s farm. Or as he likes to say it his, “little strip of country.” Learn more at


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