Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wellfleet Selectmen Nix Turbine Project

Good news! Last night there was a special meeting of the Select Board, held at the library. Although the town had seemed to embrace wind power at Town Meeting, second thoughts made many of us, myself included, decide the wind turbine at White Crest was not such a good idea. I think the water tower hammered the last nail into the coffin, taking residents by surprise with its ugliness. The turbine would have been much taller and hard to miss. While many of us support alternative energy, it is a fact that Wellfleet attracts tourists with its stretches of wild landscape along Ocean View Drive, and any wind turbine there would disrupt the view. I applaud the Select Board's willingness to listen to town residents who were active in stopping the wind turbine project.

Paul Sieloff's Lament (on Off-Season Restaurants)

This year Todd Barry, of Moby Dick's, in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, is organizing Wellfleet's first Restaurant Week June 4-10. Local eating establishments will offer a special menu and lowered prices. Sounds like a fun way of attracting gourmets on a budget to Wellfleet!

While I was checking in a couple yesterday evening, the guests, from England, started asking about dinner options. I had to admit most of the restaurants in town are still closed. Then I started called around to find these folks a place to eat and discovered you had better not be too picky, on Tuesdays, at dinnertime, in the off-season. The Bookstore was closed. Wicked Oyster was closed. Even Wellfleet Pizza was closed. The Lighthouse phone offered up a busy signal, a hopeful sign. Still, the Brits sat before me, wringing their hands with the desire to eat soon, not wait on a possible broken phone line. So, I extended the search, in the hope they might not need to journey up to Eastham. Fortunately, the new owner at the Italian restaurant on Route 6, formerly D'Italia's and now Falcone's, answered on the fifth ring and said staff was serving dinner until ten of eight. Off the couple went with smiles on their faces. The survey left me scratching my head. I couldn't help but recall Town Administrator Paul Sieloff's lament to the Economic Development Committee last fall. He was right. Eating out, in Wellfleet, during the off-season, can be downright challenging. Better not be too hungry Monday or Tuesday night!

All of our restaurants will be open by Memorial Day. And, there's a Wanted: Fulltime Dishwasher sign posted on the door at PB BoulangerieBistro, which means the restaurant side will open shortly. (The bakery always has a line, rain or shine. Five hundred loaves of bread flew out of there on opening day. Boris, Philippe, Valerie and Dorian have been so overwhelmed by their success that they have decided to take a day off. Can you guess which one? MONDAY!!)

Have you been able to participate in Restaurant Week in another town or city? Will you try to make it to the Outer Cape this June for Wellfleet's first annual Restaurant Week?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wellfleet Guidebook Becomes Available

Every year the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce creates a guidebook for distribution to tourists. A lot of work goes into its fabrication, and I am totally in awe of the committee volunteers who devote many hours every fall to this task. Some people have said the Wellfleet guidebook will become redundant, what with the new town Web site, but I totally disagree. As an innkeeper, I love having a physical object to hand to guests when they check in, knowing it contains information valuable to anyone visiting our lovely little town.

"Once you have experienced the wonders of Wellfleet, you will know you have found the true gem of the Cape. Come to Wellfleet .... for the beauty of it .... for the fun of it. Enjoy Cape Cod at its best," write Mignon Barry and Judy Pihl on the welcome page. We can thank the following Wellfleetians for the layout design: LeeAnn Fanning, Adam Levinson, Mignon Barry, Judy Pihl, Donna McCaffrey, Bonnie Robicheau and Marcia Sexton.

Each year Chamber of Commerce members vote on artwork for the cover. Usually, the image chosen shows a familiar Wellfleet landmark, submitted as a painting. This year, to my surprise, Chamber members chose "Oyster Beds," an enhanced digital photo by Maureen Dalby. Since Wellfleet will hold its tenth annual Oyster Fest in October, seems like a great choice, don't you think?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do You Support the "Spraying Program"?

A Cape Codder, vacationing in India, a friend who does green cleaning in the summer for us, sent me the link to a Cape Cod Times poll this morning. Indeed, from Friday to Saturday, the newspaper offered an online poll regarding our utility company … The poll was removed when the ratio of folks in favor of alternatives rose above 70%, before I was able to vote ….

Monopolies are not good. Agree? Disagree? If you live in the great state of Massachusetts, and agree, you can demonstrate your opinion by signing a petition to allow new municipal utilities to replace investor-owned utilities, like Unitel and N, creating competition. Find the petition here.

But, back to the poll that began this post.

How one phrases questions is important and quite revealing. Check out the wording:

N. wants to spray herbicides that it says are safe to keep vegetation from growing into overhead Cape high-power lines. Opponents worry about the groundwater. Your thoughts?

I support the spraying program: 29.6%

Find an alternative to herbicides: 70.4%

Can you guess the opinion of the pollsters?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Plastic Litter Must Stop

Recent storms brought an increase in driftwood to Wellfleet’s beaches. From one week to the next, we were able to observe how sand would bury weathered branches and boards, at the foot of the dune, above.

Flotsam refers to cargo on a ship, washed or blown overboard during a storm at sea.

Jetsam refers to stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard, for instance to help save a ship from sinking.

I’m not sure what the correct term is for plastic objects that end up in the ocean. 25% of this trash is debris from ships, but 75% of it comes from land-based sources, ie. you and me. Last week Beth Terry, at Fake Plastic Fish, posted a David Letterman interview with Captain Charles Moore, the seaman who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The points raised are chilling. Do take a listen and spread the word.

When Michelle Obama is done with obesity, I think she needs to bring back the litterbug campaign of the Sixties, when Smokey the Bear was recruited to remind litterbugs that “every little bit hurts” because this plastic litter is being consumed by fish, and ultimately by humans, when they eat fish ….

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seagull Cottage: The Perfect Place to Propose Marriage!

Question: How does one convince an innkeeper to make a one-night booking?
Answer: Tell such a romantic story that she cannot resist.

Mark called up from New Hampshire and wanted to book one night, mid-week. At first I gave him the run-around, explaining why we don’t do one night. But then he said, “Actually, I’m coming to Wellfleet tonight to propose. Wellfleet is one of my favorite places on earth. We would be arriving around 11 pm because first we need to go to the ocean.”

His only requirement was a soaking tub. Well, we had that.

So, I said YES! The moon was rising over the ocean that night. I mean, how romantic can a man be? This type of thing should only be encouraged.

In the morning Mark dropped by the main house and exclaimed that Aidria had accepted his offer of marriage. Sensible girl!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Powerlines: The Saga Continues

Turbulent seas here on the fragile sandbar that is Cape Cod. Anyone following the struggle between the utility company and local Cape Codders, worried by the danger herbicidal spraying poses to our environment, knows that today, March 26, marks the end of the official comment period. In the works, a one-year extension, backed by our legislators and the Cape Cod Commission. Submission of the paperwork was to happen today. But the Cape Cod Times brings word that the utility company is trying a maneuver to preempt this request, claiming a 30-day extension offer of their own. And, every day I find more evidence herbicides really do not belong in our lives ... (Hat tip to Janet who sent a link to an Environment 360 article, connecting the demise of bats with pesticides. Read it here.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“Consumed by Herbicides”

Location: Great Pond. How pristine the air, how pure the environment. W-hat? Come again? Pure the environment? Says who? Wellfleet’s kettle ponds may not have pesticide residue in them yet, but mercury, from acid rain, makes any fishies swimming about inappropriate for human consumption, according to the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Yesterday I was at Town Hall, reading Annual Reports from the 1980s. Why, you may ask? The town of Mashpee passed a Board of Health regulation against herbicidal spraying in easements and under power lines in 1982. I was hoping perhaps Wellfleet had done the same. I found no evidence of such precognition, but the purity of water was definitely of greater concern in those days. In fact, our town’s folk seemed a lot more aware of environmental risk and kept issuing statements to that effect.

I ran into an old friend at Town Hall, former chair of an important committee and now one of the main opponents of the wind turbine project. He was in a rush and apologized. “Can’t talk," he said. "I am consumed by windmills.”

I laughed and replied, “I understand. I’m consumed by herbicides.”

Yesterday I found an update on the bee situation, and it's not good news. Read the piece here. Pesticides could be killing our pollinators. At the end, the reporter tells a tale about a new pesticide, created by Bayer Crop Science in 2006, supposedly not harmful to honeybees and approved by the EPA until the Natural Resources Defense Council had the sense to bring a lawsuit. The pesticide is no longer available. Note, its purpose was “to disrupt the mating patterns of insects that threaten citrus, lettuce and grapes.” Now, how crazy is that? Seems to me science needs to get back to helping the common man, rather than the corporate farmer ...

Have you heard about colony collapse? Were you aware our pollinators have become endangered over the past ten years? Are you worried about this situation?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why Go to a Wellfleet Beach?

Bookings for summer have finally taken off, with a new reservation almost every day. I have heard there are seventeen weddings in Wellfleet/Truro, which will bring many travelers to our area to discover its beauty. Hopefully these new guests will want to return and explore the Outer Cape when it is less crowded, in spring, fall, or winter.

Summer visitors often have a problem understanding the trip to the beach in other seasons. Sunbathing is their goal, with the added bonus of salty air and sand between the toes. They are in vacation-mode and simply seek relaxation.

Before the tourism industry, Wellfleet residents did not venture onto the "backshore" much at all. These days lots of locals will drive to the beach in the off-season, usually around noon. They sit in a pick-up and watch the ocean from a distance, say, while eating a sandwich. These folks may get out of their vehicle to stretch their legs, but the visual effect alone is the goal. They miss seeing what erosion has done to the dune. (Check out these round objects, one a boulder, and the other an iron deposit.)

Sven and I use the beach for exercise and renewal. We walk at low tide, and prefer walking in the off-season, when the parking lot is almost deserted. This excursion is a way of communing with nature. The Atlantic never looks the same, but always reminds me how insignificant individual humans are in the scheme of things.

Often I find my eye drawn away from the spectacle of the ocean towards the dune. People say I have an artist's sensibility, but I think anyone could see the beauty if only they bothered to look. Just take a gander at these images captured last week ...
How about you? Why do you enjoy going to the beach?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Celebrating Water Day in Wellfleet

Afraid you missed the party? Well, no. There was none, something we will have to remedy next year. Yesterday was World Water Day. All over the world, towns, cities, countries, non-profit organizations, held events in line with the motto, “Clean water for a healthy world,” with “clean” also meaning uncontaminated by toxic chemicals. Yesterday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced her agency is developing stricter regulations for four chemical compounds: tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, acrylamide and epichlorohydrin. All four compounds can cause cancer, so this is newsworthy, but there were not many media outlets reporting on it and none which connected the dots to health care, the main topic across the nation yesterday. Read about the EPA plan for stricter regulations from the source, or in a newspaper report from Las Vegas where water is already acknowledged as an issue. Organizations like Clean Water Action featured Water Day on the first page of their Web sites.

On the Outer Cape, we have drinking water from private wells (ie. groundwater), fresh water in our kettle ponds, salt water in the ocean, and acid rain, which is falling abundantly this morning. Check out how clear the water in Great Pond is. (The National Seashore, however, warns us not to eat fish from our kettle ponds due to the risk of mercury poisoning.) The ocean has been in the news recently because of major erosion to our coastline. Drinking water is also on people's mind because of N's plan to spray five herbicides and growing opposition of citizens. Read Brent Harold's excellent column on this subject in today's Cape Cod Times ...

Monday, March 22, 2010

P-town Invites President Obama to Celebratation

Congratulations go out to President Obama! Finally, the health care bill has passed! Read the fascinating account of the process in yesterday’s New York Times. I feel ashamed of the way some Americans behaved over the past few months, from my personal encounter with a Scott Brown supporter to Tea Partiers spitting on one congressman and throwing slurs at Barney Frank of Massachusetts this weekend. These must be the same individuals who crashed the early town hall meetings on health care, making us scratch our heads at their civil disobedience and vulgarity.

Did you know the Pilgrim Monument will celebrate its 100th anniversary on August 5? A letter-writing campaign has been launched to encourage President Obama to attend. An official invitation has even been sent out, but Cape residents are being urged to write a letter themselves. Find a template here. If President Obama accepts, then we will really experience Route 6 gridlock the first week of August, which also features the Pan-Mass Challenge bike race to benefit cancer research, August 7-8!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Growing Older ...

I wonder what this young man, atop the dune, was thinking? Perhaps he was remembering a pleasant evening the night before? He might have been reciting a poem or imagining the earlier life of the main character in Crazy Heart, now at Wellfleet Cinema? Or, maybe the boy was simply in awe of the landscape?

Yesterday Sven brought me an article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic Monthly, Letting Go of My Father. I recommend it.

Mortality is not something one should necessarily think about on a beach, on the first day of spring, and yet there I was, walking LeCount Hollow, with mortality on my mind.

Sven is nine years older, although he doesn’t look his age, and will turn 73 this June. We are both in good health and yet our spring calendar is chock-a-block with appointments with this or that doctor or dentist. At dinner, Sven exclaimed, “Jesus! I feel like a walking pharmacy!”

Last month he lost a hearing aid so we need new ones in order to communicate. One of these days I, too, will need hearing aids. And, they are not inexpensive, around $2500 a piece. Two ears, so think twice that much money. Insurance does not pay for hearing aids. Do the math: $5000. Before I lose my hearing, I hope to have time to replace most of my crowns and get several dental implants. So, ears and teeth demand attention. What else?

The eyes. They require glasses. I always had great eyesight. That, too, is a thing of the past. What else? Energy level. People used to call me “the Energizer bunny,” but now my batteries are running low. What else?

Memory. Senior moments don’t happen to Sven, but his excellent memory has begun to deteriorate, although he is way ahead of most of us still when it comes to current events. Out of the blue, he will say, “Did you know, for the first time, Saudi Arabia is exporting more oil to China than to America …”

So, there we were, two “older” people, walking along in the sunshine, grateful for the beautiful day, and for the ability to exercise. The young tend to take these gifts for granted. I can remember when I thought a forty-year-old person was ancient. That Beatles’ song about aging makes us laugh now. You know the one: “When I get older losing my hair, many years from now, will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine? …”

Those years pass quickly. On the way up the dune, we met two thirty-something women speaking French. I initiated a conversation. One owns a summer home here and had come down for the Preservation Hall celebration. The other lives in Paris. We told them not to miss PB Boulangerie. They said they had just discovered it. We mentioned our green bed & breakfast. The one with the summer home said she uses Old King's Highway as a short-cut and knows our house. I thought about how different my life was when I was their age, when I was a young mother.

“We’ve known each other for 20 years,” I said to Sven. ‘Isn’t it strange to think that in 20 more, you’ll be 93?”

We proceeded along and, as we reached the parking lot, Sven exclaimed, “I don’t want you to have to care for me when I’m old.”

“That’s a bridge we will cross if we ever reach it,’ I replied, giving him a hug.

In the meantime, we both intend to enjoy life.

Do you ever think about growing old? Have you made plans for old age, and by that, I do not mean retirement? In your opinion, how old does one have to be to deserve the adjective “elderly”? As more Boomers age, do you think people at the end of life should be allowed to "check out" if they feel so inclined?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wellfleet Preservation Hall Breaks Ground ....

Perfect weather for the groundbreaking ceremony this afternoon on the Preservation Hall back lawn where around two hundred and fifty Wellfleetians gathered to celebrate community. I had a dentist’s appointment, so missed the first comments, including Marge Piercy's poem and a short speech by Mary Fox that moved people to tears, but I did arrive in time to hear Selectman Dale Donovan explain how his admiration had grown for the people initially perceived as a “bunch of loonies,” intent on renovating the town’s former Catholic Church. Librarian Elaine McIlroy then spoke, saying she expected the hall soon to become Wellfleet’s second five-star establishment and congratulated all the Prez. Hall folks “who appeared to have had quite a bit of fun in the process” of creating this unique community center for our beloved town. Sharyn Lindsey‘s appearance at the podium hushed the crowd. Her speech began, “This is the town I chose to live in. I understood what community is all about when tragedy hit my family …” Above, Netta in Preservation Hall hard hat, and Marla, posing for celebratory photos. Sharyn's son Caleb also struck a pose for the numerous photographers, after a resounding rendition of “This Hall Is Your Hall,” sung by town children, led by Nicholas Gulde and Mac Hay, on the guitar. The party continued at the Lighthouse ... I looked around at all the beaming faces and thought, this happiness was created by community. Join me in the memorable refrain, “This hall’s preserved for you and me!”

Another "Water" Letter Published in the Cape Cod Times

Above, Dyer Pond, in all its glory. Spring arrives today, and the grass is already greening up outside. The crocuses are out. Our first daffodil is blooming. Tulips have begun to break through the soil. The sun is shining on the good folks at Preservation Hall, who have a perfect day for their ground-breaking ceremony and celebration. Fun starts at 1:32 this afternoon. We have no guests this weekend, which seems really sad when you consider the warmth and the fact that I posted a Hot Deal online. I know the vacancies are related to the economy, but I'm thinking we will not stay open year-round next winter ...

I wrote a Letter to the Editor and sent it to the Cape Cod Times:

“I would like to salute Yarmouth Board of Health member William Snowden, who asked that a local health care facility stop flushing pharmaceuticals, as reported March 14. His protest is well founded.

To my horror, my mother’s hospice meds were flushed down the toilet right after her death. Don’t people realize drugs are chemicals and that these chemicals will make their way into our drinking water? How can people be so shortsighted? Flushed drugs can pollute a water supply. Consumption of that water increases our body burden and the probability of developing diseases like breast cancer.

Cape Cod has sandy soil. We drink water from private wells on the Outer Cape. From my research I know pharmaceuticals and toxic chemicals do not belong in drinking water. Some countries are struggling with a lack of water.

At a time when Matt Damon starts a foundation called H2O Africa and a climbing party of celebrities, including Jessica Biel, climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro to spotlight the global water crisis, shouldn’t more attention be paid to what’s happening here at home and an effort be made to keep our own water free of toxins?”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Day for Dogs & Plovers

Yesterday was a great day for plovers and dogs. Above Carly Platt frolics in Great Pond. Dogs were out walking their masters, enjoying what felt like the beginning of spring. Yesterday the National Seashore announced it intends to pursue its plan for poisoning crows. This is not good news. What I don't understand is why the plover nests are clustered beside Duck Harbor and Bound Brook beaches and how poisoning 10 to 12 crows at these two locations will help plovers across the Outer Cape to rebound .... Anyone out there who can explain?

We have been enjoying a string of amazing days and the woods are full of hikers. Sven and I met several strangers with dogs on the path to Dyer Pond. We also ran into two women who were desperately consulting hand-held gadgets. The Provincetown residents were grateful to be pointed in the right direction to Dyer Pond, their destination.

A delegation from Green Cape, with a group of concerned citizens tagging along, made it to the Statehouse but were unsuccessful in meeting DAR Commissioner Scott Soares because no appointment had been made ahead of time ... Apparently, the press did not respond to the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition press release, entitled, "Health Concerns Lead Residents to Petition Against Toxic Herbicide Spraying by NSTAR on Cape Cod," either. It was fortunate I was not able to join the group because, as Sven said, I would have gone as ballistic as Helen Mirren, playing Tolstoy's wife Sophia after she discovered the plan to change her husband's will. Thanks go out to Rep. Sarah Peake who helped the delegation get inside the Statehouse. Rep. Peake has been such a staunch ally on this issue. (If you did not get a chance to hear Ira Wood's Outer Cape Debate Wednesday on WOMR, featuring Rep. Peake and Jared Collins, do listen to the show here.)

With the return of good weather came an increased risk of tick attack. Sven was actually bitten by a tick two days ago. Rep. Peake told me legislators are moving forward with a proposal for the creation of a research institute on Lyme disease, here in Massachusetts, after two other Lyme-related bills were defeated ...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CinemaWHAT Takes Theater-goers to the Movies

Here’s a photo of the Julie Harris Stage building, this winter, in snow. We went to the theater yesterday evening, but not to see a play. Jeff Zinn looked out at the audience and cracked a joke. It went something like this: “We are delighted to see you all. We were expecting about five times …… fewer people.” Then he added, “Guess Wellfleet likes the movies!” Jeff went on to announce something would be happening every night at WHAT in the future, which drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd. Some future movie nights will feature The Maid, End Game, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the new Terry Gilliam film.

Sven and I had come to see The Last Station, the movie about the end of Tolstoy’s life, for which Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren were both nominated for Oscars. Being a Russophile, I can tell you the director did an excellent job of recreating the mood and life in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Check out a selection of coming attractions at WHAT here.

A reminder that on Saturday, at 1:32, Wellfleet Preservation Hall will hold a ground-breaking ceremony. A photo will be taken on the steps of the former Catholic Church, followed by a celebration at the Lighthouse. If you are in town this weekend, don’t miss this exciting event.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pollution 101: Where Do I Sign Up?

Today my daughter told me that she had seen a nature doctor, who did some tests and told her that her body was less polluted than most, perhaps because she had grown up in France. This conclusion gave me pause when I realized the amounts of toxins the doctor must usually find because I did not do anything conscious to keep our diet toxin-free.

Are you aware exactly which ingredients are in the products you use and the packaged foods you eat? Read Judith Stock’s great post yesterday on this subject at Living Green, Living Well. If you want to take immediate action and stop using commercial toothpaste, visit Melanie McMinn’s Frugal Kiwi to learn how to make your own. And, finally, for those of you with kids, check out Christina Le Beau’s brand new blog Spoonfed: Raising Kids to Think About the Food They Eat.

Most recently I have been worrying about drinking water quality. Chicago reports DEET in its water supply. Officials in Amesbury expressed concern today about sodium fluoride from China, which dissolved so inefficiently that the town decided to stop using the remaining chemicals already purchased. 44 other Massachusetts communities use the same Chinese fluoride.

This month Silent Spring Institute will announce new research findings with regard to pharmaceuticals detected in pond water here on Cape Cod. In Yarmouth, the Board of Health is already studying the issue. (Read about it here.)

Is there fluoride in your town's water? Do you worry about the water you drink? Do you use a filter? Have you ever had your water analyzed to know what's in it besides H2O?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three Emails & A Phone Call

I wasn’t going to post today, working up to the moment when innkeeping and gardening take over my time and daily posts are no longer an option, but I received three emails that will interest readers, as well as a phone call. We’ll start with the phone call from an activist against the wind turbine, proposed for Wellfleet. Ginny specified the 410-foot turbine would be closer to Duck Pond than to White Crest. She told me there was a meeting tonight at 7 pm, at the library, on this issue. I explained I did not need convincing, that I had already changed my mind based on the water tower and the realization that Wellfleet needs to remain as is, no more disruption to our tourist industry, please. Ginny said this was not the type of thing she usually did, being an activist, that is. Those words made me laugh. They fit my behavior about N to a T. I urged her to find the time this week to write a letter to Scott Soares at DAR.

The emails were about last night's meeting in Harwich on herbicidal spraying. My general impression after reading them is that a huge amount of education remains to be done, although the Harwich Conservation Department did advise seeking alternatives methods of brush removal. A few quotes from the emails:

“Seems more Cape Codders know Siobhan Magnus is on Idol than N is starting to spray their ‘chemical cocktail’ and the possible effects.”

"N had the Cert. OG Harwich Cranberry Grower speak that this was a sound plan and how well N worked with him not to spray near his bogs. He's a certified & licensed pesticide contractor ... HUH??? I'm not buying cranberries from him anytime soon."

“The Town brought up the possibility of bringing in Americorp volunteers, who are working with the Conservation Department to clear out unwanted vegetation in Harwich conservation areas, at no cost to the town. A town official asked if N would be open to that, and N did not feel that was viable at this time.”

Strangely enough, the meeting was not televised, as it was supposed to be.

Finally the Board of Selectmen voted to send a letter to Scott Soares requesting a twelve-month moratorium. Good for you, Harwich. Go, activists!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Activists Speak Out on WOMR Sunday

On a dark and rainy day I journeyed down to Provincetown with four other Cape activists for guest appearances on Michelle Calling’s bi-weekly Organic Thinking radio show called “Healthy Food For the Mind.” With me were Jared Collins of Concerned Citizens, Laura Kelley of Littlefield Landscapes (right, listening to Michelle, before going live), as well as Sandra Larsen of Green Cape and Eastham Selectman Aimee Eckmann. The topic was, of course, the utility company’s plan to spray herbicides under the power lines here on Cape Cod. Below is Michelle, right after we went on the air. Two people called in with questions. I felt as if I were representing grandmothers who care about the environment, as well as green innkeepers. Spraying of herbicides will contaminate our drinking water and introduce new toxins into the dust on the popular bike trail, along the power lines. These toxins will be tracked into our homes and inns by bikers, hikers, children, and pets, anyone who enjoys nature along this magnificent stretch of Cape Cod. (Two weeks ago Time Magazine did an article called What’s in Household Dust? Don’t Ask. DDT was banned in 1972 but the toxic chemical has turned up in dust samples examined by Silent Spring Institute.) If you listen to the Herbicides broadcast on WOMR, you can hear the passion in my voice when I discussed the need to change our way of thinking and be more careful of what we put into our environment, especially here on Cape Cod where herbicides can and will leach through sandy soil into drinking water. The reason activists were on Michelle Calling's show was to urge Cape Codders to respond to DAR Commissioner Scott Soares, who has requested, by March 26, scientific facts and legal reasons why the herbicidal spraying should be challenged. Activist Jared Collins will be on the air again on Wednesday, with Rep. Sarah Peake, for Ira Wood’s new talk show Outer Cape Debate.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why Organic Cotton Makes All the Difference

Before the rains, I was able to air-dry sheets. Don’t you just love fresh linens? Here at Chez Sven, we air-dry all our sheets for that special immaculate smell, crisp and clean, like a soft summer breeze. What I like best about getting into bed: fresh sheets and the luxury of organic cotton.

Yesterday we received a shipment of new sheets. Several weeks ago a reader asked where we got our sheets, so here, once again, is our secret: During our first year of operation, I discovered a California company called Coyuchi. That first year I also learned bed & breakfast sheets take quite a beating. Good sheets tend to be expensive. If you are willing to invest in quality, please remember to buy organic.

Of course, since Chez Sven is a business, we qualify for wholesale, but I believe organic cotton is worth the extra money since better for the environment. Not many people realize regular cotton sheets are made with the use of pesticides. The detail that really shocked me was up to 200 chemicals can be applied to a single plant in one season in the USA, which adds up to 1/3 pound of chemicals per pound of cotton fiber.

The disadvantage of organic cotton sheets? The softness is so incredibly seductive that one becomes addicted. Remember the fairy tale about the princess and the pea? Whenever I sleep on non-organic cotton, I’m afraid I’m like that princess, who tossed and turned until she discovered what was under the mattress.

How about you? Are your bed linens made of organic cotton? Do you have any good leads to share with fellow readers on where to buy organic cotton sheets?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paragliders Soar at White Crest

Sven and I went to LeCount yesterday afternoon. Down the beach, we spied paragliders, so we set off at a fast clip and walked all the way to White Crest. I could never paraglide, not in my wildest dreams, but Sven would probably have enjoyed this sport had it existed when he was younger. My admiration for these fearless souls knows no bounds. Yesterday the wind was not cooperating much. We stood and watched as the men and women tried to launch into the air, got strings tangled, stopped, re-started, tried again. One fellow had mastered all the techniques and gracefully zipped back and forth along the crest of the dune. What fun he was having!

Friday, March 12, 2010

IFAW Rescues Dolphins in Wellfleet

Sixteen dolphins were stranded at Lieutenant Island and Drummer Cove, here in Wellfleet, yesterday at low tide. The news was on Boston television. Read about it in the Cape Cod Times. Six of the sea creatures were rescued. The Cape Cod Times even offers a video of the rescue. On television, the newsman said that Wellfleet is one place in the world where the most dolphins do get stranded on a regular basis, and researchers do not know why. Perhaps it has to do with the geography of Wellfleet Harbor? Does anyone out in cyberspace know the answer to this question?

Sven and I watched The Cove last week, about the murder of dolphins in Japan. The documentary, which won an Oscar, was especially moving when Ric O’Barry, Flipper’s trainer, described his quest to stop the capture of dolphins and export to sea parks throughout the world. He said several dolphins had played Flipper. Ric seemed to have a favorite, Cathy, who liked to watch herself on television. Apparently Cathy could always tell when the dolphin on the screen was a stand-in. Ric O’Barry is a little older than me. The world’s folly must be more obvious to older people. That’s why many of them become activists …

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guest Post by Laura Kelley

Readers have asked me for an update on the local situation regarding herbicidal spraying under the power lines. For a summary of a recent meeting, go here.

Below, a guest post from organic gardener Laura Kelley, of Littlefield Landscapes, on this subject. (Since our utility company is searching the Internet for mention of its name, I have abbreviated below, with simply N, but I'm sure you know, by now, which company N refers to.)

Here's Laura:

N intends to spray a mixture of five herbicides along 150 miles of Cape Cod. I’m extremely worried because herbicidal spraying is the wrong method of brush removal for Cape Cod. Federal law requires the utility company to remove vegetation under the power lines but does not mandate chemical straying. In the past, N kept vegetation below the two-foot limit by mowing.

The risks posed by herbicidal use have being vastly underestimated. Chemicals do not necessarily remain where they are applied. They will drain into our groundwater. Most Cape Cod residents get drinking water from private wells. We live on a sand bar without enough topsoil to aid in natural filtration. Spraying a dangerous combination of herbicides, with a surfactant base of petroleum, will harm habitat and insects, destroying natural pollinators, the ones we need in order to support our ecosystem, not to mention the potential harm inflicted on humans.

Why can’t N mow beneath the power lines every seven years, as in the past? Non-toxic ways to control vegetation exist and have been proved successful.

I believe the use of herbicides is not a long-term solution. I worry about my health and my neighbor’s health. There are already high rates of cancer on Cape Cod, and a large elderly population who are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures. At a time when everyone is “going green,” why does N insist on chemicals?

Laura also would like to share with you the first page of the most recent Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod Newsletter:

"Tell your legislators Cape Cod needs a regional policy for N’s herbicide program!

APCC urges you to contact Commissioner Scott Soares today and write him personally about why you do not want N to spray herbicides here. The electric power utility recently announced plans to conduct herbicidal spraying this spring and summer along its Cape Cod easements. N plans to use herbicides in 2010 in all Cape towns except Provincetown and Mashpee.

APCC is concerned about potential impacts to the environment and human health from herbicide use near wetlands, public water supply areas, private wells, rare species habitats and other sensitive areas, found along the easements that run through most of the Cape.

The spraying is part of N's vegetation management program, which in the past has solely relied on mowing and pruning to control vegetation that could pose a hazard to power lines or impede access for repairs and maintenance. As a public utility, N is exempt from certain state and local laws restricting the use of herbicide and other pesticide use.

Because of the unique characteristics of the Cape's sandy soil and prevalence of sensitive natural resources, APCC has advocated for the establishment of a Cape-wide policy that would meet N’s vegetation management program goals while protecting the Cape’s natural resources and human population from potential exposure to herbicides.

Currently, the Cape Cod Commission is working with several towns to help identify the location of private wells and other sensitive areas, and has initiated preliminary talks with N with the goal of reaching agreement on a Cape-wide policy."

To help ensure that these important discussions continue, please contact Commissioner Scott Soares, DAR, to express concern by leaving him a fact-based reason why N should not apply the herbicide program throughout Cape Cod. Thank you for your attention. (Scott Soares, Commissioner DAR, 251 Causeway St. Suite 500 Boston, MA 02114)

Consternation & Magic at Duck Harbor

“At the bayside, the sea whispers,” Sven said at Duck Harbor yesterday. “But, at the ocean, the sea roars. Very different.”

He was right, of course.

I always recommend Duck Harbor to our guests. It takes more time to get there, but this beach never fails to please. There are pretty shells for children to collect, a wide expanse of firm sand to explore at low tide, comparatively few people.

During our walk, we talked about how Obama resembles Kerensky in some ways. Everyone had so much hope for change. But being in charge does not always mean using that power effectively. When you walk at Duck Harbor, with the waves lapping at the shore, fussing between Democrats and Republicans seems even more puerile. It’s so peaceful there. Easy to imagine a better world, one where Jihadists don’t try to blow up airplanes, where greedy insurance companies can no longer deny coverage and premiums are affordable, where bankers don’t earn billions of dollars, where everyone has a job and organic food on the table, where pollution of the environment doesn't exist. At the far end of the beach, we discovered a mass of plastic bottles and garbage, thrown overboard by people on pleasure boats. Seeing this mess jolted us back to reality …

We don’t drive out to Duck Harbor much anymore. In fact, this is the first time we have been in months. One of my reasons for our trip was to check whether the face of the low dune had been chiseled by the wind, as in winters past. I was not disappointed. Look at the marvelous photo below, a photo that might spark the imagination of a child. One could write a whole story about the inhabitants of a make-believe sand village, similar to Mesa Verde and other real dwellings of Native Americans. Want to make one up?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Newcomb Hollow Conjured Up a Pig …

The Outer Cape beaches experienced much erosion during the last series of winter storms, as reported here yesterday. (Read more in the Cape Cod Times.) Sven and I have been exploring these beaches together, taking advantage of relatively mild weather for March and low tide in the middle of the day. At Cahoon Hollow, it was impossible to get down the dune to the beach. The ocean had taken such a bite out of the steep cliff that descent would have been foolhardy. I noticed the DPW had put up a sign to remind visitors to be careful of the "sliding dunes." We then proceeded on to Newcomb Hollow to see if the shipwreck were again visible. No sign of it, not one measly timber.

Susie Quigley, from the library, was also out for a walk.

“Oh, my!” she exclaimed from the parking lot access. “How wide the beach is!”

We agreed. An extensive sandbar had emerged, which made the beach seem wider than usual. Sven suggested Susie visit Truro where there’s considerable erosion that closed the Longnook access road. She said she would and set off towards the north. Sven and I had walked south.

Newcomb Hollow has an impressive clay deposit to the right of the parking lot. Over the years, we have watched erosion move it forward from the dune. Yesterday we found the latest changes quite dramatic. Slivers of clay pointed skywards reminding me of Monument Valley in miniature. Chunks had broken off and tumbled into the sand. Here and there burgundy iron deposits were visible. Large gray rocks poked out from the lighter-colored clay. The clay deposit had as many crevasses as the face of an ancient fisherman. Towards the bottom, one great glob reached out like a massive hand.

Now, why am I blogging about a clay deposit on our beach?

Seeing the clay deposit up close brought back strong memories of my kids’ childhood.

One summer there had been a hurricane. We all trooped down to the ocean afterward, at my mother’s suggestion, and collected clay, uncovered by the storm. My three kids sat out on the lawn, spread with newspapers, and worked the clay to their heart’s content. Everyone made at least one small object. I think my youngest daughter rolled snakes and built vases. Her sister made tiny cats. My son, the eldest, had already learned a few advanced techniques in pottery class and, for some reason, decided to create pigs. (Here he is, dressed in Cape Cod T-shirt, hands coated with gray clay.)

Their oeuvres-d’art were subsequently fired at a local kiln. To our surprise, the clay turned orange. I carted these treasures back to France in my suitcase. The one I remember best was the squat orange pig, created by my son. It soon took up residence on our Roche & Bobois living room shelf.

When I got a divorce and left that house, Paul’s pig was one thing too many. I simply couldn’t transport it back to the United States. Yet, it called out to me from the shelf. “Don’t leave me here! Take me with you.”

But I did leave it. I had to.

That pig may still be in my ex-husband’s possession, or his new wife may have thrown it away. What remains is the memory of that happy time, when my kids collected clay on the beach, wrapped it up in newspapers, and created art on the front lawn here at their grandparents’ home, now Chez Sven …

Sven and I have discovered that one of the more unexpected drawbacks of divorce and re-marriage is having a partner with whom one does not share a history. My second husband often will tell stories of his own children. I listen but never experienced the emotion tied to the events he describes. The stories do not resonate. I may be able to empathize, but I cannot relate.

Have you experienced a similar loss of history after a divorce?

For those of you fortunate enough to have never been divorced, have you seen enough photos of erosion or would you like more? When you get to the Outer Cape this summer, which beach will you visit first and why?