Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thousands Remain Without Power On Outer Cape

After the power returned at 2 am Monday morning and the wind had died down, two locust trees along Old King's Highway cracked in two and pieces fell onto the electric wires. We have been without power ever since. No power means no electricity, no water pump, no Internet. The library is also without power, so no using computers there, either. Fortunately, our neighbors Peter and Femke invited me in to use their computer. They were among the lucky few who did not lose power. Today Sven and I are hauling water from the fire station, which provides drinking water, as well as water to flush toilets. I am also watering the flowers because Irene brought high wind to Cape Cod but no rain. The utility company sent out tree trimmers today. We hope the wires will be fixed in a day or two. In any case, the promise is "before September 3." This hurricane missed Cape Cod. Hate to think what the situation would have been had Irene made landfall here!

Note: Power back as of 2 pm. Will write up the full experience for a future post.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene Sandblasts LeCount Hollow Beach

In Which Irene Comes to Call

We have battened down the hatches. Bottles of water have been prepared. Flashlights are loaded. At 7:30, Wellfleet still has power, but the NECN weatherman warns of possible wind damage during the morning and early afternoon. I hope to get out after breakfast is served and take photos of the up-to- 25-foot swells. If I do not re-post details, it will mean no power ... (Note, I did not buy any of these plastic jugs. If your power in still on, please watch this short Safe Planet video about plastic pollution in our oceans.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Which Fritzi Comes to Call

Check out my new T-shirt! The front also carries a message: "Don't spray where our kids spray." I had just tried it on for the first time, and was enjoying the soft feel of the organic cotton, when the doorbell rang. Outside stood one very hot lady, who immediately introduced herself as Fritzi Cohen. From the photo, you can tell she's a real firecracker. Wiping sweat from her brow, Fritzi announced she had stopped by, on foot, because of my blog and my concern for the environment, having obtained my name at the library. She was here from Nahcotta, Washington and had just spent two lovely weeks in Wellfleet with her adult children. Fritzi had been gorging herself on oysters at our local restaurants, she reported. Apparently the oysters in her home town are no longer safe to eat, due to the spraying of pesticides in the mudflats to kill a saltwater marsh grass "infestation." You have probably already understood that Fritzi and I have a lot in common. Despite the fact that I had guestrooms to prepare, I sat down outside and chatted with her for a while.

And, guess what she told me next: Fritzi owns an inn called Moby Dick Hotel and Oyster Farm. She described how she started her business, almost by accident, which is very similar to my route to innkeeping. Fritzi told me she had gotten a big kick out of my Glass Half Empty or Half Full post since she has received many complicated guests in her day.

To summarize, it was a great visit.

We share something else in common. We both believe toxic chemicals are dangerous to health and are doing our best to raise awareness. Check out Fritzi's latest effort to stop the spraying of herbicides on spartina, pegged as an invasive species out on the West Coast: Fearless Fund. Who would have thought innkeeping could lead to environmental activism!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Dozen Pre-Hurricane Worries

This photo was taken two years ago, at the end of August, when there was a storm at sea and the ocean became surly. Last year we offered a credit to incoming guests willing to change plans due to the hurricane that fizzled out, Igor. What will happen this year with Irene? An American couple already cancelled their stay and will not come this afternoon for three days, which would have required driving Monday morning to reach their home. A wise decision, in my opinion. Our Seagull Cottage guests, who are leaving Sunday morning, plan to get up at 4 and drive west to escape the wind and rain. We have guests from Europe scheduled to arrive on Sunday and Monday. I have emailed them, requesting that they contact me. If they do not read their email, they may not realize being in a hurricane can be no fun. So, I have become a nervous wreck. Here's what I'm worried about:

• Will the forecast be off so that Irene makes a direct hit on Cape Cod?

• If the current forecast for Irene to hit the mainland at New London, CT turns out to be correct, will the forecast for Cape Cod be correct, too, meaning only 2 to 4 inches of rain?

• Will the power stay on so I can cook breakfast and keep food cold in the fridge?

• If the power goes off, how long will we have to wait for NStar crews to repair the damage on Cape Cod, with other parts of New England suffering, too?

• Will our guests from Germany and England think to check email before journeying out to Cape Cod Sunday and Monday?

• Will these guests realize we may be in emergency-mode here?

• Is there anything in the garden that might fly into a window at high wind?

• Do we have enough food and drinking water for _______ people? (no idea of number at this point)

• Has Sven checked the flashlight batteries?

• If the power is off for days, the water pump will not work, so will we be able to stock enough water in bathtubs to flush toilets for the guests for X number of days?

• If there is high wind, will tree limbs fall on the house, studio, or cottage?

• Should the power be off for days, can we get the new generator working?

Do you share similar worries about Irene? Do you remember Hurricane Bob? Have you lived through a hurricane?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Fun on a Wellfleet Beach....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Water Matters in Wellfleet ...

Last week I promised to report on the meeting held at Prez. Hall, a gathering entitled “Preserving Our Waters,” organized by the Non-Resident Taxpayer Association, so here goes …

Above, a view of a eutrophic pond, in Wellfleet. “Eutrophic” means a pond has received an excess of nutrients, which promotes a proliferation of plant life. Panel member Herb Gstalder said that changes have taken place in local ponds over the years. He explained that the particular topic of the evening was chosen due to the closing of Gull Pond in July. The health of fresh water in our area is defined according to 1.) whether there is fecal contamination; 2.) the eutrophic status; 3.) the presence of damaging chemicals.

Health Agent Hillary Greenberg and Beach Supervisor Suzanne Thomas do an excellent job of protecting Wellfleet’s ponds, said the next speaker, who emphasized community responsibility for keeping our ponds as pristine as possible.

Suzanne then picked up on this same theme: “The ponds are in danger of being loved to death.” Measures that have been taken over the past 20 years include re-vegetation of the old parking lot beside Long Pond and the installation of flush toilets at Gull. The take-away: we all need to do a better job of protecting our ponds.

The second half of the discussion was devoted to wastewater and a fabulous, innovative way of avoiding sewers through the use of oysters as a natural filtration system. Alex Hay first described the wastewater management plan, funded by Town Meeting, then Kurt Felix went into detail after a bit of history on Chesapeake Bay (water turnover used to take 400 days but is down to 2 to 3) and Wellfleet Harbor, which now has a reduced ability to remove nutrients, 10% less than previously. The plan to remedy the situation involves oyster propagation. A spot was chosen where Duck Creek and Mayo Creek merge. Cultch was added. So far, the results are promising with two million oysters now growing and filtering water. “The ultimate goal is to reach the regulatory limits and try to avoid sewers,” concluded Kurt.

Since no one planned to mention our sole-source aquifer at a meeting advertised as being about preserving our waters, that morning I had asked Co-President Lila Croen if I might say a few words about NStar’s plan for herbicidal spraying. I was given two minutes after the speakers had finished. Here is approximately what I said:

“On Cape Cod, we have a sole-source aquifer. The EPA New England Web site says citizens must protect their sole-source aquifer. NStar wants to poison our drinking water. Not only will we be affected. But our children and our grandchildren. Even the unborn. Everyone who comes to Wellfleet and loves our town. This will last for generations. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know it’s not good to put poison in groundwater, and herbicides are poison. They are made to kill. If you have any interest whatsoever in the future of Cape Cod, join me. We have to do something to stop this. I know one person cannot make much of an impact, but if we unite, we can stop this madness. The good news is that Senator Wolf is on our side …”

I then suggested attendees read the Cape Cod Times’ report from the previous day.

I’m not particularly good at public speaking and was infuriated when Lila proceeded to read from the Cape Cod Times article I had told her about in good faith earlier that day. She chose the paragraph claiming NStar’s contribution of herbicides is not significant compared to other sources and spoke with a voice that seemed to challenge my comments. While it is true that everyone on the Cape needs to stop using herbicides, NStar has persisted in putting forward erroneous information to defend its switch from mowing to spraying toxic chemicals. It felt to me that Lila was defending the utility company, although she probably intended to urge the non-residents to avoid their own use of herbicides, and I found this choice very unfortunate.

There followed a lively Q&A period. I learned from one of the panelists that the surface of our ponds corresponds to the top of our aquifer. Suzanne Thomas pointed out that Wellfleet did not have green lawns when she was growing up and challenged whether they were necessary. It is true that the suburban model for a “yard” does not fit here on Cape Cod. In conclusion, Curt Felix said, “What we are doing in Wellfleet will not only have an impact in Wellfleet, but in other places as well.” Pretty exciting, don’t you think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Did the Earth Move in Wellfleet?

This afternoon there was a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia, felt from the Carolinas to Boston. It struck at 1:51. If I had been at the beach, I might have seen sand shifting down the dune, but I was home and felt nothing. Did you feel this rare earthquake?

What I Like Best About Innkeeping

As the month of August draws to an close, Chez Sven has been blessed with exceptional guests, folks who thought to book these coveted August days during the winter. Above, Allan and Pablo, from London, England. The couple arrived by taxi from Provincetown, got around by bike, and left by bus for Hyannis where they caught the ferry to Nantucket. They loved Wellfleet so much they plan to return, next time in the fall when fewer tourists are around. When Allan and Pablo left, I told them they were among the nicest people to ever visit, and this declaration came from my heart. Yesterday a charming yoga teacher from the state of Georgia moved into our Green Room. Today a new group of people from Britain took possession of Liberty Coin Suite. I can tell already that their nine-day visit will be one to remember. Last week we had a family from Holland. Rare are the guests who give me presents, so I am all the more delighted when this happens. The Dutch family figured out what would make me happy, then went about finding it: a "back to homemade" cookbook. "How to brine, brew, salt, smoke, dry, pot, press, pickle and preserve, all in your own modern kitchen." They found this book at the Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries second annual book sale and had their elder daughter Thora present it to me last night. I've said it before, and will probably say it again: what I like best about innkeeping is the opportunity to meet and interact with such lovely people. It's the little gestures that mean the world to me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wellfleetian Arrested at DC Protest

Wellfleet's Harriet Jerusha Korim, to the extreme left above, was among the 70 protesters arrested in Washington, DC yesterday, an event that has not yet appeared in the mainstream media here in the USA, as far as I know, but was covered by the Guardian on Friday.

Harriet sent this email before leaving: "NOW I'M SIXTY-FOUR, BUT... I’ll be sixty-five next Sunday, August 21st and plan to observe the occasion at the White House, as a tiny part of Tar Sands Action, a sustained wave of direct non-violent action from August 20 until September 3, aiming to defuse what some call 'the biggest carbon bomb in North America.' I will be one of more than 2,000 US and Canadian participants in the largest act of collective civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement. The decision on the Tar Sands Keystone XL pipeline rests with Obama alone; we plan to remind him of his promises to stand up to the fossil fuel industries and work for a sustainable future. Those who want to take a stand, but can’t come to D.C. can sign a petition that will be delivered to the White House. Those who can come, but choose not to risk arrest, can join the support team or attend a closing rally, open to all, on September 3. Why am I choosing to go to one of my least favorite places to be in August to protest something I didn't even know about a month ago? Here's a sample bit of general inspiration (5 minutes). If you’d like to learn about the Tar Sands Pipeline you take a quick look here or check out Wikipedia. Wherever you are on Sunday, I’ll be thinking of you."

Last year we had a green guest from Canada who explained her opposition to the Tar Sands exploitation and her distress that a change in government has endangered the area. Many Canadians share the same feelings, she said.

If you have the August National Geographic there are photos of the Tar Sands. Or, simply check out this Huffpost article. There was also an explanation of what could go wrong in MotherJones last January. Today the New York Times came out strongly against the Tar Sands pipeline.

Yesterday Harriet posted the following message to Facebook:
"My most interesting birthday ever, i think, getting arrested at the White House and lead away in handcuffs, while supporters sang Happy Birthday....There is a wonderful group of people from all over Canada and US, protesting Tar Sands Pipeline and reminding Barack of his promises to all of us (including his kids) ..."

You can read Harriet's blog at Cape Cool.

Have you signed the petition? If not, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

I have not yet looked this morning, but I'm willing to bet this book has already reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list. A knowledgeable friend recommended Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand as "the best book I have ever read." High praise indeed. I'm not into World War II memoirs, but Sven is, so I got it for our library. I started reading Part I and by the time I had reached Part II, I could not put the book down. I'm looking forward to Part III. Yesterday, during dinner, I read snatches every time my daughter or Sven left the table. Unbroken is a riveting true story of survival that is sure to become a classic in its genre. Reserve it at your local library today!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I Saw Waiting for the Boston Ferry in P-Town

Friday, August 19, 2011

What's Up this Weekend in Wellfleet?

Yesterday I attended a fascinating talk at Preservation Hall. It was about the health of our ponds and oysters as a possible alternative to sewers. Since the subject was water, I was able to say a few words about saving our sole-source aquifer from herbicidal spraying once the invited speakers were done. I will report on the talk in a later post, once I have time to read my notes and gather my thoughts, but, for now, here are a few events that you should not miss this weekend:

David Wright will perform at Mayo Beach tonight, a free concert that I can recommend. Come celebrate 25 years of music with David, who was profiled in the Banner.

The Second Annual Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries Book Sale will take place on Sunday morning in the Town Hall parking lot. It has been postponed twice. Lots of great used books available at low prices.

Take in a play at WHAT and tell Jeff Zinn how much he will be missed. (Zinn is stepping down as artistic director after 23 years.)

Payomet, in Truro, offers Kevin Rice's now classic "Hoppers Ghosts" August 18-21, with Wellfleet's own Stephen Russell as Edward Hopper. (Although I should probably also mention Kevin lives here, too!)

If you like music, the Brentwood Brass Band will play at 7:30 on Sunday at the Congregational Church or take in saxophonist Benny Sharoni at 8:30 at Winslow's Tavern, Friday through Sunday.

Looking beyond the weekend, Edith Pearlman will speak about her short story collection at the library at 8 pm on Monday, and Mark Gabrielle will discuss "Woodcarvings by Johnathan Kendall" at Prez. Hall, 7 pm, Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Cape Cod Modern House Trust presents a lecture by historian
Kenneth Frampton on Modern Architecture in America and its Regional Manifestations, 8 pm at the library, or enjoy Jimmy Tingle at Prez. Hall, or attend one of the last square dancing sessions of the season, on the pier.

Whew! Lots going on.

Also, check out the new guide to Cape Cod, InsideOUT.

Finally, one more thing. Consider volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Drivers are needed. Monday through Friday, between 10 and noon. Contact Cindy Cullen at (50*) 394 4630, ext. 530.

Should There Be a Bike Trail Through Wellfleet?

Often, in summer, we encounter bikers on Commercial Street. It’s great that so many people are leaving their cars behind, and yet I fear the biking conditions are not optimal in our town. This situation will not change any time soon.

“Biking on the Outer Cape in summer can be dangerous,” I told my last set of guests, an exuberant family from France who would make a point of cycling everywhere despite my warning. I cringed as they set off without the helmets that had been provided by Idle Times Bike Shop.

Sven used to bike a lot and often managed to get out of the house without his helmet. I would worry about his riding out beautiful Chequessett Neck to Duck Harbor. The road is scenic and often deserted, so I do recommend it to guests.

The Cape Cod Rail Trail has many fans, but it starts in South Wellfleet. Chez Sven is two blocks from Long Pond Road, which is called “the Bike Trail Extension” but tell that to the summer drivers who juggle cell phones and screaming kids. One minute of distraction is all it takes. Indeed, a biker was killed last month on Route 6, between Truro and Provincetown. Now comes a proposal from the Provincetown Bicycle Advisory Committee for cutting Route 6 down to one lane on each side, from Truro to Provincetown.

Wellfleet used to have a committee to study improvement of the biking situation in town, but that committee was disbanded, Lydia Vivante, at Town Hall, told me. I called Alan Platt for more information: “They tried to generate enthusiasm by laying out trails, but the trails all involved private property.” In other words, whenever the path went by a house, someone would object. Alan specified that the objections came mostly from Truro residents. He added that these objections would probably disappear once people realized proximity to a bike trail would increase property values.

Would you like to see a real bike trail through Wellfleet? What do you think of the Provincetown-Truro proposal? Do you bike on a regular basis? Do you wear a helmet? Do you have a favorite Cape Cod bike trail?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Which I Respond to Commissioner Soares

Don't forget to mark your calendars and attend the Truro Ag Fair on Sunday, September 4, a fantastic Outer Cape event. Last year, at the Ag Fair, I met DAR Commissioner Scott Soares, above with Francie Randolph, one of the organizers. A letter I wrote recently on herbicidal spraying was forwarded to Commissioner Soares, rather than reviewed by Governor Patrick. I responded to the Commissioner's response.

Here's the letter I am sending out today:

Dear Commissioner Soares,

Thank you for your letter of August 3 in response to mine to Governor Patrick about NStar’s plan to spray herbicides on Cape Cod over our sole-source aquifer. I met you at the Truro Ag Fair. I was also one of the hundreds of Cape citizens who sent in last year, at your request, “one scientific fact” to explain why herbicides should not be sprayed under the power lines. Did you, at least, read these letters?

I know about the moratorium on herbicidal spraying.

I know about the Ad Hoc Committee meetings. I attended one or two of them. From your letter I deduce you have accepted its conclusions. How can you take this committee seriously as most attendees were pro-NStar before the discussions began? I know for a fact that the three herbicidal spraying opponents resigned when a vote was proposed, since voting was not part of the original deal. There were 20 attendees total. Therefore, I am shocked you put forward their conclusions as evidence herbicidal spraying should be part of NStar’s vegetation management plan. Is this what you truly believe?

As I told Governor Patrick’s aide Matthew over the phone yesterday, I regret to say the response from the Governor’s office to my letters is unacceptable. Herbicides are toxic chemicals. Emerging science indicates that traces, in our drinking water, can present serious problems for pregnant women. Traces of herbicides affect the developing fetus. Glyphosate has recently been linked to birth defects. Think faulty wiring rather than deformed babies. Endocrine disruptors do this. They create hormonal havoc that translates, in children, to chronic diseases like ADHD and perhaps even autism.

Glyphosate is only one of the four herbicides that will be used. No one has tested the combination for toxicity, nor the surfactants for that matter. Traces will filter down through the sandy soil of Cape Cod into our drinking water. Herbicides are endocrine disruptors. In July, John Kerry introduced a bill in Congress to reduce exposure to endocrine disruptive chemicals. I respectfully suggest the Governor’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs align its policies with this initiative from our senior senator. Please urge Governor Patrick to oppose NStar’s plan to spray four herbicides under the power lines of Cape Cod and save our drinking water from contamination.

Alexandra Grabbe

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GreenCAPE Holds Successful Press Conference on NStar's Plan for Herbicidal Spraying Under Power Lines

Over sixty people gathered today for a press conference, organized by GreenCAPE and Toxics Action Center, to demand that NStar abandon its plan to spray four herbicides along 150 miles of rights-of-way. You can see from the banners in the previous post that getting a message across visually is crucial. Thanks to Femke Rosenbaum’s Made-in-Wellfleet marvels, no one at the Sandwich Visitors’ Center this morning could doubt that a very important event had united us, both activists and ordinary concerned citizens from all over Cape Cod. No sooner had fellow activist Laura Kelley stepped from her car than she immediately donned a banner.

Poison Stops Here read a sign carried by Barbara Hayes of Barnstable. As the banners were unfurled and the signs were positioned, I felt the energy shift. The mood became upbeat and almost celebratory, despite the extreme gravity of the situation.

“The science is there. It’s just a question of policy,” Dr. Kumara Sidhartha told me as we waited side-by-side for the proceedings to get under way.

We were standing beside the Cape Cod Canal. GreenCAPE had chosen the spot because it delineates the boundary of our sole-source aquifer.

In case you didn’t know, there’s a merger going on. NStar plans to merge with Northeast Utilities, if Governor Patrick gives the go-ahead. It was time to reiterate that Cape Cod does not want herbicides in its sole-source aquifer. No pussyfooting around at this press conference.

“We’re drawing a line in the sand,” declared Toxics Action Center Organizing Director Sylvia Broude in a firm voice. “It’s time for NStar to make a permanent commitment not to spray Cape Cod. How many times do Cape Codders have to say no?”

It was a good question and one I have asked myself many times. 200 businesses have signed on. All fifteen towns have passed a resolution against spraying. Over seventy doctors and health professionals recently put their names to a letter destined for NStar’s CEO Thomas May. Why is the utility company still not getting the message?

“Cape Cod already has a long history of breast cancer,” Sylvia added. “We’re calling on NStar to take leadership on this issue.”

Senator Dan Wolf agreed. “I’m honored to be here with citizens who understand what stewardship of Cape Cod is,” Senator Wolf said. “NStar should look for alternative methods. This is an opportunity for a win-win.” He also suggested that a Cape-wide inventory of chemicals should be undertaken and indicated his commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that NStar ends pesticide and herbicide use along the rights-of-way. "We should reduce the use of the chemicals, pesticides and herbicides that end up in our water,” Wolf said.

Then it was the turn of GreenCAPE’s Sandra Larsen to speak: “Our sandy soil makes the use of herbicides problematic. Herbicides threaten our health and drinking water. We are sure the public of Cape Cod is on our side. How about a pesticide-free pledge for the rights-of-way, Mr. May?”

Next at the microphone, Craig Slatin of UMass Lowell. Dr. Slatin explained endocrine disruption and zeroed in on the toxicity of glyphosate, one of the herbicides threatening our sole-source aquifer. Cancer in children is on the increase, he added. These herbicides have “unintended disease consequences” for humans. I learned from his speech that endocrine disruptors can trigger cells to be less protective against cancer. Other valid points included the fact that herbicides remain active at very low doses, and ADHD, autism, reproductive disorders can result from prenatal exposure. Finally, he pointed out there is no difference in cost for the utility company, so why spray herbicides?

Dr. Sidhartha echoed Craig Slatin’s call to NStar to return to mowing. Dr. Sidhartha urged this restraint on behalf of his cancer patients. “Every time pesticides are sprayed in the environment, we are one step closer to sowing seeds of cancer.”

“We are asking both companies to commit to a no-spray policy along the rights-of-way on Cape Cod,” concluded Sylvia Broude, referring to both NStar and Northeast Utilities. “If we applied the precautionary principle, it would make Massachusetts a much healthier place to live.”

The Staging of An Effective Press Conference