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.
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.
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 www.reneawinchester.com
Before I begin, readers PLEASE leave a comment and share my blog. This Wednesday I will award a $ 10.00 gift card from my favorite seed supplier, Botanical Interests. One lucky person who comments this week, or subscribes to the blog will be chosen. It is my way of saying thank you for reading my blog and my books.
I fancy myself a lucky gal, lucky to have friends such as Billy Albertson and Mr. Thomas. Both gentleman are expert gardeners and sometimes, when I’m paying attention, I pick up a thing or two.
I haven’t written much about Mr. Thomas, primarily because he made me swear I wouldn’t. So to his friends and family who might be reading this blog, please don’t tell. Mr. Thomas has a top-secret proven method of growing potatoes year round. For me not to share would be, as we say in the south, a sin.
We have all reached in the potato box and uncovered something that looks like this.
Coral-reef like appendages protrude from potatoes. Gardeners refer to this growth as “eyes.” Left unplanted, the potato will shrivel and die. But wait, you can turn these unsightly potatoes into tasty taters in a few simple steps.
According to Mr. Thomas, moisture is the key to growing potatoes during the winter. While I am afraid of applying too much water, Mr. Thomas reminded me that potatoes require a lot of moisture. His advice: place the container in the sink and water until liquid comes from the drainage holes in the container. After watering well and allowing the container to drain, place it in a sunny location, or hang the container beneath a light.
As you can see. His advice works. Now that the plant has sprouted I will apply a small amount of dirt to the original potato. You should do that as well. I left it uncovered so you could see the stages of growth and development.
When I asked about pollination, Mr. Thomas told me that when tiny blooms appears, he gives the plant a shake. He believes this assists the pollination process. If you’re like me and are continually searching for ways to organically feed your family, try planting a couple potatoes. The only think you have to loose is unsightly tubers that you’re going to already going to toss in the trash.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, and the soon to be released sequel: In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Copies of In the Garden are available through her website and electronically.
Atlanta, like many towns in the US, has been suffering from unseasonably high temperatures. Earth-baking, livestock-killing, water-evaporating heat that became more dangerous by a non-stop wind that cracked the soil and seared our skin. We have suffered this summer, worried, fretted and some of us have prayed for relief from the oppressive heat.
Thus far in the growing season, Billy’s farm has been blessed with a bountiful harvest. Blessed with a plethora of beans, corn, and tomatoes ripening on the vine. Unfortunately, as the harvest approached, temperatures rose. Beans died on the vine, tomatoes turned white and burned beneath the sun, and, if the truth be told, Billy Albertson got a little nervous.
“That’s the last of the water,” he said with a sigh, referring to one of six rain barrels situated sporadically throughout his property. “And your maders need watering.”
Shrugging off his concern I said, “Don’t worry about my tomatoes. They’ll be fine.”
Meteorologists called for rain, but Mother Nature was bent on showing us who is boss. Not only did she withhold the rain, she cranked up the temps to a dangerous 106 degrees.
The corn curled and turned brown. Billy and I worried. No rain came.
“Bring on the rain,” Billy said as I stopped by to pick my tomatoes and check out the desiccation status of my corn.
Overhead the clouds were darkening and dipping lower, giving us hope. An hour later, heaven opened and gifted us with a downpour.
Like most children, I love mud puddles. Seeing a collection of water triggers something inside of me. I ride my bike through them, smiling at the splash…squish, tilting my head back as tiny droplets splash against my leg and stain my socks. This morning as the mud puddles in my yard began to disappear I took a stroll through my garden, smiling at the gift of glorious rain.
Though many may curse the rain for making their daily commute a bear, or ruining their planned activities, when I step outside I see that the earth is actually smiling. Tree frogs sing and birds bathe with wild abandon. Even immature tomatoes cling to drops of moisture, unwilling to release the moisture into the earth.
Rain. Blessed rain has finally arrived. Drops that replenished my red-neck rain reclamation system. Most parents will recognize the purple bucket. What once housed stuffed animals, now sits beneath the eve of the house and collects water.
When my grandmother was alive I remember her declaring the arrival of “dog days,” meaning the rainy season which arrives during the middle of summer. This season of hope is gifted to us, a treasure for weary gardeners that signal it’s time to rest up before fall planting.
Those with pitiful looking tomato plants, take comfort. Tomatoes will bear fruit up until frost. Walk bravely into the garden with a pair of scissors and lop them off at the top. This “trimming” process actually stimulates new growth. You can also root the trimmings. Refer to this blog posting to learn how. For those wanting to plant a late crop of beans and “winter greens,” the Farmer’s Almanac reports July 24-27 are the best dates to plant above ground crops. Root crops (turnips, radish, beets, and potatoes) can be planted, July 10, 13, 14, 17 and 18.
Let us be thankful for the rain and pray for those farmers who are suffering without any. Until next time, remember to keep those hands dirty.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes and
It’s panic time here in the Atlanta area and in other parts of the country where tripple digit temps forecast not only dangerous conditions but anxiety as gardeners scurry around trying to save their crops from baking beneath the sun and care for livestock who suffer when weather conditions deteriorate. Here are a few tips you can do to protect your plants.
Hydrate: Obviously plants need extra moisture now more than ever. However, never, ever water after 10 am. Mist plants in the early morning and late hours. The best time to water plants is between the hours of 7 and 9 pm. Plants have all night to absorb life-saving moisture. Also, any moisture that accumulates on leaves during daylight hours WILL burn plants.
- Protect. Now is the time to add an extra layer of mulch around all plants.
- Rest. Do not fertilize any plant or flower during the month of July. Fertilizer encourages new growth, something the plant cannot sustain since it is working hard just to survive.
- Pray. Most of all, pray for those living in drought regions; especially those whose homes are threatened with wildfires.
Now is also the time to reach out to those who are elderly and do not have air conditioning. Take them to the museum, the public library, to the movies during the hours of 2 -6 when temperatures are their hottest.
For the animal lover, place a bowl of water outside for the birds who are struggling to find adequate moisture. I have added ice to the rabbit’s water. Two bunnies are drinking almost one gallon per day. For the chicken lovers, add ice to their water, but also add a container of dirt so they can scratch in the dirt and cool themselves. You might also consider setting up a box fan in front of the chickens. Many of my friends are loosing their animals in the heat. Check on them several times during the day.
Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
Try to stay cool and hydrated.
The first beans of the season .Loving the high quality seeds from Botanical Interests. Seeds are available at Pikes Nursery.
It’s a miracle…an honest to goodness, bona-fide miracle. I returned from the plant sale without purchasing anything.
Well, I exchanged plants so that technically isn’t a purchase. The Roswell Garden Club held their annual pass-along plant sale at the Smith Plantation. In addition to being on the grounds of the plantation, the weather was beautiful. I had been asked to bring tomato plants from Billy’s garden and some of that super-duper organic fertilizer from last year.
A traditional part of the annual sale is the procurement of Hyacinth Beans which Mrs. Moses sprouts. For those unfamiliar with the bean, visit Botanical Interests here to purchase a pack (or ten). This bean makes the perfect “cover” for a hideously ugly downspout.
I plant mine in a container and allow them to climb the drab brown exterior. You can also plant them directly in the soil at the base of an arbor or trellis, or as Susan Coleman shows, at the mailbox. Isn’t that a great idea?
As the sale came to a close club members, knowing of my connection with Billy Albertson, allowed me to take several Ace 55 tomato plants home for free. I have no idea what this tomato would look like, but as y’all know by now, I love providing homes for unwanted animals and plants alike. I am happy to take the plant and if it produces share the tomatoes.
According to TheTomatoGarden.com I am in for a treat. In the photo provided from their website, Ace 55 tomatoes take a while to develop. Expect fruit in 75-80 days (I wonder why they didn’t call them Ace 75, but I digress). I should also expect each tomato to weigh 10 to 12 ounces.
Now we’re talking ! As you can see, this is a monster, weighing in at 12.5 ounces. According to the website, this particular variety is also an heirloom.
I can’t wait to make a space for it in my garden; or as Billy says, “lemme make a row.”
Whether it be flower or veggie, get outside and enjoy this beautiful day. And remember, keep those hands dirty.
Renea Winchester is a member of the Roswell Garden Club, the Atlanta Writers Club, the Georgia Writers Association. She is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes, and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. She is currently working on In the Kitchen with Billy. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
Once again, temperatures have dipped to unseasonable lows, forcing us to crank up the heat, unpack the sweaters, and seek comfort in our favorite food. For me, a steamy pot of pinto beans is perfect.
First, rinse beans and leave them in a bowl of water for approximately ten minutes while you gather the cookware and containers for extra water. I like to keep a quart of water beside the pot. That way, each time I pass through the kitchen I add more water.
Bring two quarts of water to a boil add 2 cups of beans and allow them to come to a rolling boil. Stir well. Reduce heat. Cover and allow to simmer.
After simmering for one hour, increase heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, a hefty shake of pepper and more water. Return to a boil (this will take only a moment). Cover and reduce heat. When beans reach the desired consistency it is time to prepare the seasoning.
Instead of adding fat back or a ham hock at the beginning of the process, cook four pieces of bacon until crunchy. Drain on a paper towel. Chop one small onion and (here’s the BIG secret) two entire stalks of garlic; not the bulb, the entire garlic from the bulb to the green tip.
In a cast-iron skillet, add a nickel-sized drop of olive oil, the onion and garlic. For those who like spicy beans you could add a Jalapeno pepper at this stage.
*Note: Dried beans can be prepared in a Crock Pot. Boil the water in a different container, pour into the Crock Pot, add beans and cook on high.
Keep gardening, and cooking.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. She frequently speaks to book clubs and gardening clubs about how gardening builds communities.She is currently working on, In the Kitchen with Billy. Her books are traditionally published and available through independent publishers as well as online distributors. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
Billy is feverishly planting because he senses this is going to be a dry summer. With rain in the forecast, both he and his cub tractor are working overtime. Just yesterday, Billy called to ask, “are you ever gonna get over here and plant your garden?”
Translation: “I need help.”
After clearing my schedule, I grabbed seeds and the tomatoes I had sprouted, then drove to his “little strip of land.”
For those planting seeds directly into the earth, please know that seeds will sprout (on average) two days sooner if you soak them before planting. While Billy cranked the tiller and made a row, I poured seeds into a cup of water knowing that the added moisture aids germination. Some seeds seem to require soaking: okra, beans, and peas for example.
Soaking beans is not necessary, just a gardening hint.
Sprouting Seeds: I am also still sprouting seeds indoors. If you haven’t visited the website of Botanical Interests and purchased seeds for your garden, there is still time. I highly recommend Cherokee Purple and Black Krimm tomatoes.
Don’t let me find you in a big box store with a basket full of seeds. Trust me, please. Do the right thing and plant seeds from a family-owned company.
Regular readers know that I adore watching plants grow and develop. Some also know that I love cucumber sandwiches (almost as much as fried bologna). For that reason, I stagger the growing season and purpose to grow cukes up until the first breath of frost. Sprouting seeds is not rocket science. Remember the secret: a heating pad.
I have found clear plastic containers more effective than the leftover flamingo party cups pictured here. I think this is because heat distributes evenly and sunlight permeates clear containers. Add potting soil, push seeds into the soil, water lightly, cover with a piece of glass (or plastic wrap) then wait. Placing the container on a heating pad (set on high) warms the soil and triggers an awakening.
Because cukes germinate speedy quick, (the pic is of a plant two days old), I will plant these seeds immediately. Whether you are a veteran gardener or first-time clod buster enjoy your time in the garden and remember to keep those hands dirty.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. The book is traditionally published and available from independent bookstores and online as well as personally autographed (by author and Billy) through Renea’s website. Follow Billy’s farm on Facebook.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Whether savoring a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s pie, or drinking a pint, many enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Children wear green so they won’t get pinched, adults drink green beer, and Billy Albertson plants green beans.
Yes. Billy Albertson plants a row of green beans on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I had a brother who planted his green beans on St. Patrick’s Day. They always seemed to make it. I like to keep that tradition alive.”
Of course our friends to the north can’t plant green beans now, but they can sprinkle a few lettuce seeds into the soil. For those living beneath the sultry Mason-Dixon line, (where it was 89 degrees just two days ago), planting green beans takes only a moments time.
Here’s a tip: Before cranking the tiller, sharpening the spade, or scooping the first cup of fertilize, pour the beans into a cup of water. The seeds immediately begin absorbing water. I would also suggest placing one drop of Nelson’s Grow Best Plant Food in the water.
Here is a link to their product. If you are a first-time visitor to this blog and are unfamiliar with this product, trust me. This is the liquid fertilize for you. The tiny white container is super concentrated 2 tablespoon per one gallon of water. Available at the Home Depot, and through the online link, this product does not burn plants, and absolutely will not turn your fingers blue.
Now, back to planting.
Long-term forcasts predict a dry growing season. For that reason, one will need to plant a bit deeper than I usually like. Planting deeper encourages strong roots. Scatter the seeds, then apply water to the rows before covering the seeds with dirt. (you can also use the plant food-laced water at this phase of planting). Cover the rows with dirt. Take two steps back and place your hands on hips.Nodd slightly. You have just begun a gardening tradition that-if Mother Nature allows-should produce an early crop of green beans.
For readers anywhere near the Atlanta Metro area, Billy Albertson and I are leading a “down to earth” gardening workshop this Wednesday at 6 pm at the Alpharetta Public Library where FREE…. I said, free samples of Grow Best and vegetable seeds will be available (while supplies last). Learn more here. Come see us.
Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love and Tomatoes. Learn more about her at www.reneawinchester.com