A Day In Mendota Virginia

Yesterday, I worked all day and I’ll go back in for a few hours on Friday, but for the remainder of this week — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday– I’m not leaving Mendota. It’s not as easy as if I’d said “I’m not leaving Bristol.” It means my meals are planned and my activities or what I want to accomplish this week is considered because there is no store here. I have what is in my house or what my neighbors will loan if I run short. Here’s what my typical stay-at-home day looks like…it starts early….usually at around 6:00 am.

I water in the mornings, and there is the constant dead heading of flowers. I know…it’s hard.


About 10 am, as I hung out laundry. I could hear kids playing in the river.   They are skipping rocks, splashing and fishing. Sounds nice.

River BAnk

Do you agree….


Back at the garden…I check on the half runner green beans. These beans have been fighting insects from the day they sprouted, but they are holding their own…with no outside help except water and healthy soil. Mike placed tobacco sticks in an “X” pattern on the top of each bed. We’ll tie those down, and they will be what the beans climb around.


Remember my strawberry-lavender jam? I told you I used culinary or food grade lavender? Did I tell the truth or did it come from my garden? Hmmm…


When the beekeepers gathered to share sugar for our bees, one man brought his extra tomato plants. The kindness of a stranger…and it’s doing well.


Speaking of bees, the swarm I caught is doing well. It’s been a concern because of the lack of activity going in and out of the hive, but a peek inside a few weeks ago showed plenty of brood, so the queen has been working. Finally, the bees have hatched out and I’m seeing them although not in this picture.  They are all out gathering.   Whew. I love my bees.

No 2 Swarm

Some things just grow better from seed, and cucumbers are one of those some things. Mine are growing in a bucket. I need to keep them on the move away from cucumber beetles, so I thought I’d give this a try. I’ll keep you posted on how this is workng.


Basil is another thing that grows easily from seed.


If you live in town, you can grow a garden of your own with a raised bed, a few buckets and some want to. It is not even hard work.

However, for me..living in the country is No. 1!!

Board Picture


Where There Is Love

There is an old Irish proverb “It is easy to halve the potato where there is love.” You may have a half of one of my potatoes.

Here they are…all fancy in their blooms. When the bloom fades and the leaves wither, the potato is ready.


Here they are on May 4…they were only babies just five weeks ago.

Potatoes 051414

And here they are on June 8…

Potatoes So Big

I’m such a lazy gardener. I’ve let the greens bolt. The basil has gone crazy.

Crazy Lettuce

But it all works out in the end. I borrowed a few coreopsis blooms, a petunia vine and some of the crazy basil and bolting spinach.

Flowers 2

How is your garden growing? Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.


The Clematis…Continued

RiverCliff Cottage was built in 1999, and I have tried to have a beautiful clematis most of the years since. It’s 2014, and I may….just may have my clematis. Catch up on my strategy to keep this clematis alive here. Apparently, it’s working!!

Clematis Plant

Usually after just a few days of blooms, it wilts, but I believe that it’s past that time. I’m telling you people…the City of Bristol, Virginia has some amazing garbage that we call compost. I quit using mulch in the beds around the house and just spread compost. And the results are….

Clematis 2

And this…

Clematis 3

Seriously, it appears that my soil was too poor for the clematis and this was the cause of the wilt. I’d been using commercially packaged compost, etc. but it did not work. The plant is in the same location where it has always tried to live. The only thing different is that for the past 2-3 years, two inches of Bristol compost has been added. Feeling very happy as we approach Memorial Day. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.


Beating Clematis Wilt the Mendota Way

I have never, ever had any luck with growing Clematis.  My Clematis efforts have all resulted in wilt.   I’ve tried different locations and different varieties.  Same old wilt.  About three years ago, I gave up.  I dug the plant up and tossed it in the compost bin.  It tried to come back, but I treated it like a weed and cut it off or tried to pull it up.   Instead of Clematis, I focused my attention on this pink Mandevilla and the efforts were well worth it.

Florida Vine


But very near this Mandevilla, there was a Clematis vine that kept peeking out–and getting whacked off.    I showed it no mercy.    This spring,  however, before I had an opportunity to beat it back, the Clematis vine was up taunting me.

Clematis Not Bloomed 2

The picture above shows a healthy vine, but I’ve seen that sort of thing before.   Sorry…I’m not buying it.   However, shortly thereafter….a little over a week ago…it finally bloomed here and there.    Now, I knew the wilt was not far off.


I posted on the Rivercliff Cottage Facebook page, and my sister, Pat, gave me very specific instructions on how to keep this thing from wilting.  Per Pat’s advice,  I don’t speak to it, look at it, water it, or pretend that I think it’s going to stay this way. I only mention that I’m planning on cutting it down when I walk by, but I do so in speaking with an Iris. You have to be very careful when dealing with Clematis. They will taunt you with their beauty and when you fall in love, they wilt. So…just for the record…I hate this plant.  It helps that I have some Facebook friends that hate it with me….Lisa Griffith confirmed that she hated my Clematis, too.  She was joined by Gayle Whitson who suggested I replace it with a satellite dish.  Kay Elliott agreed it was hideous!    I mentioned this all to the Iris with the Clematis lurking and listening nearby.   

Thus far, this is working.  Here’s the Clematis today…more blooms and still no wilt.

Clematis Sunday

Shew!  That is one ugly plant.




Feeling Very Blue

I have hated the color of our bedroom since the day I came home and saw it was painted. Our bedroom had been a seafoam/teal green, and I was wanting something softer but had not made a decision.   Mike got tired of seeing paint chips all over the walls and one thing led to another, and I ended up with a bedroom that looks like cold coffee. You’ve not seen many pictures of this bedroom on this blog.   I hate it.

I’m going blue.  I’m going to paint the bedroom the top blue blob in the picture below.  It’s Sherwin Williams Aqua Sphere.  This picture makes it look a little lighter than it is.  It has more gray in it.

UGLY Paint

Here’s the paint chip.

aqua sphere

We’ve budgeted for this some time ago. I’m not going to do too much. It’s going to be painted, I’m purchasing a new lamp and a new rug. I have lots of bedding that works with this. I’ve slipcovered a chair white which will also go in here. The only thing that’s not done is the hardwood floor redo, but we’re waiting a year for that because of our dog. Lucky will most likely be at the Rainbow Bridge next year, and it makes more sense to do it then.

Speaking of blue, I went out to work with our blueberries a bit this morning. We have six blueberry plants in three raised beds. Three are newly purchased in 2014, and three were replanted after they lanquished in bad soil conditions for three years. The raised beds have rich compost with a healthy mix of peat moss for the acidity the plants need. The tricky part is that they also must be watered often at this stage.

These are two of the new plants. The one on the left is blending in with the grass.

Blueberry 1 and 2

I’m the water girl…water…water…water. Every day I’m feeding sugar water to the bees then watering the blueberries and other plants. Here’s the old blueberries, and I’m really pleased to see new leaf growth. There’s a few berries trying to show up, too.

Blueberry 5 and 6

Following taking these pictures, I mixed in the acidifier and some granulite matter that holds water. This mixture is in the drip line around the plant and down in the soil about two inches.


Finally, look at what is in my garden. A clematis isn’t that special, but my clematis always get the wilt. I still don’t think this one will be here next week. Bet she’ll start to wither.


This plant has been here for years, but I gave up on it and each year, I’ve tried to dig it up. It’s very determined, and I’ll be really excited if it continues to flower and not wilt. The soil is completely different than it was when this plant first went in the ground. Since them, there has been several inches of compost added annually.

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.  So much mystery in these posts!!  Will that clematis wilt?  Will the blueberries live?  Will she really get the paint on those walls?

Hope you have a great weekend.




Five-Gallon Bucket Tomatoes Year 2

Last year Mike and I were getting ready to plant tomatoes, and he said “why don’t we put them in these five-gallon buckets and keep them near the house?” And we did. I didn’t anticipate that so many people would be interested. Well over a thousand people viewed that post, and when I look at “key words” that lead people to RiverCliff Cottage, I see that there is still an interest.

We put out three more this year. Some with holes drilled in the bottom; some with holes drilled in the sides of the bucket. I love just stepping outside and grabbing a tomato. The only modification this year is that we used a garden soil that will retain moisture. I didn’t think this was necessary last year, because they love dry soil. However, not parched soil!

Tomatoes 1

Here’s all three looking nice and fresh early this morning in the shadows from the garage. I’ve already hung sheets on the line, too. Do you have a clothesline?

Tomatoes 2

I’m trying cucumbers now. The first year I grow cucumbers in a new place, I have less issue with cucumber beetles, so I thought by putting them in buckets, I can make this easier each year.

Cucumbers in Buckets

We’re getting ready to start a new project here at RiverCliff Cottage. I’m going to pick up two paint samples to brush on the bedroom walls to see which one looks best. I’ve had pink, green, yucky brown (current) and yellow in the bedroom but never blue. I’m ready for a change. This should take place in 48 hours, but with the way we do things, I’m betting two full weeks until we get this room finished.


Spring in Mendota, Virginia April 3 2014


Spring 2014 is especially welcome.  You know why…we are all sick of winter.    Bring on the color!   After daffodils,  forsythia brings most of the early color to our valley

firsynthia bush

They look so pretty in the house. I usually cut some fresh branches and bring them in– but in this picture, well, you know...they are fake!


Yesterday it was 70 degrees.  We went to town and visited My True Love’s garden center. I bought some snapdragons even though it’s too early, because….because I wanted them! I will cover them when the inevitable cold snap occurs.

Snap Dragons

We also bought three blueberries bushes and installed them in the new raised beds. My former blueberry patch was doing terrible.  The soil was not amended properly and they were smothering in clay and just existing.   Mike and I moved the three best from that blueberry patch to the raised beds for a total of six.  With blueberries,  the first year they sleep–the second year they creep–and the third year they leap. I was at Year Five, and all I could hear was snoring. Hopefully, the loose soil amended with peat moss in the raised beds will change that for me.  Hopefully!  I do love blueberries!


I put this purple wave petunia in between the blueberries.  It will be so pretty when it spreads around.  Yes…I know it is early, but I’ll be careful!

Wave Petunia

Mike picked up three trailer loads of compost from the City of Bristol. Hey Bristol! Your garbage! My garden! They told him to get there early on Tuesday or Wednesday because they suspected they’d be running out. He got there very early and we got our compost. He and Neth worked all day putting compost around my plants.

Spring Work

They also pulled a few shrubs. Neth thought he could do this by hand, but the John Deere did a much faster job of it. I wrote about those funny looking shrubs here.

Green Shaggy plant

It’s a pretty place here at RiverCliff Cottage,  but we work hard to keep it that way.   For this year, we’re just getting started!


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!




Honeybees and a Harsh Virginia Winter

If you’re reading this from Virginia on January 6, 2014, you are joining me on the coldest day we’ve had in many, many years.   We have a low predicted tonight in Southwest Virginia ranging from -1 to 4 degrees.   My cats step outside, shiver and run right back inside.  While they don’t normally use “indoor facilities”, they are pleased to have that option today.

What about the honeybees?   This Artic blast of winter is not typical for Virginia.  While my honeybees have a wind barrier from the barn and they get morning sunshine, this only gives them so much protection.   Someone asked me if I could move them to the barn.  Nope, the hives are a stacked arrangement and must stay in one place.  However, yesterday, Gerald and I decided that we had to do something to give additional protection and insulation.   So…we wrapped the hives in bubblewrap left over from holiday mail shipments.  Merry Christmas honeybees! Necessity is the mother of invention.

We left the opening (it’s only about 1/2 inch opening) for their coming and going and to get air inside the hive, but the remaining exterior is wrapped in bubble wrap taped into place with duct table.   It looks a little strange…

Beehive Winterized in Bubble Wrap

The white part of the hive you see in the picture is completely covered in bubble wrap. The trash bag is on top of the hive and taped across the bubble wrap. If it rains, the trashbag provides a “tent” of protection so water doesn’t get down under the bubblewrap. Genius. I know.

Bee Hive 2

And notice the top of the hive. What is that you may ask? The Artic blast is bringing wind gusts which could tear apart the whole bubble wrap/trash bag protection system, so for additional protection, there is one heavy bag of mulch on each hive — which also provides additional insultation to keep heat inside the hive. I might just become an architect!

We’ll leave this on for the next few day until temperatures return to normal winter temperatures.

Onto other things…check out the beautiful winterberries in my backyard. It’s so nice to have color in the landscape during this time of year.

Winterberry By the Fence

And a few for the table.

Red Berries in Winter

Stay warm!!


Fall Garden and Pictures of Mendota

Before I start…if you are interested in learning to quilt, please see information on our upcoming class by going here.

I’ve been off my blog for a few days. I’ve really been off kilter for the same number of days. The days are getting shorter, and I have to work on not feeling “the yucks.” Do you get them?

Mike is working to get our woodboiler in working order for the winter. If you have a woodboiler, you know a side benefit is that it provides hot water, but our hot water feature did not work last year. As of today, that is fixed. Yeh!! While he was working on this, I took the doggies for a ride. Our granddaughter’s birthday is coming up, and I wanted to make sure her gift arrives before the weekend, so the doggies and I headed out to see Patsy at the Mendota Post Office. Here’s a few things we saw along the way…

First, a favorite barn of mine. My parents hung tobacco in this barn. Do you know where it is?

Ruby's Barn

And a friend, Judith, asked for a picture of churches in Mendota. I think I know the church she’s wanting to see as it was her family’s church. The members of St. Peter Presbyterian now own this church and worship there, but at one time it was the Mendota Bible Methodist Church. I have spent many summers in Bible School at this church as well as quite a few Sunday nights. I still remember Patsy and her sister, Mary Alice, singing “He Touched Me.” I’m surprised I remember anything, because there was a lot of note passing, nudging and “looks” going on the left side, back two rows of that church at one time.

St Peter

I like this little door plaque that someone made for the church. Wayne Hays is Pastor of St. Peter. Pastor Wayne has earned the respect and affection of our community.

St. Peter Door

And what would be better than a small, rural school at the base of the mountain? That was the story once, but that was a long time ago. The building is old, but if Washington County’s leadership saw the building today, they would be shocked. It is Spic-and-Span clean thanks to Wanda Riner, Bill Porter, and the MCA. If you were one of the ones privileged to attend this little school, you’ll like this picture.

Hamilton School

Here’s another…

School Again

And I came home from my little drive with the doggies, I walked around the yard and went over to where some green bean vines were hanging around left from a day in August when I stuck just 16 beans in the raised beds. I never watered them and it quit raining, so I thought they’d just do nothing. A few came up…I believe these are Mountaineers.

Green Beans Climbing

I could not believe it…there were beans on these vines and two others not pictured. Perfect, tender green beans.

Green Beans

Guess what I’m eating while I type this?


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