Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Day of the Year

The close of 2007 inspires not only nostalgia for the passed year but also gratitude at the many friends made, several of whom have already booked rooms for the 2008 season. Chez Sven received a successful writer of books for children, numerous visitors from abroad – France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden – two actors, two reporters, several photographers, teachers, architects, psychiatrists, and, of course, many history buffs. We also enjoyed the visits of a chiropractor and two natural health practitioners. What our guests had in common was a thirst for serenity, and we like to think they found it here at Chez Sven. Most shared our concern for the environment. Many chose our bed & breakfast because of our green policies. As 2008 begins, we look forward to meeting and welcoming people from all over the world and introducing them to Wellfleet, the most beautiful town on Cape Cod. Sven joins me in wishing you all peace in the new year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Colors of Winter

The blue and beige of Wellfleet’s beaches are months in the past now, a dream to hold in the back of one's mind for a quick embrace when the north wind blows across the snow-drifted streets of New England’s major cities. Here in Wellfleet, the snow is gone, except for the occasional patch in the shade. One cheeky chipmunk left his nest and dashes about, cheeks full of the safflower seeds Sven fed the birds this morning. Not a soul did we see on our walk to Great Pond, but several deer had left prints in the soft sand. At this time of year, Nature offers a breathtaking array of bright colors. Stark against the winter landscape, they jolt the senses: many shades of green, but also yellow and turqoise blue.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve in Wellfleet

Santa arrived in Wellfleet today, riding in style through Jim Rose’s empty vegetable patch on a rusty old boat. The Christmas spirit was in evidence downtown with lights strung from buildings and wreaths galore. Not many stores remained open, so any last-minute shoppers probably have to head back out to Orleans or Provincetown. The pirate flags still decorated driveways, bringing thoughts back to Caleb Potter and his family, again up at Mass General where they are celebrating Christmas while Caleb recovers from an infection. Out in front of Kendall Art Gallery, the statue of a monk was decked out in a red scarf, appropriate to last week’s cold spell. After a freak storm last night with wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour and pouring rain, all the snow is gone. No white Christmas for Wellfleet this year! It was a beautiful day, nonetheless, with sunbeams shimmering off the water below Uncle Tim's bridge at high tide. Merry Christmas from Chez Sven!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A December Day in the Life

Today was not just any day because I was featured in a blog. What fun to connect through writing! No innkeeping for this innkeeper in December 2007, since the renovation is dragging on and will likely not be completed until February, what with breaks for Christmas and New Year's. Writing is what I will be doing for most of the day: Christmas cards to former guests, Christmas cards to old friends, revision of manuscripts ... This morning I even took the time to compose a letter to the Provincetown Banner editor about an important local matter:

For Sale: two bedroom cottage with marsh view; 1.24 acre property has five-bedroom septic plan. Eager second-home buyers answered the classified ad. In this case, a contractor built someone’s dream house: five bedrooms, of course, but also a private art gallery and two-car garage.

The above tear-down was not within the National Seashore, but similar shenanigans are going on within the park, too, as pointed out December 13 in the Banner. Trophy houses are sprouting up and down Cape Cod like kudzu. Take the new construction at Cahoon Hollow. Some folks with cash-in-hand bought a beach shack, tore it down, and soon a two-story modern dwelling with ocean view hugged the coastline. Now it’s up for sale. This trend has me worried. Once the traditional cottages go, the character of Wellfleet will change forever. How shortsighted of us to allow these changes to occur! What, if anything, can be done to preserve the old Cape look? For one thing, citizens need to voice opinions and encourage both the National Seashore Advisory Commission and town boards to oppose McMansionization. Within the Seashore, there are rules as to how much change is allowed. Those rules need to be enforced and strengthened. Tourism is our biggest industry. Vacationers come to the Outer Cape from all over the world. Part of their pleasure is the local scenery. What a shame if we do not have the sense to preserve it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunset over the Herring River

Yesterday’s harsh winds are gone, but the chill remains, disconcerting because so early this year. Wellfleet, in winter, retains its charm, although the predominant colors shift from shingle-gray. The occasional pastel cottage or house – pink, yellow, blue – stands out against the white snow, still several inches thick. Down by the harbor, a few brave souls are out taking in the sunset. Sven insisted we drive all the way to the Herring River, where I took this photo. Meanwhile, town folk hurried in and out of the Marketplace. I bought Sven his daily quart of milk. The shopper behind me at the register echoed my call, “No plastic bag for me, either.” Now, if we could just get a town-wide ban going like in that village in England ….

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Street Fair at Wellfleet's Preservation Hall

Wellfleet was feeling the holiday spirit today, despite the bitter cold. From 1 to 4, Christmas treats were available for sale in front of our future Preservation Hall. I bought some wonderful postcards, depicting an angel from the famous doors, and a decal created by the town’s own Dale Donovan, Selectman extraordinare. There was hot cider for all, and cookies. The money raised goes towards a great project, dear to the hearts of Wellfleetians. Information on how to contribute can be found here. I have already written about Wellfleet’s Preservation Hall in an earlier blog. One of our regular summer guests is a fan of its doors, retouched and unveiled at a garden party on the grounds of the former Catholic Church last August. The doors hold special meaning because his father has taken a photo of this young man each year since 2003, standing beside them, a bit taller each summer. At town meeting last week, funds were appropriated for renovation of the building. More money would obviously be nice. Some of the articles on sale today included sweatshirts, caps, jewelry, and chocolates. There was an amazing gingerbread house as the first prize of a lottery. A very talented baker made the likeness of Preservation Hall. The result is so beautiful, I cannot imagine anyone actually cutting it up!

Friday, December 14, 2007

You Got ... Windows!

Wellfleet had nine inches of heavy wet snow last night. This morning it was melting fast, but we all had achy muscles from shoveling and cringe at the idea there is another snowstorm on the way this weekend. The carpenters are making good progress. They put all the windows in today and will trim them out on Monday. I regret to say I am going at a slower pace with my research on foam insulation. It is hard to know whom to believe. Open-cell, closed cell. Each installer says his product is best and others are not to be believed. Go figure! Seems experience plays a role as well. I am getting an estimate for bio-based insulation, since I was able to find a foam installer in the Boston area who is willing to work on Cape Cod. Meanwhile, thanks to the article in the Globe, Seagull Cottage is now booked all summer. There are still a couple weeks in September up for grabs …

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Deep Shadow

Deep shadow on the ocean beaches this afternoon, normal for this time of the year. Renovation is progressing and soon I will post new photos. In the meantime, good news! This blog was chosen Blog of the Week by I Love Inns. Check it out here!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seagull Cottage Makes the Boston Globe!

In today’s Travel section of the Boston Globe, readers will find a
neat little article about Chez Sven’s cottage, written by Kathleen Burge and her husband Rich Barlow, who were guests this September and surprised me, after the fact, with the announcement that they are also correspondents for the Boston newspaper. I was glad to see they were able to enjoy the walk to Dyer Pond, a soft sand path strewn with pine-needles. Our "secret" pond became famous several years ago after a New York Times reporter called it “the most beautiful, the most hidden, the most serene.” Of course, we were delighted that Kathleen and Rich liked Seagull Cottage so much that it became the focus of a travel piece. The article can be found online.

Dyer Pond is beautiful at all seasons, but I find it spectacular in spring, when the leaves have begun to unfurl and turtles frolic on a broken tree limb, overhanging the water (see blog May 24, 2007 for more photos). As Kathleen mentions, there isn't a soul around. Chez Sven guests get to experience Nature under privileged circumstances. We all seek out this peace in life and wish it on our brothers, especially during the holiday season. Dyer Pond is truly special. Sven and I feel lucky to live so close by and enjoy sharing this bounty with the folks who choose to stay at our green bed & breakfast.

Friday, December 07, 2007

On Green Insulation …

The northern wing is now gutted and almost ready for insulation. My quandary is what insulation to choose. Recycled blue jeans seems promising, but we live in the woods and local rodents would summon all their cousins to sleep in this deluxe bedding. Jeff at Conway Lumber in Provincetown tells me the insulation has been treated to make it less attractive to varmints, but do we want insulation with chemicals in it? We used Atlas Energy Guard sheathing in the cottage bathroom renovation. So far the company has been answering without a direct answer as to its composition. (MDI, Polyols, combined with blowing agent cyclpentane and some of the ingredients are reclaimed side streams from other manufacturing operations that would otherwise end up in landfills). There is no doubt that Energy Shield is an efficient product, but this is the first time I thought about composition. Sounds like chemicals to me. For our northern wing renovation, the contractor wanted to use Sealection 500. Online reviews are favorable, but again, it is petro-chemical based. I read the brochure about HeatLok Soy, a new closed-cell insulation touted as a great green choice, and learned there is a small amount of soy and a large amount of recycled plastic bottles. The percentage: 27% soy. Everyone seems to be applauding these new green options, but what will they mean for the environment down the road? Does anyone remember how asbestos was hailed as superior in the 50s? Can an envelope of recycled plastic be a healthy option? Once the outgassing stops, is the danger over? What about toxic fumes in case of fire? What happens if I make the wrong choice and it is necessary to remove the product? I have searched the Internet but have not found answers so far. Jeff at Conway Lumber recently created his own LEED-certified house. He commiserated over the phone when I explained I had hoped for bio-based products. He had the same hope, but unfortunately it is harder to find a bio-based distributor down on the Cape, so he used Icynene, an open-cell foam. There is also Air-Krete, which is foam without plastics, made from concrete. The Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary used recycled blown-in newspaper in their walls. The Seashore is using blue-jeans for their Race Point facility. I called up a local carpenter friend and he still uses fiberglass since most clients do not want to spend extra money for insulation. Now that heat has become so expensive, that situation may change. Our carpenters are almost ready for insulation. Since this photo, they have added the roof. How little information there is on the Web! I visited the site created by the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary last year to document construction of its new green building, which was inspiring but not conclusive for the choice here at Chez Sven. As we ponder what insulation to choose, here is the only site I found which offers an impartial review of the different options.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nostalgia for Summer

As winter comes on with a chill wind that keeps us away from LeCount Hollow for days at a time, we recall with nostalgia all the great things there are to do at a Wellfleet beach in summer: GO FOR A WALK



SIMPLY RELAX AND WATCH SEALS PLAY IN THE WAVES (2007 was an amazing year for seals on the Outer Cape. Guests came back enchanted.)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Renovation Update

The plumber was in today calculating vents and pipes. Meanwhile, the carpenters are removing the traditional shed roof to frame a new gabled roof. This choice will bring light into the new bathroom through a skylight in the cathedral ceiling, not a traditional feature of old Cape Cod homes, it is true. But, back in the 1800s, modern bathrooms did not exist. Imagine walking outside to the back door to the cottage, which used to lead to a two-seater outhouse! Brrrr!!!