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 …

Monday, October 22, 2007

To Phone or Not to Phone?

Today I received the following email: “I read that waiting for guests to arrive is unpleasant for you. So why not provide guests with a number they can contact you on and request that they do so if they will be later than planned? I looked on the website, without success, to find a contact number before we left home. We emailed you our estimated arrival time and included a cell phone number so you could call us instead if there was a 'problem'. We could not anticipate exact traveling time from Boston as we were strangers to the region (we were also held up in a traffic jam). Consider it is also restricting for the paying guest to feel they have an itinerary to stick to on their holiday. So perhaps a contact phone number could easily solve this?”

Writing a blog about what it is like to run a B&B, I try to include both the advantages and disadvantages of the innkeeping profession. One of the distinct disadvantages is the fact that guests do not always know when they will arrive, indeed. I try to schedule errands and doctors’ appointments at times when I am not serving breakfast, preparing for guests, or receiving guests. This is why I appreciate an approximate arrival time.

Recent guests expected to get here at 8 or 9 p.m. They were good enough to call and tell me they were running late, having encountered rain and traffic on the drive up from New York City. If folks have to arrive after 9:30 p.m., I am willing to leave the door open. I did not especially appreciate the phone call for directions at midnight, since I was asleep, but accepted the inconvenience as a rare occurrence. Earlier, they, too, had commented, by phone, on the absence of a phone number on our Web site. Most people reserve by email and arrive in mid-afternoon or early evening. I do not list our phone number to reduce the number of phone calls we receive. In August, the phone already rings every hour or so. I will, however, now provide the phone number with every confirmation email, and appreciate the feedback on this issue.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An October Day in the Life

I began Sunday by getting up at 7 and having a leisurely breakfast in front of the television with a cup of coffee. I always rise earlier than guests in order to be awake by the time they rise. After a quick shower, I checked the email and off I went into the kitchen. When I carried the breakfast tray into the dining room, I discovered our Liberty Coin guests had left me a message: “We’ll be down at 9 for breakfast.” Now, had they told me last night, I would have had a half hour more sleep. Fortunately, most guests are the considerate type, like those, now in the cottage. Friday they came over to ask if it were all right to put their baby’s Pack & Play in the second cottage room and whether there were an extra charge. This is their second visit. We look forward to a third and fourth!! But, I have been wandering, so let’s get back to the subject at hand. Breakfast, half of why guests chose B&Bs over motels. On our registration form, one of the questions is FAVORITE BREAKFAST? The reply gives me a idea of preferences. After both sets of guests left, it was laundry time. Sven helped me with cleaning Liberty Coin and Seagull Cottage. We have it down to a routine now. He does the bathroom, kitchen, and fireplace. I do the rest. Putting both in order takes three hours. We both look longingly from the windows at the blue sky. All the windows are wide open to let in the warm autumn air. Our Liberty Coin Suite guests arrive at 3:30. After registration, they head out towards Provincetown. Sven and I hit the beach for what surely must be one of the very last beautiful beach days of 2007!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cape Cod Times Reports BFRs in Harbor Seals

I remember buying one particular pair of pajamas for my four-year-old son in the USA and taking them home to France. I was not too pleased that the material had been treated with flame retardant (BFRs), but, at the time, there was no other choice. Back then, people took for granted that the government knew what it was doing and had thoroughly tested flame retardant prior to soaking children’s garments in it. We-e-l-l-l, now we know better. There was an important article today in the Cape Cod Times, written by Doug Fraser. I will paraphrase and suggest readers go to CCT online for the full version. Harbor seals (cousins of the cuties above) are dying. Analysis of tissue samples have shown the seals are loaded with chemicals, in particular BFRs. BFRs were detected in human breast milk in the 1970s in Sweden where levels have tripled over the past 20 years. However, breast milk from women, born in America, show levels 100 times greater than in Sweden. High levels of chemicals in the body may lower the immune system of seals, and of humans, making us both more susceptible to disease. What can one do about this situation? Avoid BFRs. Inform friends. Write your elected officials. Demand change and fast! (Maine is banning BFRs as of 2010. That’s great, but it would be even better if the ban went into effect sooner. Washington and 9 other states, including Massachusetts, have legislation pending for similar bans.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oysterfest 2008 = Fun!

The autumn sun was shining brightly on Wellfleet this morning, warming the faces of partying day-trippers and Wellfleetians alike. As the 2008 Oysterfest began its second and final day, everyone seemed to be having a blast. Wellfleet’s famous street fair has grown in size and volume. Several parking lots were opened for vehicles and buses even brought guests in from the one at Newcomb Hollow Beach. The stands extended from Town Hall to Briar Lane, sprawling all the way down to The Juice and including both the second parking lot on Main and the large yard behind the old Catholic Church, reserved for children’s activities. How wonderful to see so many happy people! The oysters were, of course, what produced the widest smiles. Tourists waited patiently in line for a taste of Wellfleet’s finest while jazz singers performed on stage. Kim Kettler sold her paintings at a stand called The Oyster Museum of Art. Marousia Chavchavadze, representing American Friends of Georgia, sold handicrafts from her grandparents’ native land to benefit the non-profit. The booth, which received the most traffic, raised money for Caleb Potter. The custom t-shirts on sale were awesome! “I think its real nice the whole town is rallying for this cause,” commented one partygoer as she passed. Quilts, clothing, wood-carved birds, pottery – there was something for everyone. Quite a few people were shopping for Christmas, taking advantage of the wide assortment of possible gifts on display. The highlight of the afternoon? The oyster shucking contest, of course.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Juice: A Great Place to Eat

From the outside, The Juice doesn’t look like much. It did not get the same rave reviews this summer as Wicked Oyster or Mac’s Shack. Still, the-little-restaurant-that-could, mid-way between the two other famous eateries, certainly garnered notice from visitors to Wellfleet. Last night, by 6:30, several dozen people already stood outside, waiting for a chance to dine. When I called around 5, Liam, the chef, answered the phone himself. I could hear delight in his voice after I explained how pleased our guests have been with his fresh organic greens from Truro. Last night our Liberty Coin couple chose oysters – natch! – as a starter and scallops, cooked to perfection. In August, one of our Seagull Cottage gourmets liked the Great White house pizza with clams so much he made his parents return two nights in a row. Another guest reported creating his own smoothie with a choice of two juices and 3 fruits. At the Juice, a nice cross-section of Wellfleet regulars rub elbows. The tourists have been quick to catch on: The Juice, on Commercial Street, is a happening place. Young and old alike enjoy this moderately priced restaurant, which now serves beer and wine, and is, unfortunately, closing for the season this weekend.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oysterfest Tomorrow!

All week long I have been fielding calls about Oysterfest.
Tomorrow these tables will be full. Crowds of people are coming to Wellfleet to celebrate the oyster. We can expect traffic jams galore on the highway. I spotted a sign at the parking lot beside the post office on Route 6. It advises guests to park and walk. I wonder how many people will be willing to hike a mile into town? It was calm down at town hall today. The deserted parking lot glistened in the afternoon sunshine after morning showers. I observed two women sitting at the empty picnic tables for a chat, and Alex Hay was nailing a banner to the grandstand where the shucking contest will take place on Sunday afternoon. The Mac’s Seafood sign was already well secured in the middle of the large tent. Two dozen Porta-potties were lined up to one side. Tomorrow morning early, artists and artisans, non-profits, commercial enterprises, and sundry independent folk will set up stands along Main Street. Meanwhile, Wellfleet’s shellfisherman hauled in their very last oysters and put them on ice. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain ….

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Weekly Forecast: Rain?

There were kids playing in the surf at LeCount Hollow Beach yesterday, and older folks watching from the parking lot bench. The beachcomber in the bottom photo was determined to soak up the last rays of sun. The Outer Cape has enjoyed a record number of beautiful days so far this fall, but soon mushroom gatherers will rejoice because rain is on the way. Clouds rolled in overnight, and, judging from the forecast on the Weather Channel, they will stick around all week. In fact, the forecast shows showers Monday through Friday, which will help with the drought. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that the wet weather spares Oysterfest. In 2006, the sun shone brightly on vendors and partygoers alike. Last year over 20,000 people descended on our little town for the October street party that celebrates the Wellfleet Oyster. Rain does dampen the spirits, however. There are no beds available in Wellfleet now. Frustrated with turning people away, I called up the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce, and the secretary suggested telling callers to check the Eastham Chamber. Let's hope no one has to resort to sleeping on the beach!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More Raves for Seagull Cottage

Because Sven and I endeavor to guarantee privacy in Seagull Cottage, often we do not make the same contact with folks who are not staying here with us in the main house. I get to chat with Liberty Coin guests after breakfast and greet them when they come back from dinner. Sometimes I really regret the distance with Seagull Cottage guests, although I understand the seclusion is part of the cottage’s appeal.

My son usually updates our Guestbook but he is busy these days and often does not get to this task for weeks. Therefore, I would like to share the note I found this morning after our Seagull Cottage guests left: “Such a magical spot to spend a honeymoon! Thank you for sharing this glade in the oak forest. We walked on the beaches, swam in the ocean, watched the chickadees, titmouse, and nuthatches come and go, and were so happy and relieved to be together for a few days of peace and rest. Thank you. We hope to be back soon.”

Here is a photo of Seagull Cottage last spring. People are already beginning to ask about spring bookings. Sven and I will move into the cottage November 2 and close Liberty Coin in order to create a brand new room with private bath for 2008. We look forward to the renovation project, but regret having to turn so many folks away in November and December.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Environmental Causes of Hypothyroidism Revealed in The Green Guide

Relaxing with the October/November issue of The Green Guide, I was struck by a headline: Environmental Thyroid Threats by Catherine Zandonella, M.P.H. The article explains that hypothyroidism now affects 1 out of 12 Americans. I was amazed by this statistic. My two best friends in France and Sven all have the condition, as do I. (In fact, I still take the meds prescribed in Paris a dozen years ago.) I attributed the coincidence to the fact that we were all involuntarily subjected to fallout from the nuclear cloud that drifted around Europe following the Chernobyl explosion April 26, 1986. Now The Green Guide informs readers that other environmental factors can also be responsible. The writer mentions Triclosan, an antibacterial used in soaps, phthalates, found in plastic and used in fragrances, PFOAs from non-stick cookware and microwave popcorn bags, PBDEs which are chemical flame retardants, Perchlorates which is a component of rocket fuel detected in ground water, and BPAs, described in one of my earlier blogs, from plastic bottles. Wow! This information really needs to get out there, so please tell your friends. The Green Guide, recently purchased by National Geographic, is available to guests at Chez Sven, but I really recommend everyone subscribe. In this month’s issue there is also an interesting article called What Happens to Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater? Sven and I have been worried about this for years. Take-back programs are being organized. I will provide an update as soon as possible. Meanwhile, scum rode the waves on Wellfleet's backshore ...