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


A Smart Beginning

August is the season of new beginnings. Our Littles leave the nest, entering elementary or high school. In some cases our Littles leave for “Super Big School” (college), after parents have exhausted years of nurturing their fledglings. Such was the case in our home this August.

For the record, I am not a helicopter parent. Helicopter parents are those who hover above their Littles making sure projects are completed,  even if said projects are completed (or done entirely) by the parent, not the child. You can spot a helicopter parent in science class. They are moms and dads who arrive in school with a ginormous volcano equipped with laser lights and lava that spews to the ceiling.

News flash: no child can complete this type of task at age seven. I think the parents should receive a zero, but I digress.

I live in an area where helicopter parenting is so common we need an air traffic controller. Parents are stressed you see. In Georgia, the HOPE Scholarship dangles a “Free Tuition” carrot for students who complete- and score with high numbers- AP rigor classes. In theory, if you are “smart enough” (or test well without having a nervous breakdown) then college is free.

Free college opens the door to expensive cars when one turns sixteen and European vacations during spring break. Why save for college when it will be free? Except HOPE changes the requirements, often. As my daughter began her high school year HOPE increased the required AP rigor classes to two and the numbers continue to increase depending on graduating year. Since my daughter didn’t have enough rigor classes. She BEGGED me to let her take AP classes to qualify for HOPE, but I refused.

Yes. Refused.

Helicopter parents be warned, if your Little is in the 8th or 9th grade, start thinking about college and AP classes now, or, open your mind to my daughter’s decision when it comes to higher learning.

Having volunteered in the College and Career Ready room at high school, I’d seen the worried look on the faces of mothers. I took mental notes as they discussed their tutoring investment so Little Johnny and Jane could pass said rigor classes. I also noted the number of times their Littles had taken the SAT in order to score high enough to get into the college their Little wanted to attend (which by the way is very often the Alma Mater of one of the parents, and out- of- state, AND ridiculously priced).

I also paid attention to the social-class war and how these parents looked down their noses at students who came in wanting to attend colleges other than UGA, Auburn, or Alabama. I particularly noted how many students take six or seven years to complete their “4-year degree.”

Colleges woo our Littles (and their parents) with emotional decisions, and these decisions are made while overlooking the reality: COLLEGES ARE BUSINESSES! And because our family has REALITY (and Jesus, don’t forget Jesus), instead of the HOPE SCHOLARSHIP, our family now has something called Community College.

Now I’ve done it; I’ve gone and said a bad word . . .  Community College . . . something that is usually spoken in a hushed whisper because – let’s be honest –people judge those who attend Community College. They think the students are lesser, not as intelligent, blue-collar, dead-end-job-folk.

I bet there are many seven-year college graduates who’d be happy to work a dead-end-job right about now. But that is another digression.

I propose that community college students are some of the smartest folk around and if you have a pretty smart kid in high school imagine how s/he would be in a community college. BIG fish: small pond. You see, there is more than one way to receive a 4-year degree, so why not make the best economical decision.  Doesn’t anyone want to graduate debt-free anymore?

According to the numbers I heard during orientation only 38% of Americans have a four-year-degree. That could mean a lot of students start, but never pass. It is widely known that fall classes are called “weed out” classes, a time where serious students are separated from those who are occupying seats but have no desire or real direction. Perhaps students party too much or worship SEC football too much in the fall. Or maybe they have trouble transitioning at large universities or do not graduate because mommy isn’t there to build a volcano. I don’t know, I only know that I have limited resources and therefore must invest them wisely.

By comparison, community college students begin with frugality in mind; they want the best- affordable- education. They want to graduate with as much experience and as little debt as possible. Today’s community colleges aren’t what we once knew. Once called “Trade Schools” and “Technical Colleges,” today’s community college provides a cost effective means of receiving specialized training, but also an affordable alternative for serious students seeking to better their current economic situation through higher learning.

But perhaps it is the classroom setting that provides the best example of why community colleges work. Imagine if you will a room full of students, some are eighteen years old, fresh from high school (they know everything by the way); other students are thirty years old, recently laid off, praying for a chance to start- or finish- their degree. Then there are the “learn-ed” the 40 and 50 year olds who have held a job since high school, can do math in their head, and have so much life experience they should be teaching Real Life- 101. These are life-veterans, parents, grandparents, peers, mentors, and their experience is invaluable in the classroom setting.

See where I’m going?

While standing in line at the bookstore I met a student who is participating in the College Transfer program. For those who aren’t familiar with this particular degree, students knock out core classes first, and then select the University where credits will transfer. Southwestern Community College (which is an accredited school) has an agreement with the University of North Carolina system where students can earn up to 61 hours of credits that will transfer to any public university and many private universities. His goal: MIT.

So let’s do some math.

My daughter invests two years taking core college transfer classes, which are currently priced at $ 75.00 a credit hour. Meanwhile, over at the U of D (University of Debt), students are sardine-packed with 600 of their closest friends taking the same English class, using the same textbook as the University classes which cost – depending on your major and current prices listed on their website–between $334 and $693. Per credit hour. (Out of state $1,000-$1,542 respectively)

I don’t need to elaborate further, do I? So while parents are fretting about putting a second mortgage on their home, and while thousands of students are graduating with the burden of student debt which will prevent them from buying their own home for years to come, I believe my daughter made the correct decision.

There’s plenty of room in her small pond for you.

Visit these links to learn more about Southwestern Community College (ranked number 7 in this latest report).

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 September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


A Summer of Purging

This summer (and spring), I have been in the throws of the biggest obstacle I have tackled since the Beloved and I decided to install a slate entryway.

I am purging.

Decades worth of stuff.

Eighty percent of it not mine.

Half of that eighty percent consist of things I don’t even recognize, like this thing

I mean really? What is THIS and why do we need it?

I mean really? What is THIS and why do we need it?

What in the love of humanity is this? Don’t know. Don’t care. I haven’t personally used it and it was in the attic so buh-bye.

I’m not going to belabor the point that I have not owned, nor received any pleasure from the items being purged because – frankly – I need every ounce of energy to carry boxes and boxes and boxes of unwanted items to the trash, or the Thrift Store as was the case yesterday.

I love the Thrift Store.

Long before it was vogue, I was thrifty.

And in the zip code where I reside, the Thrift Store is the best place to shop.

But you don’t need to shop. you need to purge, purge purge!

Hush up conscience. I’m telling a story!

So with the vehicle full of boxes I made a trip to two of my favorite charities: The Roswell Historical Society and North Fulton Community Charities. If you’ve read my book, you know about the “Hembree Gals” and their passion for saving the Hembree Farm. One box of goodies went to the Historical Society, but the other, filled with clothing, stuffed animals and the like, traveled to North Fulton Community Charity. I’ve stopped going to Goodwill. I’m not one hundred percent certain where their money goes, but I am confident that NFCC serves the community, because I have volunteered there. They provide food, backpacks, coats, job training, and much more. They are a Godsend to the community.

But I’m chasing a rabbit, let me (try to) stay on task, at North Fulton Community Charity.

Steering the vehicle into the designated drop-off site, I spied the loveliest bench ever. It looked like something straight out of my home church, only painted.

I wanted it.

In a bad way

But I didn’t have a pickup truck.

What I wouldn’t give for a 15 year old pickup truck. (nothing new, perish THAT thought). A truck is on my list, and I do mean at the tip-top of my “must have” list right beside new socks and Orange Ginger Bath and Body lotion.

Any who . . . I donated my items, received my tax slip, and then left giving the bench one last look.

Then I sent my friend Kelle a text. Kelle’s husband recently gave her a pickup truck. I have joked with my husband that if he really loved me he’d buy me one.

I drive a Leaf.

Y’all stop laughing. Yes, it is impossible to save daffodils, and trees, and BENCHES in a Leaf. (Yes I know, I should buy my own truck and not ask my husband. I’m an author, we can’t afford trucks. We rent our vehicles).

But the bench, well, I really, really coveted this worldly possession. Alas, no truck= No bench.

Today, while picking up my daughter’s friend, I said, “We’re swinging by to check on my bench, if it’s there. I’m getting it.”

But Mom, you don’t have a truck? Daughter said, not needing to state the obvious fact that it would not fit in the Leaf (which she insists is “her vehicle” since mine was destroyed in the car accident) (she’s right).

“If it’s still there it’s meant for me to get,” I replied.

Praise the Lord, it was still there.

I paid for the bench then left my daughter sitting on it (yes, literally), while I called Good Ole Reliable Farmer Billy, who – thankfully – had just unloaded a truckload of “come-post.”

We loaded my precious bench into Billy’s truck and the kids sat in the back as I drove her home.

Look at her. Isn’t she lovely? I am so happy. Truly, I envision a spring writing workshop, with papers, and laptops, and creative minds settled down on this bench. I would love to know the story of this bench. It had a broken piece, and I am sure that is why it was donated, discarded, not good enough for one of the many fancy homes in this area. Fortunately, I don’t do fancy. I do recycled, hand-me-down, well-loved items, and Dear Friends I am in love with this one.

Sigh.... this corner bench makes me so happy.

Sigh…. this corner bench makes me so happy.

Knowing that I couldn’t hide my treasure, I put her beside the garage then parked the vehicle beside it, so “no one can see her.”

The Beloved came home from work. Kissed me and said, “Just where are you putting the bench?”


“But Honey, don’t ya just love it.”

Eye roll.

“I hope you put it far, far in the woods so I never have to look at it again,” he replied.

Hahaha, that Beloved. He’s never gonna get me a truck, is he?

Then I broke into song: I love it, I love it. I really, really love it.

Perhaps it belongs on the front porch. What do you think?

Thank you for reading, and for sharing my joy.

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

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Book Club Fun

anl1Let’s start off with a little bite of sweetness, shall we?


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Recently, I visited the Chattahoochee Plantation Women’s Club where I met the most incredible group of ladies (many are pictured here). It is rare to make an instant connection with people, but honestly, that day felt more like Homecoming than a “meeting.” Here’s one of the lovelies holding a tray of buckeyes, the recipe is included in Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches.

Perhaps the best thing about book clubs (other than the food and the fellowship) is discovering how readers interpret my words, the way they take my story and make it into something more beautiful than I could imagine.
Take a look at this picture. Don’t ya just love it? Dope in a Bottle, Duke’s Mayo, yellow clusters of sunshine, and a copy of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. What’s not to love?

Now, onto other fun news, did you see the fantastic article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Billy Albertson? If you missed it, here is a link. Articles such as these take a lot of work. The author must first “pitch” the story to the publisher who either believes there will be enough public interest, or gives the thumbs down.  After the story is approved a photographer is assigned and the one we met (Renee Brock) is a jewel. Precious. Just a precious little slice of South Georgia that’s living in Atlanta. She’s gone and made her people very proud. So, if you are happy with the Atlanta Journal story, please, please leave a comment at the end of the story. Not for my sake, but because good news stories matter. (FYI: AJC may require you to post via Facebook login).


Does your dad have “everything?” Well, he may not have a copy of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. The Decatur Book Festival encourages readers to #ReadDifferent (authors). So here is your chance. There is still time to order a copy of Farming for Father’s Day.

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. 
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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life


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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 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 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.”


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 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


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