Monday, December 31, 2007

The Blog Tour for Small Town Secrets

Every Small Town has a multitude of gardens. Sometimes one woman's garden holds secrets that no one else knows...Come find out what secret Chaneeta's garden may reveal.
Won't you please join me and the wonderful people who will host my blog tour this entire month below are the dates, names, and blog sites of those involved. Come along and join us. Everyone who comments will get a PDF copy of The Small Town Secrets cookbook titled The Golden Kettle Cafe - so be sure to leave your email address.
Billie A. Williams
Printed Words Blogger/author of Small Town Secrets

Blog sites:
Joyce Anthony-

January 1

Marvin Wilson :
January 5

Nina Osier –
January 6

Ron Berry – and

January 7

Sandra Cox –
January 8

Bryn Colvin –
January 9

Nikki Leigh –
January 16

Elaine Cantrell –
January 20

Janet Elaine Smith http://www.janetelainesmith.blogspot. com
January 31

Vivian Zabel - blogs: and
January 26

Pamela Thebideau –
January 25

Angela Verdenius -

Beckie Joki -

Karina Fabian
January 21 & 22

SK Hamilton, (Pee Wee)
January 30

Mary Emmons

Kim Richards (waiting for link)
January 28 & 29

Bob Blackburn (waiting for link)
January 23

Dawn Mork (waiting for link)
January 14

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One of the Things My Garden Grows

One of the things my garden grows is mystery fiction. I am a mystery suspense author with well over two dozen books published. Today I want to announce the upcoming release of my brand new book SMALL TOWN SECRETS. I've set up a blog tour, schedule available on my web site, which consists of a series of interviews with other bloggers all over the web. Please feel free to join in the fun - participants could win a cook book of recipes from the Golden Kettle Cafe that is a prominent feature in Small Town Secrets.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!
Constable Dusty Rhodes mauled by a grizzly in the Colorado Wilderness area where he was vacationing.

(That is only the smoke from the fire that rages in tiny Nettlesville.)

Nettlesville is on fire
Who is that deputy new hire?
Is s serial arsonist doing the crime
As buildings burn, one at a time.
They wonder

Chaneeta Morgan’s secret past
Undoing the Town Chairwoman fast
She wonders

Is she destined to pay for an imagined sin
Will Olga’s vengeance allow her to win
The coveted Town Chairwoman post
What growing Evil does Nettlesville host?
They wonder

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Small Town Secrets
by Billie A Williams
ISBN 978-1-59705-766-0 (print)
ISBN 978-1-59705-283-2 (electronic)
Available January 1, 2008
From Wings ePress, Inc or your favorite bookstore.
Readers Guide available free at
Contact: Billie A Williams
P O Box 134
Amberg, WI 54102

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This and That Now that Christmas is Over

This And That Now That Christmas Is Over

One Woman’s Garden
By Billie A Williams © 2007

You’ve finished with the Christmas tree and you know that you should decorate it with bread tied to its branches — pretty yarn and string bows, that will serve as nesting material in the spring – and perhaps some pine cones filled with peanut butter and bird seed for the suet eating birds like the black capped chickadee and the nuthatch. You can stand your tree in a snow bank or a bucket of sand until the feast has been eaten by the birds. You can lay it on the ground as a natural hide away for rabbits. Your feathered and furry friends will appreciate it.

But what do you do with all that sugar left over from the candy making you did for Christmas. It isn’t quite time for hummingbirds (they get 1 part sugar to 4 parts water— you remember- and food coloring isn’t necessary – as long as the container has a little red to attract them initially – they’ll find it.)

So how about some uses for that left over sugar.

1. We’ll think ahead to your lawn use it to remove gasoline spots by sprinkling a mix of six cups gypsum and one cup of sugar over the area and watering frequently.

2. You can use it to trap insects. Create a sticky mess by sprinkling a flour and powdered sugar combination on plants before the dew dries in the morning.

3. You can use sugar to get rid of nematodes by tilling in three pounds of sugar per acre of soil in early spring and late fall.

4. Or you can make a fertilizer for strawberries and rhubarb by combining ½ cup of sugar with five pounds of dry garden food.

Oh and while you are visiting your local hardware store—you know your favorite pastime—looking for new gardening tools, be sure to look for a Bricklayer’s pointed trowel. Why, you ask?

Well silly think of it as an all purpose knife. Think of it as a planting, or harvesting tool. You can use it to cut apart and lift petunias, tomato, pepper and other plants from the flats when setting them out. You know how they never seem to release easily. You can also use it for gathering and trimming head lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi etc. The blade is thin and sharp on both sides – why didn’t I think of that sooner, you’ll say the first time you use it. Your neighbors will think you are so clever.

Spring can’t be that far away when you start receiving those garden catalogs in the mail. Get out your pencil and paper and plot a garden – stick these hints in your note book and the howling wind and falling snow won’t seem so daunting.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Red, Pink and White Christmas

Winter Reds, Pinks and Whites with Poinsettias
by Billie A. Williams

Euphorbia Pulcherrims, better knows in lay terms as poinsettias. This is the time of year you will see them everywhere in shades of the always popular red to pink to white. In The American Horticultural Society’s A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, it is mixed in with other cactus-like plants. This should give you a clue to its care and habits. But then, it’s a bloomer, it has a natural resting time that forces the color to the leaves—the part we think is the flower—much like the Christmas cactus it needs its hours of darkness. So, how do we care for them?

The poinsettia should be placed in a warm sunny window to receive maximum beauty. Do not, however, allow the leaves to touch the glass. As with all cactus, water thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch. Do not let the plant become soggy. Poinsettia do not like wet feet, as we say in the plant world.

At some point leaves begin to fall, or you have had enough of the winter beauty and are ready to make room for spring plants. You’ve become attached to this beauty from the cactus world. Can you save it for next year? Certainly!

According to Jerry Baker in his book Great Green Book of Garden Secrets, you should stop watering the Poinsettia, when the leaves begin to drop off store it in a cool dry place [like you did the summer geraniums you hoped to winter over].

In the spring, you can begin to water it again after you’ve severely pruned it back to about 6 inches in height. If you keep the stems pinched back as new leaves begin to form, you will have a compact, bushy, beautiful poinsettia in time for next Christmas. From early October until blooming starts in late November or mid December, place the plant in a dark closet for 12 hours a day and then place it in a bright sunny window for the other 12 hours each day. You should see your plant return to its former gorgeous self.

Please do remember that poinsettias are one of those beauties that are also toxic to children and pets. So do keep this in mind when you place the plants around your house.

*A TIP: from Jerry Baker about bugs and house plants: Bugs won’t take up residence in the soil of your house plants if you sprinkle the shavings from your pencil sharpener onto the soil. If you don’t have a pencil sharpener in your home, ask your child or a friend’s child’s teacher if you might have the contents of their pencil sharpener occasionally. “Waste not, want not,” my parents used to say. Organic gardening is all about recycling whatever we can whenever we can.

Permission to use as long as you include this resource box:
Billie A Williams
Small Town Secrets (available January 2008)
ISBN 978-1-59705-7660
Fire rages across the tiny town of Nettlesville. Someone is bent on burning it down to the ground one building at a time. Can Chaneeta Morgan and Olga Corn bury their rivalry long enough to stop the arsonist before the town is nothing but ashes, or will Chaneeta’s secret past destroy her and possibly the town?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Plant it! Harvest It! Then What?

If you plant them you have to know what to do with them and only one of the things you might want to do with them is cook. (If you want the answer to more types and their uses go to the Cooks Thesaurus at or

The Cook's Thesaurus is a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients and kitchen tools. Entries include pictures, descriptions, synonyms, pronunciations, and suggested substitutions.

What a fascinating place to visit. You can learn so many trivium, but also some pretty neat stuff. For instance here is just a tiny bit of what you’ll find on the lowly onion.

So which are best for cooking? The most common opinion is the yellow onion. Before we explore how to cook it. Let's look at a little trivia.

Why do onions make us cry?

You've probably noticed that when you cut up a raw onion, your eyes start to tear. A common problem for every onion chopper, this happens because of the enzymes in an onion. Since the onion is being chopped, the cells are being broken - allowing the enzymes to be released. The enzymes in an onion are called allianases (I find this funny nearly alien even) and they react to the sulfides in the onion-chopping environment to create a sulfuric acid gas. This gas is immediately composed and released into the air, therefore reaching your eyes. Our eyes' nerve endings are irritated by sulfuric acid, therefore inducing uncontrollable "crying."

When I think of the smell of sulfur – such as that emitted from striking a match, or from whatever the paper mill did when it unloaded a sulfur rail car a block from our home – the air became unbreathable—and the lowly onion creates sulfuric acid — would that be considered the same but in a less potent dosage?

Cooks Thesaurus recommends chilling onions first to avoid tearing. "If you're prone to crying while cutting onions, try chilling them first, then peeling them under running water.

How to cook them? — Always cook onions over low or medium heat, since they become bitter at high temperatures."

The yellow onion is a favorite for cooking because it is higher in sulfides; unfortunately, this is also what makes you cry when you cut into it. Yellow onions turn a rich brown and become sweeter and milder when cooked. Many people find them too pungent to eat raw.

5 medium onions = 1 lb=2 cups chopped=3 cups sliced

1 small onion = 1/2 cup = 1 tsp onion powder = 1 Tbs dried onion flakes

Substitutes: Spanish onion OR white onion

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Winter Magic

Up here in the north it's a season of whiteness unless you are lucky enough to have the beautiful bayberry - the red twig dogwood or some other ornamental shrub that adds some color to the starkness of the snow.

When you plan your landscape in the North part of the world you'll want to consider adding some plants that add whatever you need to add color and interest to your world a bit in the long days of Winter (not that winter sun shines long, just that the days begin to seem endless - and cabin fever sets in.)

One bleak February when my grand daughter was a tiny baby - I had just picked up her toys from her playing just before we tucked her in bed. I was in writing course at the time and we needed to write poetry in different meters etc. So as I sat looking at these silly squeaky toys and rattles we give our children, tired, suffering a bit from the winter doldrums - I created what follows .. I hope you enjoy it without thinking me mad. LOL {smile}


Turquoise blue dog
Stares silent at a January 20 below

Apricot orange monkey
Squeaks curses at crystallized snow

Wide-eyed pink elephant
Winks reminders of New Year’s Eve

What a macabre pattern they all weave

Bright yellow lion in a clown’s cap
Sits grinning strangely on green frog’s lap

Odd yellow giraffe with blaze orange spots
Stares blindly at north wind gusting at 40 knots

Skinny brown bear in beanie and necktie
Cabin feverish gleam in his crossed gray green eyes

Fluorescent pink rabbit
Frozen stiff in patent leather shoes
A martyr to post-holiday blues.

Furry gray mouse
Scurries out of his house

February smiles valentine’s candy
Ha ha January …We’ve survived you just dandy.

I think!

The Capricorn Goat--January Flannel

Join the bookclub and read a chapter a week of a new novel written by Billie A Williams,

Go to and sign up. It's all Fr** - check it out.

Thanks! and until next time

Happy Garden Planning up North - and happy gardening elsewhere.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Garden Writing

Whether you are a horticulturist or a people horticulturist (nurse), writing is an important way to share your craft, your life, and your expertise. While a garden will nourish and care for your soul and your sustenance, the nutritional value of what you plant can be a boon to your health. Traveling Nurse Epi Larue makes sense of some of it in her blog at

Planting a garden sometimes is like unraveling your family tree or a good mystery. Who gets along with whom (companion planting); who dunnit? (Insect pests); solving the crime (Organic Solutions to garden pests and weeds.); editing your work (tilling and enhancing your soil); marketing and promoting (What to do with all that zucchini or abundant harvest) once your work is finished. and or .

In a garden, you discover peace, you don’t wage wars you correct imbalances. You organically remove what refuses to coexist with your plants. Manifest destiny and gardening co-exist. A victory garden is about peace, about winning the war over high prices and contaminated foods. Just as war affects human lives war in your garden is not waged successfully by spraying the whole garden with weed killer, or some heavy duty insecticide that is also harmful to people and pets not to mention birds and the environment. Plant gardens, send seeds not missiles.

My garden continually amazes me, calls me to exercise, get out in the sunshine, smell the flowers, commune with nature if you will. Look at that rainbow after a storm. It’s a promise. The harvests are mental, physical and nutritional. Finding peace and harmony in a garden nurtures your whole being. . Sun shine for plant growth and human growth.
When you have down time, when it rains or there is snow on the ground it’s an excellent time to read. You could find author interviews and book reviews help you learn what others already have found out. or Answers about gardening or about some other interest you have are only a click away, into day's connected world. Checking an author’s pass times you may find they are gardeners also with advice you can use.

So grab that garden catalogue and begin planning and/or grab your pen and start writing.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Book Club Invitation

Are you ready to experience a brand new Book Club? Go here have a look see - and if you are so inclined click on the link to join up.
You will be getting a whole book for free --written by me-- it's my early Christmas gift to you - The Capricorn Goat -January Flannel (Working Title) being written while you watch - one chapter a week - get started now at go to the website and click on the book club link at the top of the page - do as it tells you and before you know it -- you'll be reading = ) Absolutely Fr**! You will never pay anything ever!
The Novel should end up at around 80,000 words, you’ll get about 2,000 words or so a week.
I hope you enjoy it,
Billie A Williams

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Foot of Snow Makes Gardens Grow

Well, that may not sound really true, but when you’ve had a very dry summer it means a lot to have a good snowfall. Trees, shrubs, especially flowering shrubs, need the added moisture a good snowfall will bring to them.

I think people can live longer without food then they can without water. Our vegetation is no different. The soil can lack nutrients but not water. Matter of fact some of the nutrients the soil needs can come from minerals in the rainfall/snowfall. Which brings me to the next topic — in the winter, around here, people use wood as a secondary source of heat. It has multiple benefits only one of which is in your garden. So, let’s take a look at using wood ashes in your garden.

Wood ashes are valuable for your garden. They are soil builders. If you don’t burn wood yourself, look for a neighbor who does. He will probably give you enough for your garden for free.

Unleached wood ashes (those that are not left out in the weather) contain 5 to 7 percent phosphoric acid. Calcium compounds of 25 – 30 percent, which will help build good sturdy root systems another benefit of wood ashes.

There are differences in the woods burned that will make the ashes contain different benefits. For instance Hardwood ashes contain more potassium than softwood ones. However, much of their value as a soil enhancer will be lost if they are allowed to sit out in and be affected by the weather (leaching). This causes the soluble chemicals to leach out. Keep your ashes covered until you are ready to use them.

When should you apply wood ashes to your soil? The best rule of thumb is some time in advance of planting, but don’t mix them with manure or any high nitrogen containing materials (new grass clippings for instance). An average application would be 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area. Scatter the wood ashes on a freshly dug or tilled surface and then rake it into the soil. Wood ashes are not recommended for lawns or any acid-loving plants.

So be happy if you are in a snow belt, it’s the equivalent of many gentle rains and you have all those wood ashes.

Imagine the marvel of burning wood. It warms you at least four times. Once in the cutting, twice if you need to split it, three times when you haul it to the wood shed to rest until you need it, fourth when you haul it in to the fireplace or wood burning stove.

It will warm you again, when you burn it as you are pouring over your gardening catalogs plotting next year’s crops. Then you get the benefit of those ashes to spread on your soil to enrich the level of certain minerals. Gives you a great new respect for the tree and the snow doesn’t it?

Happy Gardening,

NOTES; [Coal ashes have very little value except to loosen clay type soils. But it is worth mentioning here because of their value as a drainage medium. The screened coal ashes are sometimes used in green houses under potted plants to ensure good drainage. If you have coal ashes use them at the bottoms of borders or beds to protect roses or other moisture sensitive plants from getting “wet feet” in poorly draining soil.]

You may feel free to use this article as long as you include the resource box.
Billie A Williams

Sunday, December 2, 2007

While You Are Planning...

While you are planning next year’s garden, why not allot some space for the forgotten cole crop, Kohlrabi? Its name means ‘cabbage turnip.’ Its easy to grow and pretty much disease and pest-free.
Incidentally, if you leave them in your garden after harvesting what you want to use, and are in a rural setting the deer will provide you with delightful entertainment as they much on the tops.

Kohlrabi purchased in the supermarket is usually tough, fibrous and bitter. You are better off growing your own. It isn’t hard. There are a variety of choices. I prefer Early White Vienna, but there are others equally as good. Most varieties mature in 55 days, so you can plan accordingly.

A soil that is rich in organic matter, retains moisture, yet drains readily, such as is preferred by other cole crops, is ideal for Kohlrabi. If you have sand and manure-enriched compost, incorporate as much as you can spare into the soil for your kohlrabi for best results.

To plant directly into the soil (You can start them indoors early) plant them in two foot blocks, spacing plants six inches apart each way, or sow two seeds per spacing and thin to the strongest seedlings when they’re about 2 inches tall.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, mulching is key to producing prize-winning Kohlrabi. Start when the plants are three inches tall with a layer of clean straw or shredded leaves. Throughout the growing season you should keep the soil consistently moist, but not mucky. All you do is sit back and wait to harvest them.

What do you do with these jewels of the cole family? Start harvesting them when they are about two inches in diameter, somewhere between golf ball or billiard ball size. This is when the flavor and texture will be at its peak.

Pull the bulbs or cut them at the root just below ground level. Strip off the leaves from those stems to use as collard greens.

Now for the Kohlrabi bulb: you can grate it for slaws, sliver it for salads, peel and slice it into coins for cheese or onion dips, my favorite is to peel and eat it raw like an apple. You can also cook them as a creamed or augratin dish. Add them to soups and stews. If you like Chinese dishes stir fry them to add to those. Steamed (either sliced or cubed) served with herbed butter or combine with carrots and peas for a beautiful and delicious side dish.

To freeze, peel and dice, blanch for 90 seconds cool in ice water and package for freezing.
The bulbs will store for several weeks in the refrigerator or root cellar.

Nutritional facts: Kohlrabi has about twice the vitamin C content of orange juice and is an excellent source of vitamin A, several B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other minerals.

German and Hungarian cookbooks usually have some extravagant Kohlrabi recipes.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Four to Six Inches of Snow Predicted

We are in a winter storm watch. It started snowing about a half hour before the weathermen thought it would. Does that mean we are done gardening?

To me it means drag out those gardening catalogs that come earlier and earlier every year and start planning for next year. Those delightful blooms and veggies, fruits and shrubs are sure to get your happy spirit up. Personally, a warm fire, a toasty mug of herbal tea and a stack of paper to plot, plan, and scheme are my respite from any storm.

I learned while I was researching cyanide poisoning for one of my mysteries that the lovely privet hedge shrub is deadly. [and so too is the Pink Lady Slipper wild orchid that was featured in "The Pink Lady Slipper"] Now that was a frightening thought. Apparently our systems, the liver to be specific, can deal with cyanide rather effectively unless it is in large doses. The apricot pit is laced with cyanide, as are apple seeds and any plum type fruit. The good news is that unless ground, chewed, or deliberately ingested like the Apricot Kernels sold at health food stores a while back--they are not lethal to you. Whew!

Remember too that those beautiful poinsettia plants are poisonous to your pets.

So I will continute to let my privet hedge divide my property into neat they and me space.

Get out those catalogs and begin your dreams for next year. I hope that they may all be productive and colorful. Oh, and after you are done with your Christmas tree this year, be sure that you hang bread cubes and peanut butter pine cones on it and stand it in your yard for the birds -- our feathered insect repelents.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Merry Christmas = )

Dear Friends—Merry Christmas

Well okay it isn’t yet, but I had a thought. (Ouch! I know it hurt me too! ) With the recent steamy hot weather perhaps you needed to think about the coming winter and the Christmas Season to cool down.
If you haven’t made out your Christmas list yet – I have a wonderful idea for you. [Well to me it sounded pretty darn good] How would you like to help a struggling author who is working her tail off, busting her back and the legs her mother told her could never dance in a chorus line because they were too weak, doing dishes and waiting on other people’s demands, stocking 30 pack cases on top shelves to hands and knees shelving of booze on the bottom shelves—to stocking coolers and grocery shelves, bagging ice, to selling lottery tickets (ugh!!!) so that she can afford to stay home and write? [Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Now that is a joke if I ever heard one]
Remember those long winter nights when you yearn to spend some time with a good book in front of the fireplace- since you can't garden yet? You know of other gardeners who are feeling the same -- give them a book - a book keeps on giving long after the wrapping paper has turned to compost.

So my idea was this, if everyone of my relatives and friends bought one book to give to someone else as a Christmas gift, that would be at least a start to get my books noticed by New York and an Agent so that I really could make it to the New York Times Best-Seller list. I can’t get there if I don’t sell any books. So – buddy can you spare me a dime?

January 2008 my newest release from Wings, Small Town Secrets, will be available, but if you’d prefer not to wait that long — and I hope you won’t— you could get one of the other titles. They are listed on now but they are still cheaper at my publishers (at least the Wings books) I’ll enclose a list.

[A re-release of Knapsack Secrets (May 2008) and a sequel to Skull Music – titled Ghost Music of Vaudeville, (November 2008)]

Tung Umolomo, A Shutting of the Mouth is still available either from or

I have several titles available from including a cookbook, (Bed and Breakfast Murders Cookbook and Extras) two poetry books (Feather’s in the Wind, and Meanderings Most Museful, an essay/short story book (Adrift) and a children’s book (Magic Carpet Ride.) I

f you would like something for a writer friend or wannabe writer: Writing Wide, Exercises in Creative Writing, or Characters In Search of an Author are both available from or Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any bookstore – just ask them to order it if it isn’t on their shelves (actually this is true of any of my books they all can be ordered for you – and do tell the bookstore they are ALL returnable in good condition.)

Now, I have other books coming out next year but I would really, really like to see you fill some of your Christmas gift giving needs with a trip to my website to look at the books I have – if you like I can send you a PDF (electronic) Sampler of the first chapters of all my books for FREE. Just email me and I’ll send it right off – feel free to copy this PDF Sampler, share it with everyone you know, even print it off and leave it in your Doctor’s or Dentists, or hair dressers lounge/office.

If you haven’t heard and you know of anyone or any group that will be doing a Christmas Play this season A CHRISTMAS DREAM a 3-Act Play for small to medium theatrical groups from church, to school, to community theater and everyone else is available. It is my first attempt at writing a play and it has been getting some good reviews —It is available from, Barnes and Noble or any bookstore just for the asking – I’ll include the ISBN of all the books on a second sheet here so you can take it with you when you go to a bookstore or get online.

Some books I have had a hand in are on the steamy side – Written by Cricket Sawyer or Logan Blue – some you will find at [Angeni, Irish Whiskey, Great White Bull, and Beyond The Shadows] or [Valentine Express]. A new publisher will be re-releasing several titles in January – two of the publishers who had published these books closed their doors so those books will be re-released from other publishers. Look for re-releases and new names for (Black Knight)Dark Knight (Logan Blue), Blue Interlude (a Billie title), Comfortable Shoes (Cricket Sawyer) From Echelon and Erotique.

Firedrake Weyr is a new publisher that is publishing a Cricket Sawyer book, Lavender Lust and several from me. The Power Stones of the Goddess Ebony, Write to Entice, Spice up Your Writing. They should be available in January, February, and March of next year.

So I hope you are enjoying thoughts of back to school, beautiful and cool fall colors, and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas Season. If you have any questions, comments, want signed copies or book plates for your purchases please shoot me an email or drop me a snail mail line. We really want the Post Office to know we haven’t forgotten them just because technology is faster then they are —most times. Thank you so much for your time, consideration and purchases.

Love & Prayers and good old fashioned hugz.

And of course MERRY CHRISTMAS (albeit a tad early)
Billie A Williams

[And Cricket and Logan say thanks too even though their books are only electronic and available online – they still make affordable sassy choices for some.]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Letter From a Friend

This has nothing to do with gardening - but it does have everything to do with friendship and the love we have for our pets. Please read this and then take action before you pass it on to everyone you know. You owe it to your pets and your loved ones.

Thank You!


Stop the Slaughter

Returning home from a routine trip to the library on Friday, July 13, 2007. I found one of my beloved cats lying on the floor in a pool of blood, her tiny body wracked with convulsions. Checking on the others, I found two more unable to stand, their legs too shaky to hold their bodies, their bodies trembling fiercely.

Wrapping these three in towels, we headed for the Pet Emergency Hospital, where one of the first questions was whether I had recently given the cats a flea treatment—I had, that very afternoon. The next question: “Was it Hartz?” Again, my answer was yes. This was my first year using this particular brand.

When I left the hospital that night, it was without my three cats. They were too far gone to make it through. I left with instructions to bathe the remaining four and watch them closely. I followed this. They were quiet and nervous that night. By the next morning, another cat was in full-blown seizures and the other three were blinking rapidly and jerking, their muscles starting to be affected. Another trip to the Pet Hospital. When I left this time, one more of my babies was gone and the other three had been admitted. I was scared they would not make it. These three did come home. They survived physically, but my heart goes out to them as they wander through the house crying for those who are gone.

The look on the vet’s face got me thinking and I started to research. This was not the first tragedy caused by Hartz flea treatment. Cats have been dying from this product for years---yet the product remains on store shelves. Unsuspecting consumers, wanting to protect their pets and trusting the Hartz name buy and use it—sometimes it is fine, all too often it ends in tragedy.

I am asking you today to take a stand with me and demand that Hartz remove their flea treatment for cats from the shelves. Hartz knows the danger, they are aware of the record, yet they continue—this slaughter must stop!!

The warning on the box states simply the product should not be used on cats under five pound, pregnant or ill. None of my seven fell into any of those categories—all were over five pounds, five over ten pounds. None were pregnant. All were healthy. The youngest was just over two years old and the oldest six—not kittens. Yet EVERY SINGLE ONE had a reaction!!!

How can you take a stand? The first step is to make a copy of this letter and post it anywhere and everywhere you can. Let people know the danger of this product. Next, contact Hartz at:
Consumer Relations DepartmentThe Hartz Mountain Corporation400 Plaza DriveSecaucus , NJ 07094 USAConsumer Hotline1-800-275-1414 Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm EST

And insist they remove their product from the shelves. If you see the cat flea treatment on a store shelf, talk to the store manager, let him or her know the danger and ask that it be removed.

Hartz, how many more lives must be lost before you stop this needless slaughter? Is it going to take you seeing the pain and horror in your child’s eyes when they watch a beloved friend die? Is it going to take looking into a pair of golden eyes that are begging for help as you hold the convulsing body that just hours before ran and played? If there is any compassion at all within you, you will see the need to remove this product immediately.

I panic every time one of my remaining three moves quickly. Hundreds of others out there do the same. It is too late to save so many—it isn’t too late to save the rest!!! I ask each and every employee at Hartz to stop by the pet shop on your way home tonight—or maybe you have a cat at home –really look into that cat’s eyes and ask yourself this: Doesn’t that cat’s life mean anything? Is the money worth the pain and suffering?

If that doesn’t change your mind, look into your child’s eyes. What would you do if you gave this precious child medicine to help him or her and instead of helping, the medicine attacked every muscle, caused convulsions – and death?

My cats were my children—just as so many others are to those who love them. Find your conscious, search your hearts---and stop this senseless slaughter!!!

Joyce A. Anthony

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gardens On The Rise - or Vertical Response to a Small Space

Gardens on the rise — the vertical rise that is.

Have you ever thought of gardening vertically? I hadn’t given it much thought this year when I planted gourds in one of my swans that swim around the concrete fisher boy gingerly perched on a stump. He fishes there year round, though there is no pond.

The gourds started their meandering search for where the sun they liked best was available. I watched daily as they started out toward the lawn area – and then detoured back up a side table by the park bench, and turned abruptly to check out the potted petunias on that small table. Sure enough this morning when I checked they liked the moist soil in the pot and had quickly set a tendril into the soil and the rest of the plant continued on toward the back of the park bench. There is a small tree (broken off in one of our wind storms) that affords shade to the park bench – some of the branches are precariously low to the arm of the bench. I’m waiting to see what direction the gourd will take next.

But it did give me pause. I have only a small vegetable garden area. I do make use of vertical growing most years. This year I planted bush squash so I don’t need to contend with the vines. I planted the pumpkins over in the flower bed around the windmill instead of flowers – they make a beautiful flower bed. I grow cucumbers up trellis or corn, I grow whatever I can on fences and plant smaller crops like leaf lettuce at the base to help conserve the evaporation of soil moisture and to give me more yield in a smaller area. I find that companion planting lengthens my season – even in the hot weather peas will continue to grow when roses and onions shade them on one side and beets and bush squash shade them from the other.

If you haven’t tried vertical gardening you owe to yourself to try. The plants stay cleaner, are easier to harvest, and more disease resistant because most harmful plant pests do not climb. The humming birds, butterflies, and bees are delighted with the advantage you afford them with vertical plantings. Try it next year.

Happy Gardening.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lord of the Flies or Pollinators?

By Billie A Williams
“Time’s fun when you’re having flies,”
Lynn Havsall, Environmental Educator at the College of the Atlantic

For most of us, bees or butterflies are the only insects we think of when we think pollinators. Would you believe a much more prolific pollinator, the ordinary Diptera (fly) is really a contender? Some of them resemble bees so of course we attribute even that to the bee.

In a recent article in (July –August 2007) issue of Audubon Magazine an article on flies caught my attention. Apparently “… scientists recognize flies as key players in ecosystems, recycling carcasses, dung, and plant debris while themselves serving as vital food in the life cycles of many kinds of birds, bats, and fish. Some rival bees as pollinators of domestic crops. Other flies are powerful tools for helping geneticists unravel the nature of life, the police in solving violent crimes, or pollution control specialists in assessing the quality of our waterways.”

A tall order for such tiny creatures you say. Me too! Ogden Nash is credited with saying “God in His wisdom made the fly/And then forgot to tell us why.”

Reading the in-depth wonderful article by Frank Graham Jr. really gave me pause to think about flies in a whole new light. The family names boggle my mind and classing mosquitoes, dragonflies, damselflies in the same group as black fly, horse fly or blow fly boggles my mind. To tell them apart the four winged Dragonfly from the two winged bottle fly is simple when you read the names — those four winged critters have the fly attached to the name – the two winged have the fly separate from the name. J I feel so very clever knowing that.

The first four-winged insects appear in the fossil records dating back more than 350 million years. “The two-winded flies show up 215 million years ago, having evolved the tiny, clublike hind wings called halteres to make flight with the front pair more efficient.”

Another distinction is made regarding the type of antennae the insects have. The long variety such as the mosquito has or the short-horned flies like the house fly. While the mosquito has serious and lethal names to describe their various disease bearing qualities there are only a few flies with lethal characteristics. Contrary to folk entomology, the common house fly does not bite. His mouthparts are designed as sponge-like usurpers of liquefied meals. If you believe you were bitten by a house fly the perpetrator was probably the dreaded, but similar stable fly. The tiny midges (Chironomid midges) not the biting kind, are always present around water and thus become one of the most reliable barometers of the water’s quality.

I may have to enlist the blow files (sometimes called blue bottles, green bottles etc.) in my next mystery as they are the star witnesses when it comes to presenting evidence in court about the time of death of a victim. They are attracted to the corpse shortly after death. They lay their eggs in various body openings. The maggots hatch in a matter of 24 hours and feed internally, hastening decomposition. Entomologists are able to identify maggots that are present on a body and can gauge their stage of development in the contents of environmental conditions — establishing the time, place and successive whereabouts in the time before the body was discovered. Perhaps it was killed in one place and transported to another – the flies in one place (say shoreline) may not be consistent with the flies that would be found elsewhere (say a city dump).

There is some fascinating reading in this issue of Audubon and I may have to revisit it in the next article perhaps looking at the methane gas emitted by cows by burping, creating 18 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

Visit for more information.

Feel free to pass on this article as long as you leave the resource box attached.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

What can you do with hay bales?

After reading an article in The Daily Dirt, gardening news, I was struck by the beauty of this idea. Planting your garden in hay bales. I'm sure you could buy last years bales cheaply from any number of farmers. The thought of a strawberry pyramid built of hay bales is the best thing I could think of...fertilizer, the necessary control of where the vines will re-attach themselves and all that. It could be a real boost to the weeding and care process.

"Hay bale vegetable gardening is a technique that was developed by a vegetable crop specialist at the University of Florida. It may sound odd but vegetable gardening in hay bales really works. Wheat straw bales are better than hay because they tend to have fewer weed seeds than hay bales and alfalfa and mixed grass bales also work well." Heleigh Bostwick, of The Daily Dirt says.

The author of the article recommends if you must use new bales that you soak them for three days in a row, then layer fertilizer over them for 3 or 4 days and let them sit for three more days, then dig a hole in them to put your plants. She says any plant could grow this way with the exception of root crops and tall ones like corn (because they would become top heavy and tip over). Can you see the posibilities - Step gardens where there is not enough horizontal may have to tend them with a step ladder - but at least you could grow produce. I'm seeing pictures of a tower of vegetables...What an amazing idea.

I see a circle of bales with poles in the center where you plant pole beans and train them toward the poles - wouldn't that be a spectacular center for other vegetables such as pumpkins or cucumbers growing below them?

I hope you will try it out. I intend to as my strawberries are out of control in my flower and vegetable garden areas.

Happy Gardening.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Roses in Peril

Roses in Peril

By Billie A Williams

Roses are my husband’s favorite flowers—little does he know the work involved in keeping them beautiful. Today while I was out trying to rescue a $26 hanging basket of Petunia’s that were surviving on mere water and nutrients I had fed earlier in the week. A side note, beautiful basket but the first time I watered it I knew….I’ll save that story for another column.

Now on to the roses in peril I heard this buzzing sound – nearly like an electrical transformer makes in peak air conditioning season. I thought wow; the bees are especially busy today—on our very fragrant white roses. The fragrance is heavenly and perfumes nearly the whole yard. To my surprise – the bees were trying to be busy, fighting for existence among the blooms of the roses while an outrage of Rose Chafers devoured blossom, buds and everything they could reach. They even attacked the bees as I watched. I was devastated. Apparently, these obnoxious visitors are especially fond of white blooms.

I hurried to the house to read what Jerry Baker had to recommend. (I have several of his gardening books—he always has the natural solution) His solution was hand picking – YUK! Not something that made me feel very good. Other than that he mentioned a couple chemicals rotenone or Pyrethrin…Not into the expense or the side affects of chemical solutions, I opted for my old stand-by which cures nearly all insect infestations without the harmful side affects for birds and other critters in my yard.

I mixed up a cocktail of Mrs. Murphy’s Oil soap and water. (1/4 cup to a quart of water) and sprayed the dickens out of those roses. I probably err on the side of too much soap to water, as Jerry Baker has a different recipe below--but his is pre--mine is present solutions.

Reading further in Jerry’s book he says “if you give your roses a bath once a week with a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap mixed with 2 gallons of warm water, odds are, you won’t need any chemical controls!” I wish I had heeded my own advice earlier when I saw the first chaffer on my Smoke Tree.

Here’s another trick from an old-time gardening friend, "put one or two garlic cloves among your roses to keep aphids and other pests away." (Another thing I was too busy to follow this year) Usually, I plant a row of set onions in front of the roses that border the head of my garden, which normally is enough control. This year the weather has been so different that perhaps I need to go back to more intensive and consistent prevention medicine. It's hotter than it should be this early and the rains we get are torrential downpours accompanied by horrendous winds. Very unusual.

Now, I must keep an eye on my Concord grape vines as these nasty critters move across my yard, they are surely next and the Rose Chafer will feed on them too. Mrs. Murphy, are you ready?
Happy Gardening
You may feel free to use this article if you retain this resource box with it.
Award winning Mystery Suspense author Billie A Williams invites you to visit her at or check out her You Tube video of A Christmas Dream Script for a 3-Act Play designed for medium to small theatrical groups.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bananas, Salt, Tea and WD40

By Billie A Williams
Rose bushes are they hard to raise? Depends on who you talk to. I have had terrible luck with the miniature variety, but basically the others are a breeze. They need pruning, water and occasionally a few banana peels. What you never heard of burying banana peels around the perimeter of your roses? The nutrients are ideal for them, but what I didn’t know before was, the banana peel actually retards aphids a real nasty for rose bushes and gladiolas. I usually spray my plants at the first sign of trouble with a weak soap solution. If I see any aphids near my roses, I use Mrs Murphy’s Oil soap mixed with water in a spray bottle (also good on the grape vines) but I like the double duty banana peel instead. Tea is another rose booster. It will enhance the growth of roses.

Here are a few more hints for other bugs and areas of your living space. Are you tired of uninvited guests at your picnic? To keep those pesky ants at bay try putting plastic containers under the legs of your picnic table and filling them with water. The ants may climb up the plastic container but they will fall in and drown before they get to the table legs.

Salt has always been a favorite remedy of mine for so many things. You can fill a plastic container with salt water and place it at ground level in your gardens where you have seen slugs or snail damage. The snails and slugs drown trying to get at the salt. (This works with beer too) If you need to bait them use pieces of raw potato around the dish. You can also use salt to stop weeds from growing in the cracks of your sidewalks or walkways and is one of the many things that can extend the life of cut flowers. In the kitchen you can use a light salt water solution to put peeled potatoes or apples in until you are ready to use them, to keep them from turning dark.

Tea is a great addition to any acid loving houseplants soil. I use weak tea to water my ferns, and other house plants once a month. You can also use it and the tea bags to speed up the decomposition of your compost pile. (Compost pile coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and any organic vegetable matter is great.)

Now here is something I bet you’ve not heard of before—WD-40 ™uses in your garden. I believe WD-40 ™ has nearly as many uses as duct tape. You can use it to spray your flower beds lightly to keep cats, dogs and other animals out of them. You can use it on your bird feeders to keep squirrels off of them (hmmm cheaper than Cheyenne pepper – perhaps.) Those dirty messy pigeons building nests on balconies and porches, try spraying surfaces with WD-40™ it makes your place very unappealing to the pests.
Also spray railings and bird feeders to keep them off. If you have a wasp problem, building nests under your eaves—next summer spray the over hang under the eaves with WD-40™. One more good use for it, spray thistle plants and they will be history.
Use it to take care of your lawn and garden tools. Spray the handles to keep them from splintering and giving you slivers, spray the tines of garden forks, shovels, hoes, to keep them rust free and in good condition. (you can do this with your snow shovel, snow blower etc to keep snow from sticking to them in the winter, too)

Like I said WD-40™ is in a race with duct tape™ and probably super glue™ to see who is the most versatile and important. I love organic solutions when at all possible, but when something works like magic it’s hard to resist using modern warfare in the garden to get rid of pests.

Feel free to pass this article along as long as you leave this resource box attached.
Billie A Williams
Multi-published Mystery/Suspense Author
Whose Accidental Sleuth’s solve crimes with wit, wisdom and chutzpah.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rose Pests - and Helpers

This morning when I stopped at our local Mathis Ace Hardware ( you know the jingle "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware - man" - er person) I needed a cure for my peonies - they haven't bloomed yet and I planted them years ago. Someone told me they need Oyster shells - I wasn't able to find any. (If any one has any ideas I'd be pleased as punch to hear them. I do have plenty of ants so that isn't the problem) Picture of Lady Bug and aphids on fennel
But speaking of ants they are a problem in another way. Every insect has a benefit - such as the need for ants to help open peony blooms. however, Ants do pose a problem in that they "farm" aphids -- aphids can mean disaster for your glads or roses. So whats a person to do? You could import some Lady Bugs - they have a special appetite for them. (not the asian beetle please, but the real Lady Bug)
A women next to me in the insecticide - fertilizer isle was searching for rose dust to kill the aphids and things bothering her roses.

I had a solution for her - since she seemed to prefer organic, but was desperate. We could use the lady bugs (we have many around here. They didn't seem to be doing their job) or at least something safe for pets, birds, people. My solution for pests is Mrs. Murphy's Oil Soap. I mix it with water in a spray bottle - about 1/8 to a 1/4 cup to a quart of water and mist my plants until the leaves drip. I've used it to get rid of the bugs in my grapevines, the bean and squash bugs. It works to spray it around my back door to keep asian beetles and box alder bugs from coming in everytime the door opens. It's a wonderful product and doesn't hurt the environment.

I love finding solutions to my gardening problems that can help others and not harm beneficial critters or people. If anyone knows a reason why my 10 year old transplanted Peonies are not blooming though - I'd appreciate a note. Thank you!

Happy Gardening.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Organic, It's Exciting, It's Cutting Edge

I borrowed this (with permission of course) from a lovely lady over at The Daily Dirt - if you love gardening you will want to subscribe to her daily missives they are great! Here is the link.

Wednesday What's New: Sustainable Urban Farm
The Link for the story: the original article:

The Science Barge, a sustainable urban farm is on a mission to educate people about sustainability. Moored on the Hudson River on New York City's west side, the barge is equipped with two greenhouses and is powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water--with no carbon emissions, no water use, and no waste stream.

The cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and other vegetables are grown using hydroponic gardening techniques. Ted Caplow, head of New York Sun Works, the non-profit organization behind the Science Barge, believes that if vegetables were grown hydroponically in greenhouses on New York City's rooftops, there would be more than enough vegetables to feed the region.

Caplow says that greenhouses produce seven times more food and use four times less water than traditional farming methods on land. Despite the proliferation and success of community gardens, one of the reasons rooftops may be the solution is that space for growing gardens on land is limited in a region with a population as dense as New York City. Of course most people don't have access to their rooftops, but the possibility of using public rooftops is a viable option.

Photo source: Source: Environmentalist dreams of New York rooftop farms

Heleigh Bostwick, Making Gardens Greener

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Woman's Garden - a look at Organic Gardening

I've gardened all my life. No wait, that's true. While I was growing up I spent summers on my grandfather's farm - he had two 80 acre parcels split in half by a road that twisted over the narrow bridge and through the woods to a little country town that was nothing more than a whisper on the map in Northern Wisconsin named Morse.
I learned that if you salt cabbage it heads without the intrusion of worms and a lot of other great things about gardening using ordinary things every kitchen should have to control pests and invaders. Control ants and weeds with vinegar or cheyenne Pepper. Skunks don't like moth balls. But I'll leave more on that for later.
Living on a small dairy farm with pigs, chickens and eggs, geese, sheep, worked by draft horses that eventually were replaced by the more energy efficient (?) tractor...a learning experience unequalled by anything else. I came away richer for it and I would like to share some of what I learned with you. If you garden, or want to garden in this day and age where you are afraid to buy Spinach or peanut butter because it might be contaminated-- tag along with me. It's time we all started doing, what during World War II they called A Victory Garden, near our kitchen doors. Don't worry if you live in a high rise apartment building - I've got solutions for you too. So join me, won't you! Until next time...

Happy Gardening,