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7/27/2016

City Life, Country GardenA few #WordlessWednesday images that answer the question, "Why Do You Grow Your Own?"

 

 

Equipment

Green tomatoes

Basket of vegetables

Ripe tomato

Pulled vegetables

Plant

Dirt under fingernails


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. 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. Follow her on Twitter @ReneaWinchester.



7/26/2016

City Life, Country GardenReaders,

I need help. Something is amiss in the Coneflower Garden. I had noticed one of the coneflowers was green. Literally green and wasn’t turning the lovely pinkish-purple color. I was fine with that, chalking off the anomaly as a new variety of flower I had rescued from development.

Green cornflower 

However, as summer has progressed the flower has not only remained green but is now grown mini-blooms on top of the existing bloom.

Green cornflower in flower bed

Any ideas?

I’m enclosing a side view as well. Is this normal?

Multiple green cornflowers


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. 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. Follow her on Twitter @ReneaWinchester.



7/22/2016

City Life, Country GardenFacebook friends and readers of Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and In The Garden With Billy, know that I have been on a quest for nigh on about six years. A chainsaw quest. I figure that I could achieve far more effectiveness, and open up more light in my garden, if I only had a chainsaw.

My daddy remembers a song titled "If I Had a Hammer," and if you aren’t familiar with that song click this link and listen. Pete Seeger performs the song for Farm Aid at age 90+ years. Watch the video my friends, watch it and soak in the spirit of someone whose voice made a difference.

Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:

"If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land

And I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land"

Now this post has nothing to do with hammers, not really. But hearing the “hammer” tune during most of my young days, I took creative license and have been singing "If I Had a Chainsaw" for a good long time.

Never heard of the song? Here are the lyrics (credit Renea Winchester):

"If I had a chainsaw
I’d lop limbs in the morning
I’d lop ‘em in the evening
All over my yard.

I’d steer clear of danger
I’d be extra careful
If I had a chainsaw,
Just for my yard."

Now The Beloved is a wise man, because he knows that my gardening motto is “If I am not bleeding, sunburnt, or stung, then I am not having fun!” But he gets a little jittery each time I mention this chainsaw wish, and he lovingly changes the subject. This is why for years The Beloved has strictly forbidden the chainsaw I have so longed for; however, with my mother’s passing I received a sure-fire e‘leck-trick chainsaw limb lopper the likes I’d never seen.

I’ve lopped in the morning,
I’ve lopped in the evening,
All over my yard.
Without a single incident.

Take that, worrywart Beloved. I have become an expert lopper and this year poison ivy has been my only affliction.

Until July 4.

That particular day started out without incident. The e’leck-trick lopper and I worked as a team assembling a large pile of limbs. We were satisfied, both of us, having cleared the underbrush from the front yard. Toward the end of the day my lopping task was complete and I started the safe and easy duty of scattering pine straw.

All was going well until the holly leaf came out of nowhere and smacked me across the cornea.

I’m fine now, but then ... well, then I was scared. I couldn’t see. My eye wouldn’t stay open. It was swollen (for days), it leaked fluid and there was no optometrist on duty. Not a single one in the whole wide world (not even the “emergency” number my own optometrist left on his machine).

See! The Beloved said worriedly as I laid on the couch with a washcloth on my eye.

(Umm, no, I cannot see, thank you very much).

This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been wearing safety goggles. The Beloved insisted.

Who wears safety goggles to scatter pine straw? (Obviously not me).

My readers know that The Beloved is big on safety goggles. He’d have me wearing them at the dinner table if I didn’t look ridiculous. So, after receiving the proper chastisement and two prescriptions my eye has healed enough that The Beloved has revoked my outdoor restriction, AND purchased safety goggles.

Goggles

Only if I wear safety goggles, he insists, which I insist look ridiculous.

And since he’s cutting the grass while I’m doing my outside gardening fun, I thought it would be a good idea to "protect" my hearing while deadheading the daisies with dangerously sharp scissors. I partnered my goggles with the black earmuff thingies my children once used to listen to music in the car.

Selfie

Stopping to notice my reflection in the mirror I had to ask myself, "Am I going to the garden, or the gun range?"

The answer is clear. The lopper and I are heading toward the holly bush.

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. 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. Follow her on Twitter @ReneaWinchester.



7/21/2016

City Life, Country GardenEarlier this week I posted a blog that encouraged readers to unplug and disconnect from the negativity in this world, and then actively seek someone to bless.

Have you found someone? Have you actively looked for someone to bless?

C’mon now. The world is desperate for healing. You have the cure. You can #BeTheChange And if your have produce that is about to go to ruin, you can bless someone (yes, even with your surplus zucchini, although I highly recommend including tomatoes and maybe corn with your care package). 

Have you passed someone and felt that little nudge in your heart, a knowing that you have the power to help them if only for one moment?

I have.

There’s been a family on my radar, one with two boys that aren’t yet school age. I see them every day as I travel to work, and every day I think I’ll be brave enough to stop. Yet each afternoon I pass by, too busy (correction: too preoccupied with my own busy, silly, stupid life) to stop.

Today was no different, the voice urged me to pull in, instructed me to stop.

Yet I drove past their cinder-block home, trying to ignore the two shirtless boys who played behind the house near the tomato plants, spindly little things that don’t have a prayer of blooming, planted in the shade as they are, leaning toward the sun.

I got home, let the dog out to do her business and there it was, The Voice telling me that I had plenty of tomatoes to share, that I couldn’t possibly eat all the tomatoes, that this family could very well need some hope and there I was being greedy and hoarding up fresh vegetables.

"Alright!" I said to the voice, while quickly adding, "but if I get shot and killed my blood is on your hands!" I spoke this aloud.

We are Americans after all, land of the trigger-happy.

I grabbed the tomatoes, seriously worried about my safety, and let me PREACH about obstacles, about how the evil one will do everything possible, including causing your call to stall out, in order to keep you from helping someone else.

But I was on the path, on the path to blessing someone, so get out of my way, evil one. I’ll walk if necessary.

Upon arriving at their house I was greeted with two BEWARE OF DOG signs and barking. Lots of barking.

(GULP)

I left the car door open, engine running.

"Lord," I said.

That's all I said, because that was the only thing to say, Lord.

The screen door opened before I was even out of the car. A small woman, smaller than me, with long black hair appeared.

Offering the bag of tomatoes, I said. "I’ve got too many. Do you like tomatoes?"

"They’re my favorite," she said. Her voice small and jittery as a rabbit.

Anyone who plants tomatoes in the shade is desperate for some tangy goodness.

"If you don’t mind, I have extra and I’d like to drop them off from time to time ... be a shame to waste them."

She nodded and my heart beat a bit faster. Something magical was happening.

A shirtless boy appeared, shy ... painfully shy.

"You like spaghetti sauce?" I asked.

He looked at her for the answer.

" ‘Cause I’ve made some, just canned. I’ll drop some off if you’d like."

She extended her hand, told me her name. "If you need help canning, I’d be happy to help."

And for a moment I thought about loading them in the car and taking them to my dad’s where I’ve been cooking and canning up a storm, but then that voice (the fearful one) whispered you can’t trust people. You can’t bring them into your dad’s house. They might put a bullet in him and then what would you do?

And just like that I was back to the beginning, back to the battle against evil, and fear. Back to the point most Americans are, where they are too afraid to do anything so they stay home and do nothing, letting their vegetables wither and die on the vine. Tell me, how can we conquer this fear? Truly, with so much fear in today's world how can we help those in need? Am I naive to believe that we can change the lives of two shirtless boys and their rail-thin mother with a basket of tomatoes?

Until I discover an answer I must ask ... who have you helped today?

Tomatoes

Photo by Fotolia/Dusan Kostic

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. 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.



7/19/2016

City Life, Country GardenIn many parts of the country, primarily the Northern states, spaghetti sauce is called “gravy.” There is quite the controversy as to whether “sauce” or “gravy” is the correct definition, but that’s not the point of this post. In the South where I’m from gravy is something we make using bacon drippings, flour, salt, pepper and milk. We serve it over biscuits, usually for breakfast, and it’s delicious. However, today this little southerner would like you to try this recipe for (non-southern, Yankee-inspired, Italian gravy).

First, I must give a shout-out to my Yankee friend, Cat Blanco, owner of The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia. I’ve known Cat for several years. She was the first independent bookseller to give In the Garden with Billy shelf-space. From there we have grown to be true friends. She hand-sells my books working hard to support not only me, but other authors throughout the south. She plans fantastic author events, and her bookstore is the heartbeat of the community ... so much so that she is known as The Mayor of Canton Road (where The Book Exchange is located).

Every author should have a friend like Cat Blanco.

It seems only natural that with this enduring friendship we should swap recipes and so when I gave her a jar of my tomato sauce, the recipe can be found here, she used the sauce to create the traditional Italian gravy.

My gravy tastes nothing like hers. She has years of experience, and Italian blood running through her veins. For example: She adds a shredded carrot in the cooking process, because it gives the gravy a bit of sweetness. Feel free to do the same.

Note: this is a slow cooker recipe, which is perfect for Sunday dinner.

Ingredients:

One pork butt
Teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons oregano
1 large garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Spaghetti sauce
1 cup red wine
1 small carrot shredded

The Process:

Sauté garlic clove in one tablespoon of olive oil. 

Add remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in slow-cooker.

Spices

Rub the pork butt with seasonings and add to slow-cooker. Add garlic on top of roast.

Garlic

Cook pork but on low 8-10 hours.

Remove cooked roast from the cooker and drain juices and fat. You may discard this or save juices to make dog treats (recipe to follow in a later blog post).

Cooked

Shred roast with a fork and return to crock pot.

Pulled pork

Add 1 cup of wine.

Add 1 pint of tomato sauce.

Cook all day (8-10 hours) on low. (This is crucial. The pork needs to absorb the juices and the flavor of the sauce in order to form “Gravy.”)

Store in refrigerator overnight.

The following day you can serve the gravy with pasta. I prefer the gravy as a stand-alone dish with a side of buttered garlic bread.

Spaghetti

For those of us in a hurry (and aren’t we all?), this is the perfect dish to bring to family reunions.

Gravy

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.



7/18/2016

City Life, Country GardenSummer is hot upon us, blessing our kitchens with ripening fruit. This is the most versatile, and delicious sauce in my pantry. I use it for meatloaf, manicotti, chili, and — of course — spaghetti.

Tomatoes

I hope you enjoy it as much as I.

Ingredients:

Half bushel of ripened tomatoes (I use several varieties to enhance the rich flavor of the sauce)
1 large garlic clove (or 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic)
1 cup olive oil
1/ 4 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 (8 ounce) cans of tomato paste (this makes the sauce very thick), for thinner sauce you can omit the paste.
2 large onions chopped fine
2 cups chopped green pepper
2 jalapeno peppers (for added flavor)
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons oregano
2 bay leaves

The Process:

Fill the sink with cold water, which will be used to cool tomatoes after you have blanched them.

Heat a large pot of water and add tomatoes. Leave tomatoes in water until skins begin to split in the hot water.

Blanching

While waiting for the tomatoes to blanch, slice peppers, onions and garlic.  Pour olive oil into a saucepan, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook for 30 minutes or until peppers and onions are translucent and well cooked. Add spices and stir well.

Garlic

Transfer the tomatoes from the hot water into the cold water in the sink. Remove the skins and chop tomatoes.

Add tomatoes to onion and pepper mixture. Stir well.

Add tomato paste and stir.

Sauce cooking

Cook sauce for half hour on low, stirring often.

Pour into jars and process in a water bath for 30 minutes, or, pour into plastic freezer bags.

Yields thirteen pints.

Canned sauce

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of three non-fiction works. Her latest title: Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna sandwiches is filled with farming stories and delicious recipes. Learn more about Renea here.



6/18/2015

Renea WinchesterWe are entering the peak season for onion and garlic and this little recipe will have your mouth watering. Serve as a side with your favorite meal such as pasta.

1 stick butter
1 loaf French bread, sliced in half
2 freshly pulled onions (including green top), chopped
1 freshly pulled garlic clove stalk (including green top), chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter and drizzle part over French bread. Top with chopped onions and garlic. I use the greenery because it adds an incredible flavor and will become tender as the bread bakes.

Add salt and pepper, then drizzle remaining butter on top of bread.

Bake about 5 to 7 minutes, or until bread is brown.

Remove from heat, slice and enjoy.

Garden Fresh Garlic and Onion Bread

add Garden Fresh Garlic and Onion Bread to anymeal 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. 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





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