Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Water

It is raining today, to the distress of Wellfleet’s tourists. Downtown this afternoon I observed the crowd in slickers and raincoats, exploring our shops and art galleries. The water I want to discuss is not falling from the sky, however. It is the water we drink, groundwater, partially replenished by rain. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Provincetown Banner, inspired by an article in the August 17 issue:

“Thank you for last week’s 'Study finds hormone-disrupting chemicals in groundwater.' I obtained the article Kahrin Deines mentioned and intend to give it to the Wellfleet Board of Health. We all know Barnstable County has a very high cancer rate. Now here is something we can do to lower it. Stop throwing chemicals down the drain! What we put into our septic systems inevitably ends up in our groundwater. I use non-toxic Seventh Generation washing powder for laundry, but what about my neighbors, whose wastewater runs underneath my green bed & breakfast? They may use detergents and detergent contains alkylphenol, “a synthetic compound that mimics estrogen’s structure.” Kahrin Deines’ article indicates a community effort may be needed to lower the incidence of cancer in Barnstable County. Household cleaning products can be hazardous to health.”

Today I sent the study to members of the Wellfleet Board of Health, asking whether they would favor a campaign to inform Wellfleet’s population on the benefits of environmentally-friendly cleaning products. The Banner is conducting an online poll this week about whether or not its readers would be willing to switch. It will be interesting to read the conclusions.

I also contacted Chris Swartz, author of the study mentioned in the Banner article, to ask whether Pur filters eliminate alkylphenols. I would like to share here his response:

“I cannot tell you with a certainty backed by actual data that a PUR or any other activated carbon filter removes alkylphenols (which are a class of chemicals – there are many within this class) because there is no data that I could find. When companies test these products for their removal efficiency, they look at it from the perspective of regulated pollutants – those that EPA has on the list to monitor under the Safe Water Drinking Act. Alkylphenols are not on this list. They are currently unregulated.

I went to the PUR website and found this list of removed contaminants:

Although we cannot endorse any product specifically, the two-stage filter looks like it would remove alkylphenols, as the chemical properties that control the removal of alkylphenols from water fall with the range of other organic chemicals such as pesticides, benzene, etc.) that are removed.

The three-stage removes an even wider range of chemicals for greater peace of mind, but this is only available as an add-on to the tap and as a separate side tap (go to the product section in the Website to see all products available). It doesn’t look like the three-stage is available as a dispenser if you wanted that convenience."

Chez Sven already uses the two-stage. I will buy the add-on, three-stage, too. We have been full all summer. I attribute part of our success to being green. Guests do care. I would love it if all the bed & breakfasts on the Cape stopped using products that are detrimental to the environment. They could take baby steps, the way we did. Start by switching to Seventh Generation washing powder, for instance.

What visitors can do is be more discerning. Ask your waitress whether the restaurant serves water from the tap, or uses activated carbon filters. At your hotel or bed & breakfast, request linens washed in environmentally-friendly products.

Together we can make a difference, and perhaps reverse the cancer statistics on the Cape.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

View from the Trenches

The crush of tourists in downtown Wellfleet is a good argument for vacations in June, July, or September. I know I have said this before, but it feels like an invasion. Our Seagull Cottage guests report that there even was a small traffic jam on our road yesterday. I sneak in and out when most people are at the beach. Come September, Sven & I will begin our walks again.

August has brought families to Chez Sven, Wellfleet’s “kid-friendly” bed & breakfast. Sven and I have enjoyed both the children and the parents whose presence allows us to travel in our heads as they describe countries of origin: Canada, France, Russia. Here one young guest smells the flowers, morning glories that grow on the fence of our smaller vegetable garden.

I share information about Wellfleet with guests, and frequently learn from their experiences. People have been enjoying the beach at Marconi, where it is possible to buy an annual pass, good in all the national parks in America, for only $25. Most recently, I found out a jazz band has been playing at The Juice, on Commercial Street, to the neighbors’ absolute horror, but to the delight of the restaurant’s customers.

If I have not been blogging about Wellfleet as much as usual, I must admit it is because I have been busy with my other blog, By Bea’s Bedside. A reporter from the Cape Cod Times even came to do an interview. The article was published this week. The star of the blog is my mother Beatrice, 96 ½ years old, surely the most important guest at our bed & breakfast.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Potato Man

I met Sven in Paris where we enjoyed shopping together for potatoes at the open-air market. I used them in stews. New potatoes tasted great boiled fresh with butter and parsley. Potatoes were always on the menu when we ate out. French cuisine satisfied Sven’s craving for the humble tuber, the result of having been raised on a potato-rich diet in Sweden.

My husband retired nine years ago and we moved from Europe to Cape Cod. Since American meals consist of a vegetable, meat or fish, and a starch, I started alternating rice, pasta, and potatoes at dinner. Little did I know this regime was a recipe for disaster. Sven began to lose his joie de vivre. He did not walk with the usual swagger, the glint left his eye, and meals ceased to be the treat they once were. Something was wrong . . .

One day I decided to start a vegetable garden in order to provide fresh tomatoes to guests at our bed and breakfast. While perusing a seed catalogue, I noticed Swedish peanut fingerlings and remembered a neighbor’s comment that potatoes would thrive in the sandy soil of Wellfleet. It occurred to me that Sven might enjoy growing spuds. After all, didn’t potato plants dot the fields around his hometown? His mother had even produced “snow balls” in her backyard. Perhaps we should try growing potatoes, too? Without hesitation, I added a pound of “Swedish peanuts” to my order.

When the seed potatoes arrived, Sven showed me how to cut them so two eyes were on the surface and explained the hilling-up process. Eagerly he planted the spuds himself. He began to go out into the garden more often. Together we watched as the little plants began to sprout and flower. He watered the plants with care and picked off potato beetles. Then one day Sven pronounced the growing period over. Our crop was ready. Digging our first potatoes was quite an event. At dinner that night Sven slid a slice of fingerling into his mouth as if it were a communion wafer. A look of bliss spread across his face. In fact, the potatoes made him so happy that I decided to order more. In subsequent years, I purchased five pounds, then eight, then eighteen. Each year we try new varieties. Our organic potatoes taste better than any I have ever purchased at a supermarket.

Sven has become Potato-Farmer-in-Chief, responsible for our potato crop. Every fall he shovels in compost and manure. In the spring, he tills the soil and digs furrows. He makes holes in neat little rows and tucks the tubers into the earth. Together we wait expectantly as the garden blossoms with potato plants flowering purple, white and pink. With bees buzzing around us, we hold hands and contemplate our potato fields, happy at last. “I guess I’m a potato man,” Sven concludes as he serves up a feast of fresh boiled new potatoes with salmon and dill. Potato man he is.

Friday, August 11, 2006

An August Day in the Life

The alarm clock awakened me at 7:15. I had breakfast and showered, then started preparing breakfast for our guests, scheduled for 8:30. I believe in choice and always provide one. Guests can eat at 8:30, 9, 9:30 or 10. I checked on Sven, still sleeping soundly after his return yesterday from Sweden, and suggested he wake up. The first thing he did last night was pick cherry tomatoes in the vegetable garden and water, with the help of Teddie, in Seagull Cottage this week with her parents. Our Liberty Coin Suite guests had lived in Turkey. After their breakfast, Sven enjoyed talking archeology with them out in the parking lot, but I was already back inside, stripping the beds. Laundry time! I vacuumed the rooms and cleaned with Trader’s Joe’s Cedarwood & Sage Multi-purpose Cleaner. Through the skylights I admired the bright blue sky. More good weather is predicted for the rest of the week, with cool temps at night, perfect for sleeping. Meanwhile Sven was having coffee with Rick, here to install a new screen door in the cottage. Since guests are arriving for the Studio as well as Liberty Coin Suite, Sven then helped me clean the Studio. (Anyone who is thinking of starting a bed & breakfast needs to realize the amount of cleaning involved!) All morning I fielded phone calls for August. I gave Sven a lesson in answering the phone, in case I am away: "I'm sorry but we are fully booked until after Labor Day." One of the phone calls was from a woman in Croton-on-Hudson who is starting a green bed & breakfast. She will be on the Cape at the end of the month, and wanted to come visit. I said, “Sure!” The more green bed & breakfasts in the world the better. I just read that 1 in 166 babies today is born with autism. I think of that statistic every time I remove plastic bottles from trash baskets and put them in the recycling bin. We have become the throwaway civilization, polutting the planet. Something in the environment is causing autism, lowering sperm counts, disrupting estrogen receptors. I called my son and learned about a theory that autism may, in fact, be caused by the MMR vacine. Our most recent guests had take out every evening, so I was able to note which restaurants in town offer biodegradable recepticles. The prize goes to Wicked Oyster so far. They care enough about the environment to invest in biopaks. Bravo! I placed the Green Guide in prominence on the bedside table, so our next guests can read it. …

Sunday, August 06, 2006

PMC Passes Two Blocks Away!

Today was the Pan-Mass Challenge weekend. I could tell, because I heard cheering early this morning while preparing breakfast. So, I got out my camera and walked up the hill to Long Pond Road. A small crowd had settled in to welcome the first bikers who were zipping by. The onlookers must have gotten up at dawn. 4300 riders started the race in Sturbridge yesterday. They stopped for the night in Bourne. Then it was back in the saddle for the final push out the Cape. 2500 are racing to Provincetown as I write these words. Their route goes right down Long Pond Road. A water stop is organized at the Wellfleet Elementary School, prior to their continuing on to Truro. In P-town the riders get to experience the incredible Province Lands landscape before they reach the finish line.

The Pan-Mass Challenge raises money for cancer research at Dana Farber. Each rider commits to raising at least $5000. What a wonderful idea!