October 23rd, 2003

Elena's Place

A tree delivery this morning gave me an excuse to have a noon meal at Elena's Place, a restaurant in Erskine. Elena is part of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer sect, of which 100 families have settled in the Erskine area over the past five years.

Who around here would have thought, ten years ago, that Erskine, MN would ever have a Russian restaurant?

Another Dying Country Institution

Last night, I spoke to the Mahnomen/Becker County Homemaker's fall gathering. There must have been 70 women there, most older, and a good time was had by all. At the close, however, the chairwoman of the event made it clear that the fall gathering probably wouldn't happen next year due to budget cuts affecting the University Extension Service.

October 21st

Nostalgia for the Victorians

Reading Dickens brings me once again to the nineteenth century, my favorite of them all. I think I would like to have been a good Victorian. The Victorians had manners. They valued honor. They used the language to its fullest extent. And they had a rich talent for love and friendship.

David Copperfield

My preference is for history. I can read fiction, but only if I suspect the events depicted have a firm basis in fact. My friend Lyla, knowing my debilitation in this area, is adept at suggesting fiction which might suck me in due to its historical content. She suggested Shakespeare’s Richard II last winter, and sure enough, I finished it, the first Shakespeare play I have read since college. Last week she suggested Dickens’ David Copperfield, and I have been entranced by it.

What's this weblog going to be about?

I write a weekly column for a handful of newspapers in northwestern Minnesota. All too often it is the only writing I do in a week. It seems I need an audience, even an imagined one, to motivate myself to write. And so, I hope to make daily entries into this weblog as a way of putting thoughts on paper on a daily basis. If anybody cares to read the entries, so much the better.

October 20th


Harvest, for us, means digging up the trees and shrubs, shaking the dirt off their roots, and putting them into the cold storage building for winter. You want to wait as long as you can to begin digging trees without waiting so long that the ground freezes without you getting everything out. As a rule, we start October 20th.

October 19th

This week's newspaper column:

Most farmsteads are lit up at night by a fluorescent yard light. When I moved to mine, it had no such light, and I have seen no reason to put one up. I really don’t care to have my yard bathed in an eerie blue glow.

The biggest benefit of a dark yard is the clear view one gets of the night sky. Several times this summer and fall I have stepped outside at night only to be startled by the sight of the Milky Way, the northern lights, and the glowing red dot that is Mars.

Cubs and Red Sox aftermath

It didn't take long for the dramatic losses by the Cubs and Red Sox to turn into legend. Garrison Keillor mentioned it on Prairie Home Companion last night, saying that this country doesn't need to read Sophocles, or King Lear--we have baseball. We have the Cubs and the Red Sox, with their tragic tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We have tragic heroes, like the Cubs fan Steve Bartman, who is being blamed for the collapse of his team after he went after a foul pop that might have been caught by Moises Alou.

October 18th

Tilling aesthetics

Since most area farmers have changed to minimum tillage, meaning they try not to dig too deeply when working their fields--in order to preserve moisture as well as the structure of the soil--the fall scenery in the countryside has subtly changed. Instead of jet black plowed fields, the surface of the worked fields now bristles with dead soybean stalks, corn stalks, or grain straw. The dead plant matter catches the orange of the rising and setting sun, a nice effect, but it doesn't have the cleanliness and finality of a plowed field, the dramatic change from golden to black.

World Series....Yawn

After all the buildup for a possible Cubs-Red Sox World Series, a Fall Classic between the Yankees and Marlins is as disappointing as a big snowstorm that veers south. Yeah, its nice to have life be back to normal, uninterrupted by the stresses of baseball, but one misses the drama. To have the team that is supposed to win, win.....well, that's no fun. Especially when it is the Yanks. And the Marlins? Aren't they a USFL team? The only saving grace is Trader Jack McKeon, the cigar-chomping curmudgeon who manages the Marlins.