Kudzu, The Vine that Ate the South

15 May
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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