Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

May 07, 2005

Brush fire

Some of the kids decided to burn some garbage last night--it included a lot of wrapping paper from about 500 roses which came on a truck yesterday--and the fire got away. I looked out towards the new house and there was a lot of smoke. I took the Brazilians out there, and they fought valiantly, but in the end we had to call the fire department.

Ugh. Embarrassing. By the time the fire dept arrived--and they got there in an amazingly short time--the fire had gotten in the swamp grass and was moving towards the house, although there was no immediate threat.

Carpenter Dean is also on the fire crew. He said he didn't want to have to build the whole house over.

A pretty good small town institution, the volunteer fire department. They got the thing under control. I had to go back to wait on customers, but Dad went out and chainsawed up some of the burning fallen trees. At dusk, he and I hauled some water on some of the lingering fires. Dad went out there again about 10: 30 and there were no sparks.

That gives me a reason beyond aesthetics to clean up the fallen timber in the woods surrounding the house. The fire would have been easy to put out if there had not been fallen logs to catch fire. You can't roll over them with a garbage can once they are burning.

I guess the humidity yesterday was below 5%. I didn't realize things were that flammable. I did see a couple of other fires burning vigorously as well.

TODAY will likely be one of the busiest days of the year at the nursery. Why, then, am I weblogging? Well, Joe is giving a seminar in the next room. It is chilly, which probably slows people down a bit. And I am probably best employed answering the phone so nobody else has to.

May 06, 2005

More English language confusion

Last evening before the seminar, a woman came up to Cassio and asked, "Where is your workshop?" He dutifully marched her through all the greenhouses out to the shop. It took a little explaining later in the evening for Cassio to understand why the lady wasn't satisfied to be deposited in our dark, dank shop. More questions about our language: Why, Cassio asked, is a seminar sometimes called a workshop?

A couple of pictures

Here is a picture of Joe giving last night's seminar in the gardens on "Secrets of a Successful Flower Garden." Meanwhile, nature is showing us how to grow flowers in the desert of California where rare rains have produced this astounding display in the Tremblor range in the Mojave desert. Thanks to weblog reader Irene for sending on this picture!

May 05, 2005

Big weekend ahead

If the weather continues to be nice, Mother's Day weekend can be the biggest weekend of the year at the nursery. It is a funny time of year--we have a lot of selling to do in the next three weeks, but we are ready and in good shape, so we're actually just waiting for the stuff to move out. Once things start to go, then there is a lot of moving and work keeping the displays full on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. But I think the day when they really start buying is about a week off.

My busy time of speeches and driving all over is pretty much done. I tallied it up--I think I spoke to about 2800 people this spring in crowds ranging from 4 to 500. If even a small percentage of those people turn into new customers, it will be worth it. Right now, I just want to stay on the place and sell stuff.

Being gone has its benefits. Everybody else gets used to being without you. So, when I am finally back at the nursery, I can float and go where help is needed, which is just how I like it. If there's a line at the till, I can check people out--if there's a line in the bare root building, I can go out there--if somebody needs help with their yard, I can draw them up a plan, and so on.

The next couple of days will feature a lot of phone calls from guilt-ridden adult children of local elderly mothers calling from California wanting us to either deliver flowers or a gift certificate to their Mom. It is getting too late to mail the gift certificates, so we end up keeping a lot of them under the till--which can get a little confusing. The most difficult is if they want us to spot their mother when she arrives and surprise her with a certificate. That we just can't do. We'll miss her for sure.

May 04, 2005

Busy day on the swamp

Carpenters Jeff and Dean reported today that five swans landed on the swamp this morning to join six Canadians already there. The result was a bunch of honking, flapping and splashing until the geese finally got out of town.

The the swans took off. Jeff noticed something I noticed last week. They peck at each other while flying. I had always assumed that their necks would remain rigidly protruding in flight, but no--the swans look around, bend their necks and act as if they are on a sightseeing mission.

The teal, if that is what in fact they are, were back today, bobbing for plant roots. On a log in the swamp were ten turtles basking. Late in the day, I went out and saw a beaver cruising around. I sat up in the crow's nest and followed him all over the swamp with the binocs.

This is so much fun. A crow's nest view of an active wetland isn't a common thing. I remember as a child catching glimpses from ground level of turtles sunning on the log, but as soon as I poked my head up at all, they plopped back in the swamp.

It looks like I will have a bird's eye view of a lot of activity from the crow's nest. These are all activities I wouldn't even know were going on if I didn't have the house on the swamp. They have been going on for decades, but I was unaware. There simply was no way of seeing the swamp from overhead. Soon I will be able to watch it all in my pajamas without the animals even caring I am there.

JEFF AND DEAN decided today that the weather was too nice to be inside. They moved back outside to finish up the siding, which required a change in gears. Marv finished up all the painting today. It looks great, and will look even better when the trim gets on.

I made a trip to Lowe's in Grand Forks for two bathroom vanities which I had ordered. I also picked up interior doors. Lowe's is such a fun place. They have quality, interesting stuff. I got nice old-fashioned doors made of pine.

What a beautiful day! Spring has returned.

May 03, 2005

Rincon was juicing

Major League Baseball has suspended Twins' pitcher Juan Rincon for using "performance enhancing substances," i.e., steroids. I have stated here that I was of the opinion that there weren't any Twins even under suspicion for using steriods. I was naive.

Rincon had an excellent year last year. He threw harder than ever and pitched in a whopping 77 games. Now it is probable that his performance was artificially juiced by chemicals. This is a blow to the Twins' reputation as an organization of people who play by the rules and do things right.

This spring, Rincon was rewarded for his good year last year with a 2-year multimillion dollar contract. What happens if you broke the rules in order to perform well enough to earn a big contract? Will the Twins be able to void the contract? Will Rincon's performance fall off now that he presumably will stop juicing up?

Meeting in Detroit Lakes

Last night, I gave the second to last of about 27 speeches I had on my schedule this spring. It was in Detroit Lakes to a Home Extension "Spring Fling." That is the third Home Extension Spring Fling to which I have spoken this year.

University Home Extension is dying an unlamented death, but they still manage to hold get togethers. They are losing funding. As much as I enjoy speaking to the get togethers, I would find it difficult to justify spending tax dollars on them.

People's appetite for getting together never seems to amaze me. I am a hermit in comparison to some of these people who show up at almost every one of these gatherings. I don't attend meetings unless I am speaking at them, and even then, I leave as soon as possible. I just can't stand it.

There is a sense of religion about these meetings--as if they are a solemn duty. I come in there as the clown to lighten things up. They do have a Home Extension creed, so it is sort of a civic religion, I guess.

My mother and father were militantly anti-meeting, and they passed those anarchist tendencies on to me. On Dad's part, his anti-meeting tendencies might have arisen from the fact that Grandpa loved meetings, particularly those he was running, and was constantly dragging his children to this meeting or that, or holding meetings of his own at the nursery.

I value meetings to the extent that they bring people together so I can promote the nursery. But while I am sitting there, waiting to speak, trying to maintain my best manners, I am usually chafing, wanting to escape, wanting to say unacceptable things, wanting to get up and pace.

Some people seem to live for meetings. They don't miss a one. That's a tendency I have yet to figure out.

May 02, 2005

Watching waterfowl

Yesterday afternoon, I spent an hour or so in the crow's nest of the swamp castle looking out at the swamp. There were no swans, but there were enough other birds to keep me busy digging through my Sibley's bird guide.

At first glance, the swamp looks pretty quiet. It is when you start scanning with the binoculars that things come to life. Yesterday, there were mallards, including one that wasn't in the book which had a pronounced white stripe mid-beak, a couple of teal, if I am reading my book right, and two pair of scaup.

A pair of mallards used the muskrat house, which was the nest for the trumpters last season, as a place for a nap.

Flitting from branch to branch of the dead willows were some beautiful yellow birds. I think they are a form of warbler. I have to figure that one out.

It is amazing. When I scan the swamp for all of this wildlife from the crow's nest, I can lift the binocs only a few degrees and have a full view of the busyness of the nursery. Yet, from the nursery you would never know that all of these birds are out on the swamp.

I think the little yellow bird only operates in the lower branches over shallow swamps, so it would never come up to the yard and hang out like the barn swallows do. So, I will see a whole different set of wildlife with my bird's eye view of the swamp than I would from anywhere else.

EVEN THOUGH THERE were snow squalls on and off for the past couple of days, the nursery was busy. It was winter-type cold, not spring-type cold, this past weekend, yet the people were in the mood to purchase plants. I can't imagine what is going to happen if the weather perks up.

CASSIO helps me learn interesting things about the English language. He was surprised to find that there was a sign on our apartment building which said it was "smoke-free," which he interpreted as meaning that people were free to smoke. I had a difficult time explaining that. Then, there was the bag of brown sugar which said it was "fat-free." (When did brown sugar ever contain fat in the first place?) So, I had to come up with a way of explaining that particular meaning of the word "free."

Like many Latin Americans, Cassio has a wonderful long full name: Cassio Orivaldo Gomez Camacho da Silva. I finally memorized it last night. It contains his mother's maiden name, with his father's name tacked on at the end. In this country, Cassio adopted the American custom of using only the first and the last names--in Brazil, however, he actually uses his mother's maiden name, Camacho.

Cassio had a good trip to San Francisco, where he received his diploma for completing his program. The diploma was inscribed to Cassio O. G. C. Silva. They took the easy way out.

Cassio and another Brazilian who is working near hear had an interesting experience in the Twin Cities. When they arrived by bus, they went to the hotel suggested by their program--but they weren't allowed to check in because they didn't have credit cards, just cash. So, they called a taxi. When the taxi arrived, he said, oh, this hotel over here will take cash--and drove them a few yards and dropped them off. Five dollars.

Cassio's experience on the bus led him to ask what percentage of Americans are foreign-born. Apparently nearly everybody on the bus spoke another language. I didn't have any idea, but I said the population on the bus was likely not representative of Minnesotans in general. I guessed that less than 3% of our population was born outside the country--I wonder what the truth is.