Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

April 24, 2004

Busy, busy

So busy that it is difficult to find time to write in this weblog! Today was a big day at the nursery. The nice weather puts everybody in the mood.

LAST night I shut off the Twins in the 8th inning when they were still behind. Sure enough, they came back to win in the ninth by a score of 7-5 over the poor Kansas City Royals whose pitching collapsed once again.

I love when the Twins get into the other team's bullpen in the first game of the series. That way you wear them out for the next two games. Look for more late inning heroics for the Twins this weekend.

Once again, the subs excelled. Last night it was Micheal Ryan, who has spent most of the season on the bench. Because Shannon Stewart was injured, Ryan came in and had a big night. So, while some of their best players have been injured, the Twins have gone on something of a tear, winning eight out of their last nine games.

April 22, 2004

Clear and cool

The weather stubbornly refuses to get warm, but at least today the sun shone. The grass in the ditches is starting to green up and if you look closely, the buds on the trees and shrubs are starting to swell.

The plants in the greenhouse are starting to pop. It happens all of a sudden. Last week the begonias were looking a bit weak; today I went to the greenhouse and found them in full bloom. As long as the sun shines, the cool weather is good for greenhouse plants. It keeps them stout and healthy looking instead of stretched and lanky.

CAT HAS CAUGHT at least two more mice. It spent the past two nights outside. This morning it came in with a little dried blood on its ear, so I can only assume it had a tangle. There is a ringneck pheasant hanging around the yard, so perhaps the cat got a peck on the ear from it.

When Cat comes inside in the morning after being out all night, it falls right into an exhausted sleep. I am sure the adventures outside wear it out completely.

THE TWINS won this afternoon 4-3. I don't know why they schedule mid-week afternoon games in April. They can't expect to get a crowd on a Thursday afternoon when the kids are still in school. I can understand such scheduling if the Twins were playing outdoors, but they are in a dome where the temperature is the same in April as it is in July.

Again, Lew Ford, who was brought up from the minors to replace the injured Torii Hunter, was the hero. He had three hits, including a homer. He is a favorite at the dome, where the fans shout "Leewww" whenever he does something good.

The papers have been making a lot out of Ford's eccentric personality. He is very bright and good with computers, but a little bit absent-minded. One time last year he actually got lost trying to find the dugout from the clubhouse when he was called upon to pinch hit. I remember it clearly--the obvious choice was for Gardenhire to pinch-hit Ford, but somebody else came out of the dugout. The announcers thought Gardenhire had lost his mind. In fact, Ford had lost his way and was wondering around underneath the stadium trying to find the dugout.

It doesn't take much eccentricity to become known as a personality in big league baseball. The writers compare Lew Ford to pop music star Jessica Simpson, who made a name for herself when she went to the White House and was introduced to the Secretary of the Interior. "I just love what you've done with the decorating here!" she told the clueless cabinet member.

Ford once was promoted to a team in Portland, Oregon and promptly jumped on a plane to Portland, Maine. When Hunter comes back from his injury, Ford will might have to take a plane to Rochester, NY to play for the Twins' minor league team there. You wonder if he'll end up in Rochester, MN.

April 21, 2004

Aerial photos

A knock on the door deep in the middle of a nap about 7 pm tonight. It was a man who was selling an aerial photo of the nursery which was taken last August. I knew it would be drastically over-priced, and it was, but then again, I thought--what would it cost to send a plane up in the air with a photographer who knew what he was doing?

The photo showed the gardens in full bloom as well as the layout of the fields and some of the potholes in the area. I succumbed and bought it.

As I studied it, several things came to light: There was Dad standing watching the plane from by the office. Several cars of gardens visitors were parked under the trees. Somebody was watering the hanging baskets.

So, the picture will be a keepsake. The nursery grounds will soon change, and the picture will show how it once was.

April 20, 2004

Twins on a roll

The Twins have won six in a row, beating the Tigers tonight by a score of 6-4. Admittedly, the Twins are playing the weaker teams in the schedule. But those are the teams you have to pound on if you want to build a good record before you have to play the Yanks.

This last streak is particularly encouraging because so many of the Twins best players are injured. Torii Hunter is on the DL, as is Joe Mauer. Koskie is playing hurt, as is Doug Mientkewitz. But the subs have stepped up. Reserve catcher Henry Blanco has been knocking to cover off the ball, as has Lew Ford, brought up from the minors to fill in for Hunter.

The Twins are good. They have layers of talent. When the big guys go down, the subs are nearly as good. They have players in the minors who would be on the major league roster of most other teams. They have no major stars to speak of, but the have no weak spots.

It is a pleasure to watch, or as is the case this year, listen, to a team which plays the game so well.

Now, if they could just figure it out so the Twins would get back on television.

April 19, 2004

Monday, Monday

With the improvement of the weather, everything happens at once at the nursery. The fields are dry enough to work. Dad is impatient to get out there and put in the tiny shrubs which we will sell two years hence. Getting them in early means they will be larger sooner.

A steady trickle of customers arrives as well. Many just want to look around the greenhouse to see some green. That is fine, the coffee's on. Others are determined to get a head start on the growing season. That's fine, too! (We need the money.)

In the cold storage building, the battle is to get all of those sticks labeled and priced. Also, Joe is working on getting descriptive signs on everything. I suppose we print out well over 1,000 signs each spring, and it is important to have the descriptions accurate and up to date.

Another battle is to settle on prices. When in doubt, we go with last year's price. With perennials, the price varies so much from plant to plant that it is necessary to put a stick in each pot. I picked up 5,000 wooden stakes last week--now somebody has to write on them all.

Labeling things is almost as difficult as growing them. If you lose the label, you can't sell the plant. Label something with the wrong label and there's hell to pay down the road, especially if somebody buys pink impatiens because pink is the color her daughter chose for her wedding in July--and then they bloom red. That's hard to explain. And impossible to rectify. The rule: Never do business with the mother of the bride.

Some people order bare root plants to be mailed. We don't do very much mail order business, but you can't tell people no. However, wrapping those clumsy packages of sticks is the single least favorite job on the nursery. They poke through the wrap. The roots stick out. The paper busts. Ugh.

This morning, we gang tackled the mail orders for the week. Dad tried his hand, got frustrated and went out the field. Joe did a few but was frequently interrupted. I did about three, and new employee Nick tried his hand at one while being pelted with advice by Joe and I, neither of whom really know how to make a neat package.

Mail orders have always tested our tempers. Grandpa used to wrap the orders, and he had his theories about how it should be done. One time he made me unwrap all of the packages I had done and do them over his way. I lost my cool and tossed the packages against the wall and walked away.

Of course, he was right. I now wrap packages his way and insist that others do the same. I hope I am more diplomatic about it.

Geo. Washington's etiquette

Mark Scaramella of the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Boonville, CA responded to the column I posted yesterday which begins by talking about George Washington's etiquette by forwarding the following piece he wrote for fun a year ago. It contains some of Washington's rules. Mark made up the rest.


110 maxims about civility and decent behavior in public which originated
in the late 16th century in France were popularly circulated in Virginia
during George Washington's boyhood in the first half of the 18th century. At
the age of 16, Washington carefully wrote out his own personal copy of the
110 Rules in his school book. This exercise by the yet-to-be President and
Father of Our Country is regarded as a formative influence in the
development of Washington's character and stood him well during his rise to
the top. The Rules included guidelines for behavior in pleasant company,
appropriate actions in formal situations, and general public courtesies.

How well do you know the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior of The
Father Of Our Country as specified in the following excerpts? Are you civil
enough to be president?

1. When sitting down to eat meat...
a. smell the meat to make sure it is not foul or spoiled.
b. be sure to have the proper utensils.
c. do not scratch, spit, cough or blow your nose.
d. make sure Osama bin Laden is not a dinner guest.

2. When approaching another man, do not get so close that...
a. the odor of your breath can be detected.
b. your spittle gets on his face when you talk.
c. your presence makes him uncomfortable.
d. he recognizes you.

3. Kill no fleas, lice, ticks or bugs...
a. while in the outhouse.
b. in the sight of others.
c. with your bare hand.
d. on the face of the first lady.

4. Do not be tedious in discourse or in reading unless...
a. the tediousness is also relatively brief.
b. it is essential to the conduct of your business.
c. you find that the company is pleased with it.
d. you are the host of a public radio public affairs program.

5. When at the dinner table, do not spit forth...
a. any foul tasting or spoiled food.
b. the seeds of any fruit pie.
c. your wine.
d. your opinions of the French.

6. In the presence of others...
a. do not snort, cough, spit or wheeze.
b. keep your mouth closed while not talking or eating.
c. do not sing, hum or drum your fingers.
d. do not admit to reading the editorial pages of the Santa Rosa Press

7. If you see any filth or thick spittle on the floor...
a. put your foot dexterously upon it.
b. point it out to the servants.
c. discretely wipe it up with your handkerchief.
d. ask the vice president how it got there.

8. If you must cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn in public...
a. don't do it loudly.
b. ask to be pardoned.
c. cover your nose and mouth.
d. don't do it during the State of the Union speech.

9. If you soak your bread in sauce be sure that it...
a. is fully soaked.
b. does not drip on the way back to your mouth.
c. is no more than what you can put in your mouth at a time.
d. has first been tasted by Al Gore.

10. Do not go out of your chamber...
a. without your wig.
b. half dressed.
c. drunk.
d. with your mistress.

11. Do not spit...
a. on the sidewalk.
b. in the fire.
c. at the table.
d. on Dan Rather.

12. Do not wear clothes that...
a. are foul, ripped or dusty.
b. do not fit properly.
c. do not match as to color and pattern.
d. belong to your wife.

13. While you are conducting a conversation with someone...
a. do not roll your eyes or scoff at their remarks.
b. do not laugh at them unless they are joking.
c. do not point at them with your finger.
d. do not bring up Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

14. Do not clean your teeth with...
a. your fingers.
b. your wife's hatpin.
c. a knife.
d. the quill pen you used to sign the morning's legislation.

15. When drinking, do not...
a. gaze about.
b. swallow loudly.
c. guzzle big gulps.
d. vomit on the Japanese Prime Minister.

16. Let your discourse with men of business be...
a. short.
b. truthful.
c. direct.
d. accompanied by bagfuls of hard currency.

17. When visiting the sick...
a. cover your face with your handkerchief.
b. show sympathy for their condition.
c. do not act like a doctor if you are not a doctor.
d. offer to sell them private health insurance at a nice discount.

18. If you happen upon a public spectacle...
a. do not laugh too loud.
b. politely ask the participants to stop.
c. go on about your business.
d. pass the hat amongst the other onlookers.

19. Do not cut bread...
a. with a greasy knife
b. that has a hard crust.
c. in the presence of company.
d. at all.

20. Do not sleep when...
a. in the presence of a person of superior station.
b. eating.
c. others speak.
d. the Vice President is telling you what you have to do.

21. In speaking to men of quality...
a. do not look them full in the face.
b. wear your best clothes.
c. do not speak too loudly.
d. don't ask them if they have a criminal record.

22. If you say anything witty and pleasant...
a. apologize if any offense was taken.
b. do not laugh at yourself.
c. excuse yourself.
d. promise not to do it again.

23. When walking down the street...
a. keep your eyes focused on where you are going.
b. do not shake your arms or kick the dirt.
c. keep your back straight.
d. do not acknowledge the existence of persons in another political

24. Do not inquire about other people's...
a. family difficulties.
b. personal business.
c. marks and blemishes.
d. bathroom habits.

25. When in Company, do not put your hands ...
a. in your pockets.
b. on any part of the body that is covered.
c. behind your back.
d. over your ears.

26. Put not off your clothes...
a. in the wrong sequence.
b. onto the floor.
c. on television.
d. when in the presence of others.

27. Take all admonitions and criticisms thankfully and gracefully, but
afterwards if you are not at fault ...
a. make a note to take your revenge.
b. write the critic off as a dullard.
c. tell everyone who heard the remarks that the critic is an
illigitimate offspring.
d. let the critic know he was wrong privately.

28. As regards disparaging gossip that flies around...
a. do not be hasty to believe it.
b. do not repeat it without first checking it.
c. be sure to tell the object of it about it.
d. only start gossip, don't repeat gossip from others.

29. When it is a time of mirth or gaiety at the table...
a. do not overindulge in spirits.
b. do not speak of doleful things
c. always laugh at other people's jokes.
d. do not open your mouth while laughing.

1-c, 2-b, 3-b, 4-c, 5-b. 6-c, 7-a, 8-a, 9-c, 10-b, 11-b, 12-a, 13-c,
14-c, 15-a, 16-a, 17-c, 18-a, 19-a, 20-c, 21-a, 22-b. 23-b. 24-c, 25-b,
26-d, 27-d, 28-a, 29-b.

April 18, 2004

Mouse #15

Cat is still howling over the latest mouse brought to the landing. I don't know what emotions killing a mouse unleashes in a cat, but it takes over an hour for it to quit meowing after completing a kill. One day, perhaps, researchers will unveil what goes on inside a cat's head during such times. I sometimes think that catching a mouse makes the cat more miserable than it was before.

WHAT A PERFECT SUNDAY. Cloudy. A bit of drizzle. Warm. Still, until the past couple of hours.

A cloudy Sunday is welcome at the nursery. As soon as the sun comes out, the greenhouses need watering, and nobody wants to be tied to a water hose on a Sunday afternoon.

We aren't yet open on Sundays, but that didn't prevent several people from showing up. I don't mind the business, of course. But you have to keep hours or you'll just go nuts, especially when it is a family thing.

One aspect of the old days I don't miss: People showing up at all hours and expecting it to be okay, whether in business or in the home. Today, the idea that you just show up at somebody's house and expect the coffee to be on is anathema. Thank goodness.

My grandpa had the opposite view. He was a real old-timer when it came to privacy. It was a foreign concept to him. He showed up at people's places all the time. Once when somebody he visited wasn't home, he walked in, turned on the radio and sat down until they showed up.

He didn't expect privacy, either. We kids invaded Grandma and Grandpa's house at any hour of the day or night and we were never even given the feeling that we were unwelcome or unwanted. I think Grandma would have preferred a little more privacy, although when it came to grandkids, she was always indulgent. But Grandpa? The whole notion of wanting privacy seemed to mean that you had something to hide.

Grandpa extended his openness to business. He refused to post hours, although he sometimes wrote in his catalog that people shouldn't show up on Sunday mornings at the nursery because "we'll be in church, and you should be too." During the 1960s, he added the line, "Hippies don't go to church. They should."

Consequently, there were some oldtimers who would show up at the nursery at the oddest times. One, Jeanette, was fond of showing up at 10 pm or later. She would fill her car with flowers and then head to Barnesville for steak. Grandpa and she were great friends.

When Mom and Dad took the nursery over, they were a little less indulgent with Jeanette. Once when she showed up at 10 pm, they resolved to ignore her. I volunteered to go out and wait on her. She was my first customer. I was in second grade.

Years later, she showed up when the nursery was closed. It happened to be the Sunday evening of my high school graduation. She left a five dollar bill and a note of congratulations which recalled our first transaction years before. I believe she took some plants, too, leaving more money than was probably necessary.