Two must-make, must-eat delicious tomato recipes

Two excellent recipes for the tomato-lovers who are in the middle of their summertime harvest. gravy

Both submissions were accepted by Grit Magazine to appear on their website.

The recipe for Summertime Sauce can be found here


the recipe for Italian Gravy (what we call Spaghetti Sauce with meat) can be found here.

Back to the garden, it’s pickin’ time.

Y’all try these recipes and let me know what you think.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of several e-book collections and three traditionally-published non-fiction books including her latest:Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches from Mercer University Press. Find more recipes such as this one in her book. She is passionate about heritage seeds and saving daffodils. When she isn’t digging in the dirt she is hoarding canning jars and reading good books. She also posts on her blog, Bloggin’ Billy’s. Find her also at Renea Winchester.


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What #BeTheChange Really Means

What #BeTheChange Really Means

During the past year-heck, longer than that-before my mother died, I have felt like I have been standing in quicksand, eager to free myself, to break free, but unable to do so. I bet many of you feel the same way.

There is too much . . . just too much going on in our lives, and in this world, for us to process.

Too much hatred

Too much anger

Too much bitterness

Too much fear

Too much work

Too much strife

Too much debt

Too much killing.

And there is too little:







And hope.

Many readers know that I do not have television. I am happy about this, ecstatic actually. Yes I am on Facebook, too much, but I do not watch videos of beatings, killings, or terrorists slaughtering innocents.  We are commanded to guard our heart, and violent images deposited into my heart quickly harms my soul. Be careful little eyes what you see, because once seen we cannot un-see.

Friends, I do not have the answer to why this is happening, but I do know this. . .  Jesus is coming, and soon. I am helpless to change any of the violence and I know myself well enough to realize that if I had television I would plug in and watch, helpless, and pretty soon negativity, bitterness and hopelessness would creep into my soul.

This I will not allow.

I do not watch, nor do I share images or video links of violence on Facebook, nor do I tweet popular hashtags (although I will use them in this blog post for emphasis).


Social media is not activism.

Unless you are posting live as you march through the streets of Atlanta for change, social media is the safe (and lazy) way most folk use to puke their opinion, then sit back and feel better while friends comment, or agree by pressing the word LIKE.



We have become a lackadaisical – yet fearful- group of souls, and once afraid we withdraw when what we really should do is release our fear and go forth bravely.

Yes. Bravely. Unplug and do something.

But I changed my Facebook photo to the color of the French flag, you say.


Not to be harsh but no one cares.


Be The Change means do something.





Something. . .  anything other than Like another post.

No, I don’t expect you to stop terrorists, but I do expect you to stop posting on Facebook all day. I do expect you to get up out of your chair and give.


Use words if necessary.


Use money if necessary.

Hundreds of small businesses are struggling. Support them. #BuyLocal shouldn’t be just another hashtag slogan. Buy Local falls into the Love Thy Neighbor category. Don’t feel sorry when a small business in your community closes if you have done nothing to help them keep the doors open!

This includes authors and artists who are barely getting by.


Recently I saw an author’s selfie. She was standing in a room of empty chairs. No one had attended her reading (this happens often, has happened to me).

She could have lied. She could have said, “Great event today.”

But she was honest.

She was real. She posted a photo of the empty room and said, “No one came.”

She displayed her fear to us and in doing so she claimed dominion over it. Afterward many commented they had purchased her books. Buy the book of a #lesserknownartist, read it, and then give it away.


Children are hungry. Summer is a time when many children do not receive adequate nourishment. Find a church making lunches during Bible school activities. Buy a loaf of bread, or better yet, volunteer to pack lunches. School supplies are also needed. Seek out the poorest school near you and buy supplies.


Our elderly are in crisis. If you are concerned about the future, imagine how the elderly feel. They are scared . . . petrified.

Open your eyes.

See them.

Befriend them.

Love them.

Let them teach you how to love (they are experts).

Go to any Kroger or other grocery store on Wednesday, which is usually senior citizen’s day. Watch. Look. Help. The need is great and you, yes you, are powerful.

You ARE The Hope someone has been praying for. Don’t you realize that?


Buy gift cards.

Keep them in your wallet.

Give them away.


To the cashier.

To the waitress.

To anyone you meet over the age of 60.

This is what it means to BeTheChange. You may think a ten dollar gift card won’t make a difference, but I promise you it will.


Take your children. Make this an adventure. Make it a game. “Let’s see who we can help today.”

You can do this. I believe in you.

I believe in us.

Let’s teach our children to be givers.


Let’s face it, you know someone who is struggling . . . we all do.

Someone facing job loss.


Someone with a broken family.

You know where they live. Yes, you.

Step outside of your personal circumstance. Send them a card for Pete’s sake. Include a gift card. Order a pizza delivered to their house (how easy is that?). Send flowers. Hide surprises in their mailbox. Cut their grass while they are at work or at the doctor then slip on back home and act surprised when they tell you about it.


This week I send you out on a mission. For this mission you need two things: Twenty Dollars and courage. That is my challenge. Take twenty dollars and give it away. Of course you can split it into two tens and double the blessings, of course you can give more if your budget allows. Today, after reading this blog, unplug from the fear and hatemongers and the incessant negative noise. Go forth and be a blessing. Then later, mosey on back and share your story. Inspire others. You have shared the bad news in the world on Facebook and Twitter, go now share something good. Share this post. Share your story. I have a sneaking suspicion that during the process of being a blessing it is you who will also be blessed.

Let us boldly fight fear with love. Because as the hashtag says, #LoveWins. Love always wins.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of three non-fiction books and a collection of short stories. You can order, or download her work here.



Posted by on July 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


Sowing Seeds and Literacy

I can feel my temperature rising, like lava bubbling up from within, but – thus far– I remain victorious in this battle to finish my winter duties. My winter duties have been intense: purging, purging, and after that, more purging. However, spring fever has set in with my dad and when he drops subtle hints such as, “where are my seeds?” my duties take a backseat.

The Winchester Family Farm believes in hoarding, I mean collecting, seeds. As shown in this picture, even when cancer was devouring my mother’s strength, she invested time and energy into saving seeds from the garden. Momma even jotted down a note about the longevity of the tomatoes. Bless her..seeds

But 2016 is a new year, another motherless year, one in which Dad and I are broadening our horizons. This year we will order, as usual, from Botanical Interest Seeds, but we are also ordering from Sow True Seed.

Planting News:

This year Sow True Seed has pledged 25% of all sales to my little hometown library in Bryson City, North Carolina. If you’ve enjoyed a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, you have been in my hometown. And if you enjoyed your stay in my little hometown I kindly ask you to consider purchasing a package or two of seeds, be they tomato, cucumber, or sunflowers. You can plant them in your own garden or donate them back to the library (or send them to me and I’ll deliver them). I can’t think of a better way to spread a little love and simultaneously plant the seed of literacy.
Here’s how it works. Visit Sow True Seed’s website, and when ordering use the code MBL2016 (for Marianna Black Library). You must use the code.Remember last year when I sold daffodils to help a needy family? This is the same concept, only this time we’re buying books and building a library. And since I believe in my readers and their generosity, I challenge everyone reading this to purchase at least two packets of seeds. Every bit counts.

Writing News:
This fall I released Walking in the Rain: A Short Story about a Sacred Place. For those who have been waiting for me to write about my home-town mountains, this short story takes you back to a place my people once called home. Long before the book Bryson City Tales and Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders, my family called the Great Smoky Mountains home. When this world starts getting me down I retreat to this place, to an area locals would call the “way back,” and then I sit, and I wait, and I allow myself to be absolutely still.
If you haven’t been absolutely still in a while I highly recommend you take a trip to the “way back.” If a road trip isn’t possible, please consider reading Walking in the Rain.
For those who have asked, will Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches be released as an e-book? I regret that Mercer University Press still says no. They do not typically convert non-fiction books into electronic format. No worries, Farmer Billy still has copies on Hardscrabble Road, and I have about eight copies at home. Of course, all bookstores can still order copies for you, and readers can contact Mercer University Press directly to order. All of my other work is available electronically.

What’s Next?
That’s an easy question. I have my eyes on a large patch of daffodils that are directly in the path of an evil dozer. I’ll be digging if you need me. I can feel the fever about to bubble over. After all, a gardener must do what a gardener does and that’s get those hands dirty.

Those who wish to contribute directly to the library can donate to:

Campaign Contributions

Gifts to furnish the new library (FF&E) go to:

Marianna Black Library Fund
Attn: Ms. Deb Lawley
33 Fryemont Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
Make check payable to : Fontana Regional Library

Gifts for construction go to:

Community Services of Swain County
PO Box 812
Bryson City, NC 28713
Make check payable to: Swain County Library Capital Fund

With sincere fondness and appreciation,

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is passionate about heritage seeds, and saving daffodils. When she isn’t digging in the dirt she is hoarding canning jars and reading good books. 


Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


A Broken Promise

A Broken Promise

I broke a promise today.

A big one, to the most important in the whole wide world.

While we live in an age where words have little value and promises are meant to be broken, I pride myself in being a woman of my word. I mean what I say and say what I mean. I believe in truth and honesty, because without both any relationship is fragile and easily broken. My word is my bond and you can take it to the bank, unless . . .

I should probably pick up where I left off a while ago. Subscribers to my blog may have missed my posts (maybe not). I haven’t written much, or updated readers and that is by design. I don’t really know what is going on with my life right now other than I am in a season of change and loneliness.  However, all is not lost, I have a bit of good news.

Readers who purchased my latest release, Walking in the Rain had no way of knowing they were helping me do something I’ve been wanting to do for two decades, take classes to finish my degree. They also were helping a literacy program in Georgia. If you haven’t purchased the short story you may download it here, even if you do not own a Kindle.

It’s not enough that I’m taking two classes, I also work full-time. Every day I get home at 5:45 wolf down food, study, read, highlight in the expensive book, and work on an essay. Everything must be done before the Sunday midnight deadline when all assignments and tests are due. I’m about seven weeks into this routine and so far so good. If you have traveled the route of an adult learned you know the challenges I face. You also know the reward of looking at a grade that you, and you alone, earned.

To everyone who helped me earn enough money to purchase those ridiculously expensive textbooks and pay for classes, I thank you, I am working very hard. In fact, my daughter comes into my room at eleven every night and makes me go to bed.

Sometimes I obey. . .

Now back to the broken promise.

During the last snap of winter a tree fell on the house. Structurally there was no damage, but the mess is, well let’s just say it’s a disaster. We knew the trees (plural) near the house needed to be taken down but there was little time and even less money, and yes, the other trees are still there. Dad offered to do the work, but at seventy-one-years old I really don’t want him dragging around a chain saw unless absolutely necessary.

When a tree falls on your house, absolutely necessary, happens.

I am left with a huge amount of cleanup which yesterday I tackled. With my assignments out of the way, at eight o clock yesterday morning I used mom’s electric chainsaw to cut things into manageable pieces then begin piling for the brush pile. By eleven in the morning I was lonely. I don’t mind the work, but I do mind being holed up with only Kit-Tay, our orange feral cat, for company.  I called dad and asked if he would come keep me company. We lit the brush pile at one and he left at four in the evening.My muscles were cramping and my neck injury was really hurting.  When Dad left he asked, “Do you want me to come tomorrow so we can finish this up?”

“No,” I answered. “I really need to do a better job of keeping the Sabbath holy. I want to start making myself rest on Sunday.”

This morning, however, found me at the brush pile, poking dry twigs into the still-glowing embers.

“I just need to work a little bit,” I said to God. “Just a couple hours then I’ll rest. Today is the perfect day to knock this out before the spring winds kick up.”

It is not lost on me that I expect God to keep his promises. I pray scripture to Him, quoting His words (like He could forget). I pray expecting Him to keep His word, which he does . . . always.

God never breaks His promises. Promise-breaking is my job.

As the twigs lit and flames began to rise God reminded me of my words yesterday. He reminded me of my promise but again I said, “Just a couple hours then I’ll rest.”

Then the clouds thickened and rain began to fall.

Did I stop? Did I say, “I know God, I know. I’ll stop now.”

Nope. I broke more twigs and fed the fire so it would grow hotter and burn faster. I willfully, purposely broke a promise to God, which is the same as lying. I reasoned that because of the high winds there were so many limbs I needed to pick them up and burn them . . . now.

I reasoned that I wasn’t really that sore from yesterday, so a little work wouldn’t hurt.

I reasoned that I am so stinking busy during the week that I only have time right now.

I reasoned that next weekend I’ll be at a book event and I won’t have time.

I reasoned, a lot.

But mainly what I did was lie. I lied to God, the one who created the universe (and little ole me). I expect Him to keep His word, and answer my prayer, but I can’t be trusted to do the same.

Shame on me.

I accept responsibility of my actions. I regret them, and sadly, I will probably have to go around this mountain again because I am so stinking busy, and hurried, and stressed and I want to get this mess cleaned up before spring comes and I am really busy . . . but God never called me to be busy did He?

God calls us to be set apart from the rest of the busy world, and He commands us to rest.

Let’s hope I can spend the rest of the day doing just that. I hope you can as well.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author, and serves on the Georgia Writers Association Board. Her latest work, Walking in the Rain, debuted on Amazon in the top ten nature essays. Learn more about her here.



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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Death of Mr. Doodle


My daughter found him early Friday morning. “Momma, it’s Mr. Doodle,” she said breathlessly into the phone, not waiting for me to even utter the word, “hello.”

She was sobbing when she said, “he’s dead.”

Before you can understand the emotion, you must first understand the connection. Mr. and Mrs. Doodle were the last chickens my mother raised. We have carried them in our shirts, allowed them to roost on our shoulders, and finally, when they got too big and too heavy to do either, tucked them in the crook of our arms like a football.

The Doodles are family.

They are family because they communicate their desires, and because they give love equivalent to any other pet.

Mr. Doodle was Jamie’s favorite. If he was ranging free, as he often was, he would run-wings outstretched-all while sweet talking her into giving him another treat.

She always obliged.

Mr. Doodle was Mr. Personality, bobbing his head and sweet talking anyone who slowed down long enough for him to catch up. He walked with a limp, the result of being bullied by the other rooster, which is how we came to have them both. Winchesters do not tolerate bullying. Not by humans, or poultry.

Comparatively, Mrs. Doodle isn’t all that charming. While she is a Rhode Island Red, a breed known for being affectionate and also efficient egg layers, somehow she received a heaping does of not-so-nice. She is hard to catch. Hard to love. Hard to anything with. Only Mr. Doodle could keep her in line.


Their relationship was rocky. Often I’d pull into the driveway to find Mr. Doodle pacing with a worrisome stride to his step. He explained, in the best manner possible, that they were going through a rough patch. I could hear Mrs. Doodle down the hill, still in the pen, fussing. Oh mercy, can that hen fuss. I’d look at Mr. Doodle, he’d look at me and I’d say, “Ok, let me go get some feed, maybe she’ll let you back in the house.”

And so we would walk, down the hill where Mrs. Doodle would fluff her feathers like she was fixin’ to flog the feathers off the boy. Instead, she’d rush beside him and eat scattered corn. She is a gifted double-yolk layer and every other day we have the pleasure of collecting a treasure. However, she is so vocal during the laying process that Mr. Doodle would stand outside the nest pacing like an expectant father. Mrs. Doodle let us know when the process was particularly painful. I could hear her from the front porch and I watched him run to the edge of the pen and stand in the corner.

He was one smart rooster.

They have worked on their relationship. One recent afternoon I found Mrs. Doodle standing in the driveway and a panicked Mr. Doodle alone in the pen crowing like the second coming. Yes, they argued a lot. But they stayed together. I often let them out when I was going to tend the garden. While most Roosters stand guard from a distance and watch their hens, Mr. Doodle never left her side. They grazed in the yard, wing to wing, always touching . . .  always.

At night he laid down first and she laid on top of him, winding her neck around his. They didn’t roost like other chickens. Despite my attempts to teach them to get off the ground and onto a perch, each night they scratched out a place in the hay and curled up in the Igloo doghouse.

That was how my daughter found them: Mr. Doodle dead, Mrs. Doodle lying on top of him, refusing to leave his side. No blood, no loose feathers, just Mr. Doodle, dead.

While many may mock our mourning of Mr. Doodle, those who have loved chickens understand. Perhaps they can relate when I write that the Missus has since suffered some sort of emotional break. Yesterday she refused to leave the Igloo. She cried . . . not cackled, or clucked, cried all day until my heart couldn’t bear it any longer, until I wrapped her in a towel and brought her inside.

And so we sat, on the couch. Her crying, me petting.

Her crying, me saying, “I know. Hon, I know.”

Because I do know.

The day before I had attended a Hospice Remembrance Service, had hung an ornament honoring my mother. I was going to write about that, but Mr. Doodle passed and Mrs. Doodle’s pain is real.

I held the hen until she nodded off. She’d grind her beak and I marveled at the similarity between humans grinding their teeth from stress and poultry grinding their beaks.

Suddenly, she would wake and begin to cry.

I would pet her again, “I know baby. I know.”

Eventually she settled down to the point where I placed her in the bathroom. Morning came and with it not much improvement. I carried her to the chicken house where she immediately entered the Igloo, checked every inch of it, and again began to cry. Occasionally, her head popped out of the opening, but not far. When she did leave the Igloo she flew out, puffed up her wings, flapped them like she could crow, and then flew back inside the Igloo. This afternoon I discovered piles of feathers she has pulled out. She hasn’t eaten much either. I finally coaxed her to eat a few kernels of corn from my hand.

I am worried.

I have said numerous times that grief wears no watch, that the process of mourning isn’t something that can be rushed, it must be endured, felt, processed over time, even for poultry.

Here’s hoping that Mrs. Doodle greets me with a cheerful cluck tomorrow because her sorrow is breaking my already fragile heart.

As always, I am interested in your stories. Feel free to comment. Thank you for reading. Please consider downloading my latest short story, Walking in the Rain, which is debuted last week at number one in Nature Essays.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of: Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches (Mercer University Press, 2014. Print only-sadly, no e-book version); In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes (Little Creek Books, 2008) (e-book and print); and Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half Truths from Appalachia (Make Your Mark Publishing) (electronic version only).

Feel free to subscribe to her blog here.





Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


My wish for you . . . Peace

Dear Readers,

We enter this Holiday Season living in a world full of turmoil. Many are stressed, worried, and at wit’s end. Some may long to run away, far, far away where no one could ever find them. To a place where cellphone coverage can’t reach, a place where first-world-troubles melt away.

Do you ever feel like running away?

I know I do.

And I have.

I have a special place that I visit from time to time, my people’s place. A place that once sustained vibrant communities, where laughter danced among the tree limbs as children played in the forest. A place where folk felt safe and loved.20151004_100320

This was before the terror, before the anger, before the fear . . . before everything.

Come with me, walk with me on a rainy day to a special place.

Leave your burdens.

Today, I invite you to read my latest release: Walking in the Rain: A Short Story about a Secret Place which is available exclusively through Amazon. No Kindle is required to read the story; and, you can email Walking in the Rain as a Holiday gift. For those who are too busy to mail cards, all you need is the email address of friends and family, and you can purchase my story as a gift for $2.99.

If you’re ready for a little old-fashioned Christmas story, read Farmer Billy Albertson’s Hardscrabble Christmas, an e-story about Christmas back when he was a boy.

As always, I send you my best wishes for peace and happiness. Today, and always.

Renea Winchester


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One Year Ago

One year ago, the morning began as any other: alarm sounding, daughter getting ready for school, morning duties.

Then the text from my brother: Mother is in the hospital.

She shouldn’t have been in the hospital. I had just left her. Dirty clothes piled beside the machine were a testament of my late-night return to Georgia from North Carolina.

Besides, Hospice was under strict orders to contact me first if something happened, because I had a 4 hour drive to get to her. They hadn’t called.

After speaking to the hospice nurse I determined it was drop and go time. I placed my daughter in the car, fake smile pasted to my face, and took her to school. Then I hit the emergency flashers and drove as fast as humanly possible -never at a safe speed- with one hand on my lights, blinking them at anyone ahead of me. I was thankful  for my fast car, having no way of knowing that two weeks later an impatient driver would hit me, total the car, and alter my life-path.

We never know our future: remember that because it is important.

The nurse called while I was en route: “We’re upping her oxygen, hoping to hold her until you get here.”

“Don’t.” I pleaded. “She’s ready to go. Please, please don’t hold her here.”

They didn’t listen.

Mother wasn’t conscious when I arrived. But she heard me when I said, “Momma, Jesus picked a beautiful day to come get you.”

Those were my first words to her.

She heard everything that was said: remember that because it is important.

Patients hear everything said over their bed. Everything.

And so I stood, for hours begging (silently) for Jesus to come take my mother. When I asked the nurse what happened, their response was, “she spiked a temperature.”

Mother never regained consciousness but she was very much aware of who was in the room. I know this because she waited until my brother left the room to draw her last breath. My mother: protective of her son until the last breath. It is the firstborn’s duty to watch their mother suffer.

She was also listening when I bent low so only she could hear me and uttered the most painful words I have ever spoken, “It’s ok to go. . . just let go.”

It was not ok for her to go, not really; but when it is a matter of death, a daughter must lie.

I will not share how difficult it is to watch someone die, to hear someone die, to be with someone who is in the laborious and lengthy process of dying and have that memory flash in your mind a million times over; I will however share my brother’s wisdom: Everyone will be here one day.


And now a year has passed.

Those will calloused hearts, or those who are lucky that death hasn’t taken a loved one, or are tone-deaf to death rattles, believe that one year is a long time. Listen to me when I tell you that for a daughter who never had the relationship she needed one day is a blink.

A blink.

Death and sorrow both wear no watch.

One year is but a blink.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna SandwichesMountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  Visit her website at


Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Uncategorized