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Kudzu, The Vine that Ate the South

Kudzu, The Vine that Ate the South

Today I want to share an excerpt from my book Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, a little peek at that bothersome vine, kudzu. We are obsessed with kudzu here in the South. Blogs like Dew on the Kudzu, celebrate Southern authors. The Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance , SIBA, blankets the South like kudzu, working hard to bring bookseller and author together for the good of literary community. kudzu 043

We write about kudzu, feed it to cattle, make furniture from it, and even turn these beautiful purple blooms into jelly. If one ignores what we know about the vine today, if one can imagine a time when blinding fields of cotton blanket the South, one can almost understand why Kudzu was welcomed. The blooms, the grape-like fragrance, the dark green leaves snaking round white columns providing shade from the summer sun. kudzu 009

Then, of course, there is the money folk were paid to plant kudzu on their property. Yes, before we knew better, the gov’mint paid farmers cold hard cash to plant kudzu; this was part of the appeal. Then came the reality. The mile-a-minute growth. The noxious weed category. The choking strangle-hold. Still, when Kudzu is in bloom, one must stop, smell, and remember….

From. Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches (Available everywhere books are sold).

Kudzu is like the crazy aunt every Southern family has. Unmanageable. Out of control. Something we’d like to ignore, but can’t. Today, covering more than 7 million acres of southeastern country- side, kudzu is called “the vine that ate the South.” And with good reason.

Hidden far away from annoying homeowner associations, my Atlanta home was the closest thing to a mountain cabin that we could find in the heart of downtown. In addition to ridiculously high property taxes, this serene setting came with the price of rope-like tendrils of kudzu spawned by Lucifer himself, intertwined with another horticultural annoyance from Hades, the wild grape.

kudzu 001As with most disastrous events, that particular day began innocently. My daughter and I were at Billy’s when I commented, “The kudzu and wild grapes are taking over my place.”

Ever helpful, Billy said, “I got just the thing you need.”

Since Billy’s place does not grow even the tiniest tendril of kudzu, I believed he would suggest a weed killer that was one drop more powerful than Roundup and a tad less traumatic than Ground Clear.

“Oh, yeah,” he said with a nod toward the goat pasture, “I’ve got just the thing. I’ll let you borrow old Hornless. He’ll knock back your problem in a day, maybe two.”

Hornless was a compact, low-to-the-ground creature with a dirty blond mane and a strong, square chin. He’d arrived at the Albertson farm like many other animals; someone could no longer care for him.

“Folk ’round here use my place as a dumping ground for their animals,” Billy said with a smile.

It seems that city folk romanticize about having a slice of country, only to face the reality that farm animals, even those categorized as pets, come with tremendous responsibility. A lesson I soon learned. Gazing upon Hornless the goat while he munched contently in the pasture, I realized that he had to be the solution to my kudzu problem. He alone could resolve the issue in an economical manner without poisoning the environment, or costing me a fortune. 

Find out more about Hornless by visiting me in Columbia, SC this weekend at the #SCbookfestival where kudzu will make an appearance during the literary hootenanny. Or, purchasing a copy of Farming at your local bookstore.

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 her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  BOOK HER to speak to your garden club, book club, or church function, by mailing her here, or visiting her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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A Hootenanny at The South Carolina Book Festival

20150513_101003The author’s journey is one filled with emotional highs and lows. Today I write about a high, a giddy-kind of euphoria I have dreamed about for years.

I have been invited to THE South Carolina Book Festival. (May 16 and 17 in Columbia South Carolina). Not only have I been invited, I am sitting on a panel, and participating in what is perhaps the best event during my book tour, a Literary Hootenanny. 

If you must ask for the definition of Hootenanny, all I can say is Bless your heart. 

This little presentation features the literary genius of Marlin Barton, Beth Ann Fennelly,Tom Franklin, Jeremy Hawkins, Harrison Scott Key, Jonathan Odell, Shari Smith, Karen White and little ole me.

Butterflies have taken up residency in my tummy, but since my people hail from South Carolina, I think I’m going to do just fine. However, if you are in the area, please stop in to this FREE event.  On Saturday, May 16, I will read one of my favorite passages from Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. If your schedule is too busy on Saturday, please drop by the Farm to Table panel at 2:50 pm on Sunday May 17.

A link to the schedule is here.

Also, I ask you to tell a friend about my books. I have been nominated for the Georgia Author of the year, and Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches will be featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on May 21st along with an article about Farmer Billy.

This publicity pales when compared to a personal recommendation from you, the reader. Many people “see” my book on the shelves, but some won’t take a risk on an author with whom they aren’t familiar. If you liked my books, please tell a friend. I have a few copies available that can be purchased through my website. Those are signed by both me, and Farmer Billy. Of course, Farming is traditionally published and all bookstores can order copies. However, please know that if you order a used copy from Amazon, I do not receive royalties, all proceeds go to the seller. Amazon readers can order here.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna SandwichesMountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

Stop the car !

Stop the car !

Subscribers to my blog know I am a Stop The Car kind of gal.

I yelled that phrase while my husband and I were dating (to pick flowers).

I yell that phrase when I’m driving: (to rescue flowers, shrubs, and anything else heavy equipment threatens to destroy)

And I certainly yell Stop The Car when I see a turtle trying to cross a busy road at 4:30 in the afternoon when the temperature is 88 degrees.

Lord, why is it eighty eight degrees in the middle of May? 

Yesterday, I slammed on the brakes, did a quick u-turn and snatched a turtle from a certain death.20150512_160643 20150512_160700

I’m pretty sure no one else noticed, or cared about the turtle . . . a creature who – based on size alone – was here long before any of the subdivisions around here. Most people are too busy talking and driving to notice much of anything these days.

I placed it on the safe-side of the road and walked away but something whispered it’s not safe.

It’s not safe: from the traffic.

Not protected from pesticides.

Not long for this world if left to fend for itself in its present location.

I mean, there was a reason why the turtle was crossing the road in the middle the day, which is why I turned around, bent down and said, “I’m taking you home with me.”

Home.

Where there are trees by the hundreds.

Where the lawn is pesticide free.

Where the turtle can live out the rest of its life peacefully.

I may never see the turtle again, but there is comfort in knowing that my home is a safe place. For trees, rescued flowers and turtles.

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Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of 

Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. 

A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

On Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day let us remember those who birthed us, but let us not stop there.airis

Let us recognize that many women yearn to become a mother, but can not; let us remember the women who prayed for a miracle, for a child that did not come.

Let us pray for the women who are mother’s but secretly wish they were not; for those who are overwhelmed, scared, stressed and feel alone even though they are surrounded by others.

Let us not forget the fragile, delicate women who are tasked with raising the children of the future.

On Mother’s Day let us remember the motherless children, whether they be age 9 or 90; those who would give anything they owned for just ten seconds with their mother.

Let us comfort those who have lost what we have not. Let us comfort those who will lose a loved one we have not (yet) lost; for everyone will loose their mother and understand the sorrow of death.

Let us remember the children who prayed for the kind of mother they needed, a love-filled one instead of one filled with anger, hate, and wrath. Let us remember the children placed in harm’s way who did not ask for, nor will they ever receive, a loving mother who protects them.

Let us not forget the Mother’s who will keep a phone close at hand praying that this year, yes, this year, their prodigal, their estranged, their imprisoned child will call. Let us recognize that there will be thousands of Mother’s who will not hear from their child, not today or any day; and that this is through no fault of their own, not for lack of love, bad parenting, or any other societal “fault” we tend to heap upon the weary shoulders of women.

Let us remember that there are many women who will receive nothing for Mother’s day: not a card, letter or flower.

Let us remember that children, once grown, make their own choices and those choices continually pierce the heart of women.

Let us remember the Mother’s who outlived their children, for their hearts are perhaps the heaviest.

Let us give women grace, and more grace because we are already our own worse enemy.

Let us start a Women’s Day movement, because the heart of a woman is a fierce, yet delicate thing.

Let us purpose to be kind to the women we meet today, for each of us belong to this tribe we call “Mother,” and each of us bear our own battle scars, whether the wounds be at the hands of our own mother, our children, or ourselves.

Let us love; even when we feel like crying. Odds are the person you meet feels like crying too. Odds are they feel so broken that they may shatter at any moment.

Let us bind together the brokenness with loves and hugs; because that is what mother’s do.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

Sprouting Mr Coleman’s Sticks

Roswell, Georgia was once a textile town. A farming town. A town where cattle grazed, hens scratched, and cotton was grown, picked, ginned and sewn into every imaginable article of clothing.

It was a small town.

A town where you went to church with your neighbor. You helped your neighbor when his ox got in the ditch; and, you honored your parents by holding onto their property with everything you had.

Not too long ago folk put down roots, built a home with their bare hands, and stayed put until Jesus called them home.

Which brings me to Mr. Coleman.

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

Chicken Man and Friends: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Albertson. Mr. Coleman carried his writing with him; always.

My Coleman has been with Jesus for several years. He passed suddenly as do many of my friends, or so it seems. My point of talking about him today is to celebrate his gift of growing, and writing. That boy (who was twice my current age); could make a stick sprout leaves; and, he was quite the poet.

Really, he was.

We have a tendency to judge older folk, toss them aside like discarded coffee cans. But Mr. Coleman  had stacks and stacks, boxes and boxes of “writing’.” And I mean profound writing. God-given writing, that I would love to have just a single sheet.Truly, if I owned one sheet, I would frame it and hang it on the wall.

The perimeter of his home was lined with stick-laden coffee cans. He’d pluck a hydrangea, poke it in a coffee can full of dirt, them sit the can on the banister and repeat the process until half the house looked like a recycling center.

Some folk were bothered by his junk.

I was only troubled by the snakes. Lawd a mercy.

If you’ve read my first book, In the Garden with Billy, you know a bit about Mr. Coleman, but you don’t know that I was in possession of something priceless, a stick- in – a can. A fig tree to be exact. No one could sprout a tree like Mr. Coleman. I’m telling ya it was nothing short of miraculous, which is why I had to give the tree away.

This Facebook  friend who – at the time – didn’t really know me from Adam’s housecat, toted her two littles to my book launch for Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She waited in line under a sweltering sun and then after purchasing a copy of my book, she asked permission to sniff Mr. Billy’s fig tree. She wanted the fragrance to transport her back just a bit, to a time when her people were still with her, when life wasn’t so sorrow-filled.

Just writing this makes me tear up.

Mr. Coleman would sniff trees, and while I’ve never seen him hug a tree I am confident that he did; because a friend once told me that Mr. Coleman would stand in his front yard and proclaim, “Look at this beautiful day. Just look at the day the Lord has made for us!”

Yes, Mr. Coleman sniffed trees, and he loved them so much he shared them with others.  fig

My Appalachian folk have raised me to believe that the more you have, the more you give. Since I have Mr. Coleman’s memories tucked in my heart, my precious friend needed Mr. Coleman’s tree nestled up against her house. She needed to sniff the tree. She needed a bit of Mr. Coleman, a little bit of goodness, a little bit of the old days whose roots began in a rusty coffee can.

What little bit of goodness do you have to share? Plant the gift of friendship in someone’s heart today.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

On the day you were born

On the day you were born

On the day you were born nothing went according to my plan.

I had read What to Expect When You are Expecting.

I had dog-eared the pages.

I was prepared.

Ready.

Let’s do this. Let’s gather together and welcome my daughter into this world.

My brother-whom you definitely would want by your side in any emergency situation-was by mine, as was my mother, and my dad until things got bad.

And they did, get bad.

We were known as the miracle birth, because we were both so close to death. I remember the nurse standing on a stool squeezing IV fluid into me . . . fast.

I was cold, so very cold.

I remember the doctor, shouting, “Bring me the baby! She needs to see her daughter!”

He was not my original OBGYN, but a stranger, because we needed-or so it seemed- every available doctor to bring you into this world.

Only you could not come to me; you too were in trouble.

I remember my mother, going from my bed where they were assisting me, to where they were working on you.

Back

Forth

Back

It was quiet. Very quiet.

There was no baby crying from a slapped bottom, not like you see in the movies. Just two teams of hospital staff. One working on you, the other on me with my mother torn between her daughter and her grand daughter.

I remember tears. Not my own, but tears splashed on the lenses of mother’s glasses.

Helpless tears of a Mother who was watching two souls quickly fade.

And aren’t they all helpless tears?

I have often reflected on this separation between us, of a mother and her child which occurred at birth. And I have tried to swim across the distance. I could not reach you then and now that you are eighteen I know it will be a while before I can reach you in the future. And today, I cry.

I cry because I miss my mother.

I cry because you miss your grandmother.

I cry because I wish we had a few more months so she could see you reach this milestone age, graduate high school, go to college. I cry because I have failed on so many levels, all while trying to do my very best. The emotion is uncontrollable, perhaps eighteen years worth of pent-up worry, concern, prayers, fear, bundled with this responsibility called Motherhood is cascading down my face on this the eighteenth anniversary of the day you were born.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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Dear Readers, Help Me Identify These Plants

It only took a couple warm days to awaken the wildflowers. I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to wildflowers, which is why I am asking y’all to help me identify some flowers just-now emerging from a long winter’s nap. Here are the images:

Photo one:

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Photo Number One

Next up: This one looks familiar, but . . . well, I am not sure.

Plant #2: closeup

Plant #2:

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Plant #2: Closeup

Photo Three: I know this one, it's "Turkey Mustard," tastes like horseradish. Yummy.

Photo Three: I know this one, it’s “Turkey Mustard,” tastes like horseradish. Yummy.

I am confident with image number three. This little precious is a favorite: Dentaria diphylla or, Toothwort is a member of the mustard family. Mamaw Lena calls it “Turkey Mustard,” wonder why?

Photo Four: I think it’s Wintergreen. What do you think?

Photo 4: I'm pretty sure this is Chimaphila maculata: Striped Wintergreen

Photo 4: I’m pretty sure this is Chimaphila maculata: Striped Wintergreen

Photo Five: Darling friends, I haven’t a clue. It’s not a fern. What say ye?

What do my wildflower-loving friends say?

Photo Five: ??

Photo Six: I have looked at this image several times. At first blush I thought it was the same plant as featured in the first photo. Now I am not so certain. Do you know any wildflower experts? What do they think?

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Photo Six:

Photo Seven: I’m pretty sure this is a Buckeye. If so, I am over the moon as Buckeyes are known to be “lucky.”  But alas, I am working on my second case of poison ivy, so this may be poison sumac. Because I wasn’t 100% certain I gave this plant a wide berth.

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Photo Seven: Buckeye? I think so.

Another mystery plant.

Photo 8: ??

Photo Eight:  I was meandering along and noticed this plant. Yet another that leaves me curious.

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Number Nine: Bluets, the darling of spring

Photo Nine: I will leave you with the spring beauty known as Bluets (also called innocence). What a delight to see these lovely faces. I have missed them.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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