1 April @ Grousable Books: Bodies and Bees

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In this issue: Bodies, grouse news, and The Story of the Bees.


There was a time when I didn’t review any shows from pay services, but now it’s almost impossible to watch anything without using one. Pay channels are the new studios, and many have the resources to engage in deep levels of historical research to create high production values. 

Bodies is a Netflix production, the story of a body that appears, naked and with an eye missing, in four different timeframes. The first of these, chronologically, is Victorian, which is why I watched. 

Victorian detective leaning over a body

Copyright Netflix

The narratives set in 1890 and 1941 feature brilliant production design by Richard Bullock, who also did Peaky Blinders (set in the 1920s). Each of the four eras was filmed in a way that indicate the time. So there’s more sepia for 1890, more flat grays and blacks for 1941,  natural color for the present, and blue for the future. This is cinematic time design–photographs and movies have made us think of these eras in these colors.

Grouse news

Yes, there is grouse news, a first! The US is proposing plans to protect the sage grouse. Some say it’s too little, too late to save their habitat–it is nevertheless a good step. 

sage grouse

Although this is not the Grousable Books breed (that’s a Black Grouse), the bird is extremely similar. Rarely employed as a hunted game bird to be frightened by beaters, it is nevertheless an important species for the health of nearly 70 million acres of land in the western United States. 

The Story of the Bees

First, the neighbor texted, worried about a swarm of bees on our common fence. By the time I got out there, the bees had made a beard on the underside of the compost bin lid, and were busily creating a comb. I assured the neighbor (who has a small child) that I could get them to leave by the next day. It was a small group so calling in someone was silly.

Late that night, I went out and opened the lid, tipping it back against the fence. They would be cold, I thought, and when the sun rose they would fly away. Exposing the group usually does the trick (if they’re out of the sun, I’ve used a halogen light at night to the same effect).

bees clustered on compost bin lid

But they didn’t leave. In the morning, they simply all moved to the underside of the lid, bearding and building. I went out and had a word with them. They were the gentlest bees ever, and while they listened patiently it was clear they would not acquiesce to my request. I’d become fond of them and kind of wanted them to stay, just not right there. We created a “bee box” with cardboards and three hastily purchased comb frames, put it up against the bin, and waited. They ignored it.

So as the sun was setting on the second day, I came up with the clever idea of removing the whole lid and moving it to the other side of the garden.  If you have read my novel Before the Time Machine, and think I may have things in common with the character Katherine, I do: clumsiness. I dropped the lid.

Beekeeping enthusiasts may be worried at this point about what I was wearing. No, I am not a beekeeper. In fact, I’ve been afraid of them most of my life. (I grew up in the era of films like Killer Bees and The Swarm–do you remember the ending with the Volkswagen and the Superdome?) I wore long sweatpants, a long-sleeved flannel shirt, my Dodgers baseball cap, rose gloves, and an over head/under arm strapped netting thing I bought for mosquitos.

Frantically Googling how to make bee smoke as they flew around in confusion, I ran inside and got my stainless steel kettle, filled it with pine needles and toilet paper roll, lit it, and used the smoke to manually move the bees. They were all trying to recreate their bunch on the bin lid. I talked quietly to them, and tried to scoop some off the uneven surface into an orange Home Depot bucket and put the lid on fast. I caught about half, and the others flew up–not at me, just up.

It took me two hours to move about 95% of them to the other side of the yard. By the end I was using yogurt containers to get barely a dozen at a time. And if they ever do make honey, it will taste like burnt pine needles.

aI didn’t get stung. Not once.

They all found their way back into a bunch on the lid, now safely across the yard, as the sun set. When I went out early next morning, they were asleep. I set up our faux bee box and put a little cardboard ramp so they could walk the plank. I saw them check it out later that day, then I left the house for two hours. When I came back, they were gone. There was one bee left sitting on the box, looking dazed.

Is there a moral? Well, I should probably have waited one more day instead of feeling pressured by the neighbor’s concern. Terrified someone would start bringing out poison spray or something, I moved them further than they could safely move (the limit is three feet), and when I dropped the lid I had to move them all manually. There were fatalities, but not as many as I feared. I hope they don’t let their bee friends know what I did, because I want my garden to be a welcoming home to living critters. 

I miss them. 

And more!

  • Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.
  • Want to read blog posts on history and writing, or even teaching online? See my Lisahistory blog.

Until next time, keep grousing!

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