Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

July 15, 2005

Otters put on a show

I was disappointed that Cassio didn't see the otters. He came back from swimming at the lake and I attempted to describe them. The easy way to do that is call up a picture on the web. Cassio had forgotten what "otter" was in Portuguese, so we used an internet translator and came up with "lontro." The world's largest otter lives in the Amazon basin.

The pictures on the internet confirmed that what I saw were otters. The tail was unmistakable. Creepily snakelike.

I went back up in the crow's nest. There were dozens of ducks on the swamp. Cassio spotted a pack of ten in a perfect row, right on each other's tail, moving at breakneck speed.

Just as Cassio was about to head to his room, the otters reappeared, chasing each other around on the same log as before. Then they went on a cruise of the swamp. Strangely, the ducks didn't steer clear of them and even seemed to play with them a bit. They'd draw the otters towards them. When they got close, the ducks would fly a few feet and sit until the otters got close again.

Finally, both otters lunged for a duck at the same time. They made a good run, but the duck made it to safety.

I worry about the swans a bit--papa swan's head was visible in the reeds during this all, keeping watch. I guess I wouldn't want to deal with him if I were an otter.

All of this happens just a few feet from the gardens--but from the nursery side, you can't see a thing. All of this life could have been going on out here for the past twenty years, just under our nose, and we would never have known it.

Surprise on the swamp

After I wrote the last post, I went up into the crow's nest to read. While scanning the swamp, I spotted an animal walking on a log in the swamp. I assumed it was a racoon.

I got the binocs and saw a nice surprise: Otters! It was a pair, and they were playing around, going after each others' tail, one pushing the other off the log and climbing on, then both going under water, their long tails sticking out--chasing around playfully just like otters do at the zoo. I think one was an offspring. It was more playful and seemed to be a mild annoyance to what I assume was the mother.

That's enough to wake me up good and proper. This is a murky, green swamp out here, but so far it has been a load of fun. I wonder if the otters will be a threat to the swans.

Lazy summer days

A lot of people I know are feeling quite lethargic. I know I am. I don't feel like doing much in the heat. I get done what I have to and that is about it.

For me, some of it may have to do with the intensity of the past three months. Starting in April, it is pretty much a marathon at the nursery. Long hours, seven days a week. You sort of get used to the pace--anything less seems a bit lazy.

This year, the house project was added in. I can get up for a project, but when it is over, I usually collapse for a while. I remember when I finally finished my master's thesis. I didn't know what to do with myself--suddenly, the task to which had hung over my head for more than a year was completed. Far from feeling elated, I was sort of lost.

The house isn't exactly finished, but it is livable, and the carpenters are gone. I sort of feel like sitting on the couch staring into space. I have enjoyed the project--far more than I enjoyed completing my master's thesis--and with it nearly finished, I suppose I feel a little like I lost some sense of purpose.

Whatever. Such are the torments of not living in the Great Depression. Nobody had to figure out how to motivate themselves then.

I now have a washer and drier, and boy do I love them! They are stacked in the upstairs closet. I did two loads last night. Jeff made a nice folding bench out of some left-over 2 x 8's, and that worked well.

July 14, 2005


The weeding crew at the nursery made good use of the sombreros Dot purchased for the Mexican Fiesta display in at the fair. Sombreros come in handy in this weather, particularly if you are hoeing.

Jordan, Cory and Ryan adopt an uncharacteristically stoic pose.

Carpenters depart

Jeff and Dean finished up yesterday, pulled up their stakes and left. They aren't going far--they are now putting up a garage for Mom and Dad. Even so, I think I got a little down over it and ended up taking a three hour nap.

My laundry pile is getting pretty high, so I am hoping the washer and drier can go in soon. The propane tank went in yesterday. It is always a decision where to put those ugly things, so I grouped all the ugly things together--wood stove, electric transformer box, now the propane tank.

Trying to hook up the internet at the house. Have not yet succeeded. Apparently the internet people at the phone company are busy because they keep shuttling me around and I can't get anybody who can even so much as check my account. It is a bit frustrating. Then they say they will call back, which in effect imprisons me at the house, and then they don't call. So, in a few minutes, I am going to go back out there and get on the phone until I find something out. I think it is just a matter of getting the right passwords in somewhere on the computer, but I am not sure.

BASEBALL: The Twins picked up Bret Boone, a former All-star second baseman. Every time the Twins pick up a star second baseman--Tom Herr, Wally Backman, Larry Milbourne--he goes bust. They have a jinx at that position. The curse of Steve Lombardozzi. We'll see how it goes this time. Boone couldn't do worse than the collection of guys Gardenhire has been using at second thus far this season.

I think the Twins are lucky to be 10 games over .500 for as lackluster as their stars have been playing. Santana and Radke haven't done much yet. In baseball, things even out. The White Sox are unlikely to keep playing out of their heads for the entire season. And Santana and Radke are likely to come around. I hope.

COOLER WEATHER: What a relief to step outside this morning and not get hit by a wall of humidity. Oh, it is plenty damp, but not so hot as it has been. When I stepped outside about six thirty this morning, the swans were feeding near the house. I could hear them slurping swamp scum. They looked so peaceful.

In the time it took me to go into the house, pour a cup of coffee and run up to the crow's nest, they utterly disappeared. I scanned the swamp for ten minutes--couldn't find them.

July 12, 2005

Rummage sale

Aunt Olla and I had a busy morning. We started by going to Ada to talk to a social worker about the financial side of moving to the nursing home. While in Ada, we stopped to see Florence.

I knocked on Florence's door, but there was no answer, so I went inside to the inside door and knocked again, which set her little dog into a frenzy, so I assumed Florence would come to the door.

She did, but she didn't expect a person there, so she screamed and fell back when she saw me. She caught herself, but had to lean against the kitchen counter for a while to catch her breath. Meanwhile, Olla made it up the stairs and inside.

We had a nice little visit. Florence turned 90 in mid-May, and all the fresh flowers she got on the occasion were still there--dried to a crisp.

After Ada, we went on to Fertile to eat at Eats and Antiques. Then across the street to the drugstore for a birthday card for Sophie.

Sophie is turning 102. She was put in the home last fall, but rebelled and came back to her apartment on her own volition last winter. Well, she declined a bit and now is going to the home on her own terms.

They didn't have any birthday cards for 102-year-olds, but they did have an entire selection for those who turn 100. So, Olla said she'd cross off the zero and replace it with a two.

Then on to Fair Meadow where we borrowed a wheelchair and checked out potential rooms for Olla. She was wanting to move in the end room where they have four beds--it has a great view--but today, it seemed a little small to her.

She can't really chose until she checks in and they see what is available, so I appealed to Olla to defer the decision until she actually is moving in.

Olla has decided to have a rummage sale to dispose of her things and, she hopes, cover the cost of her new teeth. They came to $1600. I don't know that she's going to raise that much with a rummage sale. However, it soon became obvious that the rummage sale is less about raising money or getting rid of stuff than it is about having one final party before Olla goes into the home.

Olla has already decided that she will serve donut holes at the rummage sale, not regular donuts.

There was still some time for stories about the old days. Olla told about a church retreat some 75 years ago. They had a neighbor kid who wasn't that bright but who really knew how to say the right things to charm the ministers.

Well, when it came time to pray, the minister called upon the neighbor kid. He stuttered around for quite a while before finally spurting out, "God, please help us until this is all over with."

Olla and her friends started giggling. And they had a quote that has amused them for the past seventy-five years. Whenever things go badly, the operative phrase is, "God please help us until this is all over with."

I think the same could be said of the rummage sale.

Olla is eager to give me furniture for my new place. I had to gently break it to her that the aggressive floral patterns she favors might not fit in my new house. I said she really should try to sell the stuff to pay for her teeth rather than give it to me, and that seemed to satisfy her.

When we got back to the apartment in Twin Valley, people were already descending upon Sophie's apartment for the party. She's in the home, but the apartment is still hers until the end of the month, so they thought it was a good place for a party. I went in the room to greet her and was surprised to find a woman who looked no more than 85. Her handshake was firm and her grasp of events was complete.

Dog day mornings

That's the time to get things done--before it gets unbearable. Mom is in the quonset with the guys cleaning out the last greenhouse. We should be weeding out in the field as well, but that tends to get postponed because the weeds aren't right in front of us staring us in the face.

Muff the piano tuner arrived at 7:30 this morning to tune the grand out at the Swamp Castle. She quickly informed me that having it sit in front of all those windows is going to be hard on it. I had figured as much, but was in denial. So, the living room layout will have to be reshuffled--or else I will have to get some blinds, which I swore I would never do.

Oh man, is it fun to sit in the crow's nest now that there is a bench on the front. I hauled my favorite rocker up there--it is a black steel and plastic thing that my Grandpa bought 30 years ago, at least--and it works well. Now I have notebooks and books up there and it is going to be a pretty darn good study.

I had planned to have my laptop computer up there as well, but yesterday morning the screen went black and didn't recover. Lance, who's an Apple expert, figures there is about $540 damage. Uff da. He will recover all the data. I still have an old one that works which I will use in the meantime, and which is equipped for wireless--my goal is to sit up in the crow's nest and write in the weblog without wires.

Last night I spoke to the Norman County Farm Bureau annual meeting. It was sweltering hot, so I tried to be brief. Grandpa was president of the Norman County Farm Bureau for many years in the 1940s, so I told some of the stories I knew about that--including the time he tried to break up a Farmer's Union meeting over by McIntosh because he figured they were a bunch of Bolsheviks.

In a few minutes, I am going to head to Twin Valley to take Olla around, first to Ada to talk to the county folks, and then to Fertile to visit Fair Meadow in preparation for her moving there in about six weeks. Time is moving so fast.

I am sure I will have a report on the trip later in the day.

July 11, 2005


The heat and humidity are pretty oppressive today. The guys and Dot hauled back all of the stuff from the fair. The selling season is pretty much over--now we look towards next year.

Out at the house, Jeff and Dean put a bench on the front of the crow's nest. It ended up being a pretty elegant solution to the problem of keeping small children from falling 18 feet. It isn't completely childproof, but you'd have really set your mind to jumping now.

When I went up to the crow's nest to look things over, the entire swan caravan made a pass in front of the reeds. There are still seven little ones, but they are no longer so little. One parent led the parade, and the other followed up at the end. All followed the trail in the algae blazed by the first.

Steve the tile guy finished grouting today. It all looks great.

Finishing up the house almost feels like the end of school. The end has been much-anticipated, but when it arrives it is kind of sad!

Morale suffers in the heat. I don't know many people who really enjoy this sweltering stuff. It makes me want to stay in the house. When you first get in the door, it feels like an icebox. After a few minutes, it feels normal. But then when you go back outside, the effect of the heat and humidity is multiplied.

July 10, 2005

Danilo keeps the water hose running

Danilo, who took Friday off, incidentally, is making sure things are watered out here at the nursery. Ken is keeping things from wilting in at the fair.

This is Danilo's last full week at the nursery before he returns to Brazil! Boy that went fast.

First busload

During the gardens' viewing season, we almost daily have buses from area nursing homes and retirement centers come through. They are free to drive on the grass to give the passengers a view of the flowers. Although the flowers are only now just starting to look good, the bus from the Villa St. Vincent in Crookston made its first trip down on Thursday. Good thing they had air conditioning!

Boy, the heat is great for the gardens. I think most of the things have doubled their bloom in the past week. Every year we worry that things won't look as good as they have in the past--but every year the flowers pull through in the end.

Cassio finally takes a day off

Cassio returned from a trip to town for groceries this morning and asked me just what it was I had been writing in my weblog about him--because people were wondering if he was still working every day. "Everybody knows me!" he said, and apparently they are worried that Cassio is overworked.

So, he decided to take Sunday off. The picture below is the evidence. Lance has just fixed Cassio's laptop up so it can talk to the nursery's wireless internet system--so Cassio is busy chatting with friends from around the United States and back in Brazil. Meanwhile, Lance is busy working on his photographs. They're sitting in the gift shop. I am in my office. They're as quiet as a one-year-old in a Teletubby trance.

Seeing some of you

Yesterday was busy from morning to night. I watched the nursery during the morning. Al Giske, a weblog reader from Everett, WA stopped by with his daughter and her family. He was back here for a class reunion in Gonvick. It was fun to meet Al, who has popped me an occasional e-mail. His daughter's family had never been to Minnesota, so they had some interesting observations about the remoteness of the place.

Then I went to town to work the noon to five shift at the log cabin. I weblog reader Heather was kind enough to come in and say hi--I remember her as a little girl with a luminescent smile somewhere down in the elementary grades when I was a senior in high school--but now I am surprised to see that she is a fully-functioning adult. It is sort of troubling, actually, to see these young kids all grown up and roaring towards forty.

Then weblog reader and friend Sheila came in and sat for an hour and helped me pass the time. She manages to maintain an constant air of calm despite a busy existence. She has three delightful children, a husband whose always messing with big trucks and heavy machinery, and a farmhouse full of animals.

Also, weblog reader Kent from Laguna Beach, CA, brought out his wife and two children for an all-too-quick tour of the house. I wish we could have visited longer, but we were both in a hurry.

Last night, friends from Clifford, ND area came over and we took a spin around the midway and ate at the Concordia stand. Always the best food at the fair. But what a relief to get back in the air conditioned house!

Back to the "we're getting old" theme: A lot of the people I see at the fair I only see once per year or less. They are the people with whom I went to school for thirteen years. The fair provides snapshots of them getting older. It is downright shocking to see how established, how distinguished, how middle aged some of them look--for in my mind, I remember like yesterday being with them in the school play, or partying with them at the gravel pits, or wherever--and now they have passed the stage where they push strollers around and they are at the point where they are kicking their kids out of the house.

Thank goodness for the older Fertilites who hang out at the Concordia stand. They look the same as ever. They've been old since I was in second grade, and they're still roughly just as old. They provide evidence that there is some stability left in this world.