Archives for January 2014

As We Thaw Out In Mendota

While the evening temperatures went back to -5 degrees last night, we welcomed the sun back yesterday.    I promise this is my last drive around showing you weather pictures.  However, I slap these up and get about 150 views in a short period of time, so someone enjoys them as much as me.

My girlfriend texted early yesterday and asked “how are the roads?   Hmmm…that answer would be “negative, my dear!”   This is the road in front of my house yesterday morning. This snow hung to the roads more than the grass and it was about zero degrees when this was taken.  Brrr.

Swinging Bridge Road

A bit later, Mike and I put the truck in four-wheel drive and drove down to the Mendota Bridge. Here’s the North Fork flowing toward the bridge. The ice backs up at the bridge.

North Fork at Mendota Bridge

On the opposite side of the bridge, the water is flowing more freely; and if you look closely, you’ll see four ducks enjoying the sunshine.  And if you are a mountain person like me, you feel the “sigh” looking at Clinch Mountain.  I never feel safe when Clinch Mountain is out of my line my sight.

North Fork at Mendota Bridge Ducks

Further down in Hiltons, there was more ice backed up. On this this day, our river is the bride of Clinch Mountain….all decked out in white!

River Road Again

And then a snake…

Snake River

I took the picture below at the bridge below Lunford’s Mill in Hiltons.  While not visible in the picture there are little animal tracks on the frozen part.  I hope they are careful.

River at Munsford Mill

I’m sure these cows were enjoying the sunshine and I thought they were pretty crazy to be that close to the icy river. Cows…don’t you know it’s freezing? If you’re from the city, you may be thinking “ice cream.” Nope, think “chilled burgers.” These are beef cattle.

No Milk Here

Here’s a little deer thawing out. I wonder if it’s a farting deer. If you don’t get that, please go here. You’ll crack up.


While it’s not the 7th Wonder of the World, a recent “wonder” topic in Hiltons is pictured below with the Black Angus cows.  What caused it…what does it mean? Mmm…looks like a leaky pipe to me.

Faust Cows

Went straight to the source with Neal Faust.   He first told me that he was not allowed to tell because he’d been asked 501 times and because I was from around here I should know what caused this.   Yep…it’s a leaky pipe.

Neal Faust

Later in the evening at the Nordyke Bridge, everything looks blue. It could have been my camera setting, but who knows?

Blue River

The extreme cold is “breaking up” tonight and our low will be about 10 degrees. However, I still think we’ll have snow in the next two weeks. It’s just a feeling.


I Cannot Stop Laughing

It’s been a good day.

1)  Both of my bee hives are alive.

2)  I’ve gotten old, but my vision improved (this happens when you’re nearsighted and start getting old…but hey…still good!)

3)  And then there is this.





Warming Up in Mendota

We’ve just come off of a very cold week here in Mendota.   It’s been all the way down to zero and today’s 45 degrees was balmy.   Each night during the extreme cold, I have kept a tarp over my beehives to give them a tiny bit more protection from windchills below zero.  I pull the tarp back during the day so that the sun will shine directly onto the hive.  Today, Hive #1 rewarded me with a bit of relief.   They were working…removing dead bees, flying out to powder their noses, and just being honeybees.

Honeybees in Virginia

Meanwhile, over at Hive #2, there was this.

Hive 2

No bees coming outside of this hive. I saw one bee. Just one. I don’t know whether they have remained clustered today (it wasn’t really warm) and Hive #1 did not remain clustered, or if the worst has happened.    Please no.    At any rate, it has driven me to drink.  Here’s the proof.   Thank goodness my sister, Pat, and cousin, Barb, are here to support me during this difficult time.    It’s got so bad that I lost my top.

Drinking Baby

We heat with wood via a woodboiler in the winter. Since we pay for the wood, it normally is not a moneysaver, but we stay really nice and cozy; and during extreme temperatures, it may be actually saving us money. I have no idea what our heat bill would be with three heatpumps running during these low temps.    There’s two heatpumps for  the main house, and one heatpump for the garage apartment.  However, we only use the heatpump fans as the woodboiler heats both places. At any rate, I’ve appreciated the warmth we’ve had when I know others have struggled.  We’ve been able to keep our house on 70 or 71 degrees on the really windy nights.   Mike has to go out twice daily and load the woodboiler. He calls it “feeding the pig.”


Others we know with woodboilers seem to be able to burn anything in their woodboilers.  However, I insisted Mike get one with very high EPA requirements (such a tree hugger).  This has resulted in a real challege as it only works efficiently with seasoned (as in one year) hardwoods.  As we approach February, we have a great deal of wood, but we may soon run out of wood we can use. Great. However, we do still have the heat pump, and winter is going to be loosening its grip as the weeks pass.

Even though below zero or near zero temperatures are returning tomorrow evening, I’m thinking of spring now…

My succulents…I have these growing everywhere. I do nothing and they just show back up and I place them in pots, shoes, and give them to everyone.    My cousin’s wife, Pam Powers, provided me with these succulents years ago.  They look sad and brown.


Do not dispair!   They’ll be large and a soft green in June…similar to these in the boots…just in time for my friend’s daughter’s wedding.  I’ve been on Pinterest and succulents are the new thing for wedding flowers.

Randy's Boots

And these dried, dead looking mums...sad.  

Winter Mums

In May, I’ll trim the tops off, add some compost and they’ll come back looking like this. These mums are several years old.   They are old friends who stop in to spend the summer with me.   Lovely.


Are you looking forward to spring?

Mike and I are.  We’re already planning our garden.   We’re increasing the number of 4 x 6 raised beds.  I’m planting all my green beans in raised beds, all potatoes and onions, cucumbers, and some will become the permanent home of new blueberry bushes.   With the 12 new raised beds that be put in place in the coming six weeks, we’ll have a total of 12.

More Raised Beds

Plans and more plans!!   I’m off to go look at seed catalogs while I watch Downton Abbey.     Could a Sunday evening be more perfect?  Stay warm!




Driving to Mendota On Nordyke

We got up early this morning and decided to run to Sam’s Club.  Our forecast has been right-on-the-mark with the extreme temperatures but snow has been more miss than hit.    I didn’t even think of snow as we left.    It was a surprise when we got to town and this occurred within minutes. …and it was a slippery bit of snow.  This was the Walmart/Sam’s Club parking lot.

Walmart in the Snow

We grabbed a few things and headed back to Mendota.     Mendota is located in “Poor Valley” and you must travel downward to get here from Bristol or Abingdon.   We drove on Nordyke Road which twists and turns.  I’m always amused when I hear newcomers talk about Nordyke in the winter…they should have seen it before it was improved many years ago.  I barely remember it, but no one used it in bad weather.

Speaking of bad weather and our extremely cold temperatures, my sister, Pat, has this thing figured out. There has been a mix-up. Obviously we have been mistakenly given Michigan’s weather, while her son, Cory, has Virginia’s weather where he lives in Texas. I believe there are plans in place at the end of next week for Texas to return Virginia’s weather; and we will, of course, ship Michigan’s right back where it belongs.

It’s pretty driving down Nordyke…I had the camera and took some pictures.

Nordyke in Snow

Another…some of these pictures are blurry on the left side because we were moving when I snapped them…

Nordyke in Snow 2

Lots of frozen water falls..really pretty this time of year.

Ice on Nordyke

After a few miles, the land levels.  Here’s the Nordyke Creek as that leveling occurs.

Nordyke Creek

Nordyke Creek flows into the North Fork.  I took this from the truck while stopped on the Nordyke Bridge.

North Fork at the Bridge

Stopped at one of the Swinging Bridges to look around.

Swinging Bridge Mendota Virginia

Gray, dreary and really pretty at the same time.

North Fork at Swinging Bridge

Another taken from the bridge…facing the opposite direction. The Barker family had a mill at this location near the turn of the century.

North Fork at the Bridge

And now…home. This was taken in front of the house.

In Front of House

Our cats, which normally stay out a great deal of the time, have been mostly “in” for days.   Boredom has set in.  Mike yelled at Sam the Cat for playing in the dog’s water bowl. Within minutes, he was elsewhere up to his naughty business.  He’s not drinking; he’s tossing water around.

Sam and the Commode


Checking on the Bees

I went up and checked on our Honeybee Hilton.    Read here if you need more information on how this crazy tarped arrangement started.   What else do you see in this picture?   Above the barn…above the roof peeking through from our guest house?   Yes…there’s Clinich Mountain.   Sigh.


I pulled back the tarp that I’ve had over the two hives in an attempt to protect them from the extreme temperatures.    It has been very cold.

I believe they are okay.    There is a dead bee outside the hive that was not there on Tuesday, and that’s actually a good sign.  They are inside keeping the hive clean.


I’m leaving the tarp pulled back until this evening when the temperature will drop again.  I doubt that they will be outside of the hive at all, but in the event they do need to come out and “powder their nose” they can fly right out and right back in.

One of the crazy things I keep thinking about is that the tarp makes it dark in the hive.  That’s crazy.  It’s dark in the hive all the time.



We Visited Elizabethton

Do you recognize this? If you do, you’ve visited Elizabethton in Carter County, Tennessee. It’s the Doe River Covered Bridge. I took this picture when it was so.very.cold! I’ll go back and take one on a spring day.

Doe River Bridge

I wanted to go to Elizabethton for a while. When I worked for “the phone company” a zillion years ago, I did customer training at North American Rayon. Bemberg Industries and North American Rayon were huge manufacturing plants. I wondered what happened to them. I Googled and found out that they were gone.  Sigh…I hope the people found other jobs.  

So what was left in Elizabethton? Very nice people and lots of antique stores. The downtown is full of antique stores! I am at a place in my life where I’m getting rid of things versus acquiring them, so I was just a looker…not a shopper.

There was one very cute item that I took a picture of with my iphone. I’ve had Fence Post Pals on the blog a couple of times, but was a new take (for me) on crafting with fence posts. Isn’t she lovely?


This would be a great way to use horrible Christmas sweaters.


These were $30.   I almost bought one.   

Elizabethton is a town that is hanging on.  I liked it.  I am going back.



OK Bees…You’ve Got To Live Through the Winter

“What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is this anyway?”   That was Mother’s words I heard in my head as I looked over our make-shift arrangement to protect my two hives of bees from the extreme wind chill.  Mama…what are you doing out here in the cold?   You live in my heart where it’s warm–and besides, you’re being a little sassy.”

Ok..for the sake of pleasing Mother, I’ll admit it does look a little like a shanty town for bees…

Bee Tarp 2

During the last “Arctic Blast” of air through Poor Valley, I wrapped the hives in bubble wrap and worried constantly for three days.  You can read about that here.   I removed the bubble wrap because I was concerned about trapping moisture in the hive.

And then we get the forecast for this evening…5 degrees with a windchill factor of about -5 this evening.    Great.   I’m short on bubble wrap.   Mike came to the rescue with a tarp.  Brilliant!  The barn is the first defense for the chilling wind, but the tarp will give an added barrier, and tomorrow I can just pull it back.   At any rate, I’ll sleep better knowing they’ve got a bit of extra protection.  They have to work hard to keep their queen warm.   Here they are on a nice warm day when we were working with them.    I love them, but–excuse my French–these little pals are meaner than s*!t!  If you come see me in the summer, you’d better bring your Benedryl!!

Healthy Bees

The tarp had to be loose around the front of the hives because there are two openings that provide ventilation.  One is right at the top of the hive…just under the roof.  Warm, moist air inside the hive moves upward and it has to have a place to go.  If the ventilation hole is closed off or blocked, the moisture may result in icey cold drops of water falling on my bees.  No way are we going to allow that to happen!

In this last picture, you’ll see the tarp going down in the center.  I was worried about air getting underneath the tarp and pulling it up and possibly pulling my hives over.   Am I overthinking this wind?  Anyway, we used bungie cords to prevent the wind from getting under the tarp.

Wintering Bees 1

If this is all fallen over in the morning, I will be so upset. Stop by tomorrow and I’ll let you know how this worked.

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage. If you’ve never commented, hunt around the bottom of this post and please leave me a comment. When you visit the blog, I can see where you come from but not who you are. For instance, someone in Washington State visits several times per month. I’d love to hear from them…you…anyone! Thank you!!


Mendota Post Office and This Strange Cat

My day began in a surprising manner. Sam the Cat returned from being outside for about 90 minutes. He climbed into bed and began “marching” or what I call “making muffins.” He marched for about a minute and then he peed on me. Not a little bit.

Later, after everything was churning away in the washer and I’d showered,  I asked him..”what was up with this peeing in the bed thing? It’s a little creepy, Sam?”

Sam 1

“I’m getting ready to roll. Can’t answer you now.”


Sam 2

“Those 600 count sheets get wet just like the 180 count nubby ones. How did you like the smell?  You are mine now, baby!  I’ve marked you!!


Sam 3

“Nanny nanny boo boo…better to be pissed on than pissed off.”

Suffice it to say, Sam spent a very unhappy afternoon outside looking in. This time spent on the wrong side of the “Door of Shame”  has made him sleepy tonight. He’s inside, but he may be snoozing in the garage tonight. Still not certain.

Later, I went to the Mendota Post Office and decided to take you along. We are thankful for our post office. While the hours were cut, the location was spared.

US Post Office Mendota VA

The post office sits at the base of Clinch Mountain…just down from the Mendota Cemetery. It’s across from what was the Mendota Medical Center. Some day.


I had a very small package to mail to Mike’s mother in California. I’d found some lavender goat’s milk lotion made in Jonesville, Virginia — about 45 minutes away.

Evelyn Beaule Package

Have you ever went to a post office and felt you were interrupting someone’s day?  It’s not that way in Mendota.

Kim gives me a big hello when she sees me!

KimThe Mail Lady

Here’s the hours…

Mendota Post Office Hours

Have you ever seen a healthier indoor plant (picture below)?  This is the Mendota Contingency Plan for Emergencies. We’ll be cutting this for firewood if our electricity goes out.  That’s a joke.

Large PO TreeWe’re little, but we got all the fixins…

Post Office Stuff

The post office is a hub for learning what is happening with our neighbors..

The Gathering Bowl

Lifelong friend Patsy is the postmistress. She’d turned her head away… hiding…peekaboo Patsy!   Kim…well…she’s not hiding.

Post Mistress and Mail Lady

I mailed my little package. I enjoy getting anything in the mail, so I like to mail to others. It is so nice to get something delivered. Are you that way?   I bought some stamps. They will increase in price soon, and I wanted to buy a few ahead of time. Patsy always pulls out her folder and lets me pick out something pretty.


If you live in Mendota, please buy your stamps at the Mendota Post Office. If you can’t get down to pick them up, give Patsy a call. She and Kim will work to get those stamps delivered!!

Do you understand why the adage, “once you get that Poor Valley dirt on your feet, you can’t wipe it off” is true?  It’s just not the same anywhere else on earth.


Fence Post Block Pals

Happy Wednesday!  It’s snowing in Mendota.  Yay!

I have a favor to ask. If you read this blog regularly, once in a while or whenever, would you mind “Liking” me on the Facebook button to the right of the page and subscribing so it will enter your email. I’ve been told that the email is not working. If you try to subscribe to the email and it doesn’t work, please let me know. You can comment or leave a message. Thank you. So much!

Do you remember my Pumpkin Blocks? Check them out here.  I really like them.  I liked them so much I started making more blocks at the same time…something to cheer me up on a winter day.  I finished them up today.   Let me introduce you to my Fence Post Block Pals.

Mr. Snowman Block. He originated from a Christmas ornament that fell and lost it’s hook.   It’s now a blockhead.  Like Charlie Brown…only not as famous!   Oh my goodness…it looks crooked in the picture!!!  It’s really not!  (I don’t think so anyway.)

Snowman Block

And because there was more fencepost to be cut…a few friends showed up. Mr. Blackbird Block.

Black Bird Block

And a taller, striped block with yet another bird appeared. Mr. Red Striped Black Bird Block.   I thought long and hard on these names.  These bird decals are leftover from my bathroom project. Read about that here. Read about it here if you want the realities of how difficult it is for me to get anything done.  My husband pouted for a week after that post. He said I was making fun of him…hmmm…why would he think that?   

At any rate, these Fence Post Block Pals are something that are more on my level of expertise.  Low…very low.   A trio of winter block people pals..

Three Blocks in a Row

Instructions! Really you could just look at them, but here ya go:

1) Fencepost cut in various sizes. My True Love (Lowe’s) made the first cuts for me. Mike ended up cutting them again. I think some of the big box stores will do this, but not all. It helps to beg and coax. Most CAN do it if they will. For free.

2) Spray paint your base. It doesn’t matter if it’s red or white or whatever color you like.  Sand like crazy on those sharp corners after paint dries.

3) Tape (plain old masking tape is what I used — no expensive Frog tape…I used the cheeepest.  After all it was birds, and they cheep!!)    Paint your stripes if you want them.

4) Spray again with alternate color.

5) I put bird decals on mine, but you could stencil something on them. Or not.

That’s it.


Mendota Cemetery Quilt 2014

Chris, Margie and I went on a roadtrip to the Virginia Highlands Quilt Shop to see Kim (the owner). It’s time for the fabric selection of the Mendota Cemetery Quilt!! Do you like a white and red quilt? I hope so.

Crossroads Quilt

It’s hard to tell when looking at this picture, but it is going to be so beautiful.  Chris and Linda will be cutting it out next week and then the sewing will begin.  I’m going to prepare a Facebook page to follow its progress — from purchase to the time that someone owns it.  More about that in another post.

I’m glad we bought the fabric in Abingdon this year. Kim had done the quilting on the 2013 Cemetery Quilt, and we wanted to support her and to keep it local. She’s got such a nice quilt shop. I want to show you around.

Please someone find me and inject sewing talent into my head and hands. I just don’t have it, but I so want it!  I love this quilt. 

Fabric Quilt Display

Here’s some fabric would some of these look in your stash?

Fabric Shelves 2

Some fall-themed fat quarters…honestly, I would have been all over these in September. Now, I’m drawn to spring colors.

Fall Fat Quarters

Oh my gosh…thread. Look at this!


A few things for those who like to make doll clothing. That’s not me, but my sister Nancy loves baby dolls.

Doll Items

After looking at all these wonderful fabrics and colors, we never waivered on red and white. It’s so clean. So cheerful and happy.

Fabric Red and White

There is much, much more at the Virginia Highlands Quilt Shop. If you go by and visit Kim, please tell her that her friends from Mendota sent you!

Did I tell you this year’s quilt is called “Crossroads?”   Our cemetery is about the crossroads we each will approach …when we leave this life and go to the next one.   The Mendota Cemetery ensures that our friends and neighbors making this transition can leave their earthly body behind with dignity and grace.

Mendota Cemetery Tree


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