Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

May 19, 2007


Over the past couple of weeks, I have kept my camera up in the crow's nest and have taken some shots. Haven't had time to download them until tonight. Above is one of the red-winged blackbirds who have invaded the feeder.

A pair of mallards takes off, wings in synch.

Above is the closest shot of a green heron I have gotten yet. Three landed in a tree right in front of the house early in the morning. The picture was taken at a distance into the sun, so the quality is not that good.

And then a cute purple finch.

May 18, 2007

More business

The nursery business continues on at a fast pace. Today was busy all day. People came in the evening to buy trees, which is a little unusual for a Friday. It was warm today, so those who worked in the greenhouse had a tough day trying to keep the displays in order and keep the plants watered.

The column I wrote last week about quitting coffee has garnered more than the usual response. Everybody is teasing me about it, offering me cups of coffee, etc. Funny. I made it through today without coffee, but I have to add that I had a root beer and a few sips of tea, so it wasn't a caffiene-free day.

I had a meeting of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation board today. Since I am chair, I didn't think I should miss no matter how busy the nursery. I think this is my second meeting presiding, so I am still getting the feel for it. The main test for the chair is if the meeting gets out on time, and we didn't go so much as one minute over, so I guess I passed that test, anyway. In order to keep on schedule, I had to be rude a couple of times when the conversation drifted. I think I need a gavel.

In any case, serving on this board has really been enjoyable. I don't normally like meetings and such, but the people involved here are accomplished professionals from whom I can learn a great deal. The foundation also provides me an education about how a philanthropic organization works. I had no idea. It is a far different world than small business, that is for sure.

THE TWINS are beating the Brewers tonight by a good margin. They'll come around sometime. I can't watch because there is a big thundercloud in the way of my satellite dish.

May 16, 2007

Cool down

After a good warm spell which got everybody in the mood for planting, it cooled off dramatically yesterday. I enjoy cool weather. Just not cold weather. Last night, it got down to thirty-four degrees in Crookston, which is darn close to freezing the tomato plants. That I would not enjoy; our tomato seedlings struggled this year, so we do not have enough inventory to sustain a frost that might wipe out those which have already been planted.

The past week has been one of the busiest we've ever had. Just crazy. The warm weather, combined with Mother's Day brought the people out on the weekend. From what I hear, greenhouses all over the state were swamped. We're still recovering, attempting to get the displays back in order, trying to clean up all the stray coffee cups and so on.

Despite the crowds, things went pretty smoothly. On Sunday, we had three pros running the tills, which helps immensely. That allows me to hang back and answer the phone, which rings constantly. "Do you know if my mother is there?" was my favorite phone question of the week.

IT IS good to be too busy to watch the Twins when they are in a terrific slump anyway.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. There is lots of activity on the swamp, but I just stare across it in the mornings and late evenings instead of trying to record it. The swans are geese are working out an uneasy truce which so far has allowed both pair to co-exist on the same swamp, an unusual arrangement.

I slept with a window open and at about six a.m. this morning, one of the swans saw fit to float right up to the house and honk endlessly. When I jumped out of bed, it flew away.

Tomorrow, my friend Andrea, a writer for the Fargo Forum, will be bringing a special lunch for the nursery employees.

May 14, 2007

Petraeus lays down the law

Finally, somebody from the top and actually in power who understands the necessity of maintaining the moral high ground in military matters. Too bad Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't issue a similar edict, and, more importantly, believe in the importance of setting an example.

10 May 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq.

I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.

David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army