Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

All Hollow's Eve dawned cloudy and cold on Cape Cod. Yesterday afternoon we had a Main Street parade, which is always fun for people of all ages. Wellfleet also celebrates the holiday today from 4 to 7 with "Trunk or Treat" at the drive-in, hosted by the Firefighters' Relief Association. The registration flyer warns that participants should be ready to accommodate 400 - 500 children. Yesterday night we attended a Halloween party for grown-ups, and one of the ladies said she had participated in last year's Trunk or Treat. Her car's theme was "Haunted Oysters." We never received many visits from trick or treaters out here in the woods, but now that the firefighters do such a great job of organizing a fun event, no kids come at all. This year I actually grew a Halloween pumpkin. As a child, I lived in the same DC neighborhood as then VP Richard Nixon. His wife used to hand out little boxes of California raisins. As a child, I was not too keen on this choice, but today it makes perfect sense. I lost the Halloween spirit when I moved to France. Today French children have started celebrating the holiday. And, Wellfleet's favorite Frenchmen? As you may remember, they are hosting the PB Pumpkin Carving Contest. I asked blog readers to guess what the prize might be. Boris sent an email this morning, so I can share what the top carver receives with you: first prize is dinner for two.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thoughts on Erosion at Newcomb Hollow Beach

When Sven and I went for our walk today, we chose Newcomb Hollow. The beach has become wider, as erosion moved sand up from Marconi and Cahoon towards the tip of the Cape. Since the tide was low at noon, we could walk right along the shore. Pussycat waves lapped at our feet. Anyone familiar with this beach will recognize how strange it looks in the photo above, and totally out of proportion. The sand level has risen so that the parking lot is only a dozen feet away. As a result, the beach appears misshapen and contorted, just as does our democracy before election day, 2010. I watched Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert at the mall on television this afternoon. They put on a mighty effort. Will insanity win out on Tuesday? While I am not totally satisfied with what President Obama's "change we can believe in" turned out to be, I understand how difficult the task of reversing direction in two short years must be. I am baffled by the hordes of people who, according to the polls, will abandon ship on Tuesday and return a Republican majority to Congress. Seems to me the Republicans were responsible for the mess our country is in. I hope Jon Stewart is right that most Americans are as perplexed by the media hype and cable TV pundits as I am. Jon Stewart used a traffic jam at the entrance to a tunnel to explain how most people behave. They are courteous to fellow drivers. They go about their daily lives with reason. They are not surprised to find the light at the other end of the tunnel is not the promised land but only New Jersey. I hope those people will vote on Tuesday.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Calling All Pumpkin-Carvers!

Everyone loves pumpkin-carving contests at Halloween, and a pumpkin-carving contest with a prize from PB Boulangerie Bistro, well, who can resist? There's still time to grab a pumpkin, flame up your imagination, and switch on the creativity. Entries are expected by late afternoon. We stopped by today, on the way back from Orleans. A few pumpkins have already come in, like this marvelous tribute to Philippe and Boris. I had never seen watercolored pumpkins before, I mean, "carving" does usually require knife rather than paintbrush, but, hey, why not? The entries will be displayed on a table inside. Winners will be announced on Halloween. And, what's the prize? Good question. I forgot to ask. Phillipe and Boris, are you listening? Okay, readers. Here's your chance. What would you like the prize to be?

Listening to Sand Dunes

I’ve noticed beachgoers, in summer, usually sit facing the ocean, or towards the sun, if a suntan is the main purpose of their visit. This typical beach behavior often means missing part of the experience. The view of the Atlantic is pretty spectacular at Wellfleet’s LeCount Hollow but I find my eyes are also drawn to the dunes, especially in quiet season. How can anyone not be moved by their beauty? On a good day, the bright blue sky creates incredible contrast with the reddish-beige sand, as in the photo above, taken last week below the Marconi Station site. On a so-so day like Thursday, when the sun played hide and seek, I find the drama is less color and more texture. Has there been a lot of erosion? Has the wind traced lines in the dune flank? Was one of the staircases buried? How high is the level of the sand? The dunes always look different and have stories to tell, if you only take the time to listen. Sometimes, this can be hard, when waves crashing demand attention, but it is always worthwhile ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I HEART Dr. Gupta and Senator Lautenberg

Yesterday I wrote about blog abandonment and some of you rallied with comments, (thank you for that!), including a request for another photo of Uncle Tim's Bridge, above. I think it would be hard to stop posting, although there’s a good chance daily entries will be less of an option for me this winter. Next week B&B duties will diminish, but November is slated as renovation month at Seagull Cottage, so I will wield a paintbrush rather than a pen. It’s almost impossible to find blocks of hours to revise my novel when so many other circus rings are active and require attention. Facebook is in the middle ring and it sucks enormous amounts of time. I have discovered the site replaces the media to a certain extent in that Facebook friends often share news stories not covered in the press.

A status report by a Facebook friend alerted me to Sanjay Gupta’s participation in a New Jersey hearing on the regulation of toxic chemicals, organized by Senator Frank Lautenberg. I immediately shared this news: “Unable to move the Senate this session, Sen. Lautenberg of New Jersey took the debate on toxic chemicals to his home state. CNN's Sanjay Gupta is one of the people who testified that chemicals in the environment may be harming kids. (The rest of us, too, I might add.)”

Please read the CNN article or simply watch the video of Sanjay’s testimony. Dr. Gupta turned down the job of Surgeon General of the USA to retain his freedom, and it looks like this was the right decision.

I have not yet called for the first meeting of my green working group, and members are probably scratching their head as to why, but I do plan a November screening of Sandra Steingraber’s new award-winning documentary Living Downstream at the Wellfleet Public Library. I also continue my education on the impacts of body burden and endocrine disruption, and share what I learn here. So much to do, so little time!

Innkeeping is a job that requires work every day in season. What I mean is we do not get weekends off, unless we plan ahead. This is one of the reasons innkeepers burn out so fast, and why I harp on the fact that innkeeping is not an activity for retirement, unless, of course, one has the means to pay for help.

Are your days as busy as mine? Have you come up with ways to staunch the social-media time drain and get other things done once your work day is finished? Do you spread the word about toxic chemicals in the environment to family and friends? Did you watch Sanjay Gupta's CNN special Toxic America?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blog Reader Makes My Day

All I can say is, "Wow!" Anne calls. Who’s Anne? Anne has a house on Ocean View Drive, only her house is occupied by relatives and therefore other accommodations are required.

“Do you have a room available tonight?” she asks.

Uh-oh. We are full this week, no rooms available. But, Anne sounds so nice ...

I am about to answer when she adds, “I’ve seen your blog and it’s absolutely charming.”

Oh, my. Cue orchestra playing, flower petals floating through the air, champagne bottles being uncorked. Anne is one lady who just made my day. On an evening where I have been thinking of blog abandonment in order to spend more time on other writing, I feel myself being transported yet again by the knowledge that I do touch people and make a difference in the lives of those who, like me, love Wellfleet.

Are you one of them? What makes Wellfleet so special? What would you like me to photograph this fall? Do you dream of Wellfleet all year long?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bonus Post: Uncle Tim's Bridge, Today

An October Day in the Life

I turned off my alarm this morning and went back to sleep, a victim of end-of-season exhaustion. Our Green Room guest had requested breakfast at 8:30, since she’s from Newcastle and jetlagged still. Organic strawberries and granola were on the table by 8:25. We chatted for a while and reviewed options for her stay. (The weatherman is forecasting a three-day spell of rain.) She set off on a walking tour of Wellfleet while Sven and I prepared the cottage for our next guests. Sometimes this preparation feels like practice for a marathon. You do it over and over and over. You do it until you feel as if you could vacuum in your sleep, finding every corner, every cobweb. You arrange the bed just so, with ironed pillowcases framing the sachet of lavender … Once the sun came out and the temperature rose, I opened all the windows to draw fresh air inside. I also cut back the phlox, planted a few perennials, and picked the final raspberries of 2010. Meanwhile, Sven was fixing the birdfeeder. Those lucky birds of his! He fashioned a new perch from wood so they don’t have to balance on a wire anymore. Then he filled the birdbath and, together, we watched the chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches splashing about... The rest of the afternoon was spent waiting and everyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about that. Our guests planned to get here around 3. At 4:00 there was still no sign of them. There was a meeting at town hall about Harborfest, a new early-June event to bookend tourist season with Oysterfest, but innkeeping duties take precedence over such meetings. So, instead, of heading downtown, I found myself raking leaves, and being grateful there are no noisy leaf-blowers in the neighborhood. (Great article in The New Yorker on this scourge of suburban living, the leaf-blower, which kicks up nasty stuff in the air that makes asthma worse.) The guests arrived at 5:30. And, they apologized profusely for being late …

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sounds of Fall

The ocean picks up momentum in the fall. In the photo above, one can almost hear waves crashing on the shore. We did not get to the ocean yesterday. Instead, I listened to sounds right here in my office ....

A flock of grackles suddenly descends from the sky. They chatter and call to each other, as if on break and desperate to exchange the latest gossip. The lawn seems alive with them. They nudge each other and strut about. Then, as if on command, with a great flapping of wings, they rise up and are gone.

Sven, over at the cottage did not see the grackles. He has just filled the birdfeeder. How do I know? He’s banging on a metal scoop to call the chickadees. It’s not subtle – a bongedy-bong-bong that he taps out in rhythm several times, surely enough noise to be heard if any local birds are in the vicinity.

A seagull sails by, way above, riding the air currents. Flying looks like such fun!

Thunder rumbles in the distance. The wind picks up and rustles the yellow leaves on one of our two persimmon trees. Sheets, drying on the clothesline, begin to flap in the breeze.

A car rumbles by on our dirt road, no doubt driven by a non-resident, who was here for the weekend, and is now taking the short cut to Route 6.

The phone rings. I explain we are booked next Friday and Saturday, yes, both rooms. Due to the cold weather, Liberty Coin Suite has reverted to its rightful owners. Our last Liberty Coin guests of the season left in the morning.

The back door shuts with a bang.

Sven does not hear too well anymore without his hearing aids and my best china clinks as he fills the dishwasher. He presses On and, with a whoosh, water enters the machine. I hear him move into the living room and sit down.

“Nice to be able to read the newspapers out here without feeling you are intruding on the guests,” my husband shouts, now stretched out on the couch. The pages of the New York Times Week in Review rustle as he turns to the op-ed.

In the office, I hear a pitter-patter of feet above my head. Not grandchildren. They are in Los Angeles. The sound is made by a weasel that has taken up residence between floors. Pretty soon he will be the only guest that remains …

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From the Truro Dump to Ptown in One Day, Part 3

Two days ago I posted photos of the Truro dump, one of Sven’s favorite places. We had stopped on our way to Provincetown so he could visit the swap shop. While my husband went inside to check the book selection, I approached the metal pile, higher than usual, and photographed rusty springs from an ancient bed frame. It did not take long for me to become captivated by the variety of junk discarded by Truro residents. Soon a woman appeared. She examined a brown cabinet. In no time, it had become a valuable object to recycle. The final photo showed broken refrigerators and a beat up pick-up truck, obviously well loved and decorated with the American flag.

While I was taking photos, Sven saw two people struggling to possess a carton of used books from a recent drop-off inside the swap shop. “Frantic” is the word he used to describe these avid book collectors, and I doubt it was because they wanted to read. Such books have some resale value.

In Provincetown, I was struck by the range of luxury items available. There were end-of-season sales going on. Pedestrians exited shops with several shopping bags full. What a lot of junk you can buy along the middle eight blocks of Commercial Street! After a while, these objects will make their way to the dump, or Ruthies, Provincetown’s immaculate thrift shop

We also saw a blond transvestite, with a microphone, who had an exceptional voice and was belting out a tune from the 1930s. Tourists sat on benches and took in the free show, not sure how to react. Behind them rose the magnificent town hall, newly renovated, one of the four towers in the photo above.

A trip to Provincetown, even at the end of October, still feels like experiencing some psychedelic drug. Images flood the brain. Colors scream for attention. Buildings are painted a bit too perfectly. Same-sex couples rush here and there, holding hands, eager to become part of the spectacle. Every once and a while, we would get a glimpse of the harbor. The salt-sea air was all around. Seeing the sea was reassuring in a way. This is a real place, not someone's fantasy.

When we got home, I realized we had witnessed both sides of our consumer society. In Provincetown, people buy stuff they don’t need. In Truro, people recover stuff strangers have discarded and put it to good use. To see both behaviors in a couple hours was a strange experience. And, Kerry, I didn’t even need to write these paragraphs for you to get it. From your comment, you understood from the photos, right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From the Truro Dump to Ptown in One Day, Part 2

Friday, October 22, 2010

From the Truro Dump to Ptown in One Day, Part I

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hello, Mr. Foreign Tourist: May I Help You?

What brings tourists from abroad to Chez Sven in the fall? They do not see the Outer Cape as a place to visit only when the sun shines, ie. in summer, as American visitors are wont to do. Guests from Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, and France are here to experience small-town America. Sitting on a beach is not their thing. They have chosen Wellfleet for the unique atmosphere of a small New England town and the proximity of the Cape Cod National Seashore. If their needs are met, chances are these folks will gush to friends about vacation, and more travelers will choose to visit the Outer Cape in the future.

“Driving up, we felt like we had a blindfold on. Everything was dark. Now today, we will get to take the blindfold off,” declared one eager guest as he set out to explore with his wife. It’s important to remember tourists from abroad see our town with different eyes. They do come for the beauty, yes, but also seek out the opportunity to observe local culture and have a “foreign” experience. There’s a great verb in French to describe this type of vacation: depayser, which means to get a total change of scene. Today let’s try and address what tourists want and whether they find it here in Wellfleet.

First off, summon up the mindset of a guest from Europe. Imagine a couple wheelie suitcases, a rental car, a guidebook or two, travelers checks. The typical tourist stands before us. We must meet his/her needs.

A few suggestions of what those needs may be:

1.) Easy access to restaurants for lunch and dinner
2.) Interesting indoor activities when the weather is not perfect
3.) Historical context
4.) Local color
5.) Well maintained nature trails and hikes

The foreign tourist’s needs are sometimes very elementary, which is why I put food at the top of my list. Tourists must be fed three decent meals. At breakfast this morning, one guest commented on the fresh fruit salad. “Do you realize how difficult it is to eat fruit when you're traveling?” she said. Eating away from home can be daunting. The astute B&B host will do her best to provide a wholesome breakfast. But, what about other meals? “Challenging” is how I describe my search for appropriate dinner offerings in fall. After Oysterfest, seasonal staff leave town. Restaurants are not necessarily insulated and many must close until spring. This means only a few options remain: The Bookstore, The Wicked Oyster, The Lighthouse, Finely JPs, Town Pizza, and, new-bistro-on-the-block, PB.

Number 2, interesting indoor activities. Augh! This is a tough one. In Boston, tourists can spend rainy days at the Fine Arts Museum. We have nothing similar on the Outer Cape. There’s a bowling alley in Orleans, a mall in Hyannis, and several movie theaters, but usually guests are not in the mood for that type of activity. Generally, they do Chatham or Provincetown, with umbrellas.

Historical context. Someone could organize year-round cultural tours of Cape Cod and make a good living. One such organization exists in Sandwich, but not here. It should. Pilgrim trails, check; monuments, check; old houses like Atwood Higgins, check; small museums, check. A lot to build on, in other words, but no cultural tours.

Fourth on my list is local color. Folks harvesting cranberries. Shellfishermen collecting oysters on the flats. Whales swimming offshore. Openings at art galleries. Tourists get a kick out of this type of thing. And, we have Provincetown as a nearby destination – travel 25 minutes for a total jolt to the senses.

Finally, nature. Lots of that right here in Wellfleet. The Marconi site, with its Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail, and the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offer perfect nature walks. But the biggest draw remains the majestic Atlantic Ocean and its miles of deserted beach.

Okay. Your turn. What type of experience do you seek out when you go abroad? What was your best foreign vacation ever and why? Readers who live abroad, what do you think of my list? Why do you come to Wellfleet?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Foliage & Discover Wellfleet

The fall foliage on the Outer Cape is not as spectacular as in, say, Vermont, but the maple, in front of Chez Sven, is looking mighty good this year. I thought the leaves would all turn brown, instead of yellow, and fall off, but no. Check out the color above. This tree is one of the first things I see in the morning. I look out the window at the antique table in our garden and think about all the lovely guests who have eaten there over the past summer. One of the first things I do next is check e-mail. Then, often I read the headlines on the new Discover Wellfleet site. (I don't know how many of you have added this step to your daily schedule but you might want to consider doing so.)

Today, in skimming headlines, I clicked through to an op-ed in the Cape Cod Times. Brent Harold has written a piece about whether or not formula restaurants are appropriate in Wellfleet. Anyone who reads this blog knows I was not too happy about the arrival of Dunkin' Donuts. What I would like to see is more restaurants, unique to Wellfleet, open year-round. We had a guest from Milan this summer, who noticed the success of PB Boulangerie Bistro and suggested the town might do well to acquire a real Italian restaurant as well. What do you think?

Do you find the Discover Wellfleet site useful? How do you like it? Can you think of any improvements?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thoughts on Retirement at Newcomb Hollow

If someone were to ask Sven what he does in retirement, I know what his reply would be: “Clean toilets.” He thinks it funny somehow, to have retired in two countries – Sweden and France – and find himself still working in a third …

Retirement was on my mind as we descended onto Newcomb Hollow Beach. I never used to think about retirement until recently. Now I find no time to write, because I'm so busy doing other things. And, my knees have started to hurt.

Lots of retired people in Wellfleet, but not so many at the ocean yesterday. We saw only one other couple. The beach was practically deserted. It was low tide. Glorious immaculate sand stretched before us for miles.

“In France, citizens are fighting to keep the government from shifting the retirement age from 60 to 62,” Sven said, jumping across a rivulet.

“Two more years of work? No way,” I replied.

Americans cannot understand why retirement age has become such an issue to the French, one on which they do not intend to budge. While working over 60 does not faze me personally, I understand their determination to retain the social benefits that already exist. “Hands off my six weeks of paid leave!” is a common cry. Having observed how American corporations managed to emasculate the unions in this country over the past few decades, I can’t help but feel the French are right.

When I lived near Paris, I sometimes found myself stranded in the city, because subway drivers had decided to strike without warning. Once I even hitchhiked home from work. The French take strikes very seriously. So what if millions of people get inconvenienced? What matters is making a point and not giving in.

Sven and I may not be retired, but how fortunate we are to be able to walk a wide expanse of beach and listen to the gentle waves of Wellfleet. My mom did not get to the beach often during the last fifteen years of her life. Not by choice, but because access is difficult for the elderly. Often, when we are out walking, I’m reminded that such pleasure is not available to folks in retirement homes and should be appreciated while still an option. I store up the beauty in my mind, in case I ever need to call it up at will.

At what age do you plan to retire? Do you understand the French protests? What do you think of the decision not to give Americans on Social Security a cost-of-living increase?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oysterfest 2010: Oysters Galore, and Fun, Too

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” called out a small blond girl, holding on tight to her dad’s hand as they preceded other family members up Main Street yesterday. Sven and I were traveling in the opposite direction, on our way home. I gobbled up the last bit of a delicious falafel sandwich from Karoo Kafé. In my bag, two pints of paella from The Boathouse for tonight’s super. Ahead of me, Sven strode resolutely towards the Long Pond turn-off. A stream of cars drove past, towards the marina, one of several designated parking areas for out-of-town guests. I glanced at my watch. Not even 1 pm yet. I was realizing, belatedly, that Sven was not the ideal person with whom to do Oysterfest, although he loves oysters. My husband can’t stand crowds. Next year I think I’ll come by myself …

Imagine Main Street, chock a block with bodies, and that’s what Oysterfest is like. The center of the village is transformed, even more crowded than during summer. Apparently Saturday was worse, or better, from the merchants’ point of view. An estimated 10,000 people descended on Wellfleet Saturday, despite the dreary forecast. And Sunday, there were still oysters available everywhere. Real ones on the half shell, of course, but also fried buttermilk oysters, oyster stew, oyster jewelry, oyster motifs on T-shirts and sweatshirts, chocolate oysters, oyster bird baths, etc. etc.

Our first stop was the hula hoop stand, a big draw for the children. Sven chatted briefly with our friend Mara, who was selling the colorful toys. Then it was on to the food court. Revelers, already tired, lounged at picnic tables. Some clasped glasses of beer. On stage, a band played a raucous tune. It was not yet noon, and the lines had not formed under the tent, so it was possible to get a peek at all the food options. Sven had a clam fritter, washed down with a bowl of Wicked Oyster clam chowder. Thus fortified, we forged our way down Main Street, not an easy feat. The stalls were quite varied and different from past years. Merchants offered reasonable prices on objects that all seemed like the perfect homemade Christmas gift. Customers were filling up their totes faster than you can say Wellfleet’s-Tenth-Annual-Oysterfest-Is-A-Resounding-Success.

Our next stop was Preservation Hall. I admired some great painted oyster plates on sale to benefit the hall and snatched up the one decorated by Kristen Shantz, glancing behind me for Sven. Tours were underway, and I would have liked to have seen the completed renovations, but he was already heading for the door. In the back yard, kids bounced on a variety of inflatable forms.

I love to watch the talented lady from The Juice, with dreadlocks piled on her head, the one who paints faces, but I barely had time to snap a photo. There was quite a line of anxious children, eager to go under her paintbrush. (I noticed she took the time to ask each child what look he/she preferred. One young man in his twenties chose to be a pirate, so this activity captured the attention of the young-of-heart as well.) Nearby,two oyster forms proved quite popular with amateur photographers.

I did insist on walking all the way down Main to the non-profit area. A still life of oysters was one of the prizes at the Affordable Housing table. There were raffles and a superb kayak, surely first prize for some raffle or silent auction but Sven had already plunged back into the crowd, so I didn’t get time to read the small print and cannot report on which one. On our way up Main, we watched adults sipping Bloody Marys at Winslow Tavern and kids chomping down on roasted corn. We stopped to chat with David Wright, at the Historical Society, seated in front of an array of merchandise, including the new book by Irene Paine. David has become quite the fixture there. “Someone even asked me if I stayed put overnight,” he joked.

Oysterfest 2010 seemed to have a bit of something for everyone. There were even recycling bins for oyster shells. Congratulations to Alex Hay and his team for throwing our town such a marvelous end-of-tourist-season party.

Did you attend Oysterfest this year? If so, what did you like best? Is this an event that would make you want to visit Wellfleet next fall?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Who Is Really Celebrating this Oysterfest?

I know, I know. The photo above does not show crowds of revelers, but rather Long Pond in all its fall glory. Sven and I were not able to go to Oysterfest yesterday because we had guests arriving. That, too, is the life of the innkeeper. Let's hope we get down later today. The sun parted the clouds around noon for a couple hours of magnificent blue sky. No doubt many oysters were consumed as the town celebrated the end of tourist season. There was one person who much have been celebrating a bit more intensely than others: Jeff, yes, you! Congratulations to Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater on receiving an anonymous gift of one million dollars, divided into $250,000 for four separate years, which will allow Jeff's baby to grow and develop in marvelous new ways ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Just Say No to GMOs ...

This amazing apricot tart came from PB Boulangerie Bistro. It reminded me of the excellent pastry we used to enjoy in France. In France, such pastry does not contain GMOs because the EU had the sense to ban them. Here, much harder to say. No doubt the PB chefs would avoid GMOs if that were possible, but GMOs have been slipped into the food system in the United States almost surreptitiously. From my reading, I am realizing what a grave error it was to allow this to happen. Monsanto has just bought Blackwater's clandestine intelligence services (renamed Xe Services). Monsanto is in the process of taking over our food supply. If you don't believe me, begin by watching the documentary Food Inc. We need to oppose GMOs en bloc. To that effect, please pass on this rap song by Mike Adams. He says it all. The song is simply brilliant.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Clap if You Support Synthetic Chemicals in Water

Here on the Outer Cape, we are surrounded by water: ocean, bay, ponds. We get drinking water from a sole-source aquifer, under our feet. Water is something we take for granted. Turn on the tap and bingo, H2O. We pour a glass, drink, quench our thirst. Well, if you have watched Josh Fox’s Gasland, you know everyone is not so lucky. Sometimes synthetic chemicals get into tap water, bad stuff like benzene, stuff that no one should be drinking. It seems like a no-brainer to say injecting toxins into the ground pollutes groundwater, but natural gas company execs are powerful dudes. They’ve got profit on their minds and could not care less about citizens in New York and Pennsylvania who are protesting hydro-fracking.

Here in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, we do not want synthetic chemicals in our drinking water either. On the Outer Cape, most people drink water from private wells. Petitions have been circulated. Selectmen have agreed. Legislators have signed on. Even our Congressman, William Delahunt, corresponded with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on the matter. Despite all this noise, the utility company maintains its plan to spray five herbicides under the power lines to remove vegetation and will start 1/1/11.

Over the past year, I have been giving myself a crash course on toxic chemicals. Here is a brief summary of what I learned, 1.) synthetic chemicals need regulation; 2.) trace amounts can affect us; 3.) one chemical might not have an effect, but mix them together in the environment and watch out; 4.) most testing is done by the industry involved, not by disinterested third parties; 5.) these corporate folks test for one chemical at a time, not several together; 6.) not only do endocrine disruptors contribute to the current breast cancer epidemic but seem to have a negative effect on future generations.

Of the approximately 85,000 synthetic chemicals registered for use in the United States, more than 90 percent have never been tested for their effects on human health. Please take a moment to sign this National Resources Defense Council petition urging Lisa Jackson to stand up to the chemical industry and insist on the regulation of synthetic chemicals.

Bloggers all over the world are writing about water today. Unpolluted drinking water should be a human right. Unfortunately, here in the USA, money talks louder than scientists. Yesterday came news that the regulation effort has been defeated for now. When something like this happens, it's wise to remember how long it took to stop the tobacco industry. Change will come. Please join the movement today.

Do you worry about what's in your water? Have you ever had your water tested? What do you think of yesterday's news about the defeat of this important bill?

More Blog Action Day Posts:

Alison Rose Levy at Health: When the Best Water Filter Is Not Enough for Health

Fake Plastic Fish: Win an Ethical Ocean Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Film Gecko: Oceans and the Crimson Wing

Music Road: Music and Water

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homegrown Revolution: “Start by Changing Yourself”

Above, the makings of breakfast tomorrow. I’ve discovered quite a few people require gluten-free bread these days. When I tasted the bread, a mixture of organic flours (rice, sorghum, tapioca) and eggs, I realized wheat is not necessarily the way to go. Gluten-free bread is easier to digest and tastes delicious.

Food is something to think about as Oysterfest approaches, and Wellfleet celebrates the marvelous shellfish that has been a main local food source for centuries. Lots of oysters will be eaten in our town this weekend. I plan on eating oysters more often over the coming years. They provide protein. They are plentiful. They taste yummy. What’s more, buying oysters supports the local economy. I hope more Wellfleetians will start thinking along these lines, that sustainability will become a key word in everyone's vocabulary.

At breakfast this morning I chatted with a guest from Germany, the mother of two small children. As usual, I was describing my own journey away from processed foods and the synthetic chemicals that lurk in food and water. She rides a bike to the grocery store and told me more than half of the supermarkets in Berlin sell only organic food. We discussed how the EU has refused genetically-modified foods, wisely I believe. When FDA agents, wielding guns, raided a California facility that sells raw milk, as they did last week, it’s time to ask oneself what’s going on. I believe we need to find the impulse for change within ourselves …

Being a green innkeeper has taught me to think outside the box when it comes to food. I have written about Chez Sven’s switch from Tropicana to Purity Organic over the summer. Next year I hope to squeeze juice from organic oranges for guests. We already serve organic milk and granola, as well as fresh fruit salad, organic if possible. Pesticide residue is not something you want in your body, and washing fruit does not remove this residue, as California's Alliance for Food and Farming would have us believe.

Faced with the might of Agribusiness, Big Pharma, and Big Oil, I’ve decided it’s time for change, and we need to start at home, by changing ourselves, one person at a time. “Change begins with you,” says Jules Dervaes, narrator of this inspiring video about growing food at home and sustainability.

I believe bloggers have a role to play in this "homegrown revolution."

Books like Slow Death by Rubber Duck and Our Stolen Future taught me about the chemical mayhem going on inside our bodies, important information that I shared with my community. I reported on the utility company’s plan to spray five herbicides under the power lines here on Cape Cod. I am organizing the screening of movies like A Chemical Reaction, Living Downstream, and Submission: In Defense of the Unborn, at the Wellfleet Public Library. I have also taken a stand against endocrine disruption by synthetic chemicals like BPA, detected in 90% of the pregnant women tested recently in Cincinnati. Today’s post is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival, an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals. Pregnant women and small children are the most vulnerable but we all need to pay closer attention to what we put into our mouth.

Dramatic change is happening across the country. School lunches are being revisited in Berkeley, California. (I learn all about it at Lettuce Eat Kale, a blog written by my friend Sarah Henry.) Here in Massachusetts, a wise man named Ken Toong is creating change in the way universities approach food. Toong has even borrowed a few chefs from Berkeley, according to a recent guest from Amherst.

Are you aware of the "homegrown revolution" that is underway? Are you a part of it? What have you done to protect your family from synthetic chemicals in food and water?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bonus Post: LeCount Hollow, Today