Archives for February 2015

Update on My Honeybees February 28

Hello!! I’ve missed you!! I hope you’ve missed me!!!

I have not been posting often because we’re working on the last minute details before we make our “pitch” at the Washington County Entrepreneurs Challenge. We’re attempting to win $5K for Adventure Mendota. If we don’t win, we’ve had a tremendously positive experience, but hey…I still am in it to win it. With working, keeping things done around the house, and attending one class each week, I haven’t been blogging. Plus…let’s face it. The subject in Mendota, Virginia has been focused on one thing! SNOW! This picture was taken last Saturday morning, and it snowed for many hours after the picture was taken.

Snow Day on Saturday back view

I didn’t have to work that day and it was so pretty. I really enjoyed it. There’s the shop at the base of the hill. I thought of it way too late but we should have blown up some of the Adventure Mendota tubes and went snow tubing. Oh well.

Snow Day on Saturday

We drove over to Asheville today to meet Mike’s son and family for our annual late Christmas get together, and I noticed how little snow pack was in the NC mountains compared to Washington County, Virginia. Even today, we have quite a bit left. As my sister Pat said, farmers are licking their lips thinking about how sweet the hay will be in Mendota this spring. I can just smell it now.

Sticky Snow

So what about those honeybees? My bees have been outside under all this snow and bad weather with temperatures far below zero. They’ve been wrapped in bubble wrap and tarped–loosely tarped–so that ventilation could still get into the small upper vent hole. Still…confession…I’ve been worried about that tarp being too close to the ventilation hole. Very worried.

Bee Tarp 1

But today, I got some good news. Mike went out to put wood in the woodboiler, and about 100 bees were drinking water from melting snow. He did not tell me in time to get any pictures, but I knew where those bees came from — my hives!! Happy dance!! I’d pulled the tarp back early today, because I knew warm sunshine beating down on the hives would be welcome. I went back out this evening. Here’s one of the hives. Do you see that little black dot in the snow just outside the hive? That is a dead bee. This is actually a good sign. There were about 20 dead bees outside of each hive. These bees were not there this morning, but the worker bees are moving about inside the hives, and they are removing the dead bees.

Small bee

It will be a miracle if all three hives survived. I am hoping. I can’t wait to see if Gerald has seen any bee activity as well. He did not get to tarp his, and that is actually a helpful thing. We can see if I’m wasting my time or if it has made the difference in temperature inside the hive–just a little higher–so that the hive could survive.

If it continues to warm up, I’m going to give these guys a little treat of sugar water and Honey Bee Healthy in about two weeks–just a little sip to tide them over in case they are getting low on honey.


Update on Muffin the Cat

In a recent post, I mentioned that Mike and I had been “guest hosting” a feral cat that we’d named Muffin.


The cat showed up for a day or two and then was gone.   It then appeared again about 10 days ago, and that’s when the weather started getting colder.   It hung out on our porch cleaning up the leftovers from my three fat cats.  Mike thought it was going to the barn at night.   Then, as the weather got extremely cold, I made it a little box home of sorts. Hey I never claimed to be an architect.

Hut Hilton

At first, it was just the box with a blanket on top of it for insulation and a blanket inside for warmth. I then added a robe. Mike’s robe. He doesn’t wear it. Much. I tried leaving food in the garage to transition the cat to a warmer place but that didn’t work. Temperatures kept dropping. I’m worried about the bees..I’m worried about this cat. I added our grill cover to the box to give it extra protection. (The grill is stainless and has a good warranty so really…it made sense.) Soon, I drug out heating pads. I know you’re not supposed to use heating pads with pets but I was desperate and thought it would not hurt for a day or two, and it was sheltered on the porch so the cords wouldn’t get wet. And then…NO!! I came home and saw that snow had blown all over my kitty shanty town…snow had blown everywhere…even near the cords!!!! (Yes…that’s plural cords. I actually put two heating pads in the box.)

Cat in Snow

Mike said the heating pads had to go. We made a change from this…

Bad Cords

To this…

Cat Bed

For $69 you can get a pet heating pad. For $20 you can get a people heating pad. Go figure that out.

But that is not the interesting part of this story. When Shannon Vickers Eldreth saw my post talking about Muffin, she said…”that looks like Jacob, but you’d know if it was Jacob because he has a clipped ear where he was spayed.” Apparently Shannon and Jeff had been caring for this feral cat for years, and in appreciation for all they’ve done for him, he ran away.

“And you’d notice that ear…you would know it was him.” Shannon concluded. “Would I”… I wondered? I told her this kitty had a curly ear. I sent her this picture.


So the story unfolds. Muffin is doing the Bruce Jenner thing. Dressing like a girl, allowing us to call him “Miss Muffin” and sitting so we could not see the small amount of junk in his trunk left over from being spayed. Muffin is a MAN!!! He’s 7 years old!! If one cat year is 7 people years, Muffin is 49 and has entered a midlife crisis! He’s ran away from home and now protraying himself as a young lady.

We are going to leave Jacob/Muffin/Bruce alone and see where he wants to live. He’s obviously at an age where he knows what he wants. He may go back to Shannon and Jeff’s house, or he may stay here. We’re all fine with him doing what he feels is best for him. We are just like the Kardashians. We are accepting and will only offer love during this transition.

Update: we had to remake Jacob/Muffin/Bruce’s house to put in the new kitty heating pad. It is inflated, and he was not certain it was something he wanted to deal with. However, it’s 0 degrees out, and he made a decision to at least try it for a night or two.


A Perfect Day

Yesterday was an almost perfect day for me.   I have a few friends who will get this completely.   I stayed home and worked on “home stuff.”   My house was a wreck.  Our dining room table had been a “catch all” for months.   Now it’s dusted and gleaming and everything is put away.

I even got Mike’s son and his wife’s gifts ready to give them.  Until yesterday, they were just in a bag.  We’re planning on hooking up with them soon when the weather straightens out. Looking at this picture, you might think I’m way ahead for Christmas 2015. Nope…this is still 2014! I’ve got our grandsons’ cash, and I’ve almost spent it 30 times.


I started dragging things out and pretty soon the kitchen looked like this…it was almost perfect except that I don’t see any cookies fresh out of the oven.

Messy Kitchen on Snowy Day

Full-blown A.D.D. In the process of cleaning, I did other stuff. Important stuff…such as taking pictures of my fruit bowl. I’m very impressed with this picture.


Put some flowers in a jar. The manager of Food Lion in Gate City gave me these flowers. The price rang up wrong, so he just gave them to me! Me!! I am now in love with the manager of Food Lion. I think this is going somewhere…him and me. I don’t care if they were carnations left over from Valentine’s Day. Mike only got me a card.

Flowers on Snowy Day

Put my Victory Garden pictures in frames and hung them…this picture stinks, but they look pretty good. There’s a better picture of them in yesterday’s post. You’ll just have to come see them!

Victory Posters

Fixed a pot of chicken minestrone soup..


And strategically placed this seed pack where I’ll see it and be reminded that spring will be here soon (surely), and it will be time to plant some lettuce. I can’t wait!

Lettuce Seeds

And before you know it, the living room was cleaned, the sheets changed and the bedrooms cleaned, things pulled out to take to the consignment shop and the bathrooms were cleaned. And that kitchen? Well, in spite of my getting off track a few dozen times, it’s done!

Clean Kitchen

And no, I did not hide stuff on this side of the room while taking pictures of that side of the room!  And look…you can see the dining room table through the door–it really is shining!!

Seriously Clean Kitchen

Do any of you “get it” how this was a perfect day?


Snowed In and Okay With It

Hi…I took a vacation day today.   I haven’t been on the job 90 days, but I woke up and **knew** it was going to snow and a few additional inches would be added to the 8 inches piled up and not melting.    It was not a day I wanted to be out.  I’m on a cleaning spree…before I go to bed tonight, this house will be spotless.   I’ve felt bad for almost three weeks and things are behind around here!

But first, I must walk around and take some pictures.   I’ve been on Pinterest pinning all of these wonderful kitchens I’d like to have and I’m not going to get any time soon.   I decided to embrace my kitchen with a vintage theme…after all it’s 15 years old.    I’ve always loved the Victory Garden posters from World War II.  Here’s one that was popular in the United Kingdom.

Dig For Victory – Grow You Own Vegetables

I’d thought about trying to find some vintage reprints of these posters, but I stumbled on something I like better at a site called The Victory Garden of Tomorrow.   I’ve ordered two and I’m putting them in my kitchen.

Here are two of my favorites that I ordered.  I believe one was $15 and one was $18.   They speak to me.

Eat Real Food

See that jar with beans in it?  Onions?   Doesn’t that just scream Mendota?   I loved this one, too, because it reminded me of my sister, Pat Gardner.  Pat taught me to love gardening, and Sue Cressel taught me to love home canning.  I love them both for giving me these gifts.

Grow It Forward

I bought the frames at Michael’s.  These will look great in my kitchen and will brighten it up which is one of my goals.

It has been such a busy time.  Who knew that starting a river outfitter…a tiny river outfitter at that…would take so much time?    The brochure was an exercise in patience but it is at the printers.   I cannot thank Eddie and the staff at World Printing in Bristol for their patience and help.   I’ll show you the finished product next week when it’s back home.

Also, we are still grieving for Luckie.  I’ll never stop missing her, but another little one who is in grave need of help showed up on our back porch.  She’s wild.  I haven’t been able to touch her.


For those of you who have known me a long time, you see that she looks like Molly–a cat I got at Saturn Corporation that lived 21 years.   This little one is named Muffin.   You might also note she is the third gray cat that I’ve ended up with.  She will never be an indoor kitty.  I can’t get her into the garage.  I’m not sure I can ever tame her; however, we’ve made her a warm place to stay with a pet’s heating pad to ensure she stays warm during the -3 temps we will be experiencing in the next 48 hours.    She has almost let me touch her on her nose, but she  changes her mind at the last minute.  What she does relate to me is food.  She runs over when she sees me.  She also innately understands I want to help her.  I’ve got to catch her and get her “fixed” in the coming six weeks, but for now, I’m just glad she has a warm, dry place to weather out this extreme cold weather.    She’s also been very hungry, and she’s at that stage were she cannot get enough to eat.   She currently eats two cans of Fancy Feast each day and two small bowls of Ims.

And Sam?

Sam the Cat

He hates her.



What To Wear???

This week, it’s what to wear, although not to work.  It’s what to wear at Adventure Mendota.   Here’s a few of the items we’re looking at which the staff will wear as well as have for sale. (The staff?  Well, it just sounds good. )

Apparel 1

I’m really “feeling” the white hat above, but we are just getting one style and Mike says the white might be too feminine.   Soo…do you like this better?

Apparel 2

Or maybe just the logo?

Apparel 3

And then there is the t-shirt…

apparel 4 front

With this in the back…

Apparel 5 back

Do any of these “float your boat?”    Please let me know.



Crooked River Farm – Early February

Because so many people have asked how “that big barn” is coming along, I stopped and took a few quick pictures today as I drove by the Crooked River Farm.    The Crooked River Farm is a wedding and corporate event venue just past the Scott County Line in Hiltons, Virginia.

Crooked River BannerLots of progress is being made. The barns are to a point where work can proceed even if the weather is not cooperating.  The fireplace is under construction…I could see the division of rooms, etc.

I took pictures of the outside of the barns but I wasn’t happy with them. I was more happy with the pictures I took inside the barn.  They won’t show you room divisions or where things are, but they might give you the “feel” of the big barn where the events will be held.

The interior is starting to “show off” a little bit. This barn’s old wood is from a  mill in Ohio.   Mike was in awe as he rubbed it and looked at it imagining what this old barn has seen, and imagining what it has yet to see.   He enjoys old wood so much.

CRF Barn wood

I stepped back and took this picture below…I like the way the light is filling up the window and door openings.

CRF inside the barn

Looking through photo editing software..I stepped back and changed it up a little….it also brings to life the mezzanine on the right.   I really like the picture below.

CRF Pencil

Did the same thing in a photo editor but with lots of white this me the feeling of being inside the barn at night.

CRF Barn Exposed

But here’s my favorite…the real thing.   This is an amazing structure.  My photography friend is going to be asking me “why didn’t you take me?”   Maybe next time!

CRF Barn Light

If David and Annette will let me, I’ll take some good exterior shots in a few weeks, but in the interim, I hope these show you a bit of the progress that is being made at the Crooked River Farm.    It will be worth the wait.


Luckie….The Best Dog

In 1999, we built our house and near Thanksgiving of that year, we got two Golden Retrievers. In the summer that followed, another little dog showed up. I was walking by the river, and a skinny little black and tan dog touched the back of my calf with her nose. When I turned around, she skittered back. She was afraid.

Luckie Don't Forget

She got brave enough to come up on RiverCliff hill, and I sat out some food. Mike flew in from Massachusetts that evening, and when he saw the little dog, he suggested we feed her and get her spayed so that we could find her a home.


Step 5 Doggy


On Monday, I took her to Bristol Animal Clinic and she met Emily and Dr. John Stone. I explained what we were going to do, and Dr. Stone asked if the little dog had a name.  As he asked, he rubbed her ear and made a comment..”this is a good dog.” I told him that I was calling her Penny because her eyes were the color of copper pennies. He said, “I’d call this dog Lucky because she is one lucky little dog.”

Lucky found her home but it was not with anyone else. She settled in here, changed her name to Luckie with an “ie” and soon nudged her way into our house and into our hearts. We ended up with three large dogs living inside the house.


She became Mike’s constant companion. He portrayed her as a service dog and she got to go into Walmart. I know. It’s awful. She was just such a good dog and so smart.  She and he got away with that for a long time.

Mike and Luckie Off to Church

When Mike’s truck moved, Luckie was right there. On the job. She was a healthy dog–although she had trouble with her ACL’s, but with good vet care from Dr. Steve Dotson of Bristol Animal Hospital and the UT Vet School, we had both ACL’s replaced and Luckie continued to run and leap for many additional years.

Luckie Wearing PolerTek Dog Wear

But time marches on and Luckie was approaching 16 years of age.  About a year ago, she could no longer get in her beloved truck. We lifted her in and out. More recently, however, the normal daily things became difficult for her.   Last week, she went outside to use the restroom and she fell. She could not get back up. I went out and lifted her up “righting” her, and she walked back in the house, but she was very frightened, and I knew our time together was short.

Luckie 3 In church Sunday, our pastor talked about making decisions, and I prayed for guidance. Although I never had that “aha” moment,  I became more peaceful with letting her go. If you are a believer, and I am, you know that animals will be in heaven for we are told in Isaiah that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”

Luckie and Gracie

Another comforting verse is “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”    She was flesh.

But I am going to miss her.  Mike is going to miss her worse.   We are sad.   She was our special little pal.   She and I sat on the floor of Dr. Dotson’s office and I snuggled her and whispered how much I loved her.   She relaxed and relaxed…gently falling asleep.    I stayed with her and held her until she was in a place where her legs will never hurt again.

Luckie in the Truck

Luckie Beaule…given to us by God sometime in the year 2000.  Returned to God on February 4, 2015.



Chicken Houses of Mendota Part III

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m sitting here mesmerized with the reality show Southern Justice. How about those police dogs? They really earn their keep and talk about liking your job!!!

It is gray outside and supposed to be a wintry mix tonight and tomorrow. I’ve got potato soup in the crockpot for dinner. Having one of those quiet days where I look at my beloved dog and try and be thankful for the almost 16 years we’ve shared with her. It’s coming to an end, and my heart is breaking. However, that’s not what this post is about. Yesterday, Mother Nature gave us some sunshine. Much needed sunshine.

It was a good day to go looking for another chicken house. I blogged about two others in the past few weeks. See here and here. I didn’t have to go far for today’s chicken house…just up the road a piece. I went to Ricky and Trina Vickers. They are my neighbors, and Ricky is a distant cousin. I’ve known him since he was a squirt in a diaper. Here’s his mama…our families are intertwined by blood, love and friendship. The red thread that time does not break. Our parents were lifelong, best friends. They understood that true riches are in the people you love. Hello Cousin Susan.

Susan Collier

Gosh…she looks good!! Susan is a survivor. She has faced down some tremendous health challenges in the past five years, and she always lives with the grief of having her oldest son taken in his prime. Mark Vickers will never be forgotten by this family. However, I see her returning to good health, and I am grateful.

Back to chickens…here we are!!

Chicken House 1

The small farm trend today is to have chicken tractors where the chicken house can be moved about on the property. We have those in Mendota, but we also believe in using what we have.  Ricky and Trina had this building, and it’s perfect for their hens and roosters. These two will take on any farming challenge. They’ve raised piggies, ducks, chickens and they want to get into bees! They love honey. I know. I sell or barter them my honey!

If there can be a crapamongous picture, I can take it. Sorry! If this was a good picture, you’d see a hen “dusting” which basically is cleaning herself by rolling in dirt. Dusting gives her healthy skin and feathers and removes parasites. It must feel awfully good, too, because she would stand up and then just flop back over. I want to dust, too!!

Chicken Dusting

Ricky and Trina’s chickens are well adjusted. They’re very friendly and not the least afraid. They mingle with us.

Chickens Mingling

They make soothing sounds. Forget meditation music…someone needs to put a recorder in their henhouse and make a million dollars. People in the city may never hear these sounds. Trina talks about having chickens and, besides healthy eggs, she said they provide hours of entertainment. They’re restful, but fun, creatures.

They have a few roosters and will be trying to get rid of some of them, but they won’t be getting rid of Thomas Jefferson. Yes, I said Thomas Jefferson. Trina thinks that her rooster looks like Thomas Jefferson. Here’s a picture of one of our most famous presidents…


And here’s Thomas Jefferson, the Rooster.

Thomas Jefferson Rooster

Trina, are ya sure? Ricky…her eyes are funny…maybe you shouldn’t let her drive. This rooster, however, does have a very high-sounding name for his breed. Salmon faverolle. This breed originated in France and has five toes, really fuzzy feet, and is known to be a great rooster to have near children because of its good nature. In Ricky and Trina’s case, Thomas Jefferson is a pet. Do you know what a rooster does besides fertilize the eggs? You can have eggs without a rooster, but you have to have a rooster to have chicks. He has different crows to alert the hens of danger, food, etc. Some roosters will even catch insects and give them to the hens. I don’t think Thomas Jefferson has given much of his food away. He is huge.

Fat rooster..

TJ 2

Back to the henhouse. Here is an ingenious way to provide water without carrying it every day. We’ve had plenty of rain in southwest Virginia for the past few years. The rain collects in the gutter and goes into the barrel which goes into the the chicken house or into the overflow barrel. Very smart.


The chickens have a promenade of sorts to exit the henhouse. The white piece of wood is pulled back exposing an opening and out come the hens.

Exit Roof

They have a series of runs made from recycled pallet boards. Free. Ingenious.

Pallet Run Extension 2

And another shot…

Pallett Run Extension 1

And another shot…

Pallett Run

If you are thinking about getting chickens and you cannot afford one of the chicken tractors that you see at Tractor Supply or online, Ricky’s demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be extremely fancy. The chickens need shelter. They need good food. They need 8 hours of sunshine. And I think in the case of the Mendota chickens, you’d be told they need love.


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