I really don’t need the month of November to nudge me into feeling thankful. I am a cancer survivor, descended from two cancer warriors, thankfulness flows in my imperfect blood. I gladly joined Shellie Tomlinson when she asked me to participate in the 30 day Ambassadors For Life Campaign. Before you get bleary-eyed this cause is a simple one. Water.
There are folk in this world who need water.
Shellie wants to raise money to build two wells and thanks to the generosity of many, she is on her way. Please consider donating $ 10.00 today at this link: http://my.ambassadorsforlife.org/campaign/30Days/
Yesterday, I had a pregnant pause about want versus need. I was sitting in the orthodontist’s office with my daughter, and before you fire up an email to me about the expense of vanity braces let me say that my daughter’s lower teeth were so crooked that (by age eleven) the pressure had caused her gums to recede. My option was braces now, or gum replacement later. I chose the braces.
While waiting, I sifted through my pile of coupons. I am no coupon queen, but I do try to save every single dime I can, especially since the release of my third book is another year away and money is tight. (See above reference to braces).
Enter into the waiting room two women. These women travel a lot, and they are repainting the kitchen of a Florida home a lovely shade of white. One of them also needs a flu shot. They were loud talkers. While they both flipped through a single magazine one of the ladies stopped on a handbag she was interested in. “Oh, I couldn’t pay $ 600.00 for a purse,” the other woman said.
“I’ve got one just like it, only a different color. And, the purse isn’t $ 600.00. That’s the price for the wallet.”
Glancing down at my coupons, I couldn’t help but pause. Process. Wonder what makes people want to place that kind of money (their money) into the hand of another. Really. I do not understand. If I had six-hundred extra dollars I wouldn’t buy a new purse (or wallet). I don’t want to come off as judgmental, but there are a lot of hurting people in this world. There are over 50 homeless kids in my daughter’s school. For those kids, six hundred dollars can put a roof over their heads.
So as I glanced back at my clipped coupons I had a gigantic thankful moment. I am thankful that I can see the hurting and the hungry, and those who are literally, dying because of unsanitary water. Today I ask you, please, if you are financially able, make a ten-dollar donation to the Ambassadors For Life program. If you are considering purchasing a six-hundred-dollar wallet, would you consider donating instead to the Ambassadors program? I believe that donating to this cause will bring you more satisfaction in your heart than carrying around a purse.
Renea Winchester is a descendant of the Ridley’s and the Winchester’s of Rabun County, Georgia. She is the author of Mountain Memories, a collection of stories about her Southern People. Her first book, In The Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love and Tomatoes, earned her two prestigious nominations: Georgia Author of the year and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance book of the year. In 2012, the Atlanta Pen Women named her Author of the year. Mercer University Press will release: Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches in 2014.
Although there are no images in my latest book, Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths From Appalachia, here are pictures of the people behind the true stories. Order a copy of Mountain Memories here.
Renea Winchester’ is an award-winning author whose people are from Rabun County, Georgia and Indian Creek, North Carolina, which is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the early 1900′s the Winchesters traveled to Western North Carolina where they put down roots. Renea still grows the same corn her great-grandfather grew. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
I am not an idle person. Either my hands, or my brain (or my mouth) are running non stop. Heaven forbid I have three extra minutes to spare. But today, with the breaking news reporters recounting ”shots fired,” I wanted to head for the mountains and hug my people then slip off into the woods and settle into the forest floor. I wanted to be idle. Silent. At one with nature. North Carolina is a long way from Georgia on days such as these. But alas, my want isn’t possible. The best I can do is unplug from the media and find joy in the simple task of shelling beans.
Even though Billy’s garden didn’t produce tomatoes this year, we were blessed with a late crop of half-runner beans. Long, bumpy beans that I’ve enjoyed almost every night this week for dinner. Billy is a seed saver. Correction: Billy picks everything on the vine. I sort food from seed. We have no idea what kind of beans we grow other than the delicious variety.
This afternoon, instead of sitting in front of the television fretting about the government shutdown and bullets being fired all over the place, I unfolded a towel, filled my lap with beans and commenced to shellin’ seed beans. A simple act that provides comfort for a girl who is far, far from home.
My mountain people grew up without internet and television. Heck my granny grew up without running water, but I digress. My people found pleasure in the simple act of shelling beans, and telling stories. They were doers, workers, shellers of beans. Today, as my fingers uncurl the pods and touch the slippery goodness inside, the simple pleasure of using my hands provided comfort to my worried soul.
Let me take a moment to say, “Thank You” to everyone who ordered copies of my ebook Mountain Memories, and who contacted me after reading the collection. I am honored. You could have chosen any book, but who chose to read mine. For that I am thankful. Below are links to my books both in print and electronic version.
Renea Winchester is the author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half Truths from Appalachia. Her work, In the Garden with Billy earned a GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Feel free to follow her blog and visit her website here.
The soggy summer of 2013
It’s July 18, 2013 and I’ve yet to enjoy the first tomato from the garden, or bean, or cucumber. This time last year I had two pressure cookers humming, two food dehydrators desiccating tomato slices. I was happy, blissfully happy while putting up food for my family. Not to be this year my friends. The weather pattern has shifted. We’re in a rainforest this year (not complaining after so many years of drought). It’s not the rain that is worrisome. I can live with the rain; it is the complete lack of sunshine. In fact, July 16 and 17 were the first full-sun days since May.
I had already told Farmer Billy we needed to give up. Stop planting seeds because we were just wasting our time. Kelle’s brought seedlings over (they drowned the next day following a rain storm), I’ve planted bean seeds. She’s planted corn; all for naught. Yesterday, Billy tilled up the chicken lot. The raccoons got his chickens after a summer storm blew the door open in the middle of the night. Once they gained access they returned every night, despite reinforcing the pen, the coons systematically murdered all but seven of his chickens.
It has not been a good year for farming.
But yesterday, with a never-give-up farming spirit, Billy and I planted beans in the chicken lot. I told him, begged him really, to “lay a tarp over the dirt in case it storms tonight.”
“They’re not calling for much. Says if it rains it’ll just be a few drops.”
It rained an inch and a half last night my friends.
An inch and a half!
And with that, I have declared war on Mother Nature. I have pulled out what I call the lettuce grower. A cold frame I used this February that grew Botanical Interests lettuce that was so beautiful I didn’t want to cut them.
I’ve pulled up the tomatoes. (they have zero blooms anyway) and I erected the cold frame making tiny teepee structures for the cukes to climb upon. I replanted beans, believing that when the rains come (and they will come) the structure will keep the ground relatively dry. And because the sun may or may not shine, I’ve also snaked the Christmas Tree lights through the structure.
Yes, my back porch would make Granny Clampitt proud. Regardless of what it looks like, I’ll have some beans and fresh cucumbers or die trying. For newbie gardeners, be not distressed. This just isn’t a good year for growing in most of the South East.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at http://www.reneawinchester.com
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
If desired, staple top of planter to keep pages intact.
Fill planter with dirt. Each planter will use approximately half a cup of dirt.
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 www.reneawinchester.com
Follow Billy on Faceboook HERE
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It was just a blink ago, a short couple of weeks that Atlanta experienced several days of soil soaking rain; afterward, we basked beneath a cool breeze and tolerable temperatures. However this morning as June bugs fly across the lawn I sense a change deep in my bones.
A drought is coming.
I can feel it in the stillness of the air, hear it in the silence of the birdsong.
Heat. Oppressive heat has rolled into Atlanta and brought with it not a hint of rain.
Rain is the lifeblood for farmers such as Billy Albertson. With more and more “city folk” depending on his fresh locally grown produce, the garden this year was full of promise.
Today, with new beans developing and tomatoes just about to turn red, the growing season is in jeopardy.
“If we don’t get some rain by next week, all will be lost,” Billy told me this morning when he rang the phone at 7:15 am.
Farmers don’t take the summer off, and they certainly don’t allow the helpers to sleep in.
Most people would ask, “why doesn’t he just water the garden?” Those are the people who have never planted 250 tomato plants, people that do not understand that nothing, absolutely nothing compares to Heaven-sent rain drops.
Bless their hearts.
“I guess we could trickle some of that reclaimed water down the corn stalks,” Billy says more to himself than me. “That might help.”
He and I both know that it won’t. Once the Georgia clay starts cracking, only God can soothe the soil.
Billy doesn’t have that luxury; for you see, he doesn’t have air conditioning. Even though he is in the middle of the city, his water source is a well. If he used a hose to water vegetables, he wouldn’t have anything to drink. The water he uses on the garden comes from reclaimed rainwater, which is why the Pray for Rain request is a plea, a hand-on-knees cry to the One who makes the rain.
Please, please send us some rain.
Won’t you join me in asking for a few drops from heaven?
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. Learn more at www.reneawinchester.com
I dread cold weather. The moment the earth begins to turn away from the sun I begin longing for just one more day of unseasonably warm weather. Bulky sweaters, furry socks, and bone chilling cold leave me longing for the steamy days of summer. Even in “Hotlanta,” most of us can look back on last winter and shiver.
Reluctantly, I have planted my “winter greens” (lettuce, kale, spinach). However, I didn’t have the heart to leave the green pepper and tomato plants outside to suffer a frigid death. Nor could I rip them from the earth and toss them on the compost pile.
Yes, there are tomatoes, pepper plants and even a cucumber vine growing in my bathroom.
As the weatherman predicted frost, I rushed to Billy’s with a pair of scissors and cut every tomato from the vine. Leaving a large amount of “limb,” I placed the stalk into a glass jar filled with water. The stalks will eventually turn brown and look terrible, but the tomatoes will ripen at their own pace and still taste spectacular.
When cooler weather forces us to turn up the thermostat, I place a warm-steam humidifier in the greenhouse as a way of keeping the plants moist without over watering them, as I am prone to do.
While I realize that most of the plants will downsize, shedding their leaves during their winter rest, all of them will enjoy their new home. Come spring, I will transfer the pepper plants and the lone tomato directly into the soil. Both will get a spring trim which will encourage new growth and, hopefully, give me a few months head start on the growing season.
None of these plants will produce a bountiful harvest as they did during the summer, having them nearby reminds me that winter won’t last long.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author whose book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. She is currently teaching emerging author workshops across the Atlanta metro area in conjunction with her newest release: Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Visit her at http://adviceforauthors.wordpress.com
In Atlanta, many gardeners are beginning to see the first fruits of their labor. Last night I enjoyed fresh green beans with my dinner. Oh, they were divine! I thanked God while I was picking them, breaking them, and eating them.
Since little (or no) rain has fallen in several weeks, our house has entered water conservation mode.
The ”water bucket” has returned to the kitchen. This yellow eyesore, sits beside the sink and receives every drop of water that would otherwise be tossed, discarded….wasted. From leftover tea, to water captured during hand-washing, every drop is rescued and fed to hungry plants.
Noone in this house runs the water while brushing their teeth. We are careful stewards of every single drop.
We’re even carrying water to Billy’s. After first meeting Billy and recognizing that all farmer’s have an urgent need for water, I incorporated two 45 gallon rain barrels into my home. Since my heirloom tomatoes are living at Billy’s, every Monday and Wednesday when I visit, I load two five gallon bucketss of water into my trunk and carefully drive them to his house.
Water, is the most precious resource any farmer has.
There are many simple tricks everyone can do to conserve water. Low flow toilets are wonderful, but in my older home, I can still conserve water by placing a quart jar (like a pickle jar) in the holding tank. Each time the toilet is flush less water is used.
Applying mulch to thirsty plants is another wonderful way. And for the love of humanity, practice pratical common-sense thinking when watering the lawn. Unless one lives in Arizona no lawn under the sun requires watering every day. That’s just a bunch of hooey the lawn maintenance people have sold you.Check with the Cooperative Extension Agent in your area. They will confirm that lawns watered every day require MORE water than lawns that aren’t.
Because lawns that receive water every day never develop deep roots. Only thirsty grass plants dig deep into the soil for nutrients. Please, stop watering lawns every day. And don’t get me started on chemical run-off as a result of over-watering. Today, adjust the timing of watering to once a week, never….ever daily.
Alas, the children have awoken from their slumber. Remarkably, they have decided (in June no less) to hack out a garden space and plant more vegetables. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Fingers crossed. Until then, consider how you use the precious resource of water in your home.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Her book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life Love & Tomatoes has been nominated for a SIBA and the Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA).
She may be reached at www.reneawinchester.com
Visitors to this blog know that I only endorse products I personally believe in and have tried at my home. Such is the case with Botanical Interests ™ and GROW BEST liquid plant food. I can proudly announce that the Cherokee Purple tomato seeds sprouted in three days! Then, I began misting them with GROW BEST plant food. Below is a picture of the plants 14 days later. Six leaves in 14 days…unheard of. I will chart their progress throughout the season.
I was so pleased with GROW BEST that I contacted the owner, Bill Lucas, yesterday and asked if he would donate samples I could give to readers who buy copies of In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes during conferences and speaking engagements. He said Yes! He also volunteered to visit Billy’s ‘little strip of land’ in the summer and hand out a few samples.
This my friends is the power of buying local and establishing relationships with family owned small businesses. Both Botanical Interests ™ and GROW BEST liquid plant food offer a superior product. And, they aren’t too “corporate” to care about you, their customers. Seriously, check them both out online here. www.botanicalinterests.com and www.growbest.com
At this point I should probably explain that neither company has paid me to be their spokesperson. I just want to keep the record stick-straight. Not many of us have money to waste on products that don’t work. Unless there is a natural disaster, or Mother Nature smacks us around this summer, these products will work for you.
For those who live near Billy, I’ll post on my blog (and on the In The Garden With Billy Facebook page) when Mr. Lucas is going to be at the Billy’s farm. Those who are coming to any of my events in the future (in Georgia and North Carolina) will receive free samples of Botanical Interests ™Heirloom Tomato Seeds
and GROW BEST (while supplies last) when they purchase a copy of my book. Those who purchase copies of the book online receive only the free seeds (boo hiss on that pesky postal service shipping liquids red-tape).
If growing vegies isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Botanical Interests™ is also THE place for wonderful flower seeds and tools. As you know Billy and I like to add something different every year. Next year, my wish list includes this Botanical Interest uniquity.
Of course, GROW BEST is an all-purpose food that works on everything green. There is no need to purchase multiple varieties. This is truly a one-bottle does it all product.
Yes, I’m thinking about ALL gardeners, not just tow-mader lovers.
GROW BEST is available in Home Depot stores in North Georgia. (There is a store literally across the street from Billy’s house). South Georgia friends, please, ask for it. Stores are being added daily and GROW BEST is coming your way if you ask for it. The summer is a busy time in the Garden Center and employees might not be familiar with all the products. Don’t let them steer you to another brand they think is “just as good.” Ask for GROW BEST by name. If the store doesn’t carry it, they can order it for you. And of course, it is available through the company website.
One pint (priced at $ 7.97) makes 16 gallons! The sample bottle mixes to create one gallon of food for all the plants you love. AND, there are no blue/green thumb stains as with those other fertilizers.
For my out-of Georgia friends: I’m sorry that I cannot ship samples of GROW BEST to you. (pesky postal regulations). However, the free tomato seed contest is still in effect until the last Friday in May. Those new to this blog, comment on any posting and be automatically registered for FREE seeds. I’ve been known to thrown in Dill seeds also. One never knows quite what to expect from me.
My goal is to help everyone, both experienced and newbie, grow delicious vegetables.
Remember, keep those hands dirty, and, forward this link to friends. Time is running out on the giveaway!
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the widely popular book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com
It began with Dilly Beans. A canned concoction I was certain to dislike, until I tasted them.
It became an obsession. One bite and you’ll know what I mean. Each year, Billy and I vow to grow something “different.” Not in an excentric way, but something he hasn’t grown before. One bite of the Dilly Beans Nettie Mae Cooper made and we both knew this year’s “new crop” would be Dill.
I “carried” a plastic container of Dill seed I had purchased at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market (in Decatur GA) to Billy’s “little strip of land.” Reasoning that 66 cents was an investment my pocketbook could handle (compared to a couple of bucks for a dozen garden supply seeds) I began my experiment.
Would common seeds purchased in the spice aisle germinate?
Short answer: Oh boy, yes!
Visit this link to see how I planted the seeds. Billy comes in at the last with a wheelbarrow load of “organic” fertilizer. Which, by the way, I did not incorporate. Thank goodness !
Imagine my surprise when every single seed germinated….twice ! Seriously, this is enough Dill to cover Atlanta. I am excited. Dill is basically a weed. Now the challenge becomes to keep Billy from fertilizing it.
Here’s a video of what the Dill looked like 9 days after planting. File this under the category: Be careful what you wish for.
Remember: comment on this or any blog and be automatically registered to win a FREE pack of Heriloom Tomato seeds from Botanical Interests.(Learn how: HERE). I give them away every Friday until the end of May.
Until next time: Remember to keep those hands dirty (and the fertilizer away from the Dill).