Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Impressions Matter

Last week we had a lovely guest who looked into her crystal ball and saw innkeeping in her future. Christine was here from Europe, with her German husband, to reconnoiter. Cape Cod had already attracted their attention as the perfect place to open a B&B and now they were honing in on which town might be the most desirable. When I mentioned that two B&Bs had recently closed, they pricked up their ears and I realized Wellfleet was under consideration.

“What’s it like here in the off-season?” Florian asked yesterday morning, before leaving for Nantucket.

An important detail, not to be dismissed lightly. I told him how beautiful winter can be and explained that our public library has always been the hub of all cultural activity, but now we have Preservation Hall as well. "And then, of course, there are the beaches," I said.

Florian works in IT. In the travel field. The day before we had established that innkeepers, in a seasonal economy, need another means of making a living, like a second job that involves the Internet. When the couple sat down to breakfast on the day of departure, I could tell the wheels had been turning overnight, with options for Web sites dancing in Florian’s head.

We discussed how first impressions matter, and all agreed that trendy Wellfleet makes an excellent first impression.

“You turn off Route 6 onto Main and drive past the Wicked Oyster, with its garden, obviously an upscale establishment,” he said. “You have the ocean and the ponds.”

“Not everyone likes to swim in salt water,” Christine pointed out.

Wellfleet does make a good impression, with its mixture of quaint but nicely maintained, traditional clapboard houses along Main Street.

The couple also mentioned having noticed the new sidewalks.

“What would make Wellfleet your first choice?”

Christine raised her eyebrows. “Tax benefits for settling here?”

Florian added, “Yes, the option to invest that money in our new business.”

The perfect incentive. I told them I’d report back to the Economic Development Committee. We should have more young people like Florian and Christine here year-round.

Innkeepers need vigor and charm. Gregariousness, a sense of adventure. An outgoing personality is a plus, as is relative youth. Christine and Florian, in their early thirties, have all of the above.

“I think you two would make perfect innkeepers,” I said and meant it.

Do you have any suggestions for the Economic Development Committee of how to attract this type of young, dynamic businessperson to Wellfleet? What would make you come settle on Cape Cod?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Voices Carry ...

At 7:30 last night I heard loud laughter, which caused me to lift up the shade and peek out the window. A teenager was circling the Seagull Cottage parking area, with a cell phone pressed to her head, in animated conversation with someone. When I came out, she beat a quick retreat down the road to the neighbor's house.

From time to time yesterday, I had heard dogs barking, adults shouting to each other, and children screaming, noises that emanated from the property below ours, in the woods. The neighbor lives in California and rents the house during the summer. The tenants stay a week, then leave. They are tourists, here on vacation. Nothing wrong with that. Wellfleet's two main industries are shellfishing and tourism.

It's a three-bedroom contemporary-style house, with a "newer studio cottage" next door. I have not been able to count exactly how many people are sleeping on the property, but there have been at least four cars entering and exiting, with license plates from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virgina, and Pennsylvania. No doubt a family gathering, wouldn't you think?

These temporary neighbors probably chose an ad for a summer house near Dyer Pond, in the quiet woods of Wellfleet. Guess what. When you make noise, the woods are no longer quiet.

Since I happened to have the owner's phone number, I called California to let him know. Sure enough. He had no idea that a multitude of people was in residence.

I just checked the online ad, and it states "occupancy for 6 to 8."

There's no mention of "quiet woods," so the tenants have no way of figuring out our neighborhood is known for birdsong, not noise, and that they should keep it down. Voices carry.

I'll suggest to the neighbor that he add "quiet woods" to the online description for 2012.

If you live in Wellfleet, have you ever been upset by tenants who became temporary neighbors in summer? If you come to Wellfleet as summer visitors, do you try to "keep it down" and be respectful of neighbors who live here year-round?

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Bass Specials Are Available in Wellfleet?

Bass season is almost over. I can never get enough of this delicious firm-fleshed ocean fish. The short July season will end soon, once a quota has been reached, as striped bass is, fortunately, a protected species. You can buy it at any of the fish markets in town. Shop around for the best price. Or, you can enjoy the bass specials in our local restaurants. Here are some of the options:

Winslow’s Tavern: line-caught local-caught bass, served with an artichoke heart, fingerling potato hash, and a slow-roast yellow tomato coulis, $25.

Mac’s Shack: grilled, with a citrus-compound butter, over curried red lentils, $29.

Wicked Oyster: served over a light cream broth with fingerling potatoes, littlenecks, leeks and bacon, $26.

The Juice: aromatic-filled with rosemary with local sautéed Swiss chard, accompanied by a sweet-corn white-truffle polenta, $32.

Finely JPs: pan-seared with a whole-grain mustard-chives slurry, saffron and mussels sauce, $25.

Bookstore: No bass special.

Pearl: marinated in balsamic vinegar, then grilled, then baked and topped with a fresh basil pesto, $28.

PB Boulangerie Bistro: served “a la planche,” with spring onion purée, chorizo oil, arugula in lemon vinagrette and shaved chorizo, $34.

Moby’s: Grilled, with baked potato and corn, $21.

So much choice! I’m baking ours with garlic, white wine, scallions, and tarragon. Yum!

How do you cook striped bass? Have you eaten it before? Have you tried one of the specials in the aforementioned restaurants?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Does Age Matter for Innkeepers?

Yesterday a reader asked, in the comments, whether Sven and I get out, in high season, to all the great events going on about town. The answer to that question is no. Generally, at the end of the day, we are too exhausted to trip-the-light-fantastic, let alone watch television. There’s a fantasy that innkeeping is a great pastime for people taking early retirement, and I would like to debunk that right away. Innkeeping can be strenuous work. Yes, it’s possible to hire helpers, but they must be found, paid, and accommodated if in summer. Yes, you can set a late-arrival fee for guests who show up after regular hours, but someone has to stay up and wait for them, missing out on sleep. I often wish I had the energy of a forty-year old, that I had started in business when I was younger. (Check out this photo of us with my brother, in Amherst, over 20 years ago.)

Sven is 73. I’m 64. As much as we do not like to admit it, we are feeling our age. All this talk about Social Security and extending the age for Medicare benefits has got me thinking about getting older. How long do we want to work? Should we retire? If we retire, who will take over this profitable business we have created?

I can remember listening to the Beatles song about being 64 and thinking how ancient 64 was. Being 64 seemed so far away back then. Age creeps up on you. It’s the small things: the sagging skin under the arm, a change in the texture of that skin – cross-hatching and puckers. That first senior moment when you cannot remember something that should be obvious. Failing eyes, failing ears. You look through the New York Times and everyone in the ads looks so much younger. Suddenly you’re reading obits of people your age. Friends have started dying. That’s when it really hits home. You’re next, you’re not young anymore. It’s a sad thing but it happens to everyone.

Here's a photo of us, taken three years ago by a guest. Recently I've noticed Sven is not as patient as he used to be. When he wants something, he needs it immediately. I took care of my elderly dad and recognize this behavior as part of getting old.

Modern culture tells us youth is everything. I don’t agree. But aging is no fun.

Sven went swimming in Dyer Pond yesterday. It’s the first time he has been in months. He used to swim in the ocean, but no more. He used to go biking, but no more. Biking requires quick reflexes, a sense of balance, skills older people do not have. He can't climb ladders, which is also due to a loss of sense of balance. I can still do that, but for how long?

So, yes, age matters. Are you getting older? Does it bother you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's Up this Weekend in Wellfleet?

Above, a photo of Newcomb Hollow Beach, taken yesterday afternoon. It was surprisingly cool at the ocean, but we saw lots of folks playing in the waves.

The Wellfleet Public Library has a brand new site you should check out, where it's easy to find a list of the fine events taking place there this summer.

Here are some more suggestions for the coming week:

July 28, 7:30: Award winning photojournalist Ethan Daniels, author of Under Cape Cod Waters, spends most of his year shooting underwater in exotic locales such as Belize, Palau, and Micronesia. He will speak about his book at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (and, yes, this event is NOT in Wellfleet but rather Brewster).

July 30, 4 pm: A potluck buffet will be held at the Wellfleet Community Garden.

July 30, 6-8: Left Bank Gallery is holding an opening for Maggie Schmidt, Brian Kiernan, and Jennifer O'Connell.

July 31: Don't miss the 37th Annual Wellfleet Historical Society House Tour.

Aug 2, 7:30: The New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform at the Wellfleet Congregational Church. Buy your tickets here

And, if you have not yet seen the Preservation Hall exhibit of wood carvings by Jonathan Kendall, don't miss the show. Some of the colorful and unique artwork is available through silent auction to benefit Preservation Hall.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Made 200,000! Thanks, Blog Readers

This blog experienced its 200,000th hit last week. Yesterday’s post garnered 421 visits but no comments so far. I’m always fascinated to learn what interests readers and how new visitors have discovered Chezsven Blog.

Check out some of the most recent searches:

• Which restaurants in Wellfleet take reservations?
• How to put spindles on a screen door
• NStar and gates and fences Cape Cod
• Traditional Cape Cod Houses
• Truro Nude Ponds.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts after the Protest March

As Lisa Brown banged on her recycled container-drum and followed Cape Cool’s Jerusha, on crutches, down the hill beneath the powerlines yesterday, I was already thinking ahead, asking myself what we could do next to stop the contamination of Cape Cod’s sole source aquifer. I wish you could have been there to feel the powerful energy of taking back the land. With quiet dignity, we held high the amazing banners, created by Femke and Roxana for CWAACC (Clean Water Art Action Cape Cod). Jerusha was singing her marvelous new song, Powerlines For the People, with the two dozen Wellfleetians chanting refrains like “Don’t spray it.”

Afterwards, there was a neighborhood potluck. As I looked around at the copious amounts of yummy food, I could not help but wonder whether any of it contained high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or GMOs. Eating food has become dangerous. H2O on Cape Cod may soon no longer be safe to drink. How does our government allow this craziness?

Last week Michelle Obama announced a new initiative, the encouragement of fresh foods for children. We should all applaud her having taken action, but I fear the measure will not be enough to stem the obesity epidemic. The real culprit is high fructose corn syrup. If you have an hour and a half to spare, watch Sugar: The Bitter Truth, a video featuring Dr. Robert H. Lustig, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. Then, go into your pantry and examine labels. I have no doubt HFCS will be on at least one. I became aware of the need to read labels thanks to Susie, a repeat guest at Chez Sven, whose daughter is allergic to peanuts and HFCS.

It’s a fact that food allergies are on the rise in children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that visits to the emergency room at Children's Hospital Boston for allergic reactions more than doubled from 2001 to 2006. The number of children with food allergies has increased 18% in the past decade, according to USA Today. I’m afraid this crisis will only worsen with the introduction of more GMOs into the fields of America.

So there I was, sitting in the neighbor’s garden, thinking about toxic free living and how different the world is today, compared to thirty years ago, during my kids’ childhood, when one of the other guests broke into these morose thoughts.

“My neighbor sprayed Roundup this close to my organic garden, right on the other side of the fence,” Catherine snorted. “He was wearing a gas mask. He called me a nut job when I protested.”

Roundup is the retail name of glyphosate, one of the five herbicides NStar intends to spray. For a few minutes we discussed how to behave in such a ludicrous situation, a neighbor spraying poison that nullifies an effort to grow organic food.

“Is NStar backing off at all?” Catherine asked me.

“Unfortunately, no,” I said.

I thought about what it takes to stop a utility company from contaminating ground water. How do we get NStar to acknowledge the new academic-science findings with regard to herbicides, including glyphosate, intended for our powerlines?

Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CWAACC Protests Under Powerlines

B&B Etiquette: Be Respectful over the Phone

Everyone wants to come and enjoy Wellfleet's fabulous ocean beaches, beautiful even at twilight. From now on we have guests non-stop through Labor Day. Yesterday we received a lovely couple who had never before stayed at a B&B. They didn't know what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. We also had a return visit from Betty and Al, who did not do as much kayaking as usual due to the hot weather, but enjoyed their Cape visit all the same. When Sven expressed embarrassment at the hour they had spent together over breakfast, Al said, "It's not usual that I have a conversation like this, so it wasn't a waste, on the contrary. This is the way a good breakfast conversation should be."

Guests like Al and Betty are the absolute high of innkeeping. They are fortunately the majority at Chez Sven, guests who have studied our Web site, know what to expect, and have booked months in advance. Still, we get the occasional phone call that drives me crazy and demonstrates why innkeepers burn out so fast.

It's 8 PM, Saturday night. The phone rings.

ME: Hello, Chez Sven.

HE: Do you have any rooms for August 5-7?

ME: I'm sorry but we are almost fully booked for the whole month of August. Have you consulted our Web site? There's an availability calendar. I suggest you contact the Wellfleet Chamber of ...

By the time I have made this suggestion, the fellow has already hung up on me. No one wants to be treated like a door mat. I have a hard time understanding how anyone who thinks he might stay at my B&B could behave in such a manner. I was actually glad I was able to tell this person we were fully booked. I did not want him here.

Maybe it's a matter of culture? B&Bs are very common in Europe. Staying at a B&B means you are invited into a private home. B&BS ARE NOT HOTELS OR MOTELS. B&Bs are a step above. Innkeepers make a personal connection with their guests. At Chez Sven, people return year after year. And when they leave, it feels like saying goodbye to old friends ...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Hot in Wellfleet!

With weather this hot, I feel like covering my body with ice cubes, like in an Annie Leibovitz photo. That's what I thought about all day yesterday: ice cubes. Sven took half a dozen cold showers over the course of the afternoon. There wasn't even a sea breeze. Our Green Room guests came home and said it had been too hot to paddle a kayak, too hot to sit on a beach. We could hear music from the Baker Field concert, but our Liberty Coin guests did not arrive until 7:30 so we could not attend. Once our new Swiss family had set off for dinner, Sven and I went down to the ocean and stood with our feet in the cold water. What are you doing to stay cool?

Friday, July 22, 2011

10 Surprising Things about Innkeeping

1.) Some people think nothing of calling after normal business hours, ie. as if Chez Sven were a hotel, open 24/7.
2.) Strangers will drop by and expect to be able to tour the premises.
3.) Some guests equate innkeepers with maids.
4.) No one has ever asked if our scrambled eggs get cooked in Teflon.
5.) Nor have they asked who the General’s Green Room is named after.
6.) Some guests think nothing of making a racket when they return after midnight, which is not appropriate since the B&B is also a home.
7.) Some guests bring and take drugs. How do I know? A couple flushed leftovers down the toilet, and the capsules did not disintegrate.
8.) People expect B&B hosts to be experts on accommodation in town, including the motels, and will sound irritated over the phone if I’m unable to name the “best” motel around.
9.) I expected our guests to be middle-aged, but actually most are young.
10.) Innkeepers get to meet some really nice people!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are Dogs Allowed on Wellfleet Beaches?

I’ve been thinking a lot about dogs ever since I wrote the review of Caitlin Horrocks’s short story collection This Is Not Your City. In “Steal Small,” the heroine’s boyfriend “bunches” dogs. I may be naïve but I had no idea people, in this tough economy, would turn to collecting animals for sale to laboratories to earn rent money. The more I think about it, the more abhorrent the whole idea becomes. I should specify that I’m not a dog person, although my family did own a marvelous fox terrier named Acey in Washington, DC where I grew up. In France, cats seemed more sensible for my children, so cats it was. Now, with Sven being allergic to animals, I have neither cats nor dogs, although we do enjoy watching dogs play on the beach here, especially in the off-season when Catch-the-Frisbee seems the game of choice.

Usually, in summer, our quiet woods reverberate with yelps and howls at the beginning of every week as tenants settle into nearby rentals. The sounds abate as the pets become accustomed to new surroundings.

Sometimes we see folks out on Old King’s Highway, walking dogs. Dogs, who have been to the beach already, seem to prefer beach-walking.

Wellfleet has strict rules regarding dogs at town beaches. Dogs are not allowed on the bay, or Duck Harbor. (This is a new regulation, voted in a few months ago to protect aquaculture after a particularly loud outcry from the community.) Dogs are also not welcome at the fresh water ponds. On the other hand, you can take your dog to an ocean beach as long as he/she is on a leash and you are willing to stay outside the guarded area during the day. The National Seashore applies the same rules at its ocean beaches.

Anyone who is not familiar with this rule, say at Mayo Beach, might be tempted to leave a pet in a car. When I see dogs in cars, I feel very sorry for them. In 90-degree heat, such behavior is definitely not cool. But what if someone has parked behind town hall and is running into Wellfleet Marketplace for a bottle of milk?

Should dogs be left in cars while their owners shop in town? This week Roxanne, over at Champion of My Heart asks that question. In fact, she took a poll to find out what readers thought. Check out the results and, while you are there discovering Roxanne’s tremendous blog about her dog Lilly, read about her Never Shock a Puppy campaign, then click through and vote in the Petties Awards for Champion of My Heart as Best Dog Blog. Lily will thank you with lots of wet kisses!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call to Action: Call Your Senators Today about Supporting the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

I love trash, don't you? Let me clarify. Trash fascinates me. I'm amazed at what people throw away. Although Wellfleet's beaches now sport spiffy recycling containers, they do get overwhelmed, as in this photo taken at Cahoon Hollow last Independence Day.

Do you ever wonder how many toxic chemicals are in such a mess? Probably lots. We need to regulate toxic chemicals in the environment. Turns out today is National Call-In for Safe Chemicals Day. So, I urge every one of you reading this blog to do me a favor. Call your senators.

Here in Massachusetts, I can tell you that Senator Brown has not yet made up his mind. He needs to hear from you. A friendly staff member will answer the phone, or you’ll be asked to leave a message. Please ask Senator Brown to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act and let him know what city you live in. It would be good to call Senator Kerry, too, but if you only have time for one call, make it to Brown.

Sample Message:

"Hi my name is _______ and I am a (insert something like mom, dad, aunt, nurse, doctor, student, activist, etc). I am really concerned about toxic chemicals in consumer products and their impact on my family’s health. I’m calling Senator Scott Brown to ask him to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. American families deserve to be protected from toxic chemicals in our homes, workplaces and communities.”

MAKE THE CALL!! Phone calls are an incredibly important way for your Senators to know how you feel.

Since this is a national campaign, if you live outside Massachusetts, please contact your own senator. Read how here. And, if you are lucky enough to live in the state of New Jersey, say thank you to Senator Lautenberg who introduced this legislation. Let's get it done this time!

Senator Scott Brown: (202) 224-4543
Senator John Kerry: (202) 224-2742

Wednesday in Wellfleet: Check Out the Farmers' Market

Did you know that there's a farmers' market on Wednesdays, behind Preservation Hall, 335 Main Street? The hours are 8 am to noon. Last week the Portnoys were selling organic honey from Narrow Land Farms and is it ever delicious. They had even brought part of a hive so visitors could admire the busy bees. Today Annie, from Eastham, had amazing heirloom beans for sale. I also purchased a rhubarb pie at the Wildflour Bakery stand.

Please support Wellfleet's farmers' market. It's a great way to see old friends and make new ones, as well as to pick up some succulent greens or a dozen fresh eggs.

It's a shame some people in town do not see the benefit of having a farmer's market. Having lived in France, I love going to an open-air market. How do you feel about it? Do you have a farmers' market in your town?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Blogs Feature Wellfleet?

With the heat wave approaching, let’s dream for a minute of winter, and some of my posts about the season Wellfleetians hoard all summer as a marvelous secret. The beauty of snow on sand, the amazing sunsets visible from the pier or Mayo Beach, shopping at Marketplace and not needing to elbow one’s way down the aisles.

Often B&B guests ask me, “But, what’s it like here in the winter months?”

“Quiet?” I respond. “Peaceful. Beautiful.”

I know a lot of readers stay in touch with the town they love through this blog. Did you know there are others? Today I thought we would do a summary of local blogs. Check them out ….

The newest local blog is brought to you by Winslow’s Tavern, one of my favorite places to eat. Our guests had dinner there last night and reported excellent striped bass. Yum! Fellow Vassar alum Tracey Barry Hunt is in charge of the blog, which gets written by Katie, her assistant. There's an interesting post up about Wild, Wild Wellfleet right now. Winslow's updates its blog weekly.

Mac’s Seafood also sports a blog as of a few months ago, although the latest entry is more an advertisement than a post. An earlier entry covered ocean pollution and blue-fin tuna. That’s the problem: it’s hard to run a business and write a blog at the same time, not to mention keeping up with daily life which demands time from young parents like Mac & Traci (Mac’s) and Tracey & Philip (Winslow’s).

Did I mention Preservation Hall asked me to write a Prez. Hall blog, as a volunteer activity? I had to decline. Blogging takes time, effort, commitment. And, I already write Wellfleet Today. One blog is enough, don't you think?

Here are half a dozen more blogs, set in Wellfleet:

The Southfleet Motel has run a blog in past years. I was disappointed to see it has not been updated since July 2010.

The Beachcomber offers Beachcomber addicts occasional news. The latest entry comments on Independence Day weekend, and is worth reading, especially the part on traffic, but again, the whole point is to advertise what’s happening at Cahoon Hollow, which is fine, but not something easy to sustain all year, since the popular restaurant closes after Labor Day.

Susan writes Trout Towers with tongue-in-cheek verve, but unfortunately has not been writing as often as in 2007, the year she started blogging. As I mentioned earlier, life gets in the way.

In my search for local blogs, I discovered First Vacation Rental Blog, which was last updated in April, and seems to focus on useful information, as well as summer rentals.

The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary used to have its own blog about the process of green renovation, but the updates were discontinued once the project ended.

Sharyn Lindsay still writes occasionally about life with her son Caleb Potter.

Bruce Bierhans covers all matters legal at Cape Cod Barrister.

SurfWellfleet lists an assortment of local blogs on its home page.

And, no round-up would be complete without special mention for Elspeth Hay, who writes Diary of a Locavore, a superb food blog, created by an excellent local writer. If you do not read it, you should.

Now, your turn. What are your favorites? Which Wellfleet blogs did I miss?

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Short story collections are perfect for a B&B because guests can complete a whole story and then savor the nuances while falling asleep … I discovered This is Not Your City at the Hyannis Barnes & Noble, while waiting for Sven to have a tooth extracted. Caitlin Horrocks is probably not a familiar name, but it will become one. Her first collection of short stories reminds me of a meticulously loomed scarf, with bits of shiny thread woven through the mohair, and nubby wool sticking out here and there, soft and irresistible. This young writer has not only a knack for dialogue, but also the ability to create unforgettable characters. They remind me of folks you might stand behind at Cumberland Farms and not really notice. Caitlin zeroes in on the lives of these people with astounding precision and empathy. Lyssa, for instance, in Steal Small. In 16 pages the reader gets right into her head. Boyfriend Leo “bunches unwanted dogs” for sale to laboratories on weekends and shoots cows dead at the slaughterhouse during the week. Lyssa works at Goodwill. She isn’t wild about bunching dogs but realizes it helps pay the rent. And then there’s younger sister Mouse, whom Lyssa could not protect from years of what was surely sexual abuse by a neighbor. I read in the New York Times yesterday about an alarming new stimulant: bath salts. I could imagine Leo suggesting bath salts to Lyssa, and her going along with the idea. Sven tells me 40% of the youth in Spain find no jobs and must live at home. I don’t know what the percentage is here in the USA, but no doubt it’s high. After reading Steal Small, I was left thinking that at least Lyssa and Leo have a roof over their heads, even if dogs pay for it with their lives. Conclusion: these characters seemed so real that they remained with me, long after I had turned off the light. Do get this book and discover Caitlin Horrocks. Her short story collection is great.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's New in the Neighborhood?

This marvelous banner went up on Old King's Highway yesterday. Similar banners will soon be going up all over town.

Today I want to report on the Safer Alternatives hearing that took place in Boston on Tuesday. It went well and Healthy Alliance has posted a summary for you all to read.

This week Massachusetts jumped to the forefront of the struggle to limit toxic chemicals in the environment with the introduction, to Congress, by Senator John Kerry, of the Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Exposure Elimination Act of 2011. It has already won the support of Dr. Theo Colborn and her Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

If NStar sprays herbicides under the power lines of Cape Cod, we will be drinking endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our water. Please don't let this happen. Spread the word to your neighbors. And, if your neighborhood wants a banner, too, let me know.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's New at Chez Sven?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Will Homeland Security Soon Control Cape Cod?

The Department of Homeland Security may take control of the National Seashore. What sounds like a preposterous idea is actually being considered by the House of Representatives. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced the bill, claiming federal and local laws and oversight have interfered with border security and that border areas are "overrun with criminal activity."

I don’t think he’s referring to Cape Cod, but still the National Seashore is definitely implicated as a coastal area. This new bill makes me shudder. Sure, sometimes I look at an empty beach at twilight and wonder whether terrorists could launch an invasion during low tide. That thought has crossed my mind. But, would they? Probably not.

Were Homeland Security in charge here, the environmental laws in effect today would cease to apply. To quote Kaimi Rose Lum in the Banner, “It would give the Dept. of Homeland Security the ability to construct roads and fences, deploy patrol vehicles and set up monitoring equipment … and it would waive the need for the Dept. of Homeland Security to comply with environmental laws in areas within 100 miles of a coastline or international border.”

But never fear. Congress has good sense. This bill will never win approval. What?? Sven tells me the House has just passed H.R. 2018 to limit state water standards. Huh? H.R. 2018 would roll back key provisions of the Clean Water Act. I just checked and Rep. Keating voted nay. Please check how your Congressperson voted. According to an editorial in the New York Times today, H.R. 2018 "is about allowing industries, municipalities, and farmers to pollute." The bill goes to the Senate next.

If you’re as depressed as I am by this type of recent activity in Congress, and by the attempts to cut/limit, change Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, listen to Keith Olbermann speak out on corporate greed.

How do you feel about Homeland Security’s potential take-over of the Cape Cod National Seashore?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Check Out Harmon Gallery – Exciting Art!

One of our favorite galleries in town is Harmon Gallery, located in the same sturdy red building as Quiet Mind Studio, behind Mac’s Shack. Harmon Gallery belongs to Traci Harmon Hay, who chooses artwork with gallery director Vincent Amicosante. At Harmon Gallery, either Vincent or Traci will be on hand to guide you through an intimate experience of art appreciation, and there’s nothing quite like seeing art with the artist who created it. Over the years I have admired Traci’s watercolors that reveal her to be an attentive young mother as well as a talented artist. She participated in the Preservation Hall chicken coop tour last month and recently has been painting oils of, guess what, chickens! You can read all about her other work in the 2011 edition of Cape Arts Review.

Vincent Amicosante is Traci’s lackadaisical partner. This adjective fits only because of the way Vincent sits on the gallery porch, very laid-back and observant of the world around him, as any good artist should be. He paints large complicated landscapes, inspired by visits to Tuscany, among other places. Sven sees a lot of Dali in the paintings. Vincent uses unexpected images that are superimposed on traditional landscapes in a way that draws the viewer in. Provocative? Fun? I’d say both. These skillfully created canvases always raise questions in my mind. We hope to add an Amicosante to our collection some day. Vincent and Traci have chosen to do limited openings this summer. The first, this Saturday, will showcase the work of Cynthia Guild, above right, on the right, and Heather Pilchard. The reception is from 5 to 7. Daniel Maffia will be the star August 6, another opening I do not want to miss. Then, on August 27th, the season will close with new work by Vincent and Traci.

No post about Harmon Gallery would be complete with a reminder that Traci graciously offered her space for the April show of work by Caleb Potter and several brain-injured friends.

The gallery is following a new European style schedule for 2011,
being closed from 1:30 - 3:30. Don’t miss Harmon Gallery on your next walk through downtown Wellfleet!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Monsanto's Folly Will Affect Wellfleetians ...

Wellfleet restaurants serve GMOs: True, or False?

I wish the answer were False, but probably all our restaurants serve up a majority of genetically-engineered foods because, right now, around 75% of our processed food is genetically modified. Since there has been no labeling requirement for years, avoiding GMOs is a challenge. Genetically-modified soy, for instance, has won government approval and is taking over. (Next time you buy a soy drink, try to make it an organic one.)

What about farm fresh veggies? Depends on the seeds. I learned from Food Inc. how Monsanto has bought up many American seed companies. Whether we like it or not, most seeds are GMO. There are still some companies out there, taking the Safe Seed Pledge, like Johnny's. For information on how to recognize GMOs at the grocery store, go here. For now, buying organic still works but will it for long?

Yesterday I noticed news on Facebook that the European Union had voted 548 to 84, with 31 abstentions, that member countries should have the right to ban genetically-modified crops for environmental reasons. There was an immediate protest by EuropaBio, a lobbying group representing the likes of Monsanto, Bayer, Novartis, Monsanto Europe, Nestlé, Novo Nordisk, Rhône-Poulenc, and Unilever. These corporations do not approve of such bans because they affect the bottom line. I’m very proud of Europe for having resisted. (You can read more in this BBC report.)

In a cable released by Wikileaks, the world learned how the American ambassador to France attempted to force GMOs on France, threatening “retaliation” if the will of Monsanto was thwarted. Are you proud of shenanigans like this? Me neither.

What’s wrong with GMOs you may ask? Aren’t they the answer to feeding the world? The issue is that adequate testing has not been done. In the laboratory, serious problems have arisen after several generations. Animals fed GMOs develop sterility.

Pediatricians worry about the recent increase in food allergies in kids here and whether this increase may be due to stealth GMOs in the diet of children. Such news is enough to make me want to move back to France, knowing Monsanto has the USA in a death grip and does not intend to let go.

Recently there was a report that GMO crops are killing off monarch butterflies. You would think nature lovers would be out in force, but so far Monsanto, with its numerous lobbyists, has managed to persevere, even placing its own advocates in high-profile jobs in the Obama administration, case in point, Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture Secretary.

Thanks to activists, a push for GE salmon was recently defeated, but you can bet the Frankenfish will swim back into Congress next year.

Regulators from 100 countries had reason to celebrate last week when the USA finally agreed to support the labeling of GMOs. Perhaps this is because organic foods in our country are already compromised? From what I understand, a field of organic whatever will be invaded by alien seeds, floating on the wind. Hear it from the mouths of farmers in GM Crops Farmer to Farmer.

GMOs will take over no matter how many petitions we write. This fills me with regret. Great is Monsanto’s folly. But don't take my word for it. Read what Christopher Cook, author of "Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis," has to say on the subject.

If these corporate folks want to eat GMO food, that’s their business, but they should allow the rest of us to grow organic, don’t you think?

(How is this story related to toxic chemicals? GMO crops require more herbicides, including Glyphosate, not less as previously claimed by Monsanto.)

Remember to buy fresh, buy local. Lots of organic foods still
for sale at Hatch's, Wellfleet Marketplace, and our local farmers’ market, open today behind Preservation Hall from 8 to noon. Don’t miss out on meeting the growers who choose non-GMO seeds and the ladies who give their chickens non-GMO feed. We need to patronize this Preservation Hall-endorsed activity if we want it to continue, because there's already controversy in town, and it's not over GMOs. Not yet anyway.

Do you worry about GMOs, or am I alone in this?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's the Best Place to Be During a Heat Wave?

The temperatures have soared in the eastern part of the country, and it will get pretty hot here in Wellfleet today, too. When there's no breeze, the best place to be is the ocean. Simply putting the old feet in the Atlantic will cool down a body. That's my way of beating the heat. What's yours?

Monday, July 11, 2011

When the Bread No Longer Rises ...

Last week I snapped a photo of bikers, leaving PB Boulangerie Bistro with their tummies full, happy to have discovered one local business that seemed to be a fairy tale come true to all Wellfleetians: a real French bakery and bistro. These tourists probably did not remark anything remiss, but the natives cannot help but notice. Something has changed. The tight faces of the serving staff, the absence of the chef’s wife, who used to be in charge of the cash register, a longer wait than usual for a main course in the restaurant. And, of course, the bread.

“It isn’t as good, especially the whole wheat,” a friend reported with a sigh. She had been a big fan, too.

When my son was here two weeks ago with his French wife, I treated them to croissants. The bottoms were burned. Then, this weekend, I bought a fourth of the famous large round loaf (shown here, top right, with some croissants and baguettes made over a year ago, when the oven was being tested). The bread looked weird, but I was in a hurry. Once back home, I realized the problem: the loaf had not risen the way it should. Normally I would have said something in the bakery, but I had been too busy complaining about the pain de mie, burned on top. When I served it yesterday morning to the guests, I realized the inside part – the “mie” – did not taste as sweet either.

I have been hesitating to write about why because it makes me sad. My friends and I hoped mediation would be an option. It apparently was not. With all the hotsy-totsy reporters in Wellfleet this summer, I figure the news will appear shortly, so it’s time to share what I know. You cannot have a four-star bakery without a four-star chef. Boris, the master baker, has left. There was a quarrel. He was replaced.

I feel regret for both Boris and Philippe, two longtime friends who lived an amazing dream: they created a successful year-round business in a seasonal town, a marvelous place to eat and dream France, with a line out the door even in winter.

I also feel sorry for Wellfleet because buying “le bon pain français” is no longer the same, unless Boris opens another bakery. He is still here, so that still might happen.

I continue to recommend PB to my guests, because the restaurant remains exceptional. Unfortunately, I can no longer say the same about the bread. And, the fairy dust? Dissipated….

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What Dangers Are Lurking in Wellfleet?

Summer vacation is not supposed to be scary and yet this year unexpected dangers seem to be lurking here in Wellfleet. Take the beach, for instance. How beautiful it was yesterday! Did you notice there have been three confirmed sightings of great white sharks between Chatham and Truro over the past week? What is between Chatham and Truro? We are. Therefore, it’s wise to understand swimming in the ocean isn’t such a good idea for the time being.

So, should we feel safe in the sand? Hmm. Apparently a small boy at White Crest was digging a deep hole when it caved in on him. The incident was serious enough to send the boy to the hospital, as reported in this Boston Herald article.

No ocean swimming, sand-castle excavation treacherous … Well, how about a walk through the woods to a pond? As AmyWellfleet pointed out yesterday in the comments, mosquitoes hover above the paths, eager for fresh blood.

And, speaking of blood suckers, don’t forget the ticks. They are not to be underestimated. After getting Lyme disease, I see ticks to be almost as dangerous as the great whites off our shores. Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod, a new non-profit, was recently launched to raise awareness and sort out the problems associated with obtaining adequate treatment.

Do you still play in the breakers, despite the risk of sharks?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

What Bugs Bite on Cape Cod?

Above, a photo of beautiful Uncle Tim’s Bridge at low tide, late afternoon. Probably lots of bugs around. I check the stat counter once a day, and a topic that has drawn new readers to this blog since the beginning of summer is "Cape Cod bugs." Here’s an update on what’s biting.

Mosquitoes: The Outer Cape is having a particularly bad year for mosquitoes with all the rain that fell during the spring. Big ones, small ones, they seem to all wait at the front door to access the house once the door is opened. Dusk must be a favorite feeding time because the mosquitoes seem more prevalent the. These pests hang out in shade although I have also been attacked in the sunshine, which is quite unusual. I'm a mosquito magnet. Sven isn't. Some people are, like a guest from Germany who left yesterday covered with red splotches. As far as I know, the mosquitoes here do not carry West Nile. See Ticks, below, for suggestions on products to repel mosquitoes.

Gnats: Lots of pesky little gnats about this year, too. Gnats bite Sven, not me. “They are horribly irritating,” he says, “And, there are going to be more of them later on.”

Flies: Sven says there were awesome green flies in the Swedish forest where he worked as a teenager, green flies that took "bites of flesh." I have heard reports of a few sand flies at Duck Harbor, but they do not pack such a wallop.

Wasps, hornets, bees: They exist, of course. Best to steer clear.

Deer ticks: Ticks remain a problem that must be taken very seriously. I warn all our guests to be wary of ticks climbing onto any object left on the ground for a period of time, like a tote or a purse, as well as to do a nightly tick check of the body. Ticks often carry Lyme disease, so it is best to use tick-repellant. I choose Organic Bite Blocker Xtreme, which can be ordered online. Some people dislike the scent but I prefer it to DEET, which can be absorbed through skin into the bloodstream and can cause brain damage. I had Lyme five years ago and wish it on no one. I experienced flu-like symptoms and a total loss of energy for months. Lyme is hard to diagnose. The doctors say a tick must be on you for 24 to 36 hours before transmitting the disease. The spirochette is in its gut and gets regurgitated, supposedly, when the deer tick disengages. I’m not buying. Best to prevent ticks in the first place. Once you are bitten, a bull's eye rash may show up, but not always. If you have a test for Lyme disease, do not get the test for a month after the bite, because it be negative. Doctors usually give three weeks of Doxycycline if they think there's a chance a patient might have Lyme. I was also treated with the herb Cat's Claw.

Cape Codders, did I forget any bugs seasonal guests should know about?