March 27, 2004
The cloud hanging over the head of most Twins fans right now is the uncertainty over whether the TV broadcasts will be on most nights like they have been for the past few years. I am not even listening to the furor because I suspect it is a big corporate game that will resolve itself right at the end.
RADKE UNWORRIED, at least according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which reports that the so-called ace of the Twins, after getting pounded again and looking generally unimpressive, didn't seem too worried. What else is new? Radke drives me nuts. I wish he had a little fire. He could go 2-14 and still be happy. Of course, he'd still have his $9 million salary, too. I'd probably worry very little, too.
MAUER HITTING .343. Plus, he's making great throws to second base. Could be the real deal.
MORNEAU TO THE MINORS: If this big cahuna starts knocking around minor league pitching like he has in the past, the Twins should be free to part with Mientkeiwitz if they can get a pitcher in return. Morneau is easier to spell than the other guy, and he hits balls 500 feet when he hits them, but of course, Mientkewitz is one of the best around at first base.
RESTOVICH TO THE MINORS: This is a kid who looks like he's on steroids. He can hit, but he doesn't seem to care on defense. Sat in the right field corner in Detroit last summer and watched him loaf and miss two balls. So, I yelled at him until he looked. "Get with the game, Restovich!" As usual, I felt that he was entitled to my opinion.
SILVA THE BEST PITCHER IN CAMP: The Twins traded Eric Milton to Philadelphia to get rid of his big salary. Now it looks like the two no-names they got in return are going to make the team. Carlos Silva has been pitching well, and Nick Punto has been playing like a mad dog in the infield. When Milton gets injured, which usually happens about May 14th, the trade could start looking pretty good.
RIVAS RIPPING THE BALL: May he finally live up to his considerable potential. May he stay awake at second base through an entire inning.
ROMERO LOOKS BETTER THAN LAST YEAR: J. C. Romero had a bad year last year after a sterling season in 2002. Turns out, he and Catcher A.J. Pierzynski were on the outs last year. No excuse, but perhaps Mauer can get along with Romero better. Romero's one of those who has looked a bit too muscled in the past couple of years. Now that they're testing for steroids, it will be interesting to see if his personality improves.
Went down to teach two classes at a Master Gardener Spring Festival at the college in Fergus Falls. They had about 450 people in attendance. Many classes offered, plus vendors selling blooming plants.
My class was on trees and shrubs, so I brought some slides. People are color-starved, so the slides were popular. People ask good questions. Once they get going with questions, competing with each other for the floor, there is no longer any need for an outline. Just go with the flow. The morning class was lively, the afternoon class needed a shot of coffee.
The best part is the drive. Between Fertile and Fergus Falls lies some of the best scenery on earth. I went down on 59 through Detroit Lakes, and came back on 32 through Rollag.
The scenery today was eerie. There is a strong, wet, warm south wind. The snow packs, what there are left of them, were emiting fog which blew away as it rose. Some of the deeper woods were clogged with fog while the open fields nearby had none--a contrast I have never seen before.
The road passes through hills and past numerous lakes and potholes. The ice on the lakes is turning bright blue. I guess it turns dark blue, even black, just before it goes off. Might happen soon at this rate.
Native birch are pretty this time of year, with their white trunks and bronze-tinted outer branches. One house on 59 has a row of clump birch in front of it--very nice trees, but how unfortunate that they were planted in a row. Rows are for sugar beets.
Stopped at the Citgo in Pelican Rapids for some breakfast. I should know better than to have those breakfast biscuits, especially just one day after recovering from the flu, but they are sure good.
There is a nice man behind the counter who looks like a regular guy--but he happens to be a customer, so I know his story, even though I don't know if he recognized me today.
I believe he retired from an engineering job with a good retirement and moved to the lake place only to find out that he was completely bored and felt useless. So, he went and got a job clerking at the convenience store. He seems to love his job.
He told me to take two biscuits for the price of one. I couldn't resist. I was hungry. But man was I green by the time I got to the college and had to get up in front of the people. After my first talk, I went out to my pickup and napped for an hour. Ah, bliss. Felt better after that.
March 26, 2004
The melt; spring-time ethical dilemmas
It is happening! Spring is advancing, the snow is disappearing, the forecast looks warm. I don't care how long I get away during the winters, they still seem long, and I can tell on the people who have been here all winter that the cold is wearing thin.
Walking through the greenhouses is a particular pleasure on these warm days--the temperature gets up into the 80s in the greenhouses which are not yet in use. In the ones which are full, we have to vent them to keep the temps down or else things will stretch out.
The annual cycles in the nursery business are pronounced. Things happen liturgically, the same way year after year. Next week, thousands of petunias seedlings will need transplanting, and we will start to seed vegetables. Boxes of started plants arrive each day on the UPS, Fed Ex, or Speedy Trucks. The phone is starting to ring with people wondering why the catalog hasn't arrived yet.
People's antsiness for spring is often expressed in their desire to plant. Spring planting mania is the basis of our business. We exploit it shamelessly.
Some ethical dilemmas arise. For instance, pansies love the cold spring weather and bloom furiously right around May 1. The problem is, pansies tend to fade and even dry up completely when the summer heat hits. Are we obligated to warn people of this as they madly gather tray after tray of blooming pansies in early May? We try. Perhaps a little half-heartedly. People don't seem to want to hear our warnings anyway.
So, I say sell, sell, sell. But my brother, burdened by scruples I apparently lack, doesn't think we should sell things which don't last the summer. I answer back: The same people buy these things year after year and they don't seem to mind.
It is a pretty mild ethical dilemma. If a $6.99 pot of pansies produces a month of bloom, I think people are still getting a pretty good value.
One of the great things about doing business in the countryside is that you have to value your customers year after year--you take them for a ride one year, they they won't come back. And there aren't going to be a whole lot of people to take their place.
In the big city, you can get by on hype for a long time without delivering a quality product. Rip one sucker off and another one will be right behind him waiting to be taken.
In the small town, you're in it for the long term. It actually makes things easier, for there isn't even the temptation to sell inferior products. It can be fatal.
March 25, 2004
I had been practicing for the piano concert brother Joe and I are going to give at Concordia Church in Fertile this Sunday as a part of an art's festival put on by the Fertile Area Arts Council. It should be fun. Joe has been practicing hard--he has some big pieces to play. I am playing pieces I should be able to play through in my sleep, but when you get in front of an audience, all bets are off.
They didn't put much notice of the concert in the paper, so perhaps the crowd will be unintimidatingly moderate in numbers. I wouldn't mind.
Right now, with a queasy stomach, the thought of going up front of anybody makes me want to crawl in bed and curl up into the fetal position.
I will spare you the details. But wow, last night was a tough one. Started feeling queasy about midnight and then it just got worse. I have a theory that when the temperature warms bacteria and viruses which would normally be killed by the cold thrive, and people get sick. At least I do. It is part of the March ritual, going way back to elementary school.
Today I just slept and slept. Went over to the nursery for a few minutes, but, as usual, things were going well there without me, so I left and went home for another four hour nap. Felt good.
March 24, 2004
When I arrived home last night, I was treated to a grisly scene. Mouse parts on the carpet and blood stripes all over the linoleum. Cat was in full victory mode, taking laps across the kitchen counter. I felt like I was cleaning up a crime scene.
Then tonight, I decided to let cat outside a little bit and leave the door cracked. Cat is not used to being outside, but I decided a cat that hyper is going to tear apart the house if it doesn't find some wider field of endeavor.
Five minutes later, the door creaked open and cat pushed through with a mutilated mouse which he left at my feet. Lots of howling, and one more trip across the kitchen counter. And more blood on the floor.
I have to wonder where all of these mice are coming from. I am glad I have a viscious tiger to catch them as they come.
Trip to Felton Cafe a resounding success
After four months and four postponments, Aunt Olla and I finally made it to the Felton Cafe for breakfast.
The breakfast was excellent. Best pancake I have had in months. Very good hash browns and delicious bacon, all served up by waitress Barb, who knew Olla well. So they talked a blue streak. Lucky thing the morning coffee crowd was already gone.
Then we went on to Fargo to the hearing aid place, which was no problem, and then to Wal-mart where I insisted that Olla get one of those self-propelled carts. I didn't know until later that her driving record on those carts is a bit spotty, and once involved the upending of a clothes rack.
Things went fine this time, however, with just a little trouble in the moisturizer aisle where they have changed things around and no longer have the Neutrogena cream Olla is used to.
But a nice Wal-mart gentleman left behind his cart of goods and helped us find everything on our list, including a flashlight bulb, a box of chocolates, a broom, air filters, water filters and a watch. He wouldn't leave us until we had everything. Rare customer service at a mass retailer!
We then headed back to Twin Valley to stop in for coffee at Aunt Norma's. Aunt Norma turns 85 next week and has been battling bone cancer. She seemed quite tired when we arrived, but quickly put on the coffee and we chatted away.
Aunt Norma got going telling stories about the old days--she's quite a story-teller--and soon we had passed two hours.
Lot's of stories today. On the drive, Olla told about the old days at Home Lake School in the 1920s, when my grandfather and Aunt Millie would give monologues at school functions which would have the audience rolling in the aisles.
Olla told about Aunt Millie, who passed away several years ago. Millie was a wonderful character and a great cook. One time, Olla visited Millie with Olla's friend Sybil. Olla made the mistake of talking down high-cholesterol foods, and Millie took offense. Olla had no idea until Millie walked to the front door, opened it, and said "Out!" There was to be no talk of health foods in Millie's house! Olla and her friend Sybil left in a hurry and had a good laugh over it. "Boy, we got booted out of THERE in a hurry," Sybil said as they giggled their way to the car. Of course, Millie got over the cholesterol thing, and Olla got over getting the boot and the incident was never mentioned again.
Norma told the story of how she met Uncle Johnny. She had lost her first husband to a truck accident and was alone with three young children. She took a job at a local restaurant, and Johnny started coming in every Saturday night. He would only give his order if Norma waited on him.
Well, Norma had no intention of marrying again so soon with three children in the house, and she didn't know much about this Johnny guy, whether he drank, or just what.
Finally, later that summer, on a wet, rainy night, Johnny offered Norma a ride home after work. She turned him down, but he insisted. She got right out of the car when they got to her house, determined not to get involved with some man.
Johnny persisted. They were soon married, and Johnny turned out to be the mildest, nicest man Norma had ever met. He made a wonderful father to Norma's three young children.
With that story as a background, I was sent into Norma's bedroom to see their wedding photo, taken in 1949. We also paged through the photo album of their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. I was shocked how old and dated the photos looked, given that I remember that year quite clearly.
A good day. Olla was in high spirits the whole time. She still isn't feeling the best after a winter of battling a virus, but you wouldn't have known it today. And it was good to see Norma in fine form despite her health problems.
Norma has always been a wonderful cook, and what is interesting about her stories are how they center on the difficulties of keeping house in the old days--dealing with unexpected guests when you didn't have enough food, figuring out how to find a place to sleep for some fancy-dressed relatives who showed up unannounced for a week-long visit.
Lots of humor, but underneath it all is a theme: Things were pretty tough, although they really didn't know the difference. People didn't always get along, but they always had to act like they did, it seems. Such stresses made for many uncomfortable and often comical situations, such as the time when some guests got up and left Norma's house in the middle of the night leaving only a five-dollar bill and a note explaining that the money was for the electricity they had used. Uff da! Norma still doesn't know to this day what caused them to leave. If you knew Norma, you know it wasn't for lack of hospitality.
March 23, 2004
I am slated to drive to Gonvick this morning to Richards Publishing to give the nursery catalog a once over before they start rolling the presses. The actual work involved will likely take ten minutes, but it is worth the trip to get everything right. Plus, it is a good excuse for a delightful drive through some eastern woods.
Most of my work-related driving tends to be to the west, into the Valley, to Fargo or Grand Forks on roads laid out in a grid with only occasional farmsteads to break up the monotony. I grab any chance I can get to go east, where the roads curve around lakes and where the woods are peppered with conifers, red oak, ironwood and birch.
I time the trip so I can end up in Fosston for noon lunch at Palubucki's Deli. Great chicken. Tough to find a booth, so you usually end up eating with somebody you barely know. Then you find out that you know them after all because they are related to Ardis who's a good customer or something like that, and you end up lingering and talking more than you had planned.
Cat-caused computer problem, Mouse #4
I have been stymied trying to get sound out of my computer for the past few days. I always attribute such problems to my ignorance of computers and just let them go until my frustration level gets such that I dig into the directions.
I checked all of the volume settings, and they were fine. I checked the connections and they were fine. Finally I discovered that the speakers weren't getting power. They have one of those heavy adapter things that hangs from the plug-in, and I suspect cat was playing with the cord and pulled it loose. Problem fixed, and now I am listening to Vivaldi.
While I was gone this past weekend, Cat landed mouse #4. My sister was home for the weekend and offered to perform cat visitation duties. When she arrived, she happened upon a scene so violent and gross that when the issue came up at the supper table over at Mom and Dad's, the others begged her not to fill in the details.
Suffice it to say, sister found a partially-digested mouse on my kitchen floor. The mess required a host of cleaning supplies from underneath the bathroom sink. Sister cleaned it all up, which is beyond and above the call of sister duties.
Cat looks no worse for wear. The penalties for leaving for the weekend have been the usual: Lots of loose hair in the brush, and two days of extra meowing and lap time.
March 22, 2004
Huckstering at the Home Show
Actually, the Grand Forks Home Show is entitled "Lifestyles Expo," for what that's worth. So, I spent the weekend at my booth promoting the gardening lifestyle, and hoping that people will see fit to include a visit to Bergeson Nursery in their lifestyle.
The Grand Forks Show is less hectic and more friendly than the Fargo Show. On Saturday night, they had a great buffet for the exhibitors. A blue-grass band played live music.
I know many of the exhibitors from previous years. When exhibitors talk to exhibitors, it is accepted behavior to steal a glance at their nametags and then use their first name shamelessly as if you've known them all your life.
Next to me was the owner of Wievoda Carpet. What a character. He had a pet Siberian Tiger for 24 years. After it died, he had it mounted. This weekend, the stuffed tiger sat atop his exhibit. Kids loved it.
The story of the tiger was in a frame. It stated that the tiger treated Mr. Weivoda much better than any of his wives ever did.
The first and last hours of the show are slow, so exhibitors wander to other booths and try to sell each other things. Hucksters huckstering to other hucksters. "Well, hey, give me a call!" was the phrase of the day.
It is amazing how susceptible we hucksters are to the magic of hearing our first names, even when we know that memorizing names at a Home Show is little more than a sales tactic. "Hey, Eric!" makes me turn my head and smile even if I know the person memorized my name tag yesterday. It is still flattering.
One man was sort of crabby to me last year. He is with some plumbing firm. Well, in the middle of last gardening season, his wife visited the nursery and I discovered to my horror that his name was NOT Al. It was Bob.
He responded so well to being called Bob, his real name, rather than Al. This year, as you might imagine, we got along famously. The second day, he even went through the effort of stealing a glance at my name tag and calling me Eric.
I was touched.