Category Archives: Chickens, Goats Animals & Pets

Read about chickens, goats, rabbits, canine, feline, and other pets we love !

North Meets South

North Meets South

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, I love meeting people. At this particular point in my life, I just can’t have too many friends. So when I read that Melissa (of the popular blog, Tilly’s Nest) was heading South for an event at Stone Mountain I sent her an “in-vite” to visit Farmer Billy.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve met someone at Farmer Billy’s farm, I wouldn’t have to work.

As luck would have it, my daughter required taxi duty and everyone single Georgia Cracker decided to use Hardscrabble Road instead of Woodstock. While I sat in traffic, Melissa arrived and noticed the sign, In The Garden Out Back, which was propped against the tailgate. She moseyed behind the house and found Farmer Billy plodding along on one of his three tractors.

“Are you a Yankee?” he asked, in jest as he reached out his hand. Billy asks that question often, especially when I tell him I’m sending over another visitor. He doesn’t use the word Yankee in a derogatory manner, he is on a personal mission to show off his “little strip of country” to every Yank who passes by (and lately there have been a lot).

For the record, I think Billy calls most everyone who doesn’t hang their hat in Georgia a Yankee.

But I digress.

Melissa is the reader who inspired me to start the “Reader Challenge,” where I ask readers to submit photos of a dish they have made after reading my book, Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Melissa is more than a FB friend, the moment her feet touched the soil on Hardscrabble Road, she became kindred.melissablog

Gardening does that . . . makes total strangers inseparable besties. Don’t take my word for it, read Melissa’s blog post about her visit.

I arrived to find both of them sitting on Billy couch. He had opened up one of many books that contains family photos that go back to the 1800s. I knew Melissa was tired, hungry, and just wanted to get a bite to eat, so we pulled away from Billy for a little girl time. My daughter and I wanted her to feel at home, so we took her to a restaurant where she could meet Justin, our favorite waiter who just happened to grow up not far from where Melissa lives.


Of course not, just another example of why I write what I write, to teach y’all just how small and insignificant we are in this great big world; to show you how easy it is to become a part of a community.

The more Melissa and I chatted the more I realized what a blessing it was to meet her in person. She shared with me some of her writing struggles that are similar to my own. Her visit truly blessed me.

Melissa is more than a blogger, she also has a book baby coming out soon which you can pre-order here. 



Isn’t this the cutest book ever?

Melissa is also the brainchild behind Hug a Chicken Day. melissablog2The concept is simple, pour a little love on some poultry and spend time outdoors with our feathered friends. But Hug a Chicken day is about more than spreading a little chicken love, Melissa has partnered with her friends to offer FREEBIES including a copy of my book.

Oh yes my lovelies, click this link to see what Melissa and her friends are giving away, register for the freebie, and don’t forget to hug a chicken.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain 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. Mercer University Press  released Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in September. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Chickens, Goats Animals & Pets


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Wordless Wednesday: Baby Goats

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More Baby Goat Love on my Facebook Page Here.

I would be honored if you’d download a copy of my work. Visit the links below:

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain 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. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at 


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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Chickens, Goats Animals & Pets


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The Biggest Gambler

July 3, 2013

Summer: At least that is what the calendar says, that it’s summer. Time to clean up the grill, assemble the neighbors and enjoy extended daylight hours and fresh vegetables from the garden.

Only this year there are no vegetables.




We have had so much rain, so little sun that beans have yellowed on the vine, and tomatoes, well the ones planted at my house aren’t even blooming. Growing yes, blooming, no. This time last year I was in a summertime frenzy of picking, chopping, slicing, stirring, canning and dehydrating. I was blessed with an abundance, Billy was also. He had “the best garden ever.”

But that was last year. We’ve had rain and very little sun. This year no tomatoes, beans, chickens or corn. The last two have been systematically murdered and eaten by a legion of raccoons that we can not capture, despite having traps set.

Last week a friend traveled from Cartersville to Roswell, equipped the farm with a camera. But I also found tracks. Coon tracks.

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

If Billy could afford critter eradication, trust me, he would. You see, recently a developer began removing trees from a large piece of property just down the road from Billy. The coons have two places to go: Target Supercenter Shopping Center, and Billy’s Albertson’s farm. What we need is a truckload of Good-ole-boys with a couple coon dogs. But coon dogs aren’t quite as popular in Roswell, Georgia as a Pomeranian or a Bulldog. The critters have taken over. The garden has fed them, not humans.

Progress=tree killing

Progress=tree killing

Those who haven’t liked his FB page missed the news, last week a raccoon killed all of Billy’s hens, save two or three.

We are:





We are done my friends. Even the Outside Man himself is done, said, “I’ve give up. I’ve been farming all my life and I’ve never seen it so bad. It’s just terrible. I don’t have anything no more.”

The critters have taken what little God did provide. Eighty-year-old Billy just isn’t able to keep up with the varmints that see his farm as an all you can eat buffet. We can’t keep putting effort and energy into the saturated soil. Most-likely Billy will not open his vegetable stand this year. If he does the harvest will be a scant handful of vegetables. Kelle and her boys as well as many other volunteers have helped. We have planted, replanted and fretted along with Billy. We have prayed while dropping beans into the ground only to see those beans again after three more inches of rain washed the soil away, or worse never see a single sprout because the seeds rot in the ground.

This makes me sad; it makes the helpers sad. Billy is deeply frustrated.

Below are shots from the garden. As Billy Albertson once said, “A farmer is the biggest gambler there is.”

This year we gambled and lost.

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


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Enjoying the Rain

It’s a rainy day here in Atlanta. A day like most others, where I wake and immediately scan the mental “to-do” list. Today, was bean-picking day at Farmer Billy’s. But alas, since I do not watch television (too much politics), I missed the local forecast and altered my plans with the darkening clouds.

For those visiting my blog for the first time, I wrote a book titled: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. The book is about the last farmer in Roswell, Georgia. Not to brag, but it’s a pretty good book that was nominated for several awards and recently earned me the Author of the Year award from the Atlanta Pen Women Association. Your favorite bookstore can order it, or, Billy and I will personalize a copy when ordered through my website.

Today, there would be no farm visit. With the family gone and the house empty, I turn on the music and stand still waiting to steep the perfect cup of tea. Sometimes, all of the wrongs seem right when the tea is perfect. Personal time…something rare these days.

Realizing the many people curse the rain for interfering in their daily activities, as the drops began falling I grabbed my camera, curled my hands around the mug, and for a moment was very thankful. My tomatoes still have a long way to go before they look like this, but these things take time.

Click here to view a short video of the gentle rain falling. So far it’s a great year for gardening. As you can see my planter is bursting with tomatoes.

Chickens aren’t happy when rain falls; “mad as a wet hen” comes to mind. As I fed my chickens (on the front porch) I captured my view of heaven raining down this drippy yet glorious Atlanta morning.

Enjoy their video view from my front porch by clicking here.The ocassional chirps are from my girls. I hope you enjoy your day.

Remember: I am giving away a $10.00 gift certificate for Botanical Interests to my 100th follower of this blog. Click “RSS feed” at top. $ 20.00 for the 200th follower. Feel free to share my blog with others. Thank you for stopping by.

Renea Winchester is an award winning author visit her at


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Baby Ashton

Ash Wednesday, 2012: 5:45 pm

Often I visit Billy late on Wednesday  on the way to take my daughter to her youth group meeting. This past Wednesday as I chatted with Billy inside his kitchen, my cell phone rang.

“Momma, you’ve got to come to the barn. There is a baby here without a momma.”

For those who haven’t raised baby goats, newborns nurse every few minutes and rarely leave their momma’s side, especially when there are so many other newborns around. Dashing to the barn I encountered Jamie holding a skinny black goat who was crying, “Momma! Momma!” in the frantic yelp baby kids often do.

Sweet Ashton trying to get a drink of milk

But no Momma came. Searching the field it appeared that every female had a baby, or two. Eventually, a small goat appeared and responded to his cry.

After trying to partner the two I noticed obvious signs that the baby hadn’t nursed (Swollen udder. Still-shakey and crying newborn). I instructed my daughter to take the baby to the stall behind the barn with the hopes the mother would follow.

She did.

Unfortunately, her udders so heavy the baby couldn’t get her nipple into its mouth. The poor precious kid would toddle along behind, bleating and crying, all while my heart hurt to help. After calling Billy from the kitchen (sometimes dinner must wait), we spent the better part of a half an hour attempting to catch the momma.

In the middle of this rodeo, three guests arrived. Hopefully they will understand the situation and forgive Billy and I for not entertaining them. Night was coming fast and this matter was of the utmost importance. I quickly explained our situation and shook my head no when one of the ladies asked, “doesn’t he just feed them with a bottle?”

Feeding with a bottle is a short-term solution. The baby needed to learn to latch on, but the mother also needed to-using Billy’s words- be relieved of her milk. With the momma goat tied to the fence, Billy milked, and we tried to get the baby to latch on.

If anyone has ever heard a baby goat cry you know that the neighbors certainly thought we were offering a ritualistic sacrifice. Still, despite our attempts at reducing the nipple to a manageable size, and trying our best to help the baby, darkness fell without proof that the baby understood how to nurse.

Thursday morning 8:00 am.

I awoke with the baby goat on my heart. After driving my daughter to school I purchased a bottle for premature infants, then climbed over the fence while Billy lay slumbering in his bed.

As an aside: if you visit Billy’s early and find the lights off, please let him sleep. Between the two of us we rarely sleep through the night.

Placing the bottle in the goat’s mouth (which in itself is a challenge) I forced some water, then tried the latching on process again with very little success. The kid did appear to be noticeably more energetic with a tummy that felt fuller, and the mother didn’t have an abundance of milk in her udder. (all we need is milk fever setting in).

An hour passed while I observed. Billy joined me in the stall and we discussed the situation. I explained that I thought we should keep mom and baby separated from the more experienced goats. This was her first baby. They needed time to figure things out. Billy agreed.

Ashton taking a sip. See how his momma is smiling?

 Friday morning 10:00 am.

Mom and baby are still doing well. My daughter has decided to name the new goat Ashton, in honor of his birthdate on Ash Wednesday.

 Read more adventures from Billy’s garden in Renea’s book : In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, love & Tomatoes. Visit her at


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“Setting Eggs” and Breaking New Ground: By Renea Winchester

“Setting Eggs” and Breaking New Ground: By Renea Winchester

It only takes one or two days of sunshine to catapult winter-weary gardeners into a feverous pitch that can only be defined as mania. It’s been a frigid winter and most of the country has at one time or another, been blanketed in either snow or ice (or both)!

As a result, the moment the sun breaks through, birds gather to shout their praises and sun lovers abandon the couch in search of spring.

However, before we start getting all crazy and start setting eggs, planting seeds, and plunging our hands in the dirt, we need to refer to the “good book” for guidance.

Almanac… aka “Farmer’s Bible”

I’m talking about the almanac…Grier’s 205th Annual issue to be exact.

Last week, I presented Billy with his copy of the almanac. Under his training, I’ve quickly learned that he takes the advice written on these pages quite seriously. He plants crops and “sets hens” only when approved by Mr. Grier himself. According to page 6 of the 205th edition, we should: “Set eggs to hatch in a fruitful sign. The chicks will mature faster and be better layers.”

Billy snatched the calendar off the wall as I delved into the newsprint pages eager to determine when we were going to “break the new ground.” As an aside, he likes to plant something, usually potatoes on Good Friday.

This year, Grier’s predicts a wet February which is not good, considering the rice-field debacle we mucked through last February in his garden.

Undeterred by the gloomy prediction Billy asked, “When does it say I can set some ‘aigs?’ The hens are getting restless.”

Photo by Billy’s other Farmhand, Kelle McEntegart

According to Billy, he has been “breaking up hen parties left and right.” He is a firm believer health chicks comes from following these stringent, albeit mysterious, “signs.”

I licked my finger and turned the page. “It says we should set eggs on the 13, 14, or 15th of February; then on the 22 or 23rd of February.”

I placed a sharpie in his weathered hand. Billy opened the cap and circled the date; then he replaced the cap and said with a nod, “We’ll set those hens on Valentine’s day.”

I can think of no better way to celebrate our love of gardening…can you?

Soon, we’ll be listening to baby chicks say, “peep, peep” and enjoying the magic that spring brings.

Little Momma, the best “Mother Hen” ever !

Until my next post, remember keep those hands dirty.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author whose

book, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life,

Love & Tomatoes is available in bookstores everywhere and online. Visit her website at to learn more.


Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Chickens, Goats Animals & Pets


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Coming Soon…Baby Goats

"No Renea, I am not having the baby yet."

At Billy’s farm winter is a time of gestation. While humans are “cooped up” inside the house, outside the Nannies grow fat. They lounge about teasing visitors with the hope that today just might be the day a baby goat (called a “kid”) will be born. 

There is nothing sweeter than a newborn baby, especially a baby goat.

Billy’s Nannies test my patience. I realize it takes about five months of waiting before the newborn arrives; however, a glance at the pasture reveals rotund bellies that look (at least to me) like it’s baby time.

“They’ll come when they’re ready.” Billy assures me. “Until then, we wait.”

Waiting is not a virtue I possess.

During this “in between” time as Billy and I await the new arrivals I thought I would share some photos I’ve taken at Billy’s farm.

Patience: A Virtue in Nanny Goats

This is one of my favorite pictures. Kids are known for their ability to jump, climb and basically get into all sorts of mischief.  Billy and I were watching the kids one cold December day last year. Suddenly, this kid jumped on his mother’s back and began chewing on her horn.  She acted like it was no big deal !

"Follow me. I'll get us out of this mess."

While the kid chewied on his Mother’s horn, two others set out on an adventure. Goats are curious creatures and when two kids search for adventure, trouble is usually what they find. As they entered the area where Billy stores the tomato cages I grew a bit nervous. I was worried they would become trapped and possibly get injured inside the jumbled mess of wire and string. “Just watch,” Billy said when I expressed my concern. “A goat can get in a whole heap of trouble.”  He paused. “But he also knows how to get out of a whole heap of trouble as well.” 

Sure enough the kids got stuck, but only for a moment. Instead of struggling they stood still, and calculated their escape. With a kick and a jump they were soon free.

Keep checking the blog or the In The Garden With Billy Facebook Page  for a birth announcement. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll have a baby shower at the farm before the New Year.