Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 24, 2005


A damp September day. I guess I am pretty tolerant of September. Whatever it throws us I seem to enjoy, including a dreary day like this. When you aren't trying to sell petunias, as we are at the other side of summer, it can be kind of nice to have a dreary, reflective day.

The swamp provides a backdrop for my main accomplishment of the past couple of days: The beginnings of a woodpile. The wood you see here is green ash which I cut from a standing dead grove on the opposite side of the swamp. It is the best firewood possible. It is utterly dry, so no energy will be wasted getting rid of the moisture, and it forms a bed of coals in the stove which seems to burn for days.

The little pile in the foreground is the remains of the two trees I sawed down yesterday. They were standing in ankle-deep muck, so I put on rubber boots. I had to carry the chunks a ways to the pickup, but compared to all the wood cutting I did last winter in three feet of snow, it was easy. It is all relative. Cutting and hauling wood is probably the best exercise you can get. I am a little sore today.

More messages from the subconscious: Apparently, the house project is still traumatizing the depths of my psyche. Every night, I dream that I unleashed a behemoth project which got completely out of control. The dream (nightmare) house usually consists of an entire city block in Fargo with so many windows that there is nowhere to hide. Last night, I couldn't find the button to lock all of the doors and people were milling about in the house as if it were a retail store. All I wanted to do was go to bed, but I could not until I had sent everybody home. I never did clear the place out.

In reality, this house is so isolated that I can barely hear any noises other than the wind when I step out the front door. Wind, birds, leaves rustling--that is it. It is bliss. Friend Dale came over last night and claimed I had ended up with a little slice of heaven. I have to agree.

But the troubles of the world still seep in through the phone line. I don't have TV, but I have internet, and I end up following the horror stories down south.

The phone line. It also doubles as a DSL line for the computer. They brought the phone line into the house through the woods on one of Dad's trails rather than along the drive. So, I can go walking out in the woods and feel quite removed, but just underneath my feet there are flowing digital pulsings which put the world at my fingertips.

Before Cassio left, he was sitting in his room chatting on the internet. I was up in the crow's nest writing in this weblog. I decided to send him an email asking how things were going.

The email went out through the woods, to the road, into Fertile, then to Erskine, then probably up to a satellite, to California, then back through all of those routes back into Cassio's room.

Within a minute, I got an email back: "This must stop. I know who you are and I know where you live."

September 22, 2005


Aunt Olla visited my house while I was gone. Joe showed her around. She insisted upon crawling up in the crow's nest. When she finally got seated up there, she declared that you could "just feel the vibes. Can you feel the vibes?" she asked Joe. I think Joe had to suppress laughter--a 93-year-old talking about vibes.

In decline

Went to the eye doctor today. For the past few weeks, I have noticed that anything up close irritates me. I jolt my head back and try to get a better look, just like Dad has done for years. I suspected what was going on and decided not to be in denial about it.

Turns out, I could use bifocals. Ouch. There is some sort of sphincter in your eye which burns out at about age 41 and makes it tough to read. I am declining right on schedule. Otherwise, my eyes didn't change.

I noticed that I wasn't reading like I used to. I just wasn't enjoying it and would put the book down after a few pages. I didn't particularly notice that reading hurt my eyes, it just wasn't as pleasurable as before. So, with these reading glasses, I hope to get back into the swing of it.

I went to a new eye doctor, a young man who graduated from Fertile high school just a few years ago. He seems like he'll stick around the area, so it will be good to have the same doctor for the next forty years or so.

That's a transition: When your health professionals are younger than you are.

Well, the eye doc decided to dialate my eyes, which is the first time I have had that done. It was surreal. Everything was very bright, and close up stuff was terrifically blurry. Curiously, when I removed my glasses, things cleared up. The effects lasted about four hours. I still feel bleary-eyed.

Next up: a colonoscopy?

September 21, 2005

Cutting wood

The fall weather is perfect for cutting wood. Since I intend to heat entirely with wood this winter, I decided to get started.

I have been drooling over the standing dead green ash around the perimeter of the swamp. Dry ash burns better than any other wood. However, the reason the ash trees are dead is that the water rose around them after a beaver dammed up the drainage ditch. So, I got wet feet but had a blast nonetheless.

I ended up with four not-very-full pickup loads of wood. It is a good feeling to know that the wood will last much longer than last winter when the house wasn't yet insulated. I figure I got a few weeks worth of wood cut today, although I am not real sure.

All the trees fell in the right direction today. Two of the biggest went right where I wanted them to go. That is more a matter of luck than skill, but I will take full credit anyway. My credentials as a woodsman need whatever boost they can get. Who knows, pretty soon I might be qualified to run FEMA.

Oh, I did manage to get the Cat skid steer stuck. It has tracks, so that's not supposed to be possible, but I got hung up on a slippery log and the thing wouldn't move forward or back. So, Dad had to come to the rescue. It just took a tug with the chain to solve the problem, so we didn't have to call the FEMA 800 number.

A little manual labor goes a long ways towards making one feel good. Chainsawing is good, clean adult fun. I suspect cutting wood is a bit like putting up hay. There is a feeling of money in the bank, and a more primal feeling of preparing for the winter. Maybe grubbing for berries and roots would strike the same atavistic chord in my psyche.

September 20, 2005

With Aunt Olla to Flom and Fertile

Today was the day to take Aunt Olla to the nursing home in Fertile to get things arranged for moving in next month. But first, a trip in the other direction from Olla's present home in Twin Valley--to Flom, to the Flom Cafe. On the way there, we wound through the gravel roads, as we always do, to see the old homeplace and drive through Frenchman's Bluff, the high point in Norman County.

First we drove down a farm road to the old Ramsey place. This is what is left of it. It is where Grandpa and Grandma lived after they were married in the early 1930s. Grandpa started his nursery there. My Aunt Ede was born at the Ramsey place.

When the health of Grandma's parents, who lived on the present site of the nursery, went into decline, Grandma had to take care of them. She bought the present nursery land from them for $1 and the young family moved to Fertile. The nursery was still in Grandma's name when my parents bought it in the early 1970s.

You might think this is all that is left of what was once a glorious farmstead. I assure you, I have seen pictures of the Ramsey place when Grandpa and Grandma lived there, and it wasn't a whole lot more grand than it is in this picture. Humble beginnings in the depths of the Depression, to be sure.

About a mile away is Frenchman's Bluff. A small, rarely used road runs through the sandhills in the bluff area. Olla recalled today how many groups of young people would walk the little road in the evening, back before World War I, singing songs.

The sumac are already at their peak. Sumac are always pretty, but I catch myself resenting their early color. It is too soon to think about winter again!

A field of sumac shines underneath the shade of a giant old oak on Frenchman's Bluff.

My grandfather helped build this road in the early 1920s. He was twelve. Somewhere in the family archives is a photo of Grandpa standing barefoot next to his horse, which was pulling a scraper. Also in the picture were many neighborhood men with the same equipment. Grandpa had to do the family's share of the work because his father had died the very day they moved to Twin Valley. His eldest brother Roy was fifteen. With their mother Lena, who possessed a good business sense and was respected by the bankers and businessmen of the town as an independent and capable woman, they brought the farm through the depression.

I show this enormous cottonwood because it grows on bank of the road, which is built up fifteen feet over the level of the deep ravine. That means the tree sprouted after Grandpa helped build the road.

Finally, we reached Flom and the cafe. Great food. Roast beef, boiled potatoes, fresh squash and blueberry shortcake. The cafe is so small that you pretty much have to talk to the whole place--private conversations aren't very private. So, we met some of the locals, many of whom we have known from past excursions to the Flom Cafe.

Olla is reluctant to have her picture taken, but I assured her that since she doesn't have a computer, she would never have to see this one. Plus, she is a celebrity to long-time followers of this weblog. With that appeal to her vanity, she caved in and posed.

After Flom, we went to the nursing home in Fertile. Olla looked at her room. It is just what she wanted. Things appear to be set for her to move in on October 1. She had thought about postponing it until November 1, but with this room open and reserved for her, I thought she should snap it up.

Of course, a trip to the local nursing home is never going to go quickly--lots of people to visit with. My fifth grade teacher Dolie is in the home now. She's still stately. Olla was very sad to find out that one of her students, Ruby, who she had looked forward to visiting with when she moved into the home, had passed away earlier today.

Neighbor Alma is also in the home. She and Olla should get along fine. I promised to mediate if they should start spatting.

I also had a little visit with weblog reader Judy. She communicates through a keyboard. She emailed me a week ago with a copy of a former cover of the National Geographic which accurately predicted the New Orleans disaster. I didn't know who sent the email, since the return address was simply the nursing home's, but when I saw her I immediately knew. Good to visit with you, Judy!

As we made our way to the front door with social worker Patti leading the way, holding Olla by the hand, we saw that there was going to be music. Shirley, my piano teacher from elementary school, was slated to lead a sing-along. She drafted me to lead the singing. We passed out song sheets and had a good time. Shirley is one of those hyper-talented musicians who can play anything in any key in any style. She could turn a funeral march into a polka.

On the way home, Olla was all excited about moving to the home. She's a little nervous, too. "Some of the other inmates were staring at me," she said. I suppose it is a little like the first day at a new school.

Olla's health is pretty good, for a ninety-three-year-old. She's not on any medications, although she self-medicates with various herbal remedies and vitamin pills. I am sure they will love that at the home. Her main problem now, she says, is that she keeps forgetting to take her memory pills.

September 19, 2005

Why they call them "whitetails"

This blurry action shot is of 11 deer who were grazing in the field behind the house when I emerged from the woods at dusk tonight. They quickly "whitetailed" it into the next woods.

About twenty years ago, I took the skid steer out and blazed a trail through the woods that now is my home. Dad has expanded the trail system over the years in the interests of cross-country skiing and cutting wood. When I was gone, Dad went through the trails and sawed some of the fallen trees and mowed with the bushwhacker mower. I took a walk through the woods this evening and even found a trail I hadn't known existed.

The trail was worn down years back by visiting cousins who took the three-wheeler and made about a 1/2 mile circuit--in the woods on one end, out the other and back around to the nursery.

Now, all the cousins are grown up--and so have the trails. One trip with the mower took care of that, however, and now the system of woods trails is ideal for a walk.

September 18, 2005

Maples start to turn

Gardens in fall

The colors of the flowers and plants seem to get more intense on a cloudy fall day.