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A hundred years ago there were two principle methods of over-wintering in Northern States and Canada - one being underground, either in cellars or purpose-made outdoor structures (essentially pits with straw coverings).

The other method was to group hives together in fours or sixes and surround them with a wooden packing case. These crates were then filled with chaff (straw, dried leaves etc) and a single slab roof placed on top.

I can post some pictures if this would help.
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