Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.

Moving in

Three weeks ago, the carpenters pounded the last nail on my new house, packed up their tool trailer and drove away--leaving me with a bad case of Empty Nest Syndrome.

Things got so quiet! No nail guns thwapped. No air compressor blasted every five minutes. No sanders filled the air with fine dust.

You look forward to the end of a big project, but when it finally comes--it is kind of a let down. I moped around for a week.

North Shore

Northern Minnesota is about as landlocked as you can get--if you forget about Lake Superior on the eastern edge of the state. Last weekend, I traveled up North Shore Drive for a wedding and had a chance to explore Minnesota’s nautical corner.

The breeze off Lake Superior keeps the shore cool no matter how sweltering the weather is up on the prairie. During winter, the big lake lops off the lower fifteen degrees of the temperature spectrum, allowing dozens plants and trees to flourish near the shore which would freeze out only a few miles to the west.

Time goes by

We have reached summer’s peak. On the roller coaster that is our annual seasonal cycle, we sit perched at the very top, ready to plummet downwards towards harvest, football, school, shorter days, cooler weather, firewood cutting and the raking of leaves.

Every year the cycle goes faster. The years start to blur together. You meet somebody you think you haven’t seen for two years--but after comparing notes you realize it has been more like fifteen. Uff da.

Picnics

Summer is the time for gatherings. Class reunions, family reunions, annual picnics—every group in existence finds an excuse to haul out the plastic plates and bins of potato salad and have a picnic.

The food is the highlight of all summer gatherings. Thank goodness for the energetic souls who dice up the potatoes and barbeque the pigs and bake the beans and butter the buns and cut up the watermelon and devil the eggs and mix the canned tangerines with whipped cream and marshmallows.

Contrarians

You can save a lot of time, effort and money if you determine where the herd is going and just run the other way.

People who habitually go against the grain are contrarians. Contrarian investors, for example, buy stocks nobody else wants and wait for the tide to turn. It usually does.

In general, contrarians simply refuse to be taken in by this or that trend.

Strawberries

Fresh strawberry pie! As I was sitting in my office this morning, a piece landed on my desk, covered in whipped cream, ready to eat. Yowza. People who bring fresh goodies to others are angels only thinly disguised.

Strawberries have been my favorite fruit since I was learning to walk. I love everything about them, from their luminescent color, to their lantern shape, to their tender, slightly rubbery skin, to their nostalgia-laden scent, to their explosive flavor.

Bad weather

About the time the humidity rises to the point where your 100% cotton t-shirt sticks to you like a garbage bag, or about the time a mosquito nails you on the ankle bone and you scratch the welt with the toenails on the other foot until it bleeds, or you get a little patch of poison ivy that itches so bad you attack your skin with a stubby old whisk broom and it actually feels good, or you’re about to fall asleep and you feel a tickle in your armpit and discover it is a well-attached tick about to start a family, or you go in the kitchen and find the counter crawling with sugar ants, or you go

Kinder, gentler

A hapless presidential candidate a few years back ran on a program of a “kinder, gentler nation.” Of course, he lost--to somebody who believed in kinder, gentler White House interns--but it was a nice idea.

And, it made me wonder: What would a kinder, gentler nation look like? What steps can we take as a nation to foster kindness and gentleness?

One idea would be to eliminate the AM radio dial. It is mostly static anyway, and if you do find a station, all you get is a whole lot of complaining from talk radio hosts whose only purpose in life seems to be to stir people up.

Hustle and bustle

During the early years of white settlement, an Indian chief was asked what his people thought of the European settlers. He commented on their perpetual striving for gain, their constant activity, their grim, determined faces, and he concluded, “we think them mad.”

When I travel to the big city for a couple of days, as I did this past weekend, I am always amazed by the frantic bustle.

Small-town trust

When trusting small-towners head to the big city, we sometimes realize the need to lock the doors on our car before we remember the even more basic big-city security requirement of taking the keys out of the ignition.

The result: Embarrassed hicks in Wal-mart parking lots either waiting for the cops, or, to avoid hassle, waiting two hours for somebody to bring down the extra set of keys.

The transition from small-town trust to big-city suspicion almost never goes smoothly, and sometimes it makes for a good story.