Monday, November 26, 2018

2018 November - Thankful

Of all the Halloween thingsI saw this year, I think this one takes the prize.
I know, since it's November, we're expected to be talking turkey, or tofurkey if you're avoiding meat to save the planet.  There will be plenty of time for remembering the Pilgrims' first dinner with their reluctant Indian neighbors.  But first, if you live in my town, there's the Eastham turnip to celebrate with it's own annual festival.  Everybody's good at something, and we just happen to grow wicked awesome turnips and find interesting ways to eat, and yes even celebrate them.  
Local restaurants will vie for top turnip honors in the Turnip Cook-Off, with the public sampling creative turnip dishes and casting votes for the People’s Choice Award. The Higher Ground String Band will entertain with lively blue grass music ~ and even a turnip tune or two! Turnip-themed competitions such as the Turnip Shuck-Off (who can peel a turnip the fastest?) and the Enormous Turnip Weight Guessing Contest will amuse even the stodgiest of vegetable eaters! A lively Turn Up for Fun Kids Zone will entice young ones with turnip-themed games, activities, crafts as well as a juggler, balloon artist, face painter, temporary tattoos and more! The young at heart will go turn-nuts for Cape Cod Henna’s turnip body art. Come for lunch ~ turnip taste buds will be tantalized with pulled pork & turnip slaw ~ or try crepes (both sweet and savory varieties), gluten free and vegan offerings, or pizza. Shop early for the holidays. This is the largest gathering of LOCAL vendors on the Outer Cape ~ artisan wares, handcrafts, LOCAL produce and food stuffs ~ and of course, Eastham Turnips will be on sale here!

The winds have returned to us for the winter. They range anywhere from soothing us to sleep to giving the trees a good "pruning" of dead branches.  It's also the time of year when in between the slate gray, stormy skies come days when the sun bathes what leaves are still holding on tight above deep multicolor piles beneath them with such golden light that it beckons you to take a day off from chores and revel in the beauty.  We know this seasonal treat will be fleeting before winter paints a different picture, so that's just what we did, letting the house fend for itself while we took a drive to Provincetown, literally the end of our world at the northernmost tip of the Cape.  We combined a couple of errands with one of the suggestions on our "10 Favorite Things We Like To Do" list in the B&B suites.  Across from the Town Hall, a very nondescript place called George's has been there since P'town was mostly a Portuguese fishing town.  From all appearances, there is nothing to draw your attention to it other than a sign's promise of food and drink inside.
Upon entering, one finds a rather dark, narrow building with booths on one side and a bar on the other.  Nothing fancy, however, keep walking and you'll come to the takeout area where, among other mouthwatering temptations, you can order lamb gyros, a favorite of ours. 
Now, remember what it looks like from the street?  Well, keep walking towards the back and go outside and you will find a beautiful deck that overlooks Cape Cod Bay.  In the summer, one can sit at the tables and enjoy the breeze and stunning million dollar view of the water and you'd never suspect from the modest outside front what a treat awaits you.  That's the kind of insider info that guests appreciate being in on.  We took our gyros home for a delicious dinner treat. 

And, nothing is ever too corny to do in P'town, We like to let our inner-tourist out.

And, finally, some "new-to-me" information from the historic trip that brought the Mayflower Pilgrims to our town, which prompted this whole annual Thanksgiving holiday ritual that Native Americans refer to as a Day of Mourning.  A guest commentary appeared in our Cape Codder weekly by Jack Sheedy, a resident of the Cape Cod town of Dennis, in which he reminded us that the Pilgrims stopped in our town of Eastham first in November of 1620 before high-tailing it to Plymouth in December.  In 17th century manuscripts, they refer to finding three sea creatures on the beach that they called grampuses, "about 5-6 paces long, about 2 inches thick of fat, and fleshed like a swine."  These were likely whales that were harvested of their blubber.  As they made their way around what is Cape Cod Bay, which is still a favorite gathering place of these creatures, they decided to name it Grampus Bay.  Imagine what that would have done to the classic song 'Olde Cape Cod' if it had stuck.

If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air
Quaint little villages here and there
You're sure to fall in love with Old Cape Grampus

If you like the taste of a lobster stew
Served by a window with an ocean view
You're sure to fall in love with Old Cape Grampus

Winding roads that seem to beckon you
Miles of green beneath the skies of blue
Church bell chiming on a Sunday morn
Remind you of the town where you were born

If you spend an evening you'd want to stay
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Grampus
You're sure to fall in love with Old Cape Grampus 

I don't think so...

First 2019 snowflake alert:  November 14th

resulting in this:

Cooler weather indicators - our heat-seeking cat-thermostats

Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018 October - Not Quite Summer / Not Quite Fall

GO SOX - all the way to the World Series!
Sometimes all the usual seasonal things seem just too mundane to mention anymore, so let's just get that out of the way quickly:

Pumpkins - CHECK  
Chrysanthemums - CHECK
 Falling leavesCHECK   
Wellfleet Oysterfest - CHECK 
First frost - CHECK 
Ripe cranberries - CHECK
 Halloween costumes - CHECK  
All accounted for in New England.  We're a very traditional place, after all. But, I've always got my eye out for the UN-usual, and I think I found a couple of Cape Cod things that might qualify. Here's one, now:

Did someone order a deer?
For those who are tired of doing the same old thing every evening, the Parks Service sponsored a Full Moon Lighthouse Tour of Nauset Light in October.  BYOF [bring your own flashlight].  Now, doesn't that sound like a fun thing to do [assuming it's a clear night]?  Our light was moved from a pair of beacons in Chatham to the Eastham location in 1923 in pieces on an ox cart.  It moved again in 1996, but this time just across the road to stay ahead of erosion.  

Eastham's Nauset Light
If you thought that was a grand idea, have you ever been to a Puddin' Party?  Well, I can totally recommend the experience.  Created on a whim by our musical-genius friend, Chandler Travis, it consisted of live music, an introduction to his friend, Paulette Humanbeing who was visiting from California, and a fridge full of what else, your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or butterscotch pudding.  [Special kudos also go out to Belinda's awesome homemade lasagna.]  Paulette, an artist and musician, was a delight, contributing her own unique musical genre somewhere between comical, political, and wonderful whimsy.  One reason why Chandler is one of my favorite musicians is that I never have to decide what kind of music I'm in the mood to listen to.  He's likely to play a little bit of anything and everything accompanied by a devoted group of other incredibly talented and creative musicians.  His latest CD, Backward Crooked From the Sunset can be previewed at this link:  Backward Crooked From The Sunset

Wonderful treat, Chan!  What's next?              
Kami Lyle, Burke MeKelvey, Chandler Travis, Dinty Child, & John Clark
Still uninspired?  How about this:  The Lower Cape Curling Club is hosting a series of clinics to familiarize participants with the basics of the sport.  The 11-week season begins at the end of October with the league scheduling games for Wednesday mornings and Sunday nights.
Nope, not these curls...
That's the one.
When you think of Fall in New England, you probably picture something from a calendar page showing spectacular reds, oranges and gold leaves of Vermont mountains.  The coastal colors of Autumn are a bit more muted, with surprise dabs of bright contrast when you least expect to find them, in the middle of a salt marsh, down a winding path, a bright vine curling around a centuries-old tree, or tucked in fancily on a front lawn.  It's a more modest display tempered by the ocean, but no less appreciated for its subtle and surprising beauty. 

A red carpet on an Eastham salt marsh
Luscious orange towering over a neighborhood pond.
A hint of yellow catching the sun at the National Seashore Headquarters
We've entered the quiet season now, with only the occasional B&B guest venturing across the bridge, each with their own specific agenda.  There is an almost infantile joy at approaching the main road and not having to wait for any traffic going by.  I encountered a friend in the grocery store recently who remarked, "There were hundreds of people in these aisles in the summer and I didn't know one of them, but now when I come in it takes twice as long because I know every other person."  This is the real Cape Cod that pre-existed tourism.  This is the best reason to live here, but never forgetting that tourism makes it possible for many.  

Enjoy your Autumn, wherever it finds you.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 September - Signs of Autumn

It always amazes me that no matter what aberrations the climate throws at us, the animal and plant kingdoms are still punching their individual time clocks by the calendar. Summer temperatures have been stubborn about moving on, but the leaves are falling and the days are gradually cooling down.  The orioles and hummingbirds have moved on, leaving the grape jelly and oranges to the bees, but the feeders remain out just in case there are more stopping by on their way south.  We have a reputation to keep.

They know what to do, and turn a brilliant red every Fall.
Tourism continues to thrive here in September, despite the recent tragic occurrence of a fatal shark bite in waters off of a Wellfleet beach.  There's a new undercurrent of fear growing that this will have a negative effect on tourism, but there seem to be more visitors than ever this Fall, and we have seen a growing interest in people who are here specifically to see the sharks and seals.  If the weather or the wildlife isn't particularly conducive to getting in the water, the beaches are still full, and local shops are also reaping the benefits.  There is a growing number of amateur opinions about what to do, or not do about the shark/seal problem.  While it's not a pleasant sight to witness a shark making a bloody meal of a seal in shallow waters, there is an abundance of information to justify the importance of sharks to the ecosystem.  One short-sighted letter to the editor reasoned that if seals eat fish, and sharks eat seals, that when all the fish are gone, the seals will move on, and so then will the sharks.  This person obviously doesn't make his living fishing.  There will be gatherings through the winter of local interest groups with experts in the field to come up with new safety measures, and better understanding of the consequences of the numerous latest proposals.  For myself, after nine years as a resident of a town only five miles wide and surrounded by water, I've been quite happy at the beach never having gone in any deeper than my knees.  Different strokes...       

Meanwhile, It's time for seasonal Autumn fun and many towns have their own different festivals focusing on something unique about their town.  Harwich has a cranberry festival.  Orleans boasts a Celebrating our Waters festival.  Eastham, boasting the oldest windmill on Cape Cod, pulls out all the stops with an annual, 3-day Windmill Weekend beginning with a fish fry on Friday night, an antique auto show, a road race, a sand castle contest on the bay, live music and craft shows on the town green under our windmill, and finishing on Sunday with a parade and big raffle drawings.  
Despite the first Patriots game being scheduled for the same time as our usual shift at the raffle table, Ron set it to tape, and we sold lots of raffles and enjoyed the outdoor festivities, picked up delicious made-to-order sandwiches at the Superette deli across the street from the green, and still got to see the Pats win their first game of the season.  I was tempted to wear a sign that said, "If you know the score, please don't tell me!", but thankfully, nobody blabbed.  Originally, the proceeds of the festival went towards the cost of the next year's festival, but as the event has grown, we now make enough money to offer scholarships to local graduates, too.
            The Goats are Back!
No, not us, these guys:
POCCA [Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer] has waged an ongoing battle in the courts with our utility company for years to keep them from spraying poison to control vegetation under the power line right of ways.  Some years ago, I reported an informal agreement that had been worked out with a local farmer to lend his goats for a cleanup under the Eastham power lines.  For some reason, no blame to the goats, the arrangement didn't work out.  Since then, in 2014 a local entrepreneur started a company by the name of Goat Green with four rescue goats from Western Massachusetts.  The herd has now grown to a dozen 4-legged, weed eating machines for hire, and were just recently used under the power lines in Harwich.  They even love poison ivy.  Click on the the Goat Green website to read about their latest accomplishments:
No goats needed for the Fort Hill trails. 
These fields of wild flowers are mowed to the ground by the Park Service in late Fall.
Our Cottage seems to be the preferred B&B Suite in the Fall, and this September we welcomed back a couple for their 6th post-Labor Day week with us.  They are avid gardeners in Western Mass, and I always look forward to some of Julie's home-grown garlic, which she generously shares.  Following their week, was someone we call our 'Saxophone Lady', who was here for her 3rd year in a row on her birthday.  Sadly, I wasn't able to hear any of the practicing she swears that she did all week.  The 3rd week was claimed by a couple returning from Indiana for their 2nd year.  The 2 nights they stayed last year were just enough to know that they needed to come back for at least a week.  Next was a last minute reservation from a couple from Denmark, here in the States for 6 weeks visiting various cousins in many locations, followed by another return visit from a New York couple who took a couple of years to get back, but didn't forget about us.   
Cottage entrance at dusk
Our Studio Suite tends to suit couples who want a quick getaway and don't plan to waste time cooking for themselves.  But, the variety of interesting scenarios is no less than the Cottage.  A reservation was made this month by a bride-to-be for her September wedding, but it was actually for the minister who was coming to perform the marriage ceremony and celebrating her own anniversary with her husband.  They were one of three people celebrating anniversaries in the Studio this month.  Following them, we had a surprise request from the parents of a couple who had stayed the week before and loved it so much they recommended it to them.  
Studio outdoor relaxation spot
There are so many good reasons to visit Cape Cod.  
Best reason of all:  to visit your mom!
        Happy Autumnal Equinox!  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

2018 August - Great Whites and Mermaid Spotted in Cape Waters

It's hibiscus time in the gardens.
During the month of August I'd bet money that there are more out-of-town license plates on Cape Cod roads and parking lots than local ones.  It's the culmination of summer and 
the usual, cool sea breezes were in short supply.  Cape Cod hasn't been spared the hot and humid weather that has plagued the mainland, but beachgoers are not to be stopped by anything less than a major storm.  HOW HUMID IS IT?  It takes two hands to open the doors, which have swelled with the unusual amount of moisture, and another two hands plus a hip and shoulder to get them closed again.  This too shall pass and the sooner the better.   

Beachgoers in Orleans had a fun surprise at Skaket Beach on Cape Cod Bay this month when vacationing Brian Convery, a one-time resident, showed off his skills at sand sculpture.  His crashed UFO, complete with lights and space engine sounds drew an appreciative crowd and landed him in the local paper.

State Biologist, Greg Skomal, who is famous for his 5-year tagging study of great white sharks, also got a surprise when a great white he was trying to tag breached and snapped at his feet on the bowsprit over the water.  

To Bird, or Not to Bird

Rosie, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak dressed to the 9's.
Recently, I came across an article by Phil Kyle, a contributing writer for the Cape Cod Times, entitled Birding:  Are you a birder or a bird-watcher?  Although we're crazy enough to buy seed in 50 pound bags and have feeders viewable from every window in the house, I'd have to classify us as "bird-watchers".  We're NOT crazy enough to get up at all hours and go out in any weather to find particular species.  That, apparently, is the difference.  
Goldie the Goldfinch loves our sunflowers that sprout from the spilled black sunflower seed.
But, I learned a bit about how birding of one type or another has come to captivate 38.7 million people in the United States, as of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2016 survey.  According to this article, from the 15th century up into the 1900's, "going birding" meant they were actually hunting for eat.  

Hugo Hummingbird loves the Cardinalis flower.
Observing birds for their aesthetic qualities began in the late 1700's.  
Sergio & Sasha Starling, staying close to the feeder during a storm.
In 1896, the Massachusetts Audubon Society was formed by two women [Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall] to persuade stylish ladies to refrain from the cruel harvesting of bird plumage to adorn their hats. 
Bennie and Bertha Bluebird share a perch.
 In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson, a bird artist, had his Field Guide to the Birds published, and the first printing sold out in days, despite being deep into the Great Depression.  

Roger the Red-winged Blackbird is the official announcer of Spring.
Today, "birders" are considered a "citizen science element", and much of what ornithologists know about birds has come from the observations of dedicated amateur birders.  And, that brings me full circle to our casual bird-watcher status.  

Orson Oriole will fly all the way from Costa Rica for oranges and grape jelly.
Our quest is to see how many species we can attract to us, not the other way around. 

Claudia and Claude Cardinal take shelter in the lilac tree
Over the last nine years of adding feeders, trying different seed, photographing each new species and jokingly calling our B&B, Bed & Birds, we tend to think of them as our adopted avian family.  We keep the year-rounders well fed in every form of weather, and we watch expectantly for the ones who winter in the south to return here to their second home and make babies.  
"The Freddies" -Purple Finches - chillin' in the beach rose bush during a storm.
Many of the species share alliterative names, such as Claudia and Claude Cardinal, Orson and Olivia Oriole, and of course Goldie, the Goldfinch, etc.  

Robin, who like Prince and Cher, only needs one name and regularly fills the birdbath with a layer of dirt.
Some of the more personable ones, like the orioles and hummingbirds, let us know when their particular favorite foods need a refill by flying up to the window and looking in.  

Bob White Quail, always formally attired and ready to dance his way into the brush.
But, the thing I like best about my winged family is the diversity.  On any given day as I pass by the windows, I look out to a rainbow of red, blue, orange, yellow, iridescent green, brown, gray, black, and patterns of all kinds.  

Chucky Chicadee
Some have sweet, gentle peeps, or lovely, complicated songs, while others screech gustily, or sound like rusty gates.  There is occasionally squabbling, as in any loving family, but for the most part we all live in happy harmony, not just respecting each others' differences, but embracing them.  'Nuff said.     

With all the extra shoulder and hip action going on with doors vs. humidity, it's good to know someone with the skills to make everything feel better again.  Meet my massage therapist extraordinaire, Kimlyn, who not only smooths out my self-inflicted gardening damage, but keeps herself in shape swimming in her backyard, the Cape Cod Bay.  The new "swim fins" were borrowed from a friend, and not only do they double down on a swimming workout, they make a fetching view for all lucky enough to make a mermaid siting.   
See you soon, Kimlyn!
It's been a good 9th summer at the B&B.  We've hosted guests from Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming, New Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Thailand, France and good ol' Massachusetts.  September is becoming the time when our 'regulars' venture out and make our Cottage their home for a week when traffic calms down and you can have a whole beach or the Fort Hill trails to yourself sometimes in the still-mild weather.  It's one of the best times of the year when the slower pace gives one some peaceful time to reflect on how lucky they are to live here.     

Saturday, July 28, 2018

2018 July - Hydrangea Hoopla and Vacations With a Vengeance

Cape Codders are so crazy about hydrangeas, 
we have a whole festival devoted to them.

Can't decide on a color?  Embrace diversity!

My July

Sea breeze
Choppy seas
Shady trees
Shots in knees

Sunny skies
Clam fries
Seagull cries
Black flies

July rolls over the canal into Cape Cod with a vengeance and great expectations.  The Cape Cod Times describes the bridge traffic on a Friday afternoon as "worse than the smell of low tide on a hot day".  You can count on a two-mile backup to get over the bridges, going either way on weekends.  But, while you're creeping your way to the Bourne, or the Sagamore bridges, Soooo close to your destination yet Soooo far, I saw where you can get in the mood by listening to [click the link] THE CAPE COD FUN SHOW.  It promotes itself as "all about having a good time in the most beautiful place on Earth!  Our zany cohorts will give you the scoop on beaches, restaurants, upcoming events and peculiar adventures."  I definitely wanted to see what peculiar adventures I might be missing out on, but quickly got an overload of zaniness before we could get to them.  To each his own.

A better use of your time while you're idling and crawling might be to download the Sharktivity app, courtesy of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.  Their mission is to support scientific research, improve public safety, and educate the community to inspire conservation of Atlantic white sharks.  And, you'll get useful information like this:

I thought I'd probably heard all the March Nor'easter stories there were to be told by now, but the Cape Cod Times reported a happy one this month having to do with two memorial benches that had disappeared during the storms.  There are dozens of these tributes that line Cape Cod in places that were special to those who died.  When two 10-year-olds came across a piece of wood poking through the sand at a Dennis beach, they spent most of the afternoon digging with their hands and part of the next day with garden spades in the rain.  They were rewarded by finding a bench that memorialized a 20 year old Dennis summer resident, who was killed in a car crash.  Another missing bench from an Orleans beach was discovered 12 miles south in Chatham by people walking the beach.  This one memorialized a 35 year old man, and the plaque was found separately.  Both benches were set in concrete and still had the concrete attached, which gives another perspective of the strength of these storms.  With help, both are now back in their original locations where the families can again sit and remember their loved ones.  The ocean is always full of surprises. 

There's a new option in the Cape Cod Times called Curious Cape Cod, in which one can write in questions and have them researched and answered.  Being an Eastham resident, this one caught my eye:  How do you pronounce Eastham?  Is it East-HAM, or EAST'um?   

A lot of Massachusetts towns have peculiar pronunciations, like:  
Worcester, pronounced Woo-stah, 
Leominster, pronounced Lemon-stah
and, Quincy, pronounced Quin-zee

But, what about Eastham?  I never really questioned how I was told to say it, but now I might at least know why we do.  Terri Rae Smith, a member of the Eastham Historical Society says that Eastham was named after a suburb in England called 'East Ham'.  There was an East Ham and a West Ham, two words, which is why we pronounce the 'ham'.  It seems reasonable, although maybe not to the town of CHAT-um [Chatham].

Indoors, or out, it's all good.
A friend recently brought to our attention that squirrels don't like safflower seed.  I thought about all the 50 pound sacks of sunflower seed we buy all year for the birds and commented that safflower was more expensive than sunflower seed.  She said yes, a little, but the squirrels aren't chowing down on it, and the birds love it, sooooo... the great safflower experiment is on.  So far, it does appear that the squirrels have little interest in climbing the feeders with the safflower, so with fingers crossed, we hope to get bad reviews from the squirrel population and they will take their business elsewhere.     
Look who else likes safflower seed.
Out of all the stories about visitors to the B&B, this one certainly took us by surprise.  About a year ago, our elderly neighbor across the street moved closer to family, where he could be better looked after.  The house sat for sale for the better part of the year and this Spring we heard we'd finally be getting new neighbors.  When I saw activity, I went over to welcome them and my new neighbor responded, "Actually, we met a couple of years ago when I stayed in your B&B with a friend."   What are those odds?  This month we've hosted two teachers taking a 3-week break from teaching assignments in Thailand before they begin again in Malaysia.  And, we hosted a French family visiting the family of the teenager they hosted in France during the school year.  Also, a number of people taking Continuing Education Credits at the Cape Cod Institute and various other classes.  A couple returned with their new baby, who was only a tummy bump last time they were here.  A 40th anniversary celebration drew another couple.  Many others visited who just love Eastham, and even some members of my own family at least tried to make the schlep to come see us.  The drive from Amherst was uneventful for one sister, but the other had flights out of D.C. cancelled two days in a row because of stormy weather and had to give up.  Once again, I'm reminded that the origin of the word 'travel' is 'travail'.   

I could wax on about all the reasons Cape Cod is a vacation destination for so many, as well as, home to the determined people who love it enough to work hard to stay here, and let's face it, that's what this blog is all about.  But, here's a video I just received from Eastham's Chamber of Commerce, that shows what words fail to convey.  Enjoy this beautiful tour of my own little town that is only 3 miles wide.
[click on link]  VIDEO: EASTHAM