Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 05, 2005

More of Mexico

Many of the old colonial Spanish buildings have beautiful courtyards. Many of those courtyards are being covered with sail-like cloth on a sparse metal skeleton. The idea is to preserve the courtyards from further deterioration. The design is modern, and I suppose it doesn't fit so well with the colonial style, but I still thought the covering looked intriguing.

Of course, babies are irresistible in any land or language.

Los Remedios again

I am having nostalgia for Mexico. Here is another picture from the top of the Aztec pyramid in Cholula, where the Los Remedio church stands. Notice the plush agricultural valley below. It surrounded the pyramid. This view of the valley gives an idea how pastoral the area was, despite the fact that one million people live in the valley. Here is another view of the interior of the church atop the pyramid. The interior was as astonishing as the view outside.

Swamp Castle ceiling takes shape

Part of the ceiling in the loft of the house is finished. Here is a view of Jeff and Dean's craftsmanship. The heaviest of these beams weighed over 1200 lbs. It was a trick for two guys to get them in place 19 feet off the ground!

March 04, 2005

Aunt Olla update

I called Aunt Olive today to see how she's doing and all was well. It has been a month since we went to the Flom cafe, and she figures she's ready to go again, so we'll do that next Wednesday if it all works out.

A few weeks ago, Olla decided she'd probably better move back into the nursing home. She hasn't lived in the nursing home for about eight years. At that time, after she broke her hip, she was in for one year but later decided to move back to her own apartment.

Before she moved into the home again, she wanted to go through all her things, which she did with the help of her housekeeper. They threw boxes and boxes of stuff. However, after finishing that rigamaroll, Olla's apartment was so clean she decided to stay and enjoy it.

Probably a good choice. Olla's neighbor down the hall, Sophie, is 101. This winter she moved into one of those assisted living things in Moorhead, thinking it was time to get a little assistance. But the place annoyed her to no end. Last week, she moved back to her apartment. You can't blame her. It's just nicer to be on your own.

Olla figures she has to live through the summer because 1) she wants to see my house finished. I was hoping I'd be moved in by May, but Olla figures August. She may be closer to reality than I. 2) there are several relations from the west coast passing through this summer, and she'd like to see them.

If she gets ambitious, Olla said she might try to stick around for some sort of all-school reunion which is happening in Twin Valley in 2006. By then, she would be 95. She didn't sound to sure about that one, however.

We decided to save the rest of the news until the trip to the Flom cafe.

March 03, 2005

Swamp cleaning

I remodeled my wood-hauling sled today and took it back onto the swamp. It was warm enough so the snow was a bit sticky, but it slid fine. I hauled two loads of wood to shore. It would have taken me ten trips to do the same amount carrying it by hand.

I also took the chainsaw to several clusters of long-dead willow brush which remain from the era when the swamp was two feet lower. I find them unsightly, although several people have lobbied for me to keep them on grounds that they have some value for the birds.

I have decided that they are for the birds and they have to go. The swamp looks much better without them. There is brush everywhere for the birds.

When we got the shipment of knotty pine for the ceiling of the house, it looked like an insurmountable stack. It became even more unsurmountable after Mom and Ken started to seal them. Something like 900 boards. I wondered what we'd do with all the extra.

Today, at roughly the two-thirds point in covering the ceiling, the carpenters ran out of knotty pine. So, we will be sealing some more.

Lots of activity at the nursery today. Dot came to sort through several shipments of gift items. Mom seeded many trays. Donna and Ken potted up the geranium order. Lyla and Sharon transplanted seedlings. Dad worked in bare root. Joe worked on the catalog. Cindy put the names I collected at the Fargodome last weekend into the computer. Jordan and Ryan came after school to seal boards and help Ken.

Whoa, that's eleven people working, plus me. Plus the two carpenters and one plumber. It is fun to have the place bustling.

Nursery website

I am frequently posting pictures and progress reports on the front page of the Bergeson Nursery website. I am also adding new informational items every day. When this new website gets finished (thats more an "if" than a "when") I am hoping it will contain enough information to publish as a 300-page book.

March 02, 2005

Central square at Tlaxcala

Here is one more fountain picture from the beautiful town of Tlaxcala. Also, another picture of the pink church just off the square. What a beautiful atmosphere on a sunny afternoon. So many of the squares in Mexico smelled, sounded and looked like a county fair in July in Minnesota.

School's out

These schoolgirls in Tlaxcala had a grim sense of purpose as they headed home. I found it interesting that the one girl has trousers made from the same fabric as the skirts on the other two girls--they must have a school fabric rather than a school uniform.

Carnival Color

More Mexican color

Everything's colorful in Mexico, including the drinks for sale on the street. I was curious what these concoctions would have tasted like, but didn't venture to try. Street food was something we were supposed to avoid. Drinks, too--unless they were bottled.

Chastened hombre

Not all was peace and harmony with the families on the streets of Mexico. This woman just finished giving her man a slap that wasn't altogether playful.

Where did the winter go?

I never thought I would write that line. However, I just realized that the snow could be gone in a month--although you can't count on it. No matter what, the baseball season will be starting in one month, at least.

The quest for firewood led me to take the tractor down on the ice again today--the first time since I fell through with the skid steer in early December. The ice didn't break, but I did manage to get hung up on in three feet of snow. Dad rescued me with the skid steer.

Then I traded tractors with Dad and took the skid steer out on the ice. I could feel the ice breaking several times, although it never actually did. It was heavy going. The wheels didn't have much traction, so I couldn't plow through a whole lot of snow. It was difficult even to plow a path.

So, I sawed a little firewood near the edge, and then went up and sawed up some of the oak still remaining from what was felled to make room for the house last summer.

The plumbing is nearly done. The carpenters are working on the knotty pine ceiling. Things are going pretty smoothly.

Up at the nursery, we have started adding people. A couple of high schoolers came after school. Donna came to help Mom seed. Sharon and Lyla will come tomorrow to help with the geraniums. It is good to start seeing things pump up.


I claimed to invent the word below, but I typed it into Google and it is all over the web already. In fact, another blogger had to recant his claim to have invented the word.

Crow's nest

Here's a view of the crow's nest this morning. Obviously, we're going to have to put in some rails. But it sure looks nice without them. I like the effect of a dock, albiet an indoor dock, going out into the swamp. No mosquitoes when you dangle your legs over this dock.

The kinky turtle, explained

A couple of weeks back, I included here a link to a guy lip-synching a pop song in front of his computer. I'd hate to tell you how many times I watched the clip and laughed. I wondered who he was and wanted to email him thanks. I later deleted the link when it stopped working.

Well, my uncle and aunt in Rochester forwarded me an article in the New York Times which explains the whole thing. Apparently, it is no fun being a weblebrity (I just invented the word, thank you very much).

In the middle of the article is a link where you may watch the performance again. I know it brightened my day.

How meth hooks

At coffee break at the nursery yesterday, we were trying to figure out how meth (and other drugs for that matter) hook you so quickly and thoroughly. I went back to my computer and there was an email from a weblog reader giving the answer. She explained, from personal experience with a relative, that meth shuts down the natural production of endorphins, the chemical that makes you feel happy. Meth takes the place of your natural happy juices. When you quit meth, it takes over two years for your body to start producing those chemicals again.

So, when a person attempts to quit meth, they are likely to sink into utter despair. If you've ever been in utter despair, you know that if the answer to the immediate pain is within reach, you'll grab it.

I have every sympathy for people who are addicted, and I think the law should too. It is the people who manufacture and sell the stuff who should suffer.

The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung noticed in his therapy practice that the process of recovering from addiction required a form of psychological progress which many non-addicts never experience. He was intrigued by the budding AA movement in the United States and actually corresponded with its founder, Bill W.

I have stated it here before--the recovering addicts I have encountered often have an especially realistic and penetrating insight into human motivations. Their insights are hard-earned, of course, but they are something to be valued.

Sometimes after an encounter with an active drunk I think that they may have always had such insighsts, and that such insights are why they started drinking: They understand human nature more deeply than they can stand. They are so sensitive that they are driven to numb the pain through chemicals.

I don't know if any of this applies to young people addicted to hard drugs. However, as I remember my college experience, I know that those who were recovering from teen drug use--and were at the time I met them successful at avoiding drugs--were about twice as interesting to be around as the students who were either dewy-eyed innocents, or who were actively involved in drugs at the present. The recovering addicts were more awake and knew how to laugh.

March 01, 2005

Something new--something blue

At about 8:30 this morning, after filling the stove at the Swamp Castle, I climbed into the crow's nest, took a chair, and looked down at the swamp 30 feet below. The snow was recently refreshed by a little squall two nights ago, as well as by fallen hoar frost from the trees.

It took a while, but I eventually noticed a blue sparkle in amongst the many blinding white ones. I kept watching, and it became obvious that there were brilliant blue sparkles all over the snow on the swamp.

I can only assume that the snow was reflecting the perfectly clear sky. I had never seen such a thing before. I don't know if it was because I was viewing the snow crystals from a height, or what. Or perhaps I just hadn't noticed.

I look forward to seeing many new things from the crow's nest. I enjoy spending time up there already, even though there are no railings yet. I look across the swamp to the nursery--to the stomping ground where I grew up--and a lot of memories are stirred up. I can imagine sitting in the crow's nest and writing them down.

First green

Here are some petunia seedlings, now growing on a shelf in the shop under 24-hour light. Each week Mom is seeding--this week it will be a total of 55 items.

The laminated card in the back of the tray is how we keep track. It tells when the plants were seeded (February 5), how many plants we need out of this batch (sixty), what sort of pot they are to be transplanted into (SVDs, or four-inch pots), plus the variety. We keep track of time by counting weeks--these were seeded in Week 6. There might be more Dreams White petunia seeded next week for a different purpose--say, six-pacs.

If these plants turn out to be too large, Mom might delay next year's seeding of the same item to Week 7. If we have some left over, she might only plant 45 seeds next year. If we run out before the end of May, we may seed more. All of this requires that we keep track of each item--and there are about 500 items in the greenhouse all told.

To shoot for 60 plants, you have to seed more than 60 seeds. Not all seeds germinate. If they do, you have seedlings left over--which we often keep for use in the gardens. If germination is lower, we won't have sixty plants and we will end up with a partial tray of White Dreams petunia, which causes a waste of greenhouse space.

In any case, it is always good to see green this early in the season!

February 28, 2005

Back on the swamp

The weekend depleted the supply of good firewood. Dad kept the fire in the Swamp Castle boiler going while I was in Fargo doing the home show at the dome.

So today I waded back out on the swamp to get at some of that good standing dead green ash. I went through a tank of gas on the chainsaw. Only one tree went the wrong way--it is still standing, leaning towards the cut. I got the saw out of there and decided to leave the tree there rather than fell it the wrong way. It is tippy enough so that I think a wedge will get it to fall the right way tomorrow.

Then it is to get the wood to shore. I decided that hauling it one cob at a time in knee deep snow, as good as that would be for my heart, was a little too much work. So I decided to build a sled using old Lexan, a hard plastic greenhouse covering which gets very slippery when cold.

I cut a piece about ten feet long and four feet wide, attached a board at the end to hold the cobs of wood on the Lexan, and attached a clothesline loop for me to use to pull the simple contraption. The wood was to be fastened to the sled with a bungee cord.

It worked well the first trip. I attached about 10 small pieces of wood to the sled and pulled it all the way up to shore.

By then, however, I was tired enough to call it quits for the day. Those 10 cobs will get the stove through till morning. So, tomorrow I have more wood to haul to shore.

The carpenters worked on Saturday and took today off. They finished the knotty pine ceiling on the A frame portion of the house. It is beautiful. I spent an hour or so today sitting in the crow's nest reading a newspaper and just looking around.

I think the crow's nest is going to be the focal point of the house. I could sit up there for hours.

February 27, 2005

A weekend at the Fargodome

I am exhausted! I spent the weekend--Friday, Saturday and Sunday--standing at my booth at the Fargodome talking to people. It is fun, but by the end of three days, you sort of get bleary-eyed.

Most of the people are pretty to the point, but there are the few who like to hold court and talk, talk, talk about nothing, nothing, nothing, and then my eyes really get bleary. One man today, who I am confident will never visit this website, turned his struggle with the deer eating his pine into an epic tale which he repeated almost exactly three or four times consecutively, all while three women patiently waited to talk to me.

What inspires people to repeat their tales right after telling them once before, I have never figured out. Did I nod so vigorously that they felt a repeat performance was justified? Oy.

On the whole, though, it is satisfying to talk to existing customers and potential customers, and particularly satisfying when the existing customers pitch in and promote to the potential customers.

I was supposed to give a seminar on perennials today at 1 p.m., but asked Joe to do it instead, since he's more the perennial expert, and that went well.

When we got to the seminar room, the previous seminar giver was droning on and on, long past his alotted time. I had poked my head in an hour before, and he had all of 10 people sitting there--by 1 o'clock, the room had started to fill--with people I am confident were there for the perennial talk. However, this guy thought the increased audience meant he was on a roll and he wasn't about to quit. Five minutes after one, I finally interrupted him and asked him to leave.

I wouldn't be nearly as tired tonight if I had sawed firewood all weekend, I know that. I love people, but hundreds of them in one weekend wear me out in a way which physical labor cannot.