Friday, January 30, 2009

Wellfleet's Last Oyster Shack: Where Should It Go?

During the third meeting of the Economic Development Commission, Sam Bradford, from Mac’s Seafood, described how bushels of oysters were once stored in the building that is now Mac’s Shack, for shipment all over the United States. The oysters were piled high, up to the ceiling, in fact, he said. Other oyster shacks were on stilts in the water nearby. There were quite a few scattered around Duck Creek when shellfishing was the town's main industry. David Wright included photos of old oyster shacks in his Famous Beds of Wellfleet, available here. Wellfleet still has one shack left standing, moved to its present location in 1951. The Wellfleet Historical Commission wants to recover the shack from Burgess Mountain, off Gull Pond Road, and move it closer to the harbor. Chairwoman Janet Erickson says the DPW has volunteered its services for the move. Selectman Jerry Houk has called the shack “a piece of the town’s history.” Where should Wellfleet’s last oyster shack be put? The library is collecting ideas. If you have a suggestion, do send it to Elaine McIlroy, library director.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What to Do With Broken CFL Bulbs

A couple weeks ago I did an update on CFL bulbs after receiving an email from the Environmental Working Group. A guest actually broke a CFL bulb in one of our reading lamps last fall, and I had been wondering what to do with the bulb. Here was the answer. Pleased with my new knowledge, the next time I went to our transfer station, I asked an attendant where such bulbs should be put, where was the mercury bin?

“Are they broken?” the attendant asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Just throw them in the trash.” “What?” I exclaimed, perplexed. “I thought you had a special procedure.” “Only if the bulbs aren’t broken,” came the response.

Well, this made no sense to me. Bulbs that are broken still contain mercury.

So, I called the Mass DEP mercury hotline: 866 963 7287. A very stern recorded voice advised what to do if you break a bulb, scary stuff like
• Do not use a broom or vacuum to clean up
• Close off the room
• Vent the area
• Keep kids away.

One gets the idea that CFL bulbs should have TOXIC written all over the packaging.

Online, I found a number to call at the Barnstable Transfer Station. The woman I spoke to there said, yes, of course Barnstable has a procedure. “Bag it, if broken. Drop it off here. There is a table.”

Wow! A separate table for broken bulbs, potentially leaking mercury.

Finally I called Wellfleet Town Hall and spoke with the health agent. She intends to make sure Wellfleet is soon giving out correct information to folks who bring broken CFL bulbs to the dump.

For details on proper disposal in your area, see this link.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CEDC Holds Third Meeting

The Wellfleet Citizens’ Economic Development Commission held its third meeting this afternoon. We began with a presentation by Marla Rice and Nicholas Gulde of Preservation Hall who described past activities and hopes for future events. Above, is a photo of their first Deck the Halls crafts sale, which was attended by 200 people in December, 2007. The new non-profit plans to rent out space for weddings. Preservation Hall will, hopefully, become a popular wedding venue in the years to come. The renovated building will even boast a cultural box office, information that was sweet music to the years of Commission members since we had already identified the need for a centrally located information booth... Our second guest was Lyle Butts of Bay Sails Marine. Lyle told us about the invention of the pumpout boat, “one of the most successful ways to remove sewage that has come along.” Before the existence of pumpout boats, sewage was dumped in the bay or ocean. Alcar Environmental pumpout boats now function in every state on the east coast, as well as in Seattle. Lyle suggested uniting some of these boats for a competition. The owners of pleasure boats, like the one to the right, are happy. Harbors are happy, too, and cleaner, 'natch, thanks to this great invention, made right here in Wellfleet. Lyle’s speech made members toss around the idea of a Green Harbor weekend, or a celebration of Earth Day. Finally, Ned Hitchcock and Chair Paul Pilcher reported on a meeting with Bob Prescott and Melissa Lowe at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. A worthwhile way to spend an afternoon!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Call of Nature

Nature calls to anyone who ventures out on a cold, cold winter day to the Atlantic Ocean. The beach may be too frigid for walking, but it is the Must-Go-Down-To-The-Sea-Again syndrome at work and it draws natives from their warm houses into the parking lots. The sight of the ocean replenishes the soul. There is always a car or two. Some people bring lunch. Others, at varying times of day, gather to contemplate their lives as the wind brushes sand across the top of the crinkled dune at White Crest, snowy and deserted.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Destination, Nantucket – Or, Should That Be Wellfleet?

Guests from abroad have no idea how much nicer it feels to spend a holiday in Wellfleet, so I thought I would explain why the Outer Cape is, to Americans – who did not inherit a home on Nantucket – the obvious choice for a summer vacation. So-o-o-o, let’s ask Wellfleet and Nantucket to step into the ring. In the far corner, we have an island with miles of sandy beaches, and the remnants of what was once a booming whaling port, now a town that lives off tourists, extremely overpopulated in summer, and only attainable by ferryboat or airplane. In the near corner, we have its trendy contender, our quaint little village, located mid-way between the two ends of the National Seashore nature park. Brrrrng! And the fight is on. Wellfleet is the perfect place to anchor oneself and explore Cape Cod. Visitors can go as far south as Chatham for boutique shopping and sightseeing, or north to Provincetown for whale and people watching. Come to Nantucket, stay on Nantucket. Nantucket protests that who would want to leave? Well, when the year-round population reached 10,000, a lot of people did. Kayaking, hiking, and biking are three activities that are easier to enjoy in Wellfleet. Why? 61% of Wellfleet belongs to everyone, land, for the most part, without construction, open space forever thanks to President Kennedy. Is, Nantucket knocked out yet? Nope, it gets up and swings back with acres and acres of land. Wellfleet counters that Nantucket’s conservation land may be preserved forever, but it is not in a people’s park, like the National Seashore. What’s more, Wellfleet has magnificent deserted ocean beaches, serene kettle ponds, which kids love, and a shoreline along Cape Cod Bay optimal for swimming, not to mention top-notch theater and affordable restaurants. While both destinations are beautiful, a trip to Nantucket involves more hassle than a trip to the Outer Cape, and a much greater outlay of money. Nantucket is so chi-chi businesses even have to import service staff, unable to afford housing, who arrive in the morning and depart at night. You get more bang for your buck in Wellfleet. Friendly natives, spectacular scenery, great value. If you are looking for a status-driven place where everyone dresses to the nines, Nantucket’s for you. Should you prefer a real small town atmosphere, try Wellfleet, a community where the living is still good. … And, the winner??? Wellfleet! Hurry on up!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Importance of Dreams

The Obama family’s move into the White House this week got me to thinking about the meaning of home. How long will it take the Obamas to feel at home in Washington, I wonder? Yesterday, for the first time in a dozen years, Sven and I really felt like we were coming home when we arrived in Wellfleet after a weekend away. For Sven, this feeling was quite revolutionary. I do not think he ever felt “home” while we lived in France. Sweden had remained in his heart and mind. Now, his heart seems to have moved to Wellfleet. Down at the harbor, in late afternoon today, we were again reminded of the incredible beauty Wellfleet possesses. While beauty helps, home is really where you feel the most comfortable and happy. And, we certainly feel comfortable here. The new kitchen and green room, a dream for so long, give immense pleasure. It is important for the soul that one has dreams and sees them realized. All across America a dream will come true tomorrow and the energy unites us in an amazing way. It is a feeling of great possibility, unlike anything I have ever experienced in my lifetime, surpassing even John Kennedy's Camelot. Let us hope the new First Family of America feels at home in the White House and realizes their dreams there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Green Update: How to Dispose of Broken CFL bulbs

Nationally, Green for All’s President Van Jones is before Congress today. Support his effort by signing this petition.

From Green Innkeeper Extraordinare Sheri Gibbs at White Pines Victorian Lodge in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin comes this reminder about CFL bulbs: “Curly green light bulbs contain a deadly mercury and have to be disposed of at a hazardous waste site whenever they burn out or break. We need to know how to handle a situation when one breaks because the mercury will come out, breaks into tiny pieces, and every piece has to be cleaned up and disposed of, because a tiny speck of it can kill a kid, a pet, or make a grown adult seriously sick. Also, it's not like a liquid that simply lands and can be wiped up; mercury can roll around and disappear in a corner, under a piece of furniture, or stick to a carpet or rug or your shoe, anything. Look for gray, silvery, round-edged dots or pools of it. This link from the Environmental Working Group has information about newer, safer bulbs, ones that contain the least amount of mercury, and about how to dispose of bulbs, what to do when one breaks...everything we need to know about using these bulbs. There are also websites you can use to find a hazardous waste disposal site in your area.” I checked the charts and discovered Wellfleet’s transfer station accepts these bulbs, which is a relief.

Locally, I received an email this morning from Clean Power Now president Barbara Hill, announcing victory for Cape Wind. "The Minerals Management Service issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cape Wind Project." Hurray!

Finally, during the holiday, Mid-Cape Home Center went green, eliminating as much paper as possible.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CEDC Holds Second Meeting

Yesterday the Citizens Economic Development Committee held its second meeting. Wellfeet's kettle ponds (Dyer, above, yesterday) were identified as one of our town's assets. The committee first heard from Jeff Zinn and Kathy Schorr, representing WHAT. Then Lisa Brown and Alex Hay explained S.P.A.T. and the logistics of staging festivals like Oysterfest. Kathy Schorr began by suggesting ways to promote cultural tourism. Together with a member of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, she said WHAT had identified the need for a map for visitors, a central office open year round where business people can post events of interest to visitors, and a comprehensive, updated Web site. From Jeff Zinn, we learned that this winter WHAT started broadcasting Metropolitan Opera performances. (The next broadcast is sold out.) Starting January 18th, the theater will offer exclusive 92nd Street Y programs broadcast live via satellite, with special post-event discussions at the library. “This is cheap,” said Zinn about the $9 entry charge. “And that’s free,” he added, referring to both the library events and the Inauguration ceremonies, visible next Tuesday on WHAT’s big screen. Alex Hay, of Mac's Seafood, said the atmosphere has greatly changed in Wellfleet since he and his brother started out almost a dozen years ago: “The town has shifted from being anti-business to pro-business,” a fortunate development, we all agreed. Alex then explained the extremely successful “From Farm to Table” oyster grant tours, paired with wine tastings, that were initiated at last year’s fall festival. “It is easier to make money off people than shellfishing,” his cousin Sam Bradford pointed out. Both men expressed the hope that someone would step forward and organize such tours as a business. From the audience, Judy Taylor remarked that first the red tape involved would need untangling. Lisa Brown volunteered to show future festival organizers the ropes, should a spring event be organized. By the end of the meeting, many ideas had been exchanged, and committee members all agreed that an improvement in co-ordination would have to be one of our primary goals. Think of Wellfleet as the Hindu god Shiva . Each hand needs knowledge of what the other hands hold …

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tough Times Ahead ...

The Federal Government is cutting back. Familiar blue mailboxes in town have been disappearing. The mailbox in front of the public library is gone, as are the three that used to stand at the post office door. On television, Suze Ormon is hawking her Action Plan for 2009. “Only spend money for what you need, not for what you desire,” she intones. The economic meltdown and Ormon's resultant philosophy have created a nation in lock-down mode money-wise and this trend is showing in our reservations. I cannot help but be reminded of a comment my mother made about a brass bowl purchased at an Eldreds’ auction in Dennis: “I bought it because it seemed, to me, to be beautiful. Of course, I didn’t need it. But one does not need a sunset.” Yes, we do, Mother! We all need sunsets more than ever in these difficult times.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Where to Find Folk Art on Cape Cod

Sven and I went searching for folk art and came up pretty empty-handed. We found the occasional carved boat but tracking down real folk art turned out to be a challenge. When Cape Cod real estate was less expensive, more artists were able to live here. They painted not only on canvases but used whatever might be handy as a support for their work. I can remember seeing brightly painted doors and murals, even in the seventies, when I started coming to Cape Cod as an adult. We did find one such panel in Truro, above, and other whimsical figures painted on the door of Moby’s Cargo below, here in town. Of course, the most amazing example of folk art in Wellfleet remains the doors of the former Catholic Church, soon to be transformed into Preservation Hall. Some artists would beachcomb in winter and paint planks that washed up on the shore. I started thinking about this subject last week when two decoys by Charles Perdue were evaluated on Antiques Roadshow at over $10,000. Decoys and wooden sea birds can be very beautiful. I have seen nice old ones in antique shops. From the Internet, I learned that Cape Cod does possess a folk art museum in Cotuit. There is even a Web site with information on Cape Cod decoys. Anyone who is interested in picking up a piece of folk art should frequent estate sales. Several are held every Friday/Saturday in fall and spring. Prices are usually quite affordable. Often the estate owners collected these artifacts at a time when folk art was under-appreciated. It is also possible to find local folk art through an auction house. Eldreds’ in Dennis, for example, allows visitors to search its Web site. I typed in “Folk Art” and discovered their next auction will feature a painted, carved wood, wall decoration in heart form. The low estimate is $300, and high, $500. Hey, we have one of those! We picked it up a few years ago at the dump ….

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Reflections on the Way to Dyer Pond

Crunching over the ice and snow along the path to Dyer Pond, Sven and I listened to the wind whistling through the pine trees and considered our footwear. Sven, a historian, told me that, in the olden days, Swedes stuffed over-sized leather shoes with dry hay. There was a hayrack, shaped like a barrel, in every kitchen. I thought he was referring to Viking times, but no. Hay-stuffed shoes were apparently all the rage in the 19th century, up north. They kept feet warm, and you didn’t sweat. The hay was, of course, disposable. The mattresses were also filled with hay. Useful information, perhaps, for these tough times ahead? We also discussed a startling piece in The New Yorker about victims of Madoff selling off heirloom jewels in Florida, which brought the conversation to the face of evil, a topic that Sven examined in his last blog. At Dyer Pond, ice was melting, but it should quickly refreeze with the cold spell predicted by the weatherman. Perhaps the ponds will be safe for skating after all this January?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Frohe Weihnachten und alles Gute im neuen Jahr

In Europe, New Year's greetings could be sent throughout the month of January, a custom I found particularly sensible as it provided more time to compose a personal message for each friend or acquaintance. When you are an innkeeper, you receive additional greetings from former guests. Some send photos to share as they remember their vacation. Often Sven's elegant screen door is shown in the photos. Today we received a lovely card from German guests who visited last May with their children. Word of mouth is one of the ways B&Bs acquire a good reputation. Fortunately, our guests really enjoyed their stay on Cape Cod. Here is what they wrote on the Christmas card: "We still have lots of fond memories of our trip to the US and especially to your place and Cape Cod. Actually, we liked your place most of all. It is a lovely treasure hidden in the forest, and we were very lucky that we found you. I hope you and Sven were able to realize all your projects, like reconstructing the new path. Maybe we will see each other again? We are making lots of advertisements for your place among our friends. With fond greetings ..."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wellfleet's Railroad Connection

Yesterday Sven and I were walking along a path, which used to be a right-of-way for the railroad that brought visitors to the Outer Cape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The trestle that once spanned Duck Creek, behind Mac’s Shack, is still visible, although disintegrating. Here is the same spot, in a different season, viewed from a different angle, much greener, and so lush in the summer sunshine. I decided to do some quick research on Wellfleet's railroad connection. The trains would arrive at the depot building on Duck Creek – converted into Just Desserts during the 1980s, then sold and now renovated as a private home. The Old Colony Railroad Company linked Orleans and Wellfleet in 1871 and opened up a whole new world for Wellfleetians who had only traveled previously by sea, for the most part. The steam engines allowed people to visit Brewster, or even journey further south, as well as to travel up to Truro and P-town, by rail. Passengers must have had a great view of Duck Creek as their train arrived in the village of Wellfleet! The line ran up Railroad Avenue, descended under Holbrook, and presumably continued along the bottom of the ridge. The route then passed through the woods beyond the library where it is possible to make out the elevated mounds that carried the tracks. The journey from Boston to Provincetown took five hours. Invention of the automobile facilitated travel and the passenger rail line ceased operation in the late 1930s. Freight was transported by rail until the 1960s. Today, much of the old right-of-way supports houses, so it would not be feasible for the trains to make a comeback, unfortunately. Part of the right-of-way was converted into the bike trail which now allows bikers to ride from Wellfleet to Dennis in safety. What fun it must have been to travel along Cape Cod Bay in the olden days! After reaching the depot in Truro, the tracks crossed the Pamet River. The broken beams that once supported the tracks can still be seen, below, with Corn Hill in the distance.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cold as Ice

The economy has tanked. The New York Times reports a dozen successful Broadway shows will be closing this month. On NPR yesterday, Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Pops, explained his hope that people would continue to attend concerts in spite of the recession, but, let’s face it: entertainment is no longer a priority. Everywhere folks are hunkering down, clasping their last dollar bills to their chest, determined to sit out what may require years of endurance. Still, as Mr. Lockhart pointed out, we all need to be entertained in these desperate times. Rest and recuperation becomes even more valuable. For this reason, I hope visitors will continue to journey out to Wellfleet to escape through its beauty. This afternoon Sven and I crossed Uncle Tim’s Bridge and walked along the former railroad track until we reached a sign that indicated we could go no further. The sign read Private Property, No Trespassing. I could not help but wonder at the arrogance of the new owners, up on the hill, undoubtedly rich, since able to afford a harbor view, who did not care what the neighborhood thought of them, as I reported last year. Indeed, we were standing on what had once been a popular path. For years, this path was enjoyed by Wellfleetians and tourists alike who rested on the bench provided by Nancy Durkee and signed her visitors’ book, during all seasons. It is the mentality that bothers me. (I bought this house. It was expensive. With it, comes a view. I do not intend to share. I do not care what neighbors think. Screw them!) In some ways, these homeowners, whom I do not know, represent the new generation of economically successful individuals who have too much hubris and not enough empathy for other human beings. Perhaps, with the economic crisis, such people will learn that we are actually all dependent on each other and might do well to take the wishes of others into consideration.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Sven joins me in wishing blog readers peace, happiness, and good health in 2009!