The Longest Winter

It’s been a long winter here in the mountains in the northwest corner of the lower 48 states. It started snowing the first week of December and has just recently stopped. We did have a 1 ½ week break where everything melted away – only to dump 3-4 feet on us in a matter of days.


Hives Under Snow

Snowy Hives

Now, for those of you from colder climates, say east of the Cascades to Maine in the northern lower 48 and folks in Canada and Alaska, I know you’re thinking “that’s nothing”. Compared to your weather, you’re right, but you all are ready for it. We are not ready. It doesn’t happen here.



The Jet Steam is bent out of shape – not angry, just fluctuating. Its normal curves have become more and more extreme as the North Pole melts and more heat is generated there and worldwide. The result is very deep, erratic dips in the stream.  These combine with a La Nina situation.  Which means Arctic air masses for western Washington state. In other words, snow, lots of it for extended periods.


Normally we have a warm spell in February. I go out and check the top boxes to see how the bees are doing on their stores. But the snow’s still deep, the weather’s still cold, and there is rain predicted.   What a year. Even the crocuses have failed to push up. I’d stay in bed too if possible.

In theory, and with out diseases or dwindling, the bees should be all right. The all had about 70 pounds of honey plus the pollen they collected and stored (except for the ones hit by human thieves – a bit less there – whatever I could scavenge).

The snow insulates the hives. Thus the bees should be tucked up and warm.

The hives all have top entrances.

Beehive Upper Entrance, No bees

Upper Entrance to Bee Hive

When there’s no way out at the bottom, they can come out the top. I saw a bit of this in the 1 ½ weeks of “warm” back in January. But why come out? There’s nothing to gather, it’s cold out side.

Each hive has as stack of 4 western boxes to live in, there’s space for sanitary practices away from the cluster. Pooping in the hive is not the best for health, but it beats freezing your little wings off if you try to fly out for a moment.

Bee Hives Partially Covered By Snow

Hive start to be covered – one box under the snow

Water’s not collecting on the bottom board, because I don’t have bottom boards. They have bottom screens. Yes, open “to the elements” – only they’re surrounded by nice snow insulation.

I will check the girls if we ever get nice days near 50F, and the hives are accessible (the snow melts).



In the last storm, I was at the farm with the intension of going to Ballard Farmers Market that weekend. Weather had a different idea. The predicted 1-3 inches of snow became 1-3 feet of snow. My road was inaccessible – ¾ mile of dirt was now covered in snow. Even with chains, my truck wouldn’t make it.

Livestock Guard Dogs Pose with Snow Coverd Truck

Livestock Guard Dogs and Truck after digging out the truck

At this point we’re still walking that ¾ mile. I got a ride to the market van, with the hopes of going to market, but it took all the day to dig the van out of the snow. And there was little hope of getting the van back in place when I got back at 7:30 pm – it would have been a tight fit on an icy spot.

I did manage to get the van out and have the parking area cleared with a bob-cat (not the animal, a small vehicle on tracks with a 5 foot bucket). So I do think I’m set to go to market this coming Sunday.


It continues to be a challenge, this “worst winter since 1957 – according to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio broadcast. But I’m grateful that none of my main buildings were hit by the now ubiquitous fallen trees in this area, that all may animals are safe, and that I have the support of good friends. Soon, I’ll be out at the hives and all of this will just be an “interesting’ memory with good stories to tell.

Sallie Mae participates in snow clearance

Sallie Mae participates in snow clearance


That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, here in Maple Falls, WA. How is winter, or summer, treating you?

Snow, Bee hives, and Sun  - Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, Wa

Winter – annoying but beautiful


About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Beeswax Salves. You can find me at the Ballard Farmers' Market in Seattle on Sundays from 10-3. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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