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!




Getting The Honeybees Ready For Winter

We’re still getting ready for winter here.    The barn is now full of wood for the woodboiler.  This will last us into next season.   The woodboiler heats the guest house and our primary house as well as providing hot water in both houses.  It’s a very warm heat.


Barn Full of Wood

It makes me feel secure when I look at the barn.   Country people like being self sufficient. As I write this, our generator is self-testing–sounds like a train coming but I don’t mind! After seeing the news of what is happening in the northeast following Hurricane Sandy, I’m grateful once again that we have it.   Our powerlines run through heavily-treed areas, and even with the aggressive tree trimming that took place this summer, an ice storm or heavy snow would leave us without power for days.

It’s also time to do some winterizing on the beehives preparing for harsh weather. During the honey flow season, we keep the bottom of the hive open so that bees may easily get in and out during their frequent foraging trips.   Gotta make sure they can get the pollen and nectar in for yummy honey.   As it got cooler last month, we inserted a spacer in the bottom which limited the access to about three inches.    This was to keep mice out of the hives yet still allow a fairly easy exit and entrance for this season’s remaining foraging.

Have No 2 November

I’ll use the same spacer, but I’ll turn it so that the opening is very tiny. Here’s a picture of the spacer.

Entry Spacer

Can you see the small entrance and the larger entrance?  The small one is for cold winter weather and the large one is for fall when the temperatures are just starting to get a bit cooler and, as mentioned above, mice are hunting a warm spot. We don’t want mice in our honey!!! Yuck!

Here’s the same photo with more description. Look what I’m learning to do in Photoscape!

Entrance and Exit Opening

And here is the photo of the beehive winterized.

Winterized Bee Hive

When I was working with this hive, I found an alarming number of dead bees just inside the entrance.  This hive has been strong, and I’d just been working with it three or four weeks ago when I put the spacer in for fall.  No cause for alarm at that time.  Now, however, I’m worried.

There are still live bees in the hive, but why so many dead ones in the entrance area?

We’ll be looking back in this hive next weekend. I’ll let you know what we find.   I hope, pray that my bees will be healthy.

I don’t want to see this.

Dead Bee

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage, and thank you for supporting local beekeepers!



We’re Getting Ready! And Stuff…

Hi everyone!   We are loving this beautiful fall weather here in Mendota.   I’ve really enjoyed these Susie flowers that have come up during the past month.  They self seeded from the Black Eyed Susie baskets that were hanging on my porch last year.   They’ve taken over!

Here’s another one..I accidentally put a border on this picture…

This beautiful fall weather reminds us that winter is not far off.   Since we heat our house, guest house, and hot water with a wood boiler, we have a barn full of wood. We actually have enough wood to go into the following winter.   This is extra wood, and it will be cut, stacked and covered.

Mike recently repaired the bird feeder in the picture below.  It had some rot and needed repainting.   It’s ready to go. Soon I’ll start filling it with bird seed daily. 

We’re are continuing to get our beehives ready for winter.

This is hive # 3 in the picture below.   It is a hive that survived last winter.   Can you see the space underneath the silver roof at the top of the hive? It is a vent which allows heat to escape the hive in the summer.  I’m going to remove the vent this week since we’re having cooler days and nights.   We’ll also be closing off a portion of the entry space on the lower portion of the hives.  When the bees are foraging heavily, they need the extra space to come and go from the hives — else it becomes like a traffic jam!   In winter, they primarily come out to do housecleaning and do not need the space which lets in cold air or possibly mice.

I was a bit lazy today, but I did paint the bathroom baseboard.   It just looked dirty and the Magic Erasers weren’t doing the trick anymore.   It’s all taped up in this picture.    When I look at pictures, I see what is wrong with a room.  For instance, that picture hanging beside those plates looks silly.  I just stuck it up there today because I like the colors.  I saw it on a clearance rack for $7 at Walmart a few weeks ago and tossed it in the cart.   I believe it may return to the clearance rack.  I may do an arrangement of plates.  I actually had an arrangement of plates up there at one time.  There are only two left as I broke THREE!  In one day!! 

The bathroom pictured above has been hot pink, wallpapered in yellow flowers, painted green, painted pink, and now painted this beige color.  It has had three floors and two counter tops.   All of the original tile was pulled up and replaced last year.

Back to plates…I bought the platter below for $3 at the Salvation Army in Kingpsort.  This is one good place to go find bargains that might be trash to treasure” candidates.  This is not fine china, but who cares???    I will find a good home for this platter.

The dogs kept bothering me while I was in the bathroom so I gave them some doggy treats to occupy them.  Then..instead of working on my paint project, I started taking pictures.    Have you ever wondered who buys the Dogsters in the ice cream section at Food City? It’s me!

Luckie really enjoys them.

She usually tears the cup up and makes a mess after she’s finished. She’s just resting before this starts.

This dog was thrown away like trash. She was so scared when she got here that she would not sleep inside the garage or house.  She had to be where she could get away. I hope whoever threw her away suffers like she did. She has been a wonderful pet and so much company for Mike. They are together every minute. She is the only dog that ever gets to ride in his Porsche. She is 12 and she’s on Remadyl for her arthritis. She’s had both ACL’s replaced in her rear legs by the great orthopedic vets at the University of Tennessee. Luckie even has her own health insurance.    She’s just special.

So…after watching Luckie eat her Dogster, my sister Nancy came up. She’d made this beautiful apron for her granddaughter, Lacy.  I would have included Nancy in the picture but she’s all splotchy from poison oak.

Isn’t this pretty?



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