Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 13, 2004

Sterling weather

That's the best word I can come up with to describe this wonderful November we have been having: sterling. Clear days, crisp evenings, weather to savor. Just cold enough so the indoors feels good after 4 p.m.

Fewer hunters on the farm this weekend. Just a few shots this morning. Doesn't feel as much like a war zone as it did last weekend. I spent much of the morning trying to plan the kitchen in the Swamp Castle. Made some progress on the note pad with little squares.

I also ascended the scaffolding in the living room to the very peak for the first time. I am scared of heights, and the scaffolding sort of shakes, so it took three tries and some meticulous planning to finally get to the 24 foot level without wimping out.

Twenty-four feet is quite a ways off the ground. Once I got settled on one of the platforms, I had the courage to look around a bit. I am sure my knuckles were white.

November 12, 2004

Santana wins Cy Young

Twins' pitcher Johan Santana unanimously won the American Cy Young award, it was announced yesterday. Santana, who lives in his small village in rural Venezuela during the offseason, was summoned to the presidential palace in Caracas today. It took Santana one hour to get to the nearest airport, where a small jet picked him up and brought him to the capital. Here is Johan with President Hugo Chavez earlier today.

Another Swamp Castle picture

Here's a picture I took at sunset tonight.

The high beam is one of four in the loft, the middle beam is over the staircase to the loft, and the lower beams run across the living room. The carpenters are relieved to have these in place.

November 11, 2004

Pickup in the woods

Last winter, when I was driving up the coast of California, I wanted to include this picture in the weblog but didn't take the time to learn the technology. Now I know the technology, so I will include the picture. It is my Ford Ranger in the big woods.

Spaghetti feed at Aunt Olla's

Aunt Olla has been planning to have a spaghetti feed for about a year. She even ordered special spaghetti forks--which, she claimed, were worthless. The feed was for "all my living relatives still in the area."

Brother Joe did the cooking. He cooked regular noodles for the majority, and rice noodles for he and Aunt Ede, both of whom are gluten intolerant. The spaghetti sauce was vegetarian with lentils. The salad was spinach with red cabbage, roasted almonds, shredded carrots--sprinkled with a pear sauce. It was a meal that on paper wouldn't agree with a bunch of Norwegians, Swedes--and one full-blooded German (Mom), but in actuality it was lauded by all.

Cousin Ilene was there, as were Aunt Ede and Uncle Orv. Mom, Dad, Joe, myself and Olla rounded out the table. To record the event, we had to rotate photographers--however, Aunt Olla wouldn't settle for having one person missing, so she went down the hall to rouse 94-year-old Lillie Jenson to take a group photo.

After the meal, Olla brought out some old letters written in the 1920s from her older brother Roy to my grandfather Melvin telling Melvin what to do on the farm. Roy was down in St. Paul attending winter quarter at the University.

Amongst other things, Roy told Grandpa how to stack the wood pile down to the finest detail so it would "present a bold front" during the summer. In other words, the appearance of the woodpile was important.

IT was something of a coincidence to read about Grandpa's woodpile, as I had gone out to my woods by the Swamp Castle a couple of days ago and sawed some firewood myself. I stacked it neatly in a prominent location, probably in order to present a "bold front." I am sure it wasn't nearly as bold as Grandpa's woodpile in 1927. After all, I only sawed about two dozen cobs.


Now that I know how to post photos online, I can't resist putting up some of my favorite photos from the past couple of years, since I started with digital photography. If there is a slow news day--and thankfully, most of my days are slow news days--that's what I'll do.

The first photo is of Niagara Falls.

This picture was taking two years ago on my way to New Jersey. I can't go to New Jersey this November, which I regret. November in Jersey and New York are as good as October here in Minnesota.

That trip, I drove across northern Michigan, then down the Michigan peninsula, then over into Canada across lower Ontario, and into New York state at Buffalo. The bridge is a few feet from where this picture is taken. It was about sunset. It was very cold. The park was empty but for four or five other people. In other words, it was one of those haunted early November evenings just like we have been having lately.

November 10, 2004

Mt. St. Helens

While I am at it, stretching my internet wings, here is a link to a live view of Mt. St. Helens that I look at a couple of times per day. If the image is grainy and multi-colored, that means it is dark in Washington.

Swamp Castle in progress

Several of you have requested that I post some photos of the house. That require me to learn how to do that, which requires that I read directions, which requires a discipline that I only rarely possess, but which for some reason--perhaps it is the sun lamp--that discipline has appeared this morning.

You can see the nursery buildings in the distance, across the swamp.

Cousin Anne's weblog

Cousin Anne, who designed this webpage, has started a weblogof her own which documents the move she and her husband recently made from the suburbs of Washington D.C. to Idaho. Browse through the archives for some spectacular photos!

November 09, 2004


Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio stopped by this morning. He is attempting to record people telling stories. He thought that I might have some stories to tell, and I made some attempts, but I am not as comfortable talking into a microphone as I am writing on a computers, so I suspect it came off as a little stilted.

Our mission is to find a way to get some local storytellers to talk on tape. What Dan wants are the types of stories people tell in bars and cafes. Hunting stories. Funny stories. Sad stories. Whatever. They can be from the old, or they can be from the young. I know some very hilarious story-tellers around here who are under 40 years of age.

I know of some good local storytellers; the task is to get them comfortable talking into a mike.

Dan would be as good a one to accomplish this as any. He is very easy to visit with, even as the tape is recording. You tend to forget it and just talk.

WHAT A PRISTINE day. We are heading into mid-November, and the weather is still reasonable. The Kronsch boys are making progress on the Swamp Castle. They are going to be relieved when the rafters are all built. The beams are all in place.

The log home company put the nix on the crow's nest project today. At least that's what they said on the surface. No, you can't do it. But, reading through the lines what I heard was: Do whatever you want, but don't tell us.

I was just trying to find out from them if they thought the rafters could hold the added weight of a crow's nest, since they are the ones who drew up the blueprints.

After they said not to risk it, the Kronsch boys pointed out that the rafters are holding up beams upstairs that weigh upwards of 600 lbs each. The crow's nest would weigh much less than that, and it would be more evenly distributed.

The log home company guy said I would have to consult with a building engineer and then "that would be between you two." Okay, I get the point. They are not going to give the okay in case somebody falls down and breaks their neck and sues the log home company.

So, it is up to me. I am inclined to do it, but I will wait until the roof is up and I can get a better view of what things will look like.

Also, the Kronschnabel's father, wily old Tom Kronschnabel, a life-long carpenter, came out for an inspection today. He said, aw, do it, they're just covering their ass.

I asked Tom what carpentery was like before power tools. He said on his first job, his boss and he were going to do a staircase. His boss made all the markings on the lumber and went and got drunk for two days while Tom sawed. For two days straight. He said it would take less than an hour to saw the same amount of lumber today.

AUNT EDE came out to view the house today. We crawled up the ladder and looked around. Tomorrow night, we are all going down to Aunt Olla's for a spaghetti dinner. Aunt Ede, Uncle Orv, Mom, Dad, and brother Joe, who will be cooking the spaghetti. Cousin Ilene from Twin Valley will be there as well.

November 08, 2004


I have been groggy for the past few days. I read in the newspaper that symptoms of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, have been worse this year due to a relatively dark fall.

As I got into the article a little deeper, I found out that not only does lack of light depress seratonin levels, but it increases melatonin levels. Melatonin, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a slam-bang sleep aid and a chemical which occurs naturally in the brain. Twenty minutes after taking it, I am out. I took some in the past couple of weeks because I would be wide awake at bedtime--the only time I felt wide awake all day.

Well, the melatonin was just making the problem worse. So: no more melatonin, plus I think I am going to go get one of those light boxes. Grogginess is no fun. I get a little adrenaline push to get me through classes, but after that I want to sleep, sleep, sleep.

I am still taking Lexapro, the anti-depressant, and I suspect that is helping keep me relatively positive about things despite the grogginess. However, using the bright lights is known to have an even more dramatic effect.

A COUPLE of my more lax students are suddenly realizing that they are going to flunk. Parents are emailing wondering the truth. If the student is over 18, it is none of the parents' business (legally) unless the student has signed a consent form.

So, they ask: What can I do for extra credit? Nothing! You can't press rewind. You blew it. Of course, if you get an A on the last test, I will be quite impressed and might be a little forgiving.

Three students just didn't show for the last test. They don't stand a chance. They didn't write, they didn't call, they didn't show up for class since the test. I'll bet it won't be a week before they come in wanting to "catch up."

Not a chance on this one. I sensed today that the other students are watching what I do in this case. I am usually full of second chances, third chances, fourth chances--but there comes a time.

November 07, 2004

Northern Lights

I just stepped outside and saw the most staggering display of Northern Lights I have ever witnessed--greens, pinks, etc.--sheets of dancing light straight overhead. Wow. If any of you read this in the north tonight, please step out for a show!