Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogathon Ends; Regular Programming Resumes

Day 31 of the Blogathon has arrived at last. Hurray! I reached the finish line. To celebrate, I offer you two magnificent poppies from the Chez Sven garden. I didn't get inspired the way I did last year or visit the beach much, due to the lousy weather, but I did write three worthwhile posts about Preservation Hall and featured a great guest post by Kris Bordessa at Attainable Sustainable who wrote about the pollution of our oceans. For two years now I have been reporting on Wellfleet or Chez Sven every day. Now I would like to hear from you. What topics would you like me to cover over the summer? Do you mind if I skip a day here and there? What local sites would you like me to photograph?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wordletime at Chez Sven!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prez. Hall Birdhouse Auction: For Kids, too!

For two years I've known the Wellfleet Preservation Hall Birdhouse Auction appeals to adults, both year-rounders and non-residents alike, because it unites whimsy with practicality, and gets the creative juices running REAL good .... I've always had a suspicion that the auction could be even more fun for kids, especially after a young lady outbid me on my favorite birdhouse last year. So, for 2011 I attended with Kaarina, who provided the proof I needed. Kids love auctions, too. She got right into it and ended up taking two birdhouses home, one for herself, and one for her grandma.

Kaarina was here from Pennsylvania for Memorial Day weekend. Her mom is a friend of mine. We first checked out the houses up for live auction at noon, displayed on the Prez. Hall back lawn. There were many beauties. Kaarina admired "Birdville," above, by Ed Christie, which had spent several weeks on display in Prez. Hall, and later sold for $1600. Then she zeroed in on Robert Riddler's "Alphabet House.""We have a shot at the alphabet house because it's so unusual," she told her mom giddily. Little did they know the artist has had a show of recovered plastic objects up in Provincetown over the past month or two. The house sold for $220, above Kaarina's budget.

I liked Celeste Makeley's "Community Chicken Coop," which included hen & chicks perennials, and reminded us all that the Prez. Hall Chicken Coop Tour will take place next month. This eco-birdhouse would sell for a mere $75. Another birdhouse that spoke to me was "Tazza on the Roof," created by Nancy Carlucci who specified that it contained memories of "Naples in 1930, Nantucket in 1906, Hell's Kitchen Flea in 1960 and Mrs. Ciampi's Rose." Nancy used much skill to unite the pieces of broken porcelain and tile. A tea-cup was perched saucily on the roof. This birdhouse went for $500.

But back to Kaarina and her mom. They had discovered the birdhouses for silent auction, displayed this year inside the hall, on the stage, downstairs. In no time, my little guest had figured out how the bidding worked and written her name on two sheets of paper. The butterfly house seemed like the perfect present for grandma, who is an artist. "Grandma likes paintings and it's the colors she uses when she does paintings," Kaarina told me. In the photo below, Tracy Plaut, one of the organizers, explains a few details about a sticker house to Kaarina.

People jostled at the stage with last-minute bids as Bruce Bierhans announced three more minutes, then one, then counted down seconds. I held my breath for the last minute because the butterfly house had suddenly drawn a new admirer. The couple was not quick enough though. The silent auction ended, and Kaarina had won the butterfly house for her grandma.

Once the silent auction was over, we proceeded upstairs for the live auction, mc-ed by none other than Seth Rolbein. He reminded the crowd that Prez. Hall still carries a $500,000 loan debt and hopes to soon "be like the birds, free of debt." Kaarina valiantly raised her paper plate for certain items but to no avail. The follow-up bids were too high. Seth even called her, "my favorite bidder so far." Tracy Plaut teased two auction-goers into a bidding war for a fabulous birdhouse, called "Dancers," painted by Dorothy Strauss. It went for $550. (In the photo to the right, Tracy gets some assistance from a young friend.)

The crowd seemed nonplussed when Seth presented what he called "a house for modern birds," in hommage no doubt to the modern houses of Cape Cod that are being lovingly restored by the CCMHT. Seth asked for an opening bid of $100 and received none. He paused to reconsider. Perhaps the modern house would be taken off the block? Unable to make up his mind, he offered it at $75. Kaarina's plate shot into the air. "Sold!" cried Seth. Kaarina became the proud owner of a marvelous modern house for birds, with swimming pool and deck chairs. Now I have to take her over to Northeast Pond to see the real thing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wellfleet Oysters Make the NYT, Again!

Trying one's hand at shellfishing in Wellfleet makes the New York Times Travel Section, yet again.

What Happens When the Innkeeper Gets Sick?

Not much. At a B&B, there's often no staff to pick up the slack, and Sven is sick, too. Last week we must have brought home a germ or a virus from the Prez. Hall opening. I have had trouble breathing all week. Lots of handwashing going on, let me tell you. And, coughing. Today I went to the doctor for antibiotics. Therefore, curtailed activities here at Chez Sven as we end Blogathon 2011. I will pick up the Name That Loon contest later. Right now I can barely think. Fortunately, the weather is sunny, so our guests are happy. Lots of visitors to the Cape for Memorial Day Weekend. Are you doing something special to celebrate?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chez Sven's Landscaping Gets Facelift

I believe in investing in our business. This is why Sven and I decided to have some work done this spring on the landscaping here at Chez Sven. The old car park for Seagull Cottage had seen better days. It was created in the 1970s, repaired, overwhelmed with ivy, repaired again. Guests never felt as if the space was quite large enough for modern cars. Now no one will be able to complain. Take a look at this work of art! The wooden steps were replaced with stone. With excavators available, we also raised a bed of myrtle one foot, and encased it with a rock wall. In this bed will go fruit trees, in memory of my parents. It was time to remove some scruffy evergreens and put in lawn, easier to maintain. Here two lilacs are moved to join several others in a hedge on the north side of the garden. The final step will be a split wood fence and rambling roses at the bottom of the property. What do you think of these changes?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Erosion Update

The erosion at LeCount Hollow Beach was bad this winter. Check out what specialists have to say on erosion in general on Cape Cod in this Cape Cod Times article.

What's Happening Memorial Day Weekend?

Memorial Day Weekend is right around the corner. There are lots of fun things going on, and I would be remiss if I did not remind you. First off, don't miss the Preservation Hall Annual Birdhouse Auction, May 29th, from 11 to 1, always a fun event. Come support our new community center and provide your feathered friends with tastefully decorated homes. I love seeing the birdhouses. Wellfleetians are so creative! This event is one of my absolute favorites. Not to say I don't enjoy the Yard Sale at the Dump, organized by Cape Cool. The 18th annual will take place May 28th from 8 to 3, beside the Swap Shop. I try to contribute something every year. Finally, on Monday evening, starting at 5:30, local acts, including Ball & Chain, and Squidda, will be performing at the Beachcomber. What a terrific way to start the season, and hey, the sun decided to shine!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"I love the Cape – I love its flair,
I love its sea-scented tangy air,
I love its brisk southwest breeze,
I love the shore birds, the autumn breeze,

The sparkling beaches, the basking sun,
The sports, the sailing, the diversified fun.
There’s no perfect land on this mortal sod,
But you’re the nearest to it when you’re on Cape Cod."

Do you know where this Official Poem of Barnstable County by Dr. Fred. G. Rollins is posted in Wellfleet?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Has Happened to the Weather?

A photo of the beach, taken several weeks ago (!), to remind us all that summer will arrive, must arrive, at some point. We are all asking ourselves the same question. What has happened to the weather? The tornadoes in the mid-west make one wonder if something is not broken. Mother Nature has had enough and has decided to strike back, since politicians act as if global warming does not exist. Did you see the long article in the Boston Globe yesterday, describing how many Cape Cod residents are moving out to make room for tourists this summer? Also, worth noting that WHAT begins its theater season tomorrow night. Get your tickets while they last!

Where I Write ...

During the month of May, I am participating in a Blogathon and today's suggested topic is, "My Top 5 Favorite Places to Write." Since a lap-top is not something I own, my writing activities are essentially confined to my office. Therefore, I do not have five favorite places to write. But, since I do have imagination, here are my choices: 1.) My office, ie. Chez Sven, in winter; 2.) Chez Sven, outside in summer; 3.) the Wellfleet Public Library, where people gather to use the marvelous machines with names like Patience, Hope, and Harmony; 4.) PB Boulangerie Bistro, where it's possible to pig out on croissants and other goodies while checking email; 5.) Wellfleet Preservation Hall, on the front steps, or in the back garden. Where is your favorite place to write?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Johnathan Kendall

Anyone who has driven down Main Street over the past
thirty plus years has had the opportunity to admire the doors on Wellfleet’s former Catholic Church, now re-purposed as Preservation Hall, our new community center. Ever since 1976, when the colorful woodcarvings first attracted my eye, I have wondered about the artist who created the soulful images. Who was Johnathan Kendall? What happened to him? Was he a native of Cape Cod? These questions and more were answered Friday evening at a talk by Mark Gabrielle, curator of an unusual show, which will showcase 30 woodcarvings from June 30 to September 5, Prez. Hall’s first.

At the beginning of the talk, Mark warned the audience that the story he was about to relate was not a happy one. Kendall had a difficult early life, although he did travel to Europe where he was exposed to religious art. His mother disowned him on his 18th birthday, an event that made the son leave New England and move west where he lived in a cabin and made icons. The “woodcarving nomad” visited Cape Cod in 1976. He created our doors in exchange for a small food stipend, and the right to pitch a tent in the churchyard. Barter became a way of life. Kendall often visited monasteries and discovered a certain kinship with the monks. It was in the late 1970s, Gabrielle reported, that Kendall started a workshop on icon-making at an “experimental monastery” in Arizona. (Read more here.) It was there that he fell in love with John Kreyche, a “strong silent type.” The two married and were inseparable until 1991 when Kreyche disappeared without a trace. Kendall was heartbroken. “He wanted to make a living from his art, but it never worked out that way,” Gabrielle said sadly. Kendall died in 2004 in a New Mexico nursing home.

As part of the renovation project, workers removed the doors, which were stored away once Brailsford Nixon and Jean Nelson had painstakingly brought the art work back to its original glory. I saw the doors once during a Preservation Hall garden tour. They served as inspiration for this gingerbread house, on sale three years ago during Deck This Hall, as well as marvelous ginger cookies that looked too good to eat. That same year I bought a transfer of the image, now on my window.

While Wellfleetians have grown to love these doors, they also hold meaning for visitors. I discovered this fact when one of our regular cottage guests asked why the doors had been removed from the shuttered building. Fortunately, I was able to organize a special visit that year, thanks to Simone Reagor. It turns out our guests used the doors every summer as a yardstick for their son. The photo to the left was taken in 2008. “When I first started taking this shot, Cory was in this same pose, but reaching up to grab the end of the door handles, about at the lower black bar,” my friend Robert reports by email. It’s a marvelous tradition, don’t you think?

Johnathan Kendall’s doors are one of Wellfleet’s special treasures. I’m grateful to Mark Gabrielle for the painstaking research he did on the artist, answering all my questions, as well as for putting together a show of Kendall’s work. Visitors to Wellfleet can look forward to seeing some of Kendall’s other woodcarvings this summer. Since the artist was prolific, picking up a piece of his art at the flea market also remains an intriguing option ….

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wellfleet: Trendy, or What?

There are some days where I cannot seem to get away from blogging. I thought this news would really wake some of you up. I posted earlier today about how Parade Magazine mentions Wellfleet Oysterfest, which is a coup for the local PR team. I don't usually read the New York Times Style Magazine, but Sven picked it up by accident, thinking he had the more interesting one, and discarded Style in the bathroom, where I found it. My eyes skimmed the headline, "Summer Travel with Stops in Favignana, THE FRENCH RIVIERA, Ireland, Kuala Lumpur, Montenegro, St. Bart's, Tangier, the Thames River, Venice, and Wellfleet." Wellfleet? What the? Sure enough. There's a whole article about the Colony, "The Wellfleet Ten, A colony of Bauhaus-style bungalows on Cape Cod evokes the summer idylls of a lost bohemia."

Here at Chez Sven Blog, we know all about the modern houses in town, don't we? You can even stay in one this summer if you want, thanks to the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. It's not the Colony, but nicer, on a pond even. The article mentions Faye Dunaway's having been among the Colony's guests. Actually Faye Dunaway stayed in this house, too. The previous owner was a friend of hers. I seem to remember hearing she was "high maintenance" from that owner's son. Whatever. Not easy being a movie star ...

A May Day in the Life

Breakfast yesterday for our guests was organic fruit salad, organic yogurt, organic granola, and organic blueberry muffins. After their breakfast, I wrote a blog about the artist who created the Preservation Hall doors for posting tomorrow, which took about an hour, and admired the wisteria, cascading over the cottage roof. Then Sven and I went to the transfer station, ie. dump, to check out the Eco-Fair. I was especially interested by "the proper mercury disposal stand," where I learned about mercury in old thermostats. Then I watched a demonstration of how to make compost, something I have done for many years. We stopped to visit with Derek Diedricksen, whose getaway shack drew a number of curious Wellfleetians. In the second photo at the top of this post, Derek chats with Sven, Todd Schwebel, and daughter Freya. (Check out Derek's amazing Humble House, Simple Shacks, a book which was recently picked up by a clever publisher and will soon be available on Amazon.) On the way home, we stopped at PB Boulangerie Bistro for bread. I treated myself to a quiche and bought Sven his favorite, a "pain aux raisins." Once back at the house, I realized the week had passed so fast, what with all the Preservation Hall activities, that I forgot to order more Peace Coffee. May is the month for stocking up on amenities. I did the sheets and the soaps, etc. but must now order food stuffs. (Here's a photo of our happy Green Room guests, on their second visit to Chez Sven.) There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done in May. One of my main spring activities is gardening. The sun came out from behind a cloud as I sprayed on organic tick repellant and, armed with clippers, went into the yard to cut back the holly bush. While this does not sound like a complicated task, that bush was planted by my parents in memory of a friend and has grown wild for, say, 40 years? One flowerbed had not yet been edged, so I did that shoveling work and transplanted allyssum. The garden is scented with lilac and lily of the valley at this time of the year and birds are busy building nests and singing about it, so work outside is definitely more pleasant than making beds or cleaning. Sven and I drove to the dump with the holly branches two more times. Finally, we turned the outdoor shower back on. There has not been much sun in May, but the warmer temperatures tell us summer is indeed on the way. On the last ride down Route 6, we could see gray clouds on the horizon, evidence of mist at the ocean. Before dinner, I photographed this early bird in the poppy bed. In checking email, I was happy to learn Wellfleet Oysterfest was featured today in Parade Magazine, quite a coup for the local Cape Cod community. We had planned to attend Kevin Rice's Prez. Hall Follies, the final free event of opening week at Preservation Hall, but I was simply too tired. That's what hard labor in the garden will do to a 64-year-old! Without further ado, I crawled into bed at 8 p.m. and immediately fell asleep ...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reflections on Visiting the Wampanoag Exhibit at the National Seashore

Last weekend the Cape Cod National Seashore celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. As part of the celebration, several members of the Wampanoag tribe demonstrated crafts and woodcarving. I don’t know about you, but I always feel guilty when confronted with Native American peoples. We, the Caucasians, stole their land, basically, when you think about it. They were here first. By what right did the English “colonize” this continent? Since Sven is a historian, I thought it would be interesting to hear what he had to say on this subject, so I asked. Here's what he said:

“The settlers had no rights whatsoever. They believed in their own rights. They were like conquistadors. I just read a long article on the subject. The first ones, who came to Jamestown, were looking for gold. The other ones in the 1630s, up here, were also conquistadors, but had to compromise. They had to live on the land. There was no gold. The people who came afterwards were more interested in land. And, that’s the America we have today.”

Greedy, in other words. Land, gold, corporate interests, what difference? We are told, in school, that the Pilgrims came in search of religious freedom, which makes them sound noble, but really they simply wanted a place to live. They found this amazing land and took possession.

Last week I watched Smoke Signals, a great film about modern day "Indians." I'm learning about real Native Americans on Quincy Tahoma Blog. They respected the land. The indigenous people did not have a concept that anyone could own land.

Puritans came after Pilgrims, and Puritans did not even bother to pay for land.

Did the Wampanoags understand the sale of 12,000 acres for Plimouth Plantation? I doubt it. The tribe had already been decimated by disease.

“The natives were exterminated by illnesses,” Sven went on. “They were all dead already, from an epidemic, when the settlers came to Cape Cod.”

Some survived. The brave Wampanoag weavers and carvers are their descendents.

My ancestors did not bring the germs that caused the epidemic, nor push Native Americans west and then restrict them to reservations. On my father’s side, my family lived in Russia. On my mother’s side, both families lived in England for two more centuries. Nonetheless, when I encounter Wampanoags, I feel regret at how the indigenous people were treated. Do you feel the same way?

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Hello? Chez Sven After Hours ..."

It’s 9:37, on a Saturday night, in late MARCH. The phone rings.

ME: “Chez Sven, hello?”

CALLER: “How far are you from the Gstalt Center?”

ME, (in reflex-response mode): “Chez Sven is 8/10ths of a mile from the center of Wellfleet.”

CALLER: “Do you serve just breakfast? Could we come tomorrow for breakfast, or does one have to stay there, too?”

ME: “Sorry, but we only serve breakfast to our guests.”

CALLER: “Next time I’ll stay with you.”

ME: “Just so you know, there’s a two-night minimum.”

CALLER: “Thanks. Bye.”

ME: “Bye.”

SVEN: “What did they want?”

ME: “Breakfast! Just breakfast”

SVEN: “Well, this is a bed AND breakfast. What do you expect?”


1.) I should have responded, “Chez Sven After Hours,” as Janet of Stone Lion Inn suggested in 2010, and that way the caller would have realized it was really too late to be phoning a B&B.

2.) Word of our great organic breakfasts must be getting out ....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Think Green! Come to the Third Annual Eco-Expo!

It's Eco-Expo time again. Come join the fun from 10 to 2 on Saturday, at our marvelous transfer station, and celebrate green living with like-minded souls. Recycling chair Lydia Vivante has some great new attractions for us this year, including Derek Diedricksen, who will show Wellfleetians how discarded bits of wood can be transformed into, for instance, a cozy structure for the back yard. He will also be signing copies of his book, Humble Homes, Simple Shacks. Yesterday Derek blogged about small homes/treehouses/forts as an art installation by Tadashi Kawamata. He will be bringing his micro-shelter/sleeper cabin "The GottaGottaWay" and "recycled-material art, and repurposed/rebuilt/funky furniture pieces" for us to admire.

Eco-Expo will also feature Quirky Circus at noon, worms, composters, Elspeth Hay, and much more. As Wellfleet's Health and Conservation agent Hillary Greenberg-Lemos has said, “By getting together, learning and having fun, we hope that our communities will strengthen their commitment to more environmentally safe living.” Here's your chance to interact with our Cape and Islands Local Food reporter, discover Derek's marvels, and brush up on new ways to save our planet.

While we are talking recycling, note that our Commission is again making available this summer recycling bins, like the one Chez Sven sponsored down by the pier in 2010. There will even be bins at the beaches, and seasonal staff to tend them. Lydia and friends will be raising money at Harborfest, June 11, to buy a solar compacter. Please support all these noble efforts. I really admire what the Recycling Commission has been able to accomplish. So, it's a date then? See you Saturday, at the dump, Sven's favorite place in all of Wellfleet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Farmers' Market Opens at Preservation Hall

Ordinarily I would not be posting again this morning, but I simply have to share a few things. First off, a friend sent me the link to yesterday's New York Times article about flame retardants and recognition that they are harming our children. Here is yet more evidence that we need to all support Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. Then came word from Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group that information on pesticide residue has not been released by the government this year, no doubt due to the EWG Dirty Dozen campaign to educate consumers about the risks pesticides pose to anyone who consumers them, either through residue on fruit/veggies, or through drinking water, contaminated with herbicides, which our Cape Cod water will be if NStar is allowed to pursue its new vegetation management plan. (Please sign the EWG petition and share.) Finally, I wanted to remind everyone that a sneak peek at Wellfleet’s first farmers’ market is taking place this morning, in front of Preservation Hall. I got to meet local raw food specialists Kate and Kristen Reed and buy some eggs from Sharyn Lindsay, left, who is responsible for this marvelous initiative. With the deplorable weather Cape Cod has had for several weeks this spring, there was not much for sale yet, but do plan to stop by in June. I bought fresh eggs for our guests, and some organic salad babies for the garden. Being able to buy such things locally was a real thrill.

Forum Holds Meeting About Recycling Options

Monday evening I attended the Forum event on recycling, held at the Senior Center. Several dozen Wellfleetians, and a couple from Truro, listened to presentations by Cape specialists on Pay As You Throw (PAYT) (Sandwich) and single stream recycling (Mashpee). Edith DeMello told us PAYT was “the single most effective way to reduce waste.” Paul Tilton agreed: “If you recycle, you’re going to save.” Costs for SEMASS have gone up and will increase dramatically over the next three years, which is why Town Administrator Paul Sieloff is guiding Wellfleet towards a PAYT scheme. Audience members got to touch the special bags, made of plastic, that will be sold to consumers. Composting will be encouraged as well. The cost of the dump sticker will presumably go down. I learned about several unique recycling programs at the Wellfleet Transfer Station: wood and compost are already in progress, but also our town offers marine recycling and recycles shells for cultch. A question from the audience that particularly interested me was how the system would work for renters in summer. Apparently they will be able to purchase one-day passes, and realtors can purchase, then distribute the bags. All the details have not yet been ironed out, but I was encouraged by what I heard. Recycling of bottles and cans will start this year at our ocean beaches. Does your town or city have a PAYT program? If you live in Wellfleet, what do you think of these changes that are to come?