Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.

Grandpa and Alf

After I spoke to a gardening group last week, a woman came up to me and introduced herself. “I knew your grandfather,” she said.

That jolted me. Grandpa’s been gone for a dozen years, and this woman didn’t seem old enough to have known him--unless she had been one of his nurses at the nursing home.

It came out that her father was Alf Benson, a long-time nurseryman from Valley City, ND. My grandfather, also a nurseryman, and Alf had done business together for decades.

Rice vs. Clinton

Political commentators are salivating at the prospect of a 2008 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.

It just might happen. Clinton is showing more political smarts since the last election than anybody else in her party. A lightning rod of controversy, she would keep people interested and awake, something the last two Democratic candidates failed to do.

Remembering the weather

There were enough warm spells and cold spells in the past months to allow people to remember this winter however they want. Optimists can remember the rain in February. Pessimists can point out the cold snap in January.

My weather memory is short. I can remember baseball games, rosters and statistics from thirty years ago, including where I was sitting when so-and-so hit a home run to pull the Twins out of fifth place, but I have no grip on the weather from the past.

The right to Sudafed

The Minnesota legislature is trying to turn me into a criminal! If a recently proposed law passes and a K-9 unit barges into my house with a German Shepherd who knows how to find cold medicine, I’ll soon be writing you from jail.

As most of you know, popular nose-clearing medicines, as well as rat poison, fertilizer, toilet bowl cleaner and other under-the-sink goodies are key ingredients in the making of meth, the drug which is cleaning out the budgets of law enforcement agencies across the rural Midwest.

Mexican surprises

When you travel to a foreign country, you never learn what you expected to learn. I had ideas about what Mexico would be like, but an actual trip there was full of surprises.

Our first day in Mexico City was warm, even humid. I was glad that I had packed a pair of shorts, and I planned to wear them the next day.

That night, I was paging through a guidebook to Mexico City designed for foreigners. It discussed food, culture, travel, gift buying, currency exchange, all of the usual tourist topics.

Mexico City

Unlike the disorienting trans-Atlantic plane trip across several times zones to Europe, the quick one-and-a-half hour flight from Dallas to Mexico City does little to prepare one for a trip back through the ages.

Mexico City was a teeming Aztec city when the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s. The conquistadores under Hernan Cortes subdued the natives in the most brutal fashion, demanding, amongst other things, that each native produce a certain amount of gold per month or be cut open and eaten alive by dogs.

Pipe organ tour

Greetings from Guanajuato, Mexico, a city promoted with ample justification as the most beautiful colonial city in the Americas.

For the past week, I have been chasing around Mexico with a tour group sponsored by Pipedreams, a public radio program hosted on Sunday nights for the past thirty years by Michael Barone.

Winter ain't so bad

Winter can be charming--if you overlook the near-fatal diseases, the nose-crinkling dry interior air, the grind of a reluctant starter on a subzero morning, the constant urge to sleep, the struggle to don layers of puffy clothing, the battle to get something done outside while cucooned in puffy clothing, the clunk clunk of boots on frozen pavement, the crunch of car tires on frozen snow pack, the feeling of sliding slowly, inevitably towards the ditch, the raw roar of tires spinning on ice while giving off steam, the splat of salt brine on the windshield on the one warm day in January, the cra

Owning a snowblower

Probably the worst piece of equipment to own in this part of the country is a snowblower. Never mind that it is the most necessary. You just don’t want to own one.

We used to have a snowblower attachment to the tractor. It came in handy after a blizzard. That was fine, until word got out that we had a snowblower and people started calling.

“Would you mind taking a run through our yard?” they would ask, trying to sound nonchalant, as if they wouldn’t mind one way or the other if we showed up at all.

Cutting wood

The recent cold spell changed my life, probably for good.

For the past few years, I have burned wood in a little J. C. Penney stove in my basement. The wood fire made the upstairs floor warm on the feet and helped the furnace along, but it didn’t take any more wood than what I could snitch from my father’s woodpile back at the place.

For my new house, I got one of those wood boilers that sits outside. Pipes run from the stove across the yard into the floor of the house. If the stove isn’t fired up, an electric boiler takes over.