To the Moon in a Blizzard


The bad news first.

I lost my bees. It is startling how much we miss them.  They are short-lived, fascinating to watch as individuals, but not something you are likely to get attached to on a bee-by-bee basis (although there is an interesting recent study on bee personalities).  As a hive, however, the bees become a community that takes on a presence of its own.  I cannot help but feel that I let them down.


I had been worried about the bees since late November when there seemed to be an unusual amount of dead bees in front of the hive and–on a few warm days–the continued presence of drones, male bees that generally are kicked out of the hive before winter.  I could hear the bees when I put my ear to side of the hive and they continued sounding strong until early January, when their sound seemed to lessen. They were eating the supplemental sugar I was feeding. But in mid-January–ominous silence. I continued to press my ear to the hive daily, thinking perhaps I could hear a little buzz, but it was just my imagination.


On a warm day, I took a quick peek inside the lid and confirmed that the bees were dead. I have several theories as to what happened and may know more when it is warm enough to really open up the hive. Or it may be a mystery. I have heard that that losses have been high in our area this winter. I have already ordered bees for next year.


On to good news. We have a new pack member. Her name is Grampian To the Moon.


Alice, for short. She is almost three years old, a yellow lab, who just had a litter and is “retiring” from breeding. She loves her walks, will retrieve until the cows come home, and is an extraordinary snuggler.


Capp trying to worm his way onto the bed with Alice.

She settled in beautifully with Capp, with–fittingly–a sort of Alice and Ralph Kramden relationship.


He wants to be the boss, but she knows better.


Capp at seven months

In predicting how Alice would get along with Capp, Alice’s owner said, “bitches always win.”


In this case, she was right.  It’s been a joy to watch the two of them together.


We had two days of sun after Alice arrived.


Then were hit in quick succession with snow, a blizzard, and more snow.



Our rarely used front door with the snow piled about a foot high.


George kept a track shoveled in the back yard so the dogs could go to bathroom, but in the high winds it drifted over pretty quickly.


The dogs were ecstatic in the snow, racing around the track and leaping through the drifts.  IMG_1609.jpgIMG_1621.jpg


They were wiped out by the time the sun went down.


Fortunately, we did not lose power and have been warm and cozy.


The roads are plowed, the foxes are out, and the days are getting longer.



Several mailboxes on our road were snowplow casualties. Fortunately, ours survived.


We had a sudden reminder last week that life is fragile and short. So, we are doing our best to slow down and savor it.




45 thoughts on “To the Moon in a Blizzard

  1. I share your affinity with both bees and Labrador Retrievers. One summer I actually had a pet bee that I would talk to and it would fly right next to me while I would do my flower and garden work. I miss that bee. I also promised my Dads Black Lab that I would write his story and blog excerpts of the recently published book “My Father’s Greatest Gift- Life Lessons from a Black English Retriever” http://
    Love your photos!

    • Thanks Lori. A pet bee, eh? That’s a new one on me. The only time bees follow me is when they want me to stay away from the hive. Labs, on the other hand, will follow me everywhere. I suspect that I will have trouble keeping them out of the gardens this summer. Capp considers them a playground and is particularly partial to eating brassicas. Cabbage beware.

  2. I’m sorry about the bees. Hope you find out what was amiss and have better luck this year. And welcome Alice! They look to be having so much fun together, especially in all that snow! Take care and keep warm.

    • I hope so too, Jessica. Even if I don’t figure out why the bees died, I learned a tremendous amount this year and am looking forward to my next hive. It is heartwarming to see how happy Alice is here. We cannot wait until the lakes clear of ice and we can take her swimming. She is a real retriever.

  3. So sorry about your bees, Brenda. Hope you find out what happened so you will know what to do next time but it may be random and nothing you did at all. How wonderful to have Alice now! The photos are gorgeous – she and Capp do look as though they get along famously. It must be heartwarming to see. Gosh, the snow is proper snow where you are! I’m glad you’re able to keep warm and cosy indoors. Glorious photos, as always. Yes, savour every moment if you can. (Hope you’re ok.) x

    • Thanks Sam. Even if I don’t find out why the bees died, there are things I will do differently this year that I hope will make a difference (not dropping a hive body full of bees on the ground, for starters). It has been fun to watch Capp and Alice’s relationship develop. A bit like siblings. And, yes, when we have snow, we mean snow! Glorious, abundant, fluffy stuff. I need to buy snowshoes. We are ok (thank you) but learning that getting older brings some unexpected challenges.

  4. So sorry to hear about the bees, a disappointment for sure! It will be interesting to find out if many others ( as you mentioned) have lost their hives as well. The up and down temperatures perhaps? Alice and Capp are WONDERFUL!! Happy, happy dogs…what a good life they have! Our pups here, Miller, our own big yellow lab and Lucky, our mixed breed have a great time romping in the snow. I think labs, in particular, assume that every snowstorm is a gift from above just for them! Poor Lucky with his short legs goes a bit out of site when trying to keep up with us on snowshoes, Miller is just a plow! Yes, winter nearing its final sure to savor every day just as you said. Wishing away days or seasons makes me nervous, I prefer time to unfold as it will, I just stand by and feel glad for every day I am upright! So far so good!! Enjoy the sun…hasn’t it been glorious?

    • I suspect that you are right about the up and down temperatures Denise. There is no doubt that the warm spells in the fall were hard on the bees. They kept flying but there was no nectar available. Labs love their water in any form, don’t they? I thought Alice was going to die of happiness when we let her out after that first snow storm. I love your description of Miller as a plow! And I love this time of year–no wishing away the season for me. I have a quilt to finish, spinning to do, and snow to enjoy. The sun!! Glorious, yes. Lengthening afternoon shadows blue on the snow, with that vague feeling that the sap is starting to run. It makes me happy.

  5. Oh, those happy dogs! I see photos like that and I want a dog . . . but the cats keep vetoing that idea! And it’s nice that Capp has a good woman to keep him in line. That’s sad news about the bees but I’m glad to hear you’re not giving up!

    • We adore our dogs. They are an integral part of the family. I am also besotted with bees, so won’t be giving up on them anytime soon. We have thought of chickens too, but I suspect they would keep us too tied down. Still, we flirt with the idea.

  6. Sorry to hear about the loss of your bees. I will look forward to hearing about what you find out and your new ones. You now have 8 feet to keep clean as they come in from the snow drifts, but you’re up to the task. 🙂 They look like they have settle into a nice relationship. 🙂

    • Yes, it will be interesting to see if I can figure out what happened to the bees and to see if others suffered similar losses for the same (or other) reasons. So far, I’m hearing of spots of large losses, but its mostly just chatter at this point-I don’t know anything more definite.
      We are about to hit muddy paw season, so I will have a big pile of towels in our (fittingly named) mud room for the dogs. Then … ticks! Double the fun.

  7. This post made me both sad and happy. I’m sad to hear about the bees. I hope you will be able to find out what happened to them. The pictures of Capp and Alice just made me so happy. They look like they have been together forever. I love that they sleep on the same bed. I’m not sure Blondie would have ever tolerated that!

    • Yes, it is getting harder and harder to keep backyard hives going. I kept bees for a few years in the 1970s and we hardly had to worry about anything then. Now it’s a minefield of challenges to keep bees alive. Despite increased attention, we remain woefully ignorant as to what is killing the bees. But if we don’t figure out what’s going on, things are going to get ugly fast.

  8. Sorry about your bees – you’ll have to let us know what happened if you ever figure it out. Did it get too cold?
    Congrats on your new addition – Alice seems a perfect companion for Capp. They’ll exercise each other! I sometimes take my neighbor’s dog for a walk and so our Wren gets a good work out playing ‘chase.’
    Your sky photos are lovely!

    • It’s hard to tell at this point what happened with the bees, it could be cold, fluctuating temperatures, virus, starvation or something else! Alice is a wonderful fit for us and companion for Capp. We have had so much snow since we got her, though, that they haven’t had much chance to just race around the yard together. The sky has been magnificent lately. I am loving the sunshine.

  9. Such a shame about your beloved bees. I wonder what could’ve happened and hope you share when you discover. Alice looks to be a wonderful addition to your family and Capp’s new best pal. They will have a good long life together. Happy weekend to you!

    • I feel terrible about losing the bees, although I knew that their odds of surviving the winter were not all that great. It is getting tougher to keep hives alive and likely is going to get even harder. But I love having bees and will keep learning. Alice is a keeper for sure–she is such a sweetheart. We are getting glorious sunny days shining on the snow cover this weekend. Just beautiful.

      • For one, Varroa mites have brought in a virus that weakens the hives going into winter, even if treated for mites. Also the drought this past summer meant less nectar flow (stressing the bees) and the prolonged warm weather in the fall kept the bees out foraging (and expending energy) but without any reward. That meant they were using up honey stores at a fast rate.

  10. I’m so glad Capp has a companion now. They look quite happy together. The bee loss is sad. Sometimes there isn’t an explanation for a hive collapse, but I’m glad you’ll be getting more. they’re fascinating. Your home environs are a wonderland! I spent part of the day today digging the garden! Still, it’s early…

    • Yes, it’s likely I won’t know what happened to the bees, but I hope to have a better sense once I’m able to get in the hive. This year the bees will have have a head start with all the comb already drawn out, so it will be fun to see the difference. Digging in the garden! Sweet. Our snow won’t be going anywhere for a while, but I did plant onion seedlings indoors yesterday. That is the start of my gardening season!

    • Snowdrops! I planted some last fall and am looking forward to seeing when they come up here. Not for a while, obviously. I would say that Alice and Capp are more like siblings (with the rivalry) than a romantic couple! It’s just like having little kids. “Mom, she took my toy!”

  11. So sorry about the bees! And welcome, Alice! Already it looks as though she has settled into your home and is a great dog buddy for Capp. Double trouble! 😉

    • I just read a facebook thread for Maine beekeepers bemoaning how many hives have been lost this winter. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. Happily Alice seems to love it here. We took her for a ride yesterday and she was so thrilled to come back home again!

      • I was thinking how disorienting it must be for Alice—a three-year-old dog—to leave one home for another. But, what a home she came to! No wonder she’s adjusting so beautifully.

      • I know, imagine leaving your home and being thrust into a completely new environment with a pesky 7 month old male pup. On the other hand, she gets to be queen dog here, with two adoring owners, a huge fenced yard, daily walks, swims, hikes, and she gets to sleep on our bed at night. When we take her in the car now, she is so excited to come home again. She is such a sweetheart.

      • So lovely to read! Yes, Alice hit pay-dirt when she came to live with you. What a wonderful life for a dog to have. Actually, two dogs!

  12. I’m sorry to hear about your bees. A friend of mine in western Maine lost her bees this winter, too. Congratulations on your new pack member. I can see the advantages of a more mature dog to help keep Capp in line :-).
    After all that snow, this tease of spring has been a tonic. I won’t remind the return of cold next week because the rapidly lengthening days are a clear indication that spring really is on its way.

    • Thanks for the bee condolences Jean! It has been a hard year on bees, apparently. Alice has been a “maturing” influence on Capp. They are a great match and really like each other, which is fortunate, since some dogs just don’t get along. I am loving every minute of this springlike weather, but none of my bulbs are emerging yet. Soon.

  13. Sorry to read about your bee loss, I can imagine missing them. The photos of Alice and Capp are just gorgeous, my heart gives a little lurch for my childhood dog, Teddy, who looked a lot like these two. Interesting for me to think about managing dogs in the snow, at least it tires them out. The snow seems almost blinding to my Australian eyes!
    (I seem to have missed a few of your posts, so I’ve re-entered my email address…I don’t want to miss these lovely photos and stories.)

    • Thank you! It isn’t just your Australian eyes–the snow can be quite blinding in the sun. Both George and I have had mild cases of sun blindness in the past. The dogs love the snow. I don’t know if it’s because they are retrievers and water–in any form–is their element. But they seem to go ecstatically wild in a new snowfall. Joy in motion. Amazing how we still miss our childhood dogs, isn’t it?

  14. Sorry to hear about your bees, I hope you have better luck with the next hive. I wonder what happened to them?
    Oh….how marvelous to read of Alice’s arrival, what a lucky girl. She is adorable and those two look as if they have been together forever, how great is that! You should certainly have fun watching them tearing around.
    I am glad you kept your power, yikes, the size of that drift! Lucky you having foxes to

    • I learned a lot about keeping bees this year and certainly can do some things better next year. It has been a tough year for honey bees in this area–a summer drought, a long warm fall with no available nectar, and wildly fluctuating temperatures this winter. It has been too cold for me to do an autopsy on the hive yet. I’m hoping it will give some clues as to what happened.
      Alice is a lover and when she races around the yard, she is a picture of pure joy. We are fortunate to have two such sweet, personality-filled dogs. It feels good to have our little pack complete (for now!).

  15. I was sorry to hear about your bees, I hope you have more success with the next ones you get. Welcome to Alice! I’m glad your search for a new dog is over, she will have a wonderful home with you. I’m glad Capp gets on so well with her, they are having so much fun in all that snow!
    Take care. Sarah x

    • Thanks for the bee condolences Sarah. The dog search was far more complicated than we had imagined, but turned out so well with Alice. We cannot wait to take her swimming and hiking this summer. She’s a little athlete.

    • Don’t love the snow pics too much. We are poised for spring–crocuses starting to poke up and buds swelling–and now are forecast to have a major snowstorm next week. It feels good to have our pack filled out. Two rompers and cuddlers, keeping us, and each other, entertained and loved.

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