May 28, 2004
On on of the first days when people actually have felt like planting--the yard was full of cars--the power went out about 9:30 this morning.
Suddenly, you realize how much you depend upon electricity for the basics of business. First item was to get the standby generator going so we could get the greenhouse vent fans running again. Without fans, the temperature can rise to 100 degrees in a hurry on a still, sunny day.
Then, there was the line of customers at the till--and the tellers having to add up dozens of items priced $2.09 and $4.29 without an adding machine. Not efficient. So, we managed to get the tills running again.
Next problem was water. Plants were drying out in the greenhouse in a hurry, especially in the heat, so we had to get the pump which draws water from the lake on the standby as well. The pump was the final straw--the generator couldn't handle it, and the breaker switch went.
So, Dad and Joe shut off all but one fan in each greenhouse and that allowed the pumps to run without the generator overloading.
Next, we had fifty coffeed-up customers needing to use the bathrooms--which had no lights and no water, since the well could not be hooked up to the generator.
So Dad went to the work of stringing a garden hose from the pump which worked into the bathroom system, which allowed things to flush.
Just when that got all established, the power popped back on and all was back to normal. What a relief. It took me a couple of hours to lose my sense of crisis and realize that I could be calm again.
I was agitated to begin with due to a series of dreams last night which involved me being involved in a series of crimes including drunk driving. I woke up relieved to be in my bedroom and not a jail cell. The dreams were vivid enough that the mood they created hung over into the day--never a good situation.
By afternoon, the sunny skies took over and I felt like tackling the world again. Business boomed, the water flowed, the fans spun, I remained free without bail, and all was well.
May 27, 2004
The cold, cloudy spring continues this morning after a brief respite yesterday afternoon. When the sun came out yesterday, I got a burst of energy and went out to clear brush where I am hoping to put a house this summer. I have scratches from prickly ash all over my arm to prove it.
I have a spot picked out in the woods between two ponds just to the southeast of the nursery. It will be remote enough to be quiet. In fact, it is so remote that the electric company is going to have to string about 1/2 mile of wire to the site. Yet, I will be able to see the gardens on the nursery grounds from my front windows.
Got a chance to watch the Twins after work last night. They won 4-2. Very good game. A score like 4-2 means there was some good baseball played. Last weekend, they lost 17-7 in a game I was spared the agony of listening to. A score like that means there was bad pitching and probably some errors in the field.
Injuries are taking their toll on the Twins, although the real culprit in their recent few losses has been lack of decent starting pitching. You can never have too much pitching! The Twins have six good outfielders on their roster. Methinks they should trade a couple of them for some pitching. Trouble is, pitching is in short supply all over the major leagues, so you might not find anybody willing to part with a quality starter.
Thanks to those of you who wrote informing me that Ray Stevens is a country music singer known for his off beat, humorous songs. That would explain the "having a baby the natural way" line at the end of the song I heard yesterday.
Viewing Stevens' website, which some of you forwarded to me, makes me think I should look into his music! Probably a man after my own heart.
May 26, 2004
Jumped in my pickup this morning and heard the last line of a song, which to me sounded like, "We didn't have a babeeeeee.....the natchural waaaaaaaaaay!" followed by "That was Ray Stevens on 1260, KROX radio, 52 degrees here in the valley...etc., etc.
Any clues on this one? It has me really curious.
May 25, 2004
The director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, Laurel Reuter, stopped by the nursery tonight with some good news. A couple of years ago, Laurel started a project to photograph the windbreaks of the Red River Valley in an artistic manner. She asked me to be an advisor on the project. So far, that has involved writing up a description of the location of some of my favorite examples of good windbreaks. I don't care so much if they stop the snow or soil erosion in an efficacious manner--I like windbreaks which aesthetically enhance the otherwise dreary landscape of the valley.
The history of tree planting and windbreaks in the Red River Valley is interesting, and has been the topic of a couple of well-written master's theses at UND. I have read through them, plus I have a little knowledge of the topic because of the nursery's involvement in the early years of shelterbelt planting.
The photographer has been working on the project for two years. Just recently, the project was funded to the tune of $100,000 by a grant from a private foundation. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Maybe, maybe, things will finally warm up. I heard a forecast of 75 degrees tomorrow for Fargo. This spring has been cold and windy thus far with perhaps four days where one could go outside in a t-shirt. I have a theory that all springs up here are late springs, but this one is stretching even that definition of late.
Although the old wives' tales state that one shouldn't plant before Memorial Day, the fact of the matter is most people have everything in by then. This year, however, the weather has been such that Memorial Day might be the day when summer hits.
Over the past twenty years, it is seemed to me that the nursery business hits its peak when the flowering crabs are in bloom. They are late this year, still a few days from blooming. I know a few are out in Fargo and Grand Forks, but they are cities near a river, and that can make a difference of about one week.
A local woman is going to sell her very excellent homemade ice cream at the nursery this weekend. When we arranged for her to come to the nursery last winter, I was wary--sometimes the busy season is over by that time. However, if the weather shapes up, this weekend could be a blockbuster. I hope she sells lots of ice cream. We are going to have her set up in the greenhouse where it will feel warm even if it is cold outside.
The donut lady came today. She has now made 737 dozen donuts for the nursery this spring. Of course some of those go to boys who put one on every finger. Most people, however, limit themselves to one or two.
The cool weather is good for the plants in the greenhouse. They are blooming nicely and are a dark green. Because there has been less watering due to the cool, cloudy weather, we are able to devote more time to spiffing up the plants, cleaning up the dead blooms, and, most important of all, getting rid of the few plants which are unsalable. It is a dirty secret of the greenhouse business: One reason our plants look nice is that we get rid of the ones which don't.
Another letter in the mail today with a check from somebody who was convinced they were undercharged. You can't beat having customers like that!
May 24, 2004
Affection Deficit Disorder
My cat needs a certain amount of attention per day or it meows pitifully. When I come home after a long day of work, it will carry on until I sit down and devote time to petting it. Then it purrs and purrs.
So similar to people! (We're back to talking about dealing with the public, since that occupies most of the hours of my day these days.)
I prefer business transactions to be crisp and efficient. It's business, after all. No need to fool around. So, I often run up to a customer and expect them to spill out just what they want so we can move on.
But some people don't operate at my frenetic pace. They want to discuss. And discuss. Hands in pockets. Long pauses. Repeated questions. Tales of the past.
I have finally decided that some people come to the nursery with the expectation that they will get a certain amount of personal attention. They need that attention, and they will use almost any method to get it. They are not tolerant of efficiency because it circumvents the fulfillment of their need for attention.
When the spotlight is focused on them, you can almost hear them purr. They don't want to let go of you. They are well-trained at the art of allowing no graceful end to a conversation. Words in edgewise bother them.
Although this can drive me nuts if we are busy, when things are slower, I have finally started to just give in to the inefficiency and listen to them with full attention. In fact, that is the most efficient way out. Once they are listened to, they calm down. The desperation is replaced by appreciation.
The human need for attention has always disturbed me. It even comes out in my dealings with Cat. What? You just want attention? What an ignoble goal! How pitiful can you be! Get a life!
I discussed this with my sister yesterday, and she has a more sympathetic view. She loves to hear people's stories. She said if she worked here, she would love to spend time out in the greenhouse hearing about people's flower bed problems and other dilemmas.
I wish she did work here. Then I could delegate attention-related matters to her, and get back to business!
May 23, 2004
The wind continues to blow this morning. It seems that still days have been an exception this spring. The wind has been relentless.
Wind alters my view of the day, I find. If I don't think about it, the wind's noise creates an ominous sense of unrest. My mind then finds thoughts to fit that mood, and I walk around waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I wonder if there are more accidents on windy days. I know the fire trucks are more likely to run on a windy day--just because the wind can cause grassfires to take off.
But I also have memories from childhood of bad news arriving on windy days in spring. A neighbor died in a tractor accident on a windy day. Another neighbor was discovered dead in the field, also on a windy day. Those memories are seared into my brain--you don't forget where you were when you heard the news.
Spooky movies always have the wind whirling around in the background. A dark and stormy night. Very few movie murders happen on a bright, sunny day.
The winds of war. A cold wind blows. Blow, blow thou winter wind. Literature's references to wind are seldom calming and often refer to disturbances of the soul. If a wind is calming, then it is called a breeze. A cool breeze. A gentle breeze.
Winds are exhausting. They force you to chase your receipt across the parking lot. They force one to employ otherwise dormant muscles merely to stand up straight. Wind makes everyday life as noisy and distracting as a loud radio.
In its place, wind can be calming. If you are snuggling by the fire in November, a blizzard wind only adds to the coziness. If you are sleeping through a thunderstorm in the summer, the wind adds good background noise.
If I am aware that it is windy, and that the wind tends to produce unrest, then I can be aware of my thoughts and make sure that the wind doesn't produce doom and gloom.