Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I May Move Back to Europe

I enjoy innkeeping. I like life in the USA. It's great to be able to walk at the ocean whenever I feel like it. I really do not want to be obliged to move back to Europe, yet daily news makes me wonder if that option will not soon become the most attractive choice ...

Yesterday, on NECN, I heard about plans for genetically modified apples, apples, which will look appetizing forever. The underside of the introduction of Frankenfruit into our food supply will be that a GMO apple a day may not keep the doctor away. Oh, no, not at all. Consumption of GMO apples will probably send us all running to doctors with major health problems. In France, and in Sweden, two countries with which I am familiar, people buy and consume apples that would have been discarded before leaving an American orchard. Do Americans really demand immaculate fruit or is this another crazy industry idea? I think we need to change this mentality, not modify apples so they look forever fresh. Misshapen fruit is still good to eat.

Not only are GMOs bad for human consumption. They appear to be bad for bees, too. Our food supply needs pollinators if we are to survive. We are all wondering why bees are dying and now here is an article that suggests some scary reasons. Why is no one in our government paying attention?

On Cape Cod, we continue our effort to stop the utility company from spraying herbicides under the power lines. (Read the latest report here.) Once herbicides enter the water supply, they remain in drinking water for generations, and we will all need to buy professional water filters if we intend to remain healthy.

I am stunned that profit and the chimera of a new national source of energy has deluded those in charge of public safety in Pennsylvania and New York, where shale drilling has not been stopped by the public outcry of citizens who have watched the documentary Gasland and realize the decision to inject toxic chemicals into the ground will pollute local drinking water. Pennsylvania's Office of Homeland Security has even put actor/activist Mark Ruffalo on a US terror advisory list. (In an historic vote yesterday, the New York State Assembly enacted a temporary ban on fracking, which will remain in effect until May 15, 2011.)

In a Yale Environment 360 interview this weekend, endocrine-disruption specialist Frederick vom Saal explains why BPA should be banned and why our government has not yet done so. Government institutions like the FDA and the EPA apparently lumber along, slothlike, and are not flexible enough to embrace research that contradicts antiquated science. Scientists have warned that even trace amounts of toxic chemicals can disrupt a hormone system. Last Thursday the European Union banned BPA in baby bottles. How long will it take for new research to influence current policy in the USA?

I have also been following the debate on the Food Safety bill, or rather, attempting to follow. The vote should take place today. As of last night, the Tester amendment was still in the bill. For those of you who are not familiar with S. 510, get a quick update from Michael Pollan and Eric Scholosser. (11 a.m. Update: S.510 PASSED the Senate 73 to 25 with Tester intact. Next the House has indicated it will accept the Senate version of the legislation. If so, the bill goes to President Obama for signature. Then the rulemaking phase begins where the legislation gets translated into FDA regulations. This is apparently a critical stage to make sure the provisions make it into the on-the-ground regulations.)

Do you care about GMOs and toxic chemicals in the environment? As we struggle to eat local, do you worry about corporate influence on policies that affect the food available for Americans to eat? Do you think I'm crazy to be dreaming today of a nice little inn in the South of France or on the West Coast of Sweden?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Preservation Hall Elves Create Wreaths for Pageant

I know this sounds silly but the idea of creating a Christmas wreath made me feel giddy, like a little kid on show-and-tell morning. Excitement made my heart pound as I entered the Senior Center where a small band of elves was already unpacking wreath preparation paraphernalia. There were pretty ribbons and pine cones shaped like roses, ornaments, even a row of butterflies, all awaiting the imagination of volunteers, heaven for arts-and-crafts-type folks, in other words. Not having participated in wreath creation before, I brought my own objects of adornment, most of it collected on three Wellfleet beaches over the past few months. Inspired by what I had seen at the 2009 Preservation Hall Wreath Pageant, I had decided to do a message-wreath, because the occasional theme makes the event even more interesting. Mine would sport a Stop-Plastic-Pollution sign, painted in blue on a piece of driftwood. I laid out my beach junk on a table and glanced around.

“I would say watch the stuff you want to keep,” veteran wreath-maker Sharyn Lindsay advised as she began to prowl around the supply boxes.

Sharyn pounced on some fascinating wrapping material that had come in a box for the B&B last week, perfect for this type of activity. I was glad she would put the crinkly brown paper to use, recycling it. Everyone was working with a different type of decoration. I had begun braiding three New York Times bags. The main color of my wreath was to be blue.

“Everything she’s chosen is rosaries blessed by Pope Benedict the XVIth,” one elf chuckled as a friend began to weave beaded necklaces into fir branches.

Christmas music was playing in the background. Sharyn’s son Caleb acted as DJ while elf Tracy Plaut served hot cider and baked goods. I did not partake in the refreshments, too busy with my creation.

“This is like a party!” someone commented.

It was also serious business, creating wreaths that people will want to bid on and buy in support of Preservation Hall during Deck the Halls weekend, December 11-12. Our wreaths will raise precious money to help with the final costs of renovation.

Organizer Mark Gabrielle seemed to be everywhere. When the time came, he helped me affix a bit of broken Frisbee with a glue gun. Finally my wreath was finished. The whole process took over an hour and was FUN!

“It’s fantastic!” Sharyn Lindsay exclaimed.

Her wreath is really nice, too. Check it out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What BJ Saw ...

I was saddened to read in yesterday’s New York Times that BJ Lifton has passed away. A number of years ago I had the pleasure of doing some secretarial work for BJ, at the Liftons’ Ocean View Drive home. Above, the view from BJ's writing studio. I was struck by her no-nonsense approach to life, her intelligence, her compassion, as well as by the vibrant spirit that animated her diminutive frame. BJ could be seen occasionally on the beach walking her poodle, or out for a drive in the couple’s black Saab convertible, with top down. On such occasions, she would wear a scarf and sunglasses behind the wheel, looking very glamorous indeed. I was surprised to learn her age: 84. BJ invited me and Sven to attend the summary session of the Liftons' annual Seminar on the State of the World, led by husband Robert, which we always enjoyed. I used to take her flowers for these events, purple cosmos. She would thank me profusely. I spoke to BJ for a final time last spring, when she reserved our cottage for her son and his daughters. I knew she had been active in changing public opinion on adoption but did not realize the full extent of this influence, spelled out in the New York Times article. She saw that adoption should not be shrouded in mystery. I have family members who probably benefited from her early advocacy. Many people admired Betty Jane Lifton. I was one of them. She will be missed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reality of Innkeeping: Sticking to One's Guns

There are reasons to visit the Outer Cape on the Friday of Thanksgiving, even when the weather is cloudy and gray. An excellent one is the Karol Richardson Warehouse Sale, which used to be held here in Wellfleet. Now fashionable women in-the-know flock to the Main Street store in Orleans to take advantage of sale prices from 50 to 75% off. I went in the morning and scored some real deals on stylish clothing from the fall collection. Everyone loves a bargain. Any Karol Richardson fans out there?

Having lived in France for 20 years, new clothes put me in an extremely positive mood, so it was rather disconcerting to receive a phone call around 2:15, once we had finished Green Room preparation, and suddenly feel as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped on my head. The caller had a British accent and sounded quite angry, like the yapping chow chow that attacked Sven at Duck Harbor Beach last week.

ME: “Chez Sven, hello?”

HE: “I’m rather annoyed that you are charging $50 extra for a one-night booking.”

ME: (I could hear road noises in the background). “Who’s calling, please?”

HE: “This is XXX’s partner. She rang you up 24 hours after making the reservation and wanted to cancel one night because our plans have changed.”

ME: “That may be true, but I explained that we have a policy of not doing one night.”

HE: “I’m not alright with you charging her $50 extra.”

ME: “That’s our policy. It’s on our Web site. And, after she reserved the two nights, I turned away another couple.”

HE: “I’m not alright with that. In fact, I’m going to cancel tonight’s reservation.”

This, too, is innkeeping. I wanted to say, please do stay away with your bitterness and attitude, but instead I heard myself suggesting they find a local motel. Sven and I only want happy guests, and there’s no way this couple would be satisfied unless I waived the $50 supplement. An innkeeper needs to know when to stick to her guns and when to make an exception. Fortunately, such phone calls do not happen often.

How would you have handled this irate gentleman? Would you have wanted him staying at your house? Would you have insisted on payment for the reserved night?

Friday, November 26, 2010

PB Boulangerie-Bistro Does Thanksgiving

Yesterday I explained how Sven and I wound up at PB for Thanksgiving dinner,so I would really be remiss if I did not follow up with a report, now wouldn't I? As might be expected, PB dished up excellence. Our plates contained both white and dark meat, only the dark meat, on the right, was hidden in a crust atop the stuffing. The vegetables were presented as a rectangle, dressed up with immaculate marshmallow topping that made them remind me of a clean-cut French girl, in starched apron, off for a first day of school. The pumpkin pie was crust-less and yummy. Phillipe stopped by our table to say hello. On the way out, I noticed all bakery items were half price. I do not know if the sale will continue today, but anyone local who has not yet enjoyed the apricot tart or chocolate eclairs, head on down!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How a Last-Minute Turkey Search Leads to Another PB Adventure

Happy Thanksgiving, all! On Monday night my elder daughter announced she would join us for dinner today, great news, but unexpected. I did not have a turkey on hand … I had just read a fellow blogger’s account of killing the bird she and her husband had raised (Starving Off the Land). Tamar Haspel fled Manhattan for Cape Cod to see if she could survive off the land. Slaughter of your own turkey makes sense to me. It was like the old woman in Cold Mountain, who killed the goat and thanked it beforehand. Since we were not raising our own turkeys and did not plan ahead for Thanksgiving as did another Cape blogger, Elspeth Hay, who writes Diary Of A Locavore, local turkey would not be an option. Perhaps we could get in on a little organic turkey action instead?

Reminders to order turkey ahead seemed to have been posted everywhere last week, but, on Tuesday, not a one could I find. Wellfleet Marketplace might have stocked an extra bird or two, but I was already in Hyannis for a dental appointment and there was no way to find out. Before heading home, I did some shopping at Trader Joe’s. The remaining turkeys were enormous. Surely there would be smaller ones in Orleans?

To my surprise, Phoenix had none whatsoever. The turkeys probably arrived the following day for those customers who thought to place orders ahead of time.

After Phoenix, I hightailed it to the poultry aisle at Stop & Shop and dug out the last two organic turkeys from a flock of antibiotic-laden birds. My choice sported no label, so I heaved the frozen bird under my arm and set off in search of a price. With trepidation I pushed past the rubber door flap into the butchers’ domain but there was nary a butcher in sight. I managed to flag down a Stop & Shop employee, beside the steaks display.

“This turkey has no label,” I said.

“You don’t want to buy it frozen, lady,” he told me. “Won’t defrost in time for Thanksgiving. Grab a Butterball instead. They’re fresh.”

Chastened, I returned the organic bird to the freezer case with a loud clunk. Butterball I would not buy because of an Environmental Working Group warning that non-organic turkeys may contain arsenic. But, seriously now, had I stopped to think about whether it made sense to spend $30 on a ten-pound turkey? My daughter eats very little, and turkey is not Sven’s favorite. Winged turkey sandwiches began doing dainty pirouettes in my head.

“Let’s go to a restaurant!” my husband suggested when I got home.

I called Wicked Oyster. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Oh, rats! Then yesterday morning I dialed PB to see if there had been a cancellation. We were in luck. My daughter will get to experience PB Boulangerie Bistro. Dinde á la française, here we come!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To Beach, or Not to Beach?

What does one do when a beach is inaccessible? We were confronted with this issue on Monday. Erosion from weekend storms had closed LeCount Hollow. We got back in the car and drove down to Cahoon, skipping White Crest where we suspected a similar amount of erosion. At Cahoon, access had been seriously improved in June. The beach was open, but recent erosion had destroyed the path at the bottom of the dune, which made descent treacherous. So, we drove down to Newcomb Hollow. At Newcomb, we were able to access the beach without problem, and, I might add, enjoy the sunset on the backside for once!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Help Fellow Wellfleetians at Thanksgiving

I have been thinking about food a lot as Thanksgiving approaches and Congress prepares to vote on the Food Safety Bill. There’s a worthwhile article in this week’s Newsweek that summarizes the situation in the USA, a country where the elite can eat what they want, poor people risk becoming obese due to the lousy choices available to them, and the unemployed have a hard time putting food on the table.

This week Chamber of Commerce members received an emailed request from the Wellfleet Food Pantry, located at Grace Chapel, on Route 6. Their banner reads, "Feeding Families and Seniors in Need." These are the folks who organize the collection of canned goods in the library foyer and distribute food to community members. Donation boxes can also be found at Wellfleet Marketplace, Cape Cod Five, Seamen’s Bank, and the Senior Center. This system makes it easy to help others and deserves our support.

If you are local, there are even more creative ways to participate. For instance, one option is to organize a personal food drive, ie. throw a holiday party and have everyone bring boxed or canned goods for donation. With this type of donation, the sky's the limit. “We even had a seven-year-old. Instead of birthday presents, he asked guests to bring food,” organizer Donna Gates told me.

I have been fortunate enough never to know hunger, but when my dad first came to the USA, there was a period in his life where the pantry was very empty as he struggled to find work as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. From his memoir: “Hungry most of the time, I could think of nothing but food. Money now meant nickels and dimes. A dollar seemed like a fortune. Every so often I went through the motions of scrounging through drawers and cupboards in the hope of finding an old carrot, a potato, a crust of bread, anything I could chew on ...”

Down at the Marketplace yesterday, the young woman, who was relieving the cashier during her break, told me her family had been among the Wellfleetians to receive food from the Food Pantry. With a shrug of pride, she said things were better now and her need for assistance was over, but that it can happen to any of us, at any time.

Last year the Wellfleet Food Pantry helped 500 families. Recently, there has been an upsurge in demand – 40%! If you live far away and are unable to drop off a contribution, why not consider monetary support this Thanksgiving? (At Spoonfed, Christina Le Beau explains why giving dollars makes even more sense.) Write out a check to the Wellfleet Food Pantry so Donna can provide turkeys. Send to Box 625, South Wellfleet, 02663. It will make your own Thanksgiving that much happier ...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stationary Done Right: Welflleet's Jules Besch

Michael Tuck speaks in a soft voice that carries. “We’ll see you again, I hope,” he sings out from behind the cash register as a customer exits his Bank Street shop. The little bells on the Victorian door jingle. Shopping at Jules Besch is like stepping into another century. The mansard-roofed building was originally created to house a savings bank. Rich mahogany woodwork, high ceilings, and the colors of the walls give the display rooms a special feel. Jules Besch is not just any shop and Michael is not just any shopkeeper. What strikes me is his sincerity and enthusiasm. Here is a man who genuinely loves his merchandise and it shows.

The folks who wander into Jules Besch in search of a perfect greeting card, are fortunate indeed. Often they find it impossible to resist the old-fashioned bookmarks, journals, or scented candles, and buy them, too. Oh, and did I mention the stationary? What a selection! When I needed wrapping paper to make a gift even more exceptional last spring, I knew exactly where to go. I was even able to purchase the perfect gift tag.

There are greeting cards for every occasion, some historical, some funny, some artistic. And no wonder: Michael has worked as a judge for the American Greeting Card Association. He knows what’s available and does his best to provide original cards that are a pleasure both to give and to receive. “I love the challenge of keeping up with European import choices,” he chortles.

Michael has lived on the Outer Cape for 30 odd years. His shop celebrated its 16th year in 2010, which is remarkable in itself, especially in time of recession. “The right people have found me,” he says to explain such longevity, without bragging that these customers return every year, but they do.

Next weekend Jules Besch will hold its end-of-season sale and everything will be 20% off. Hours will be longer to permit early and late browsing. Sven enjoyed the antique selection of inkwells and bronze bookends. Think I know where we will be going next Friday ….

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moon, Sun, Moon, Sun, Moon: Duck Harbor

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why We Must All Fight Pollution

Don't you just love walking on a beach? It is so peaceful by the ocean, serene ... But, wait! What the hell is that? I was thinking another balloon, off a cruise ship, but no. This time the offender turned out to be a chunk of blue foam. But where did it originate? How did it get into the Atlantic? How many bits had broken off during its voyage and been swallowed by ocean fish? Suddenly I felt overwhelmed by this toxic mess we humans have created, environmental pollution that is seemingly omnipresent in our lives. I have been trying to spread the word through this blog, and through Facebook ...

Last week my younger daughter told me, "I may have to un-friend you, Maman. What you post is stressing me out too much."

It's true that the flood of information on harm done to the planet is pretty depressing. I would prefer to share positive stories, like the CSI episode on hydro-fracking, broadcast two weeks ago, created by a team of environmentally-aware writers. Seems I'm not alone in this effort to spread the word. Sensible citizens everywhere are getting it. Green bloggers have begun to unite. Check out the collective energy throbbing at Ecocentric, a new blog about food, water, and energy. Every day a new petition arrives in my in-box. But we must do more than sign petitions, like the one against hydro-fracking or the one at Living Green, Living Well to stop genetically-engineered salmon (both of which I urge you to sign).

I'm heartened that there is movement on the plastics front, too. You can read about it in a HuffPost article by Jennifer Schwab, Director of Sustainability for Sierra Club Green Home. Over at Fake Plastic Fish, Beth Terry has been considering a blog name change to reach a larger audience. And, Los Angeles County banned the plastic bag last month.

What's more, people are buying books like No Impact Man and applying eco-policies to their lives. Consumerism may not be dead yet, but it is certainly undergoing a reality check. Baby bottles containing BPA remain on store shelves, unsold. More and more people are saying no to toxic chemicals and endocrine disruptors. Even Facebook has teamed up with the EPA to offer a game that will educate users and encourage real environmental action.

What bothers me is that our Congressional leaders and President Obama lag behind. It would be so easy for Michelle Obama to set an example, recycling the White House plastic, for instance. We must all fight pollution together.

What have you done today to stem the toxic chemical tide?

Friday, November 19, 2010

PB Boulangerie-Bistro: Bring on the Stars!

I know many of you have been looking forward to a report on the newest dining sensation in New England – that would be PB Boulangerie Bistro, of course. Since November is half over, Sven and I were able to get a spur-of-the-moment reservation. Yes, Wednesday was the big day: we finally got to dine at Wellfleet's marvelous new French bistro ...

"Oh! Philippe isn't here tonight" Valeria Rispoli exclaimed with great disappointment as she seated us at a small table in the center of the room. "Bon appetit!"

I was sorry to miss her husband, the famous chef, but glad to be there nonetheless. A slew of delicious-sounding specials rolled off our waitress's tongue, including butternut soup, a regular appetizer which B&B guests had described as fabulous. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the choice and regretted even more Philippe's absence. One dish that intrigued me was squid with ink-dyed pasta. Instead, I picked the risotto with black truffles and suggested to Sven that he might enjoy the cod with smashed potatoes, another favorite with our mid-summer and early-fall guests. We began with a yummy beet salad, and champagne, compliments of the chef.

This week the dining room was decorated with orange banners announcing the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau 2010, just like in restaurants and wine stores all over France. Sven asked Sebastien, the "sommelier," for a glass, but the rules did not permit opening the first bottle until midnight, November 18th. (Yesterday PB chefs started serving up a number of unexpected dishes, using the fruity wine. Even Boris decided to incorporate it into his bread.)

There was much excitement in the air, although PB has now been open five months. Only five tables were full at 5:30, and a lone diner sat hunched over the bar, leaning into his mussels from Chatham with obvious relish. Beyond him, I noticed Ben Zehnder in the kitchen, chatting with the assistant chef. While we were waiting for our entrées, the waitress brought complementary cups of butternut squash soup, yum! (Customers can also purchase it in the adjoining bakery.)

The room was bustling and a bit noisy, but quieted as Sebastien began to hand-crank the "luminaire," an unexpected touch that made us feel as if we were truly back in France, in an earlier century. While Sven sang along to "Sous les ponts de Paris," I noticed a gentleman in an electric wheelchair had accessed a table with his lady friend, and thought how incredible it is to have a local establishment like this one. Check out my risotto! It was sublime.
Sven enjoyed his cod, too. "After the French Revolution, the nobility got wiped out," he was explaining. "So, there were a lot of chefs out of work. They started their own restaurants."

An adventurous diner, at a neighboring table, had ordered the squid. His wife said she was a French teacher. One look at their happy faces told me this outing to PB had been the highlight of their Cape Cod trip. I photographed his entree before it left the kitchen. Does it ever look good! "How was the squid?" I asked.

"Scrumptious!" he declared with a grin, as a trio vacated one of the booths, veteran PB diners, apparently.

"This is our third or fourth time," said the father when I asked about his meal. "And, we didn't have to wait tonight!"

I returned to our table and discovered someone had managed to refold my napkin, displaying the PB front and center. Our waitress? Sebastien? Certainly not Sven! It was another nice touch that reminded me this restaurant is indeed special.

"Know where the word bistro comes from?" my husband asked. "After the defeat of Napoleon, there were a lot of cossacks in the Russian troops, quartered in the fields west of the Champs Elysées. They wanted food fast, so they said, "Bistro, bistro!' and the name stuck."

Since the kitchen is open, we could watch the chefs, in their white toques, at work. No sooner had we finished dessert – creme brulée – than Sebastien brought "tarte tatin" and a narrow tray of pastries, the width of the table. Sven helped himself to a miniature "millefeuilles" and, before taking a large bite, announced, "These are called Napoleons in Sweden." He was about to tell me that the chef's hat originated in Turkey when Boris Villatte suddenly swept up to our table, off duty at last.

The baker told us how happy he was that we had finally made it in for dinner. What a sweetheart! We discussed vacation plans and how hard it is to find good organic flour in the USA, but that is for another post, and superfluous here. What mattered was the quality of the food. We had enjoyed an excellent meal and said so.

I was watching the ballet at three joined tables behind me, where two waitresses were helping Valeria set up for the next group of diners. Sebastien hovered nearby. I could not help but remark the conscious effort, on the part of each member of the PB staff, to make the dinner experience truly remarkable for every client. No wonder this place has garnered so many rave reviews. All I can do is add mine today. Bring on the stars!

Did you get to try PB this summer or fall? What was your favorite dish?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Silent Spring Institute Updates Cape Codders

There are elevated rates of breast cancer on Cape Cod, as I mentioned yesterday. After writing my blog, I attended a Barnstable meeting that featured Laurel Schaider of the “small but mighty” research organization Silent Spring Institute. Silent Spring looks for possible links between breast cancer and the environment, and recommends the Precautionary Principle. The SSI approach is prevention ...

During the first part of her speech, Dr. Schaider explained how pleased SSI was when the President’s Cancer Panel made its recommendations earlier this year as they are in line with what previous SSI research has revealed. “It was exciting for us to see the topic getting national attention,” she said.

The recommendations of the President’s Cancer Panel are:
• Filter tap water
• Don’t microwave in plastic
• Eat organic
• Minimize children’s exposure to toxics
• Avoid radiation
• Support research and the production of safe alternatives.

Her first slide offered the following equation: biological mechanisms (animal models) + human exposure = basis for action.

Dr. Schaider shared the results of a rat study, which was striking in its clarity. The control image of a normal rat's mammary gland showed a structure that resembled the branches of a healthy tree. The second image of the mammary gland of a rat that had been exposed to dioxin prior to birth, had fewer branches and stunted growth.

During the second half of the meeting, Dr. Schaider reviewed SSI results, revealed last spring, from the collection from public wells on the Upper Cape. Those of you who follow this blog know that SSI testing showed higher concentrations of an antibiotic and a flame retardant. She said the next studies will feature water from private wells. 130 volunteers have already registered. This new study will examine data from all over the Cape, including Wellfleet. (Current funding only allows Silent Spring to study a total of 20 wells, which is not much in the grand scheme of things. Please contribute here so at least 50 can be included in the study.)

Wastewater treatment plants and septic systems do not prevent contaminants from excretion to enter our water supply (pharmaceuticals, for instance).

One of the conclusions I drew after this meeting was that development and higher- density living in Upper Cape towns like Hyannis certainly has an influence on the percentage of contaminants in water. Here, in Wellfleet, we are fortunate that 62% of the land mass lies within the National Seashore.

I was glad to hear Dr. Schaider put into words what the American Chemistry Council would prefer we not know: chemical testing is emerging as a breast cancer issue. Her conclusions were spot on: 1.) filter your water with a solid carbon block filter, 2.) prevent chemicals from getting into drinking water. We must insist on better maintenance of our septic systems. We must also support local efforts to protect wellhead districts.

This is the third Silent Spring update meeting I have attended. Read Dr. Schaider's November 2009 conclusions here. Unfortunately, she speaks very, very fast, which is hard on those of us who are scientifically-challenged. I probably missed a lot, so I suggest you check out the article in the Cape Cod Times this morning for further details ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bonus Post: Newcomb Hollow Beach, Late Afternoon

My Letter to the Editor Published by Cape Cod Times

It's pouring rain here in Wellfleet this morning. At noon, I will go to hear the latest conclusions of the Silent Spring Institute, to be announced in Barnstable, an event publicized by the Breast Cancer Coalition and GreenCape. Researchers have been analyzing pond water for several years, trying to figure out why Barnstable County has such a high breast cancer rate, a rate similar to Marin County in California. GreenCape is trying to prevent the utility company from spraying herbicides under the power lines, but a handful of individuals on the Outer Cape, like myself, are also working hard on their own. Emerging science shows allowing herbicides to contaminate our sole-source aquifer would be extremely short-sighted. Here's my latest letter to the editor, published yesterday by the Cape Cod Times, and once again, I have abbreviated the name of the utility to simply N:

"The Nov. 8 letter from two professors of environmental health at Boston University's School of Public Health frightened me.

The professors expressed concern about our sole-source aquifer and the fact that we have no other water source if herbicides are allowed to contaminate our water. Whoa! This is serious.

Cape Codders, are you listening? Our well water will contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. The latest research indicates trace amounts can disrupt the hormone system. Need a quick crash course on Hormones 101 and why endocrine disruptors are so bad? OK: Synthetic chemicals can mimic natural hormones, upsetting normal reproduction and developmental processes. Male sperm counts have dropped. Breast cancer is up. Endometriosis has become more widespread. Synthetic chemicals are affecting the environment in a negative way and will make Earth a dramatically different place for our grandchildren.

At least we can have an effect on choices made locally. Rise up. Protect our drinking water and precious Cape Cod. Nontoxic means of vegetation control do exist. The federal government does not require herbicidal spraying. Take heed, as Professor Clapp and Madeleine Scammell suggest. Precaution is indeed the best approach. Don't let N contaminate our drinking water!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wellfleet to Hold Harborfest in June

I do not know what the objects in this photo are, but I found them interesting and picturesque. They poked out of the water at low tide and, without my glasses, from a distance, looked like seabirds, with buoys for bellies. I spotted this strange flock last week when Sven and I went to the harbor for some exercise. Wellfleet's marina has become one of my favorite walks. There's a nifty sidewalk that is one half mile long, so we have to walk it several times to get the type of workout LeCount Hollow Beach offers. More people will discover the marina this spring during Harborfest, now in preliminary planning stages. A date has been selected, June 12. There will be a boat show and the promotion of charter/fishing events, a Marine Flea Market, a "clamboil." The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary will hold educational events in conjunction. The day will close with a concert or dance of some kind in the evening. Volunteers are still very much in demand, so if you are interested in participation or have any input to provide, please contact Paul Pilcher through town hall.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Report on Oyster Recycling After Oysterfest

It is wise to collect and recycle oyster shells after Oysterfest, apparently. Know why? If all the shells from the 2010 festivities had been recycled back into the water, Wellfleet would have removed 10% of the nitrogen created by a segment of the winter population, numbering 300 residents. This act would also produce 300,000 to 1,500,000 "free" oysters and filter 22 million gallons of water. I got this information from a recent report submitted by Curt Felix and circulated by Paul Pilcher, Chair of the Economic Development Committee, which will become the game plan for next year. Sounds good to me ....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Forty Years of Mice Piss"

Anyone who lives in the woods knows that a mouse invasion is a constant threat. In winter, mice want in. If the roof is insulated with fiberglass, they will make cozy nests and come back year after year. Here in Wellfleet, we also have chipmunks, in particular, one chipmunk, who looks upon Seagull Cottage not as a part of Chez Sven, but rather as Chez Moi. This chipmunk hides nuts and steals the seeds Sven feeds the birds, then hides these seeds in what would be considered clever hiding places, if one were a chipmunk. We have tried traps that kill, and traps that do no harm. The supply of invaders never seems to cease, however.

This fall the small room ceiling became such a popular hangout for the little furry creatures that Sven and I decided to do something about what my husband inelegantly called "forty years of mice piss." We had the wallboard demoed, and today the foam guys came to spray closed cell insulation. I did not spend as much time researching this go-round as when we did the Green Room, but consulted our friend Nate Cook, contractor extraordinaire, instead. He recommended closed cell due to the higher R factor (6.4 per inch) and the fact that moisture cannot get in. We also changed the fourth window in the small room. Sven and I are pleased as punch with the result. This new insulation will cut way down on the cost of heating the cottage. It will also be a much cozier accommodation in winter and cooler in summer. What's more, the mice hate foam and can no longer access the walls. Victory at last!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thoughts on Local Food and the Food Safety Bill

Since the weather is perfect this weekend, lots of non-resident taxpayers are around. I saw them at PB Boulangerie Bistro yesterday, when I stopped in for bread. The air was redolent with the sensuous aroma of apple tart and almond croissants, fresh from Boris’s gigantic imported oven. I stood there and waited ten minutes, the time required for the tourists in line to make up their mind, enough time for a cloud of sweetness to descend and follow me back outside, baguette in hand. My hair still smelled tantalizing by the time I reached Wellfleet Marketplace. I wanted to pick up some beef raised in Truro for a beef stew, but it was all sold out. There wasn’t even any stewing beef in the freezer. I could have bought ground beef, but I’m not too crazy about pre-ground, even when it's from a Truro farm, so we had quiche instead. Still, I want to salute the Marketplace for stocking more local food. There’s talk that Preservation Hall will house a farmer’s market or an organic veggies and fruit co-op in its basement, which would be a marvelous addition for year-round residents. I have a friend who keeps repeating, “We are what we eat,” and I remember her words whenever I go shopping with my canvas tote and basket. There's an obesity epidemic in the USA, and I believe it is, in part, due to all the high fructose corn syrup pumped into everything.

The Food Safety bill may reach Congress shortly. It is extremely complicated. From what I understand, small farmers will be in jeopardy if the bill passes without sensible amendments to protect them. Remember all those factory eggs that were recalled two months ago? The mega producer merely received a slap on the wrist, as did the bankers who created the worldwide mess with their credit default swaps. From recent raw milk raids, I have realized the FDA is pro-BigAg and no longer feels the obligation to pretend otherwise. We need our small farmers and local food more than ever. Please take a moment to read this post by a food blogger in the know and educate yourself on this important issue. We are what we eat …

Does your town have local food options? Has your awareness of food and nutrition changed of late? Do you think genetically modified food should be labeled?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bonus Post: Wellfleet Harbor, Today at Sunset

Green Working Group Rolls Up Its Sleeves ...

Papers everywhere. Yesterday morning I tried to make my way through three months of neglected paperwork. When you have a busy life, papers tend to accumulate in piles. On the table, on the bed, on the dresser. I simply do not have the time and energy to file in season. Remember, innkeepers do not get weekends off!

In the afternoon, I held the first meeting of the Green Working Group here at the house. It was exciting to interact with citizens who are as eager as I to see Wellfleet go green and non-toxic. We discussed many different ideas and approaches for two and one half hours. I was able to share with the group exciting news about Preservation Hall. So that you have all the details, I will simply quote the statement made by Marla Rice, President of the Board of Directors:

“We are happy to announce a remarkable Challenge Grant from Tern Foundation to support our use of energy efficiency features in the renovation of Wellfleet Preservation Hall. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar. Many of our thoughtful donors will appreciate this opportunity to contribute to the Hall while spreading clean energy to protect the beautiful natural environment of our town, Cape Cod and the planet.” (The Tern Foundation has awarded Wellfleet Preservation Hall a matching grant of $15,000 over two years to help the Hall invest in energy efficiency and solar panels. Contributions will be matched dollar for dollar. The first installment of $7,500 must be matched by December 15, 2010.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A November Day in the Life

My day began by checking emails, as I warmed my hands with a cup of hot coffee. I have been meaning to order new sheets from Coyuchi, so set about this task first thing. There’s nothing like organic cotton, and it is much better for the environment. Unfortunately, the saleslady sent me the wrong list and then left on a trip, so I was unable to complete that task. Since we have demo-ed the cottage, I vacuumed up the last bits of fiberglass insulation, broken wallboard, and evidence that mice had been living in the walls. I donned gloves and a mask for this unpleasant job. In the afternoon, we headed down to Provincetown to pay for this winter’s heating oil. The weather was not as cheery as the day I took the photo above, near High Head. After Cape Cod Oil, we went food shopping. I had not been to the Shank Painter Road supermarket since it changed hands and was very sorry to discover Stop & Shop has moved into the space previously occupied by A&P. Now the food sold is identical to the chain store in Orleans, only there is less choice and very few organic options. If I lived in P-town, I think I would shop only at the Bradford Health Food Market, in the center of town. We drove through Wellfleet on the way back and stopped at Marketplace to buy wine. At Stop & Shop I bought some lamb from NZ so will cook that for dinner tonight. I noticed that the lady in front of the liquor store has had a new change of clothes. She is so unexpected, don’t you think? Once back home, Sven cut up firewood and I dug up the flowerbed in front of the house as the wind whipped through the barren branches over my head. I planted white tulips for spring, surrounded by little blue flowers, also bulbs, whose name I forget. Sven had hoped to spend the day reading. Ha! Too much to do, even in the off-season!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plans for Outer Cape Health Relocation Move Forward

Could this be the road to the new Outer Health Center? I think not. It is dirt, and one-lane, and leads to Dyer Pond ... but the new site will definitely feature pine trees.

On Monday, my friend and blog reader Bruce Bierhans came to speak to the Economic Development Committee, of which I am a member, as you know. Bruce is an excellent local lawyer, but also holds important positions on the Preservation Hall and Outer Cape Health boards, a busy man in other words. Bruce described progress on the Outer Cape Health building relocation project. Here is his update: A consultant will be hired within a week. A site will be selected from three under consideration, and an architect will be chosen. Then, in three years, Wellfleet will have a new magnificent GREEN building to serve the medical needs of our community. There will be courtyards and windows, if Bruce has his way. (“We don’t want it to feel like a box," he said. "It should be a friendly place to walk into.”) Whichever site is chosen will also house the new pharmacy, which will open down the road from Chez Sven this March, a space currently under lease for three years. The Outer Cape Health board has obviously been working and thinking hard, and I salute them. Wellfleet will have a federally qualified health center, with all the bells and whistles. Hurray!

Now readers, a question: How important is it, in your opinion, that the site chosen be located on Route 6?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fall Ocean, Always Different

Here in Wellfleet, we are having several days of rain and wind. Sven and I do not go down to the beach much when it's raining. Instead, we have been making trips to the dump with demo-ed wallboard and raked leaves, two activities this fall. I was putting together a series of seven photos, seven days of ocean, but the weather did not cooperate, so here are a few of the shots from last week, with its clement weather. I find it fascinating how different the beach looks from day to day. Notice the navy blue Atlantic and, for Sunday and Monday, since I have no photos, imagine crashing surf and rough, gray seas.