Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

April 28, 2007

Running wild

With the beautiful weather, things really broke loose at the nursery today. Joe had three full seminars for his perennial lecture, and Dad, Aaron, Jordan and I were in the bare root building selling trees for much of the day.

During the offseason, I have nightmares about days like this. People waiting for help. Other people hanging on to you as long as possible for reasons which I have not yet understood. The squeaky wheel's get the grease, and I think we inevitably loose the business of some nice people who just don't care to elbow their way to the front.

The bare root building is about 45 F right now. Pretty chilly. And damp. So everybody is in a hurry to get out of there. One woman sat shivering in the corner for about fifteen minutes before somebody finally was able to help her get a rose bush and by then I think she was in the early stages of hypothermia.

We have such a short season and we have such a large inventory that it is impossible to get a command of the inventory by the time the season is over. Inevitably at the end of the selling season we find three bundles of something we've been saying we were out of for a month. Not good.

So, just finding stuff is a challenge. It really gets frustrating for me when I am struggling to look for an item which is $1.99, and I know that devoting 10 minutes to the search is causing a delay in me getting to a customer who might buy something for $95. Such was the case today when a lady came with a long, long list of obscure and tiny $1.99 items, one of each, and I spent about twenty minutes finding the stuff while others waited.

After I got done with her, the next man in line took one look at a bunch of trees in the back that were priced $95 each and said, "I'll take nine." Whoa! Now that made my day. Stocking big trees like that is a risk because you have to pay so much to get them in and if you have any left over at all, your profit is out the window, so selling nine was a day-maker believe me.

But the woman with the small items was a daymaker, too: She and her husband, an avid gardener who had a disabling stroke two years ago, drove 100 miles one-way to our nursery--why? Because they know we have wide aisles and handicapped accessible restrooms! So waiting on she and her husband was fun as well.

Weblog reader Marlene stopped by. Always good to see you, Marlene! She, like weblog reader Jerriainne in Alaska, urged me to drink coffee moderately instead of going cold turkey. Well, I have to say that now that I have gone a week without coffee, I feel quite good, I fall asleep much more easily, and I find that I get less stressed out by the events of the day. But when I start coffee again, I will let you know and perhaps we can get together for a cup! In the case of Jerrianne, that would be a virtual cup. Anyway, I know where my enablers are when I need them.

AFTER WORK, about dusk, I walked up the earthen ramp in the swamp. There, hidden in the reeds, was a swan, sitting perfectly still. I stood there myself for about ten minutes, listening to the various birds, the frogs, and watching the blue-winged teal chase each other, playing duck tag. Or perhaps Gray Duck. Anyway, the visible swan remained motionless, but every now and then I could hear a dead cattail breaking off. I think the other half of the swan pair was working on the nest.

This morning, I went to the train station in Grand Forks to pick up a friend of brother Joe's named Johah who is going to spend the next couple of busy weeks helping us out at the nursery. The train came in at 4:30, but I didn't arrive at the station until 7 a.m.

No Jonah to be seen. The waiting room was empty. The platform was empty. Nobody to be seen.

Time for the marvels of cell phones to kick make themselves obvious. I called Joe in Fertile. He said, I'll call Jonah and roust him. Roust him from what and where, I wondered.

Three minutes later, as I was circling the parking lot, I saw a figure rise out of the grass a couple of hundred feet across the prairie. I knew right away that it was Jonah. He had been sleeping out in a field. Joe woke him up, and he came and jumped in the pickup and we drove off to the nursery where he put in a full day of work.

April 26, 2007

Perfect spring day

It doesn't get any better than today. About seventy degrees, still, sunny. Perfect.

No time to sit still. We were busy with customers from morn until sunset. Joe gave a seminar on perennials tonight which was overflowing. The people stayed and wandered the greenhouses.

After the busy day, I came home and walked out on the ramp I built out into the swamp last summer when the water was down. I just stood there for a couple of minutes and watched lots happen.

First, the Canadian honker pair which was out in the field scavenging for soybeans decided to hit the swamp. They flew through the woods. I could hear their wings whir. Then they cruised at low altitude for a couple of hundred yards over the swamp before settling in right in front of me on the ramp.

The mergansers are more shy. As soon as I started up the ramp, they took off.

But the real highlight was when I got to top of the ramp and was able to see over some of the reeds into the little area of open water near the swan's nest. There was a swan, tearing away at dead cattails. Apparently they have decided that there is enough water on this pond to nest here. In the perfect stillness, it was fun to hear the swan working.

Overhead, a pair of woodcocks did their diving song. The red-wing blackbirds twittered out their complicated call.

So, today, I have seen mergansers, blue-winged teal, Canadian honkers, trumpeter swans, woodcocks, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, a wood duck drake, nuthatches, white-throated sparrows, barnswallows, robins, killdeer, mallards, three types of woodpeckers, and probably a few more varieties of birds on the swamp.

That is a lot more than I bargained for when I built the house here. I would have been happy with the swans. I didn't realize the festival of bird life that I would see out here every day. I would miss it very much if it went away.

April 25, 2007

Perham and Hendrum

Here is the sun setting over the prairie east of Hendrum tonight.

Today, I traveled to Perham to perform for the volunteer luncheon for their nursing home. It was held at the golf course. I have performed there two or three times before, so was familiar with the situation.

This time, however, it took over an hour for the food to come. Eventually, they had me start my entertainment while they were bringing the plates in for the last tables. That was a far from ideal situation, but it went okay.

Then I drove home, a 90-mile drive, rested for an hour and took off to Hendrum to entertain Lutheran women. The Lutherans have what they call clusters. Lutheran Women Clusters. I have entertained at Clusters 1, 2 and 3, I believe, so it was only right that I would entertain at Lutheran Women Cluster #4.

For some reason, I always expect to confront 150 strangers only to arrive at a place to find that I already know 85% of the people. That was the case tonight. This cluster even crossed state lines to include Nora Church west of Perley on the Dakota side.

So, that was fun. I was playing piano to begin with--a rag-time that I have played 500 times--and was thinking to myself that I was so comfortable with these people that I felt like I was playing in my own living room, no nervousness at all. Immediately upon thinking that fatal thought, I lost my place and had to jump to the next section. About a minute later, I thought the same thing again and the same thing happened. I lost my place and just decided to jump to the end.

I had bragged earlier this spring that I had refused all speaking engagements after April 15. I had promised the crew at the nursery that much. I don't really know where these two today came from. Must have been a weak moment.

QUITTING COFFEE: Boy, it ain't easy. I am beginning to think that it should be something done at Betty Ford. I feel cranky, tired, drained, sleepy, groggy and achy. Mornings are filled with dread as my usual reason to get out of bed--to get the coffee started--has been taken from me. This morning, I woke up at 6 a.m., saw that it was beautiful, looked forward to getting up and getting going--and then remembered that I couldn't have coffee and rolled right over and slept until 7:15.

Aunt Beth suggested yogurt to get my tummy back in balance, so I finally bought some of the real sour natural stuff today and gulped down a couple of spoonfuls. By gum if I didn't start feeling better right away. Yuck, though.

A SNIPE and a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW: That's what the verdict is on the birds below. Rev. Robin Roaster retracted his assertion that the long-beaked thing was a woodcock. Once he settled on snipe, he informed me that they taste like shorebirds generally do and that it takes about 20 of them to make a decent hot-dish.

AND weblog reader Jerrianne in Alaska reports that a friend of hers posted a picture of himself eating a sparrow-on-a-stick that he bought from a street vendor in China last year. That does not surprise me.

April 24, 2007

$176 million wasted, annually

This made me laugh. The nanny state fails again. Imagine that, a government education program has no effect on behavior. Right-wing government education programs that want to enforce morality are just as stupid as left-wing government educational programs which try to get people to be nice to each other.

April 23, 2007


Ah, it is fun to see Pat Neshek do his job. He came in with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth and struck the guy out. Glen Perkins and Juan Rincon did their job as well. The bullpen has done well.

RE: Birds. So far, one person has argued that the long-beaked critter below is a snipe. Rev. Robin Roaster weighs in that it is an American woodcock. He says it tastes like chicken.

New birds

This is a male blue-winged teal. I also include a picture of the entire pair because the female is exposing the small patch of sky blue. The male has a patch of blue as well, but I haven't yet caught it in focus.

What do you suppose this thing is? Three of them were playing on the little tuft in the swamp yesterday. One was fanning his tail somewhat like a grouse might.

This little guy was digging in the leaves below the crow's nest this evening.

And the finches have adopted their bright mating-season plumage.

Busy season begins

Rarely has there been such a sudden beginning to the busy season at the nursery. As of last Wednesday, trees are flying out the door. It is a good thing. People seem in a planting mood. The weather is beautiful. The rain was needed.

Yesterday was the first Sunday we were open. It was busy all afternoon. Apple trees are the big item right now.

At the same time, I decided to quit coffee. I have been having some heartburn, and I drink way, way too much of the stuff. Consequently, I have been wandering around in a daze, barely awake, with a headache. I wonder how long the withdrawal symptoms last? It has been a couple of days, and I am still feeling out of it.

Luckily, I had no time to watch the Twins lose two out of three to the Royals. Let's hope that doesn't become a habit.