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!!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Goodbye, Rubber Ducky ...

“Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time, oh so fun …” Everybody knows the catchy little tune Ernie sang on Sesame Street. What people didn’t know back then was that encouraging millions of children to bathe with a plastic toy might not have been such a good idea. Ernie’s ducky may have been made of rubber, but the duckies that bobbed their way into the bathtubs of America were made of plastic. Our plastic is supple because its composition includes phtalates. Now it turns out that phtalates are very bad for children and for the rest of us. Phtalates are endocrine disrupters. You do not even have to touch the plastic, or put it in your mouth to increase your risk of contamination. The phtalates enter the air and you breathe them in (source = Fresh Air, interview of Mark Schapiro by Terri Gross regarding Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power). We have duckies here at Chez Sven, patrolling the rim of the bathtub. They are older duckies, from the Swap Shop, and theoretically have already given up their vapors. How can I tell? They have turned hard. California has become the first state to ban phtalates, but the bill will only become law in 2009. Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, blue tarp, yellow kayak outside the window … Plastic seems to be everywhere. Now to the daunting task of reducing its use …

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A November Day in the Life

Since the end of the month is fast approaching, it is really time to write this regular feature about the daily life of an innkeeper. One thing we will definitely do today is walk at one of Wellfleet’s spectacular beaches, but since we have been renovating for three weeks, this November Day will have to be different. Every moment is taken up by thoughts of renovation. With visions of farm sinks dancing through my head, I finally took Sven to see one last Wednesday. It will be delivered next week. Today I will order energy-efficient light fixtures as the electrician will soon return to rewire. The shed roof was removed from the old kitchen right before the Thanksgiving holiday began. Tomorrow the carpenters will frame the area above the future private bath. My plan is to make it a well-lit space, thanks to a skylight, facing south. There is no heat in the main house for the time being, so I am eager for the plumber’s visit as well. Once we have heat, we can move back in and again receive guests here in Seagull Cottage.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday Sven and I saw a wild turkey on our way back from the dump, perhaps a relative of this fellow, photographed in the neighbor's yard last year. The turkey hurried across the road and into the woods, a good plan with folks out aiming to bring home Thanksgiving dinner. Here at Chez Sven, as the holiday approaches, I again think back over the past year. We are grateful for all the lovely people who chose to spend a few days of vacation with us in beautiful Wellfleet. We feel blessed to have food on the table, a warm fire, and a roof over our heads. And, as our renovation continues, we appreciate the carpenters who are working to create a brand new room with private bath for our bed & breakfast. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Back to the Sea Again

The words of the famous poem always come to mind when we finally get to the beach after a long stretch without: “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky. And all I need is a tall ship and a star to steer her by …” The ocean is like an addiction. Once the Atlantic is part of your daily diet, you miss it if deprived. The sea was beautiful today. We went to eyeball the erosion from last week’s storm, but saw no evidence of damage for once.

Thank you to all the well-wishers regarding our renovation. I am knee-deep in brochures, and visions of kitchen sinks dance through my head on a regular basis. In the Counter-top 500, Soapstone has pulled ahead. Week #2 was interrupted by a crumbling foundation on the northern side. For three days, our carpenters worked elsewhere while we wait for a space to open up on Mike Cook’s schedule …

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Memories of 2007

Today the sky is bright blue, the type of day that drew so many tourists to Wellfleet over the past year. We received folks from all around the USA, but also from Germany, France, Sweden, UK, and the Netherlands. As I look over the photos, I am reminded of unique moments Chez Sven enjoyed in 2007. Rose Ireland painted the main house one very foggy July day. I hope to use her painting as a Christmas card. It was a year for seals and whales.
Guests who went whale watching returned enchanted. We had a number of professional photographers visit and a few very jet-lagged guests from the West Coast. Five couples celebrated their honeymoon in Seagull Cottage. Its bathroom received a bath itself when a writer dropped a bottle of nail polish, which splattered all over the tub and she promptly removed. We had a few unwanted but cute guests, who have left now that we are renovating. Hopefully they will find lodging in someone else's old house or barn. And then there were the children. Most B&Bs in Wellfleet do not accept kids under 10. Here at Chez Sven I love to discover the world through the eyes of the very young so always welcome children open-armed. All in all, it was a good year.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Demo Week at Chez Sven

On Day 5 of our renovation project, the floor is up in the former living room, once called "keeping room," soon to become country kitchen. The old dining room and kitchen have lost their windows and walls. When you stare up at where the ceiling used to be, you see white-washed boards that were installed as a roof for the kitchen addition in 1825. How exciting to think of all the history our house has experienced and the many people who have called this place home! During our last renovation project, Sven found a Liberty Coin under the floor. Who knows what we may find this time! We are lucky to have wonderful carpenters on the project, whose enthusiasm almost matches ours. As the sun sets over the cottage at the close of Week 1, we are very pleased with our decision to renovate the northern wing of our Cape Codder.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Big Day!

Hurricane Noel brought 90-mile-an-hour winds to Cape Cod. The trees were doing a whole lot of shaking and rain poured down, five inches in fact. The transformer on Gross Hill blew out two times at least. Here in Wellfleet, we had two full days without electricity. Luckily, we had guests on Firday night only. They wrote the nicest note: "The charm of this cottage knocked our socks off!" Now the power is back on in time for our renovation. It is a big day for this family for two reasons. The first is, of course, renovation. We ripped out the old kitchen, moved the couch into the dining room, which required taking down a wall, and started pulling up floorboards. Here is a photo that shows how wide they are. We will put the floorboards aside while the plumbing is being done, then return them to their places. It is exciting to uncover walls which have not been seen for two hundred years, at least. The second reason that this is a big day is for my grand-daughter Juliette, who is beginning day care out in Los Angeles today.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

It was a great beach day but there was no one at the beach. I guess folks were all home carving pumpkins. There were plenty on sale at Wellfleet Marketplace last week, but not a one to be purchased this morning. In Orleans, the shopkeepers, pharmacists, and bank tellers all wore disguises, some of which made me regret having left the camera at home. We actually had some very scary trick-or-treaters here at Chez Sven, oo-o-o-h! Check them out: Patricia and James, young lord-goblin and lady of Woodlot Haven, a seasonal bed & breakfast up the road.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dyer Pond, Quiet and Beautiful

How peaceful it was at Dyer Pond today! Sven and I sat on an overturned raft and enjoyed the view, hoping no ticks had time to crawl up our legs. People catch Lyme Disease in the fall because they are less vigilant. Until the hard frost, the ticks continue to search for their next meal. We saw wild mushrooms in the forest and neighbors, out walking. The weather is abnormally hot this afternoon. We took advantage of the warm temps to rake leaves outside. Our carpenter friend Nate Cook stopped by to discuss the renovation project, to begin next Monday. We will turn the northern wing of the old house into a bedroom with private bath for bed & breakfast guests. The kitchen will be moved into the original “keeping” room. The maple tree out back shows no signs of seasonal changes, usually under way by Halloween. The green leaves will fall. They have to fall. But, for now, the tree is still dressed for summer, reminding us that climate change is reality.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thoughts of Water Shortage and Drought While Walking to Dyer Pond

There has been a flurry of Internet searches for the Body Burden test of late, leading folks to the guest blog September 10 by fellow green innkeeper Sheri Gibbs. It is good news that people are realizing the impact of chemicals on our bodies. In the New York Times last Sunday there was a short piece by Jascha Hoffman about a possible link between lead and criminal behavior. Also of note, a l-o-o-ong article, reproduced at Truthout Environment, The Future is Drying Up, by Jon Gertner, which Sven insisted I read. I recommend it. We could not help but think about water resources on our way to Dyer Pond today. Water is something we all take for granted. Those times have changed. As Sven and I walked along, we discussed the courage needed by politicians who hope to effect change: no one in California, Arizona, or Nevada wants to be advised to give up a lawn, yet lawns really make no sense, since they require water. How much more sensible to choose indigenous plants and landscape with pebbles? The situation in the West is not simply drought. It is climate change. When you move into the desert, you should not have East-Coast-lifestyle expectations. Here in the woods of Wellfleet, we were able to admire the seasonal falling leaves and emerging mushrooms, and note the low level of both Great and Dyer, kettle ponds which are replenished with rainwater. This past year the National Seashore put up new signs urging visitors to respect the ponds and refrain from using soaps, detrimental to the environment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Having a Robert-Finch Moment

Two days ago Sven wanted to walk the beach. Yesterday, it was my turn to pick a destination, so I chose Great Pond. I love to walk in the autumn woods. There was a soft breeze rustling the pine branches above. The leaves on the rim of Turtle Pond had turned orange and yellow. The cherry tree that hangs over the western edge of Great Pond had already shed its foliage, perhaps in Friday night’s storm, a powerful one, which brought down branches and shook shutters. For several hours the wind whipped over the hill while we were snug in our beds. It brought good news! Caleb Potter is coming home in November. The summer was an exhausting one for Wellfleet. First, there was the accident, which drained energy as the general population sent prayers up to Mass General. Then there were the crowds. Everyone agrees that Wellfleet had more visitors than ever before, and they all seemed determined to use cars on a daily basis. Alice, at Neighborhood Auto, watched the cars journey up Route 6 in a steady stream. She, too, is relieved the season is over. Wicked Oyster and The Bookstore are both closing for two months this winter. We all need the rest. Nature repairs the spirit here at Great Pond. I snapped a few photos while Sven sat beside the tranquil pond in deep contemplation. I listened to the incessant caw-caw-caw of a bluejay and admired red and yellow leaves floating in the water. A frog leaped out from under the reeds, making a splash as it hit the still surface. As I watched the frog swim away with powerful hind-leg thrusts, I realized I was having a Robert-Finch moment …