Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 2017 - "On with the show, the show must go on."

July 4th weekend on Cape Cod is known for many wonderful traditions, like family reunions, town parades, clam and lobster bakes with fresh corn from the farm stands, watching fireworks from the beach, movies at the drive-in, playing mini golf, and standing in lines for soft-serve ice cream.  Unfortunately, it's also become synonymous with a constant parade of flashing, whooping, emergency vehicles due to the infusion of thousands of people in a hurry to relax on vacation.  All it takes is one impatient move to edge someone out at a lane merge, or changing one's mind in the middle of a rotary to result in an accident that closes roads for miles and fills the hospital emergency room.  Locals know that the words to remember for summer drivers are "ANTICIPATE" and "PATIENCE". 

The birds get the credit for all the sunflowers.  I've never been able to get them to grow on purpose.

Contrary to most folks, summer's my least favorite season, and I look for ways to uplift my spirit until the cool days of Fall and peace on the roads returns.  I always find solace in my gardens early in the mornings, or after the sun begins its descent.  These days I'm thinning the successes of my "1/2-priced gardens" and spreading the wealth to other areas, including the front bank on the main highway that goes through Cape Cod.  I even find the zen of weeding and deadheading to be relaxing and restorative.  And, just as I'm impulsively prone to moving the furniture and art around inside, so go the gardens as I find out how large the plants grow and how much they spread.  It's an endless dance of color, texture and a lot of water of course.

One of many garden spots at Crosswinds
And, thank you to my beach-addicted friend, who invites me to join her in her few free hours for beach therapy.  This has provided many hours of companionable and therapeutic chatting while digging into the sand with my toes and feeling the sea breeze threatening to take my hat. 
First Encounter Beach-my favorite Eastham spot by the Bay

SHARKS - The Good and Bad News
The National Seashore is doing their part for safety by putting up the now official purple shark flags at the beaches to remind people to stay close to land and away from seals.  At least 150 great whites have either been spotted or beeped transmitters from off of our coast.  
Cisco getting tagged
While all of this adds an element of danger to swimming, especially too far out, I did promise you some good news and here it is:  sharks play a vital role in the health of our oceans' ecosystems, and since the majority of the oxygen we breathe, and much of our protein comes from the ocean, our survival on land is at risk when the health of the ocean declines.  So, thank you Cisco and friends for doing your parts for us landlubbers, and I personally pledge not to crowd you in your home.

Have you ever wondered how sharks get their names?  

There's one named 'Big Papi', named for David Ortiz of the Red Sox, and of course 'Brady', named for Tom Brady of the Patriots.  

'The Rock' was named after actor-wrestler Dwayne Johnson.  

'Luke' was named in memory of a deceased Martha's Vineyard fisherman.  

Curly', 'Chex', 'Lauren' & 'Doty' were all named by Atlantic White Shark Conservancy donors 

'Salty' was named on behalf of the the Cape Cod Salties sportfishing club, which donated money to buy his tag.  

'Katherine' was named for the Falmouth native Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the song "America The Beautiful".  

'Mr. Frisky' was named for his temperament and 'Riddler' has a question mark shape on the side of his tail.  

'Lynn' was named after the mother of the fisherman who first spotted her in Ocean City, MD and 'James' was named in memory of a man named James Stratton. 

'Sandy' was named in honor of shark biologist, Sanford Moss, and 'Mola' has a patch on his tail that looks like a Mola-Mola, AKA a giant ocean sunfish.  

'Spc B Arsenault' was named in memory of Spc. Brian Arsenault of the 82nd Airborne, who was killed in Afghanistan the day this shark was tagged.  

'Hollywood' liked the camera, hence his name, and 'Lumpy' has a big lump, which may be a result of another shark bite. 

'Gretel' is the first great white shark to be tagged in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.  She was freed after being trapped for 14 days in a salt pond on Naushon Island.  

'Curly' has a unique notch on her dorsal fin and many scars on her gills. 

'Large Marge' at 17 feet is one of the biggest to be tagged.  

'Miss Alexandra' was named by her tagger, Tyler McAllister, and 'Quoddy' by the videographer named James Hawkins who filmed her.

'Broken Tail' is self-explanatory, as is 'Scar'

It's not mentioned where 'Mary Lee' got her name, but she's said to have her own Twitter account.  

As for critters of another sort, it's not looking good for my hopes of attracting the Painted Bunting as my 2017 new bird of the year.  Despite being spotted at Orleans bird feeders this Spring, my purchase of their favorite millet seed was not enough to lure them to Eastham.  The hummingbirds arrived late this year and in less plentiful numbers, suspected to be more victims of the industry-wide Trump Slump, but the brave Orioles have taken up their slack, necessitating extra grape jelly runs to the Stop & Shop.  This is also in part because the Catbirds have decided this year that they very much like the jelly, too, not to be confused with our friend Chandler's band, The Catbirds.  And, after googling reasons why one should NOT feed raccoons, I finally got Ron's attention with words like Leptospirosis and Giardiasis that convinced him to stop leaving sandwiches every night for our midnight raiders.  There was still one score to be settled though, and that was blaming the downed bird feeder poles on a possum.  A visit from our son, who lives for technical challenges, clearly exposed the culprit on the automatic video recorder within the motion sensor light.  Case solved, raccoon guilty, possum vindicated.   

Click on: The Night Raider  for proof positive.

and, just for fun...

On this note, I say goodbye to July, which passed in a whirlwind of fervent landscaping, creative driving, folding sheets and towels and an unending appreciation for being able to be part of it all and share it with others.

A chance meeting on the beach with our friend, Larry & Paco.
p.s.  Don't try to kiss a macaw unless he knows and really likes you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Special Edition: In Memory of Ray

A friend in Virginia once asked me “Does anyone ever fart on Cape Cod?”  He meant that everything always sounded so rosy in my blogs that it seemed like a place where nothing could ever go wrong. I answered, “Of course it does, but who would want to read about that?”  Well, something enormously wrong did happen this month, and we along with countless others lost a very special, true 'Cape Cod Character'.  His name was Ray, known to us as “our brother-from-another-mother”, a Cape fishing legend, a family man, and a friend to everyone he met.  Many of us knew Ray had been battling an illness for years, but he just shrugged it off saying that he still had a lot left to do.  And, he did. 

Ray was a familiar sight at Fort Hill, enjoying the beauty and checking on fishing conditions.

When I met my husband in Virginia and we decided to make our home on Cape Cod, he promised me that when we got here, I would meet a wonderful friend of his named Ray, and that I would love him.  
Soon after his first visit to our new home, he became a regular.  In fact, if you were a reader of my earlier blogs, he was mentioned often.  Once he discovered Ron’s barista skills, he began bringing friends with him to sit at the kitchen bar and get acquainted.  “Ya gotta try this guy’s coffee.  It’s the best you'll ever taste!”

Some days, he would come by with his truck full of vegetables to give away.  “Get a bag and come pick out what you want, Sweetheart.” 

When the weather was bad, he’d come in soaked and I’d give him dry clothes to wear while I threw his in the dryer, and he and Ron would watch the History Channel together and rehash WWII.  “Sweetheart, while you’re at it, there’s a button missing, do you have an extra you could sew on for me?”

Many times we would come home and find his dog, Tiggie, tied up to the truck bumper in the shade so he wouldn’t dig up my gardens, and Ray asleep on our couch snoring blissfully to a movie on TV with the cats curled up beside him.

Our cats, who are fairly discriminating about people, loved Uncle Ray.
When the weather was conducive to leaving the windows open, we’d hear him singing in his strong, rich voice as he ambled up the walk, “Oh, my spurs go jingle jangle jingle…”  

He would never miss an opportunity to mug for the camera, go for the joke, or share his good fortune. 
Sharing a joke with Ron, his brother-from-another-mother.

Wearing a tinfoil Viking hat, of course, because why not?
Years later, when Ron was flat on his back from chemo treatments, the basement flooded and I needed help moving soaked carpets up into the yard.  Ray was there in 5 minutes and Ron never knew what went on until we had it all cleaned up. 

Ray was one of those people who thought there was no such thing as a stranger.  While some Codders rudely proclaim “We’re Not on Your Vacation” with bumper stickers, we’ve seen Ray walk up to tourists in the summer and ask, “Hi there, where are you all from?”  He took hours getting through Stop & Shop because he greeted every employee as an old friend.  Many of the kids he babysat for later brought their kids to meet him.  He took friends to medical appointments and shared food, money and a nonjudgmental ear.  He thought every woman was beautiful, every kid was cute, every animal was precious and nobody was unworthy of help.  He pretended he was just a dumb fisherman, but he was wise in all the important ways. 
Taking Ron's twin sister and family from San Diego clamming. 
Before we knew it, our vocabulary was peppered with ‘Ray-isms’ like, “Getcha, gotcha”, which meant, I know what you mean.  And, “I stink so.”  Translation: I think so.  Or, "OH, HO, HO, HO...", which just meant he was getting up and on the move.  “Did I ever tell you about my French-Canadian cousins, Jacque and Pierre?” was the only joke he could remember and would tell as many times as you would listen.  He always wanted to know if we had any Canadians or French people staying at the B&B so he could tell them that joke.  If we didn't, he'd walk over and introduce himself anyway, and after asking if they wanted to buy any fresh lobsters he would tell them all about his imaginary cousins.  Nobody ever complained.  As his memory became worse, I learned how to make “Indian Pie” many times, told with the same enthusiasm and detail each time.  

Ray was drawn to a career in fishing when he visited Cape Cod from his home in Western Mass because he said it looked like something he thought he could do. He grew to love the ocean and became proficient enough to support a family.  After befriending the remarkable Cape Cod fishing legend, Tiggie Peluso, who taught him and dozens of others to fish, he became the only person Tiggie ever allowed to fish on his boat with him.  Tiggie’s daughter, Lou, recently related her first meeting with Ray to me:  “My father's health had been declining for a long time and Ray came to visit him at home.  After hearing all about this amazing fisherman and friend from my dad for so long, I was not expecting to open the door to see a little guy about my height with a Santa Claus beard. I thought he would be so much bigger!”   
Ray and his dog, Tiggie, named for Tiggie Peluso
After Ray was not allowed to drive anymore because of his health, we started going through withdrawal, missing his daily drop-in’s, even if it was only for a few moments because, “I gotta get home and make dinner for Anne”, the woman who stole his heart when he first came to the Cape, no matter how many times he found himself “in the doghouse”.  We kept listening for the bells hanging on our door that always jingled when he let himself in.  “Anybody home?  Are ya decent?”  We kept looking for his truck to drive in and hear the slam of the door and his admonishments to his dog, "Tiggie, be quiet and lie down.  I'll get you some water."  We realized that it was our turn to help Ray, and we made “Ray-Play-Dates” to get him out of the house.  By that time, his energy was flagging, and the outings wore him out and were probably more for us than him.  But, he still had so much more he wanted to do and we wanted to help him do them.   We knew his health was failing, but like everyone else, we thought there was more time.  A few more months, maybe a year, or two...but it still wouldn’t have been enough.  

Ron and Ray on the way up Fort Hill on one of their "play dates".
Kudos to Ray’s wife, Anna, who took the best possible care of the most impossibly strong-willed patient ever, who thought he could live 'his way' forever just by being too busy to acknowledge his illness.  We knew the force of nature you were up against, Anna, and we're so grateful for your Herculean efforts.  Just as wicked Nor’easters blow bits and pieces of Cape Cod away from time to time, the universe saw fit to leave this giant hole in all of our lives who were lucky enough to know Ray.  We know he’s only as far away as our memories... 
Our birthdays were 4 days apart.  The 'Scream' tie was a gift from Ron.

His wife, Anna, planned a fun birthday party for the both of us.

He loved the chipmunk slippers I found for him.
And, the lobster hat...
...which he earned honestly.

He always included us in his holiday fun.

Was always willing to indulge my strange photography experiments.
Teaching Ron how to make pizza dough.

Goofing it up with our boys at Fort Hill.

...but we're still going to miss him, wicked bad.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 2017 - It's Summah-time, and the livin' is crazy...

This year's photo exhibit at the Orleans Cape Cod 5
When you spend as much time being seduced by the ever-changing ocean sky as I do, it's inevitable that an exhibit devoted just to that would result.  But, it's too easy here to snap a beautiful sunset over the water and I needed a challenge.  'Sky' is similar to the game we play looking for animals, or faces in the clouds, only I've enjoyed capturing moments of ephemeral modern art, here briefly until the next puff of wind, and then evolving into another display of art.  Thank you to Cape Cod 5 for providing the venue for me to indulge my art.
An Eastham sunset
So, just who is this Dr. Beach, anyway, and what gives him the authority to rate our country's beaches?  Well, Dr. B. is actually Dr. Stephen P Leatherman, Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.  And, if those credentials aren't impressive enough, he has been reviewing and evaluating beaches and coastal areas all over the world for the last 25 years based on a 50-item criteria.  Okay, so he probably knows a good beach when he sees one.  We knew Eastham's Coast Guard Beach was pretty special, anyway, but it's always nice to find a comfy spot year after year on such an esteemed authority's top 10 list.   
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, MA 

 The war is on...
When we began awakening to find the poles that hold our bird feeders bent down to the ground, I knew that the War of the Critters had begun once again.  We seem to have a bumper crop of chipmunks and red and gray squirrels this year, but they're not even the worst culprits.  This year we have a motion sensor light that illuminates the mischief makers and follows their movements.  I suspected raccoons, but was surprised to see a big possum lumbering away, trying to escape the sudden light.  It wasn't long before the raccoon showed up, too, in broad daylight.  Axle grease seems to have slowed down the nocturnal pole dancing, but they're still quite the gymnasts in order to get to the sunflower seeds and grape jelly.  A visit to google for help suggested soaking rags with ammonia and tying them around the bottom of the pole.  Raccoons are fastidious creatures and don't like anything that smells like urine.  I tried that strategy, but it's gone with the first rain.  Ron has his own ideas of communing with the wildlife, and reasoned that if he left them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a plate every night, they'd leave the birdseed alone.  Neither strategies are working.  If you're going to feed the birds, the rest of the animal kingdom will demand equal rights.  To be continued...  

Yes, YOU!

Living so close to the water, it makes one acutely aware of how things in nature tend to ebb and flow; the tides, the seasons, tourists, wildlife, all answering to their particular rhythms.  This month, we are having to acknowledge the ebb and flow of time as our wonderful, elderly neighbor across the street is moving back to Ohio to be closer to his family.  And, he's not any happier about it than we are, but in the end, time and concerned children have the final say.  It probably seems like such a a short time ago to him that he and his now-departed wife retired and became Cape Cod residents and together roamed the Fort Hill trails down the street.  Time seems to betray us just as we think that we finally got it right.  And, I will try to pay very close attention to each day, each walk on Fort Hill, each visit to the beach, each drive along the winding roads lined with beach roses because I know that time makes up its own rules and we're never really ready to give up a good thing no matter how long it's been. 

While most people are just looking for a quiet getaway to enjoy the beauty of the National Seashore and the quaintness of "Olde Cape Cod", we have so far this year hosted four surprise birthday trips and an anniversary.   It always feels good to be part of a gift to someone else.  From as far away as France to California, Wisconsin, and points from Maryland to Vermont, the attraction of this tiny finger of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean continues to irresistibly beckon people from far and wide.  Providing a home away from home to share this delightful place makes us feel truly worthy of our time here.  With July right around the corner, we're ready to welcome the parade of guests, new and returning, and enjoy introducing them to our Cape Cod.

The Golden Chain Tree decorates the Cottage in Spring 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MAY 2017 - Lobstahs, and surfboards, and cars, oh my!

First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay welcomes Spring visitors
May is the final wakeup call for businesses to open for the season, and one of Eastham's most popular, well-known and eagerly awaited openings is Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar.  They combine the trifecta of beach resorts - seafood, mini-golf and ice cream, and get annual accolades and awards for each.  The big date this year is May 19th, and in honor of the revered crustacean, here is some lobster trivia for you:

A female lobster is called a hen.

A lobster that weighs about one pound is called a chicken.

A lobster with no claws is called a pistol.

A lobster's brain is the size of a grasshopper and they are sometimes referred to as "bugs of the sea".

Research suggests that lobsters keep growing forever, but scientists won't be able to tell how long they really live because traps aren't designed to catch the largest ones.  

Lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, but it will take a good five years for a one-pound lobster to grow a claw that's close to the same size of the one that was lost.

Lobsters taste with their legs and chew with their stomachs.

A lobster claw can exert pressure of up to 100 pounds per square inch.  Ouch!

Lobsters are banded because when they're crowded, they become cannibalistic.

Lobsters only turn red after they're cooked.  They're mostly green, although occasionally a rare blue one is caught.

Lobster meat is actually a healthy source or protein and omega 3 fatty acids, if you don't overdo it on the butter.

Lobsters were once so plentiful, they were served to prisoners and servants and they make excellent fertilizer.

The record holder for consuming lobsters is Sonya Thomas, who ate 44 of them in 12 minutes at a contest in Kennebunkport, Maine.

You can actually hypnotize a lobster by standing it on its head with it's tail turned inward and rubbing up and down on the carapace [upper shell] and between its eyes. Eventually, it might stand by itself, but no one really knows why you'd want to do this.  And, on that note, ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY LOBSTER!

If April was all about nature reawakening, May on Cape Cod is all about Memorial Day, the beginning of High Season.  In May, you are just as likely to be driving behind a boat as a car.  Or, if it's a car, there's a good chance there will be a surfboard or 3 bicycles dangling from it.  The Department of Transportation has been racing to finish repaving the main road after 2 years of digging it up to install water pipes for a new town water system.  Fresh, white stripes will finally replace the orange-striped barrels that residents have been dodging all Spring.    

Spring on Fort Hill in the National Seashore
Although Cape Cod is known for fogs that sometimes roll in and sheathe familiar terrain in gauzy camouflage, there's a different kind of cloud casting gloom over the usual anticipation of High Season here, and elsewhere in the country.  'Trump Slump' is the name attributed by travel industry experts to the murky fog that has rolled over the tourism industry this year.  Search engines reported a steep decline [26% according to Market Watch] in international travelers looking for flights to America immediately after his controversial order to ban refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in early 2017.   Industry experts report that the fall in travel to the U.S. is also thought to be due to political factors, which have made the country "an uncomfortable place for foreigners".  Here on Cape Cod, not only have we witnessed this unfortunate situation, but there are other factors impacting us, as well as other National Parks around the country.  Cuts to funding of the National Seashore are playing havoc with programs that guests have enjoyed for years.  And local businesses, who depend on foreign students with travel visas to help staff their restaurants, hotels and shops because of the shortage of local applicants, are finding that students are unable to obtain the necessary visas this year.  Compared to more dire world issues, this may seem like small potatoes, however, this has a very real ripple-effect on the economy.   Locals who depend on the tourism industry to support their families also support other local businesses, who support larger companies.  Considering the impact of all the funding cuts to every National Park in the country, the resulting repercussions as it travels up the chain to the top could significantly effect decisions on spending, hiring and investments.  The ripple-effect should never be underestimated for both undesirable AND desirable results.

And giving equal time to a story with Major Desirable Ripple-Effect, I'd like to tell you about Sarah Swain, the founder of The Cape Wellness Collaborative, which is funded by her Cape Cod Women's Music Festival.  A lot could be written, and indeed has already been written about this amazing woman, but here's the incredible short story:  Sarah is a very talented local musician, whose mother died at an early age from cancer.  In her honor, Sarah founded an organization on Cape Cod to help cancer patients pay for integrative therapies, which are not covered by insurance, to manage pain, nausea and anxiety, and to increase well-being during their illness.  The collaborative refers to what seems like an endless list of local practitioners for an equally impressive list of therapies to make the cancer patient's road to recovery a little less bumpy.  Approximately 1400 people are diagnosed with cancer each year on Cape Cod.  In this organization's first 18 months, it was able to distribute over $65,000 in wellness therapies to over 200 people, and they're just beginning.  Sarah's wonderful idea, with the support of an astounding network of talented and caring women musicians, created the best kind of ripples that affect whole families and beyond.     

Sarah Swain - center
For more on Sarah's personal story:  "The Big Decision"

After hearing last month that one of my photos was chosen for the cover of the Eastham Chamber of Commerce information booklet, life quickly returned to daily chores, putting pants on one leg at a time, and then totally forgetting all about it.  Until...the new copies were delivered this week and word started getting around.  I'm certainly in no danger of being stalked by paparazzi over this accomplishment, although one friend actually did ask me to autograph her copy.  Honest!  I warned her not to try to sell it on ebay, as it would be a very disappointing experience for her.  I really can't take too much credit, as the magnificent Fort Hill did all the hard work for me, but, here it is in all its glory, and can even be viewed online to read the bio and enjoy other pictures of our beautiful town!


[click the left and right arrows to turn the pages.

As my 8th Memorial Day as a Cape Cod resident looms, I recognize that it's feeling a little different from my first few here.  While I wouldn't consider myself an old-timer, yet, there is a quiet, knowingness from experience that expresses itself with more subtle anticipation.  It's a sharing of recognition with other locals of, "Here comes another one, are you ready?"  The answer to that is 'yes'.  I have my relaxation CD's in the car, ready to soothe my patience as I wait to turn left on the highway, and inch my way through clogged rotaries.  I will try to remember that parking at the back of the lot is good exercise.  Knowing how lucky I am that I don't have to leave after only a week will make room in my heart for visitors who maybe forgot to pack their manners with their swimsuits.  So, maybe I'm not that old-timer yet, but I feel that I've maybe graduated from pre-school. May these lessons please last through high season.

Let the season begin!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 2017 - April on Cape Cod is all about the flora and fauna.

Gone are the big stacks of firewood and salt containers on the porch.  The glider pillows have reappeared, and little seed packets are getting tucked into peat pots, hoping for a few good seedlings to go into the garden by May 1st.  The grape jelly and oranges are out for the orioles to rediscover, and the hummingbird feeder just got its first syrupy infusion.  Each day there are new bird reports of who spotted the first of a species.  And, even if you have no use for a herring, it suddenly has become very important to know if they are running, yet.   With some milder April temperatures, the perennial gardens seem to be in a race to see which plant will bloom first, and bare tree branches are suddenly bursting with buds, which please the birds, as they offer better camouflage from the hungry Cooper's hawk.  This is Phase Two kicking in of life beyond winter, but only after the brave crocuses and snowdrops first tested the waters.  Now each day through Fall will bring new discoveries of long ago plantings, revisiting as old friends.  

It gets very quiet when the Cooper's hawk visits.
One of the perks of the fallow winter garden is that it gives gardeners a chance to reflect on the successes and failures of their efforts.  And, with the quiet winter season of a resort town, there is plenty of time sitting by the cozy fireplace to come up with new, grandiose plans of what will make it "the perfect garden" next year.  In the dead of winter, achy bones don't factor into these plans at all.  One can still visualize the finished project and not worry about how it actually gets that way.  The changes are just beginning, and  are resulting in the removal of one of the three raised beds to reposition the greenhouse so it will receive better sun.  As it turns out, this wasn't a difficult decision as I really hadn't counted on it filling up with roots from the big trees nearby.  Live and learn, AND relocate a lot of dirt, with a lot of help from friends.  

Once this is accomplished, the next phase, when time allows, will be to increase the garden fence height by a few feet of lattice to make it more of a "secret garden" for the innkeepers, family and friends.  The lattice will, of course, allow for peeks of color and activity, but with more of an illusion of privacy.  And, for good measure, the old wooden gate from the now defunct garden on the shady side of the house will be refitted to make a real entrance.  It's so nice to have a carpenter in the house.  While politics rage across the country about "sanctuary cities", we are designing our own little sanctuary in the truest sense.     

For some, Easter is a religious holiday, for others, it's all about finding hidden candied eggs, but for us, it turned into a perfect day to spend some pre-High Season relaxing time at the beach.  As a kid, growing up two hours from the ocean, I always thought if I ever lived closer, I'd certainly be walking the beaches every day.  I guess I hadn't counted on all that darned grownup stuff getting in the way, but we're vowing to do better this year. 

First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay - our favorite.  

And, the fauna report wouldn't be complete without an update on whales.  A researcher at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life reported seeing 112 in one day.  Scientists estimate that there are only 524 North Atlantic right whales left, so this sighting represented about a fifth of the world’s population.  
Enjoy this aerial view:   Return of the right whales

Next month...LOBSTAHS, or "lobsters" as the rest of you pronounce them.

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 2017 - "Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush." - Doug Larson

There's activity in the garden area, again.

Whiplash weather best describes March.  When a mild spell hits, it's time to dig out a T-shirt and do a little garden cleanup.  Days later it will be covered in snow again, and the temperatures will plummet, demanding multiple layers of clothing.  But, when the next warm front creeps in, it cheers the heart to see the efforts already taken.   

The historic Captain Penniman House in the background
It was in the month of December, seven years ago, that I made Cape Cod my home.  Not even then did I fully appreciate my sheer good fortune at having landed at the foot of Fort Hill, a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Oh sure, I knew it was a beautiful spot, one of many wonderful vistas on this tiny piece of land, carved by glaciers and jutting into the Atlantic Ocean like a mighty flexing arm.  The only reference I've been able to find about how Fort Hill got its name was a brief mention in local writer, Robert Finch's A Cape Cod Notebook of a short-lived fort, built by Bartholomew Gosnold in the early 1600's, after sailing from England to start a new colony on the New England coastline.  Apparently, an altercation with the Cape Cod Nauset Indians convinced him to move along.  Gosnold is also credited with naming Cape Cod, and also the nearby island of Martha's Vineyard, which he named after his daughter and the abundant wild grapes they found growing there.

As I made the short walk down my street up Fort Hill more frequently, it taught me its rhythm and seasons, always changing like an ongoing movie, as it has done for centuries. 

Less than half a mile from the main route traversing the Cape, it manages to remain a peaceful sanctuary for all forms of woodland wildlife and a major flyover zone for a wide variety of migratory birds.   The wonder of turning one's back on a major highway, and walking just a short distance to climb a timeless, giant boulder, where I can sit gazing at a restless ocean and listening to wind weaving through towering seagrass astounds me every time.  There's no room for nonchalance or smugness, whether a first-time tourist experience, or locals who have their first "Dunkie" [Duncan Donut coffee] of the day as they gaze humbly from their cars.  It's a soothing, awe-inspiring gift of nature there for the taking, no matter who you are.  It changes with every season, but its beauty and peace is constant, and it doesn't care a whit how long your family has lived here.   


An unending light and cloud show play on nature's big screen and has inspired many artists and photographers, as well as rock-sitters contemplating one thing or another.  Rock walls built centuries ago wind around and through the land, each with their own composite story to tell, summoning up visions of a simpler lifestyle, based primarily on survival.  There was no need for gyms when these rocks were excavated and piled into walls to clear the fields to grow food.  

Each month of Spring and Summer offers a stunning transformation of the frozen, bare hills and valleys as beach roses and wildflowers compete with little dots of reds, yellows, blues, violets and pinks with the monstrous, green thickets that engulf the fields by Summer's end.  The year's new crop of baby bunnies peek out at the many trail explorers, practicing their new hopping and hiding skills.  Birds chant and trill their whereabouts, ignoring the many birder binoculars and watching instead for hungry hawks.  And, if you're out at daybreak or dusk, you may find that you're being watched heedfully by a family of deer.  

By Fall, the hill takes on a golden-orange glow with scarlet vines weaving spidery patterns up trees and rocks, and seed pods bursting into next year's fluffy promise.  The calls of the seabirds seem more plaintive as many birds desert the area to journey South.  At this point, the Park Rangers mow the thickets back to a bare hill.  As the Winter temperatures chill, everything quiets and the field takes on a light golden glow, contrasting with the ocean which turns a deeper blue.  

Most winters bring at least a couple blankets of blowing, drifting snow to complete the tuck-in for the season's deep rest.  These are days when one can walk the trails completely alone with one's thoughts, feeling rich beyond measure and compelled to find the words to share the appreciation.  

I've recently found out that Fort Hill has given me another gift.  One of my photos of the beautiful Spring-blooming lupins on Fort Hill was chosen to be the cover shot on this year's Eastham Chamber of Congress booklet and will be used in ads for the National Seashore publication and Summer Guide.  It's been a goal that I set for myself a few years ago, and considering the competition, it's quite a gratifying honor.

It's time for baseball - GO SOX!  When time does the game start?

With the unpredictability of what we can now expect of seasons, I made a bold move when the weekly Ocean State Job Lot coupons came out and purchased a small greenhouse for starting seeds.  As it is, we're encouraged by statistics to wait until May 1 before planting anything outside, so by March, there are little packets of seeds with tempting pictures of thriving, fragrant herbs, prolific fruits and veggies, and dazzling blooms pleading with me from the bowl on top of the breakfront.  Short of covering every possible surface with little pots of dirt, and if that isn't enough of an unsanitary picture, keeping the cats out of was a brilliant $16 solution.  And, it even fits in the kitchen until I see sprouts and don't hear snow in the forecast anymore. The main impetus came from a second attempt to grow lingonberries this year.  The first attempt yielded nothing but one sprout that turned out to be a sunflower.  The red seeds are the same size as a flea, and even jump when you try to pick them up with a pair of tweezers, but I have high hopes for lingonberry preserves.  Maybe not this year, but I like to set goals. 

So much for the old sayings; our March came in like a baby chick and is going out like a polar bear.  The circumstances of who we host at the B&B are always new chapters in an ongoing anthology
 for us.  Our first B&B guests of the month were actually rescheduled guests from Nantucket and Connecticut, who'd had to cancel because of February's blizzard.  As it happened, their new date prompted a March blizzard, but an early start gave them the leg up this time.  Our "Stormwatcher" from Vermont tried to get here for the fun, but his flight was cancelled from where he was in Florida at the time.  You see, there are even more enthusiastic people about blizzards than ME!  Following them was a Minnesota couple, who had recently made NYC their home, and were looking for a peaceful getaway, more like the Northwest pace they'd left.  Next was a couple from the Boston area taking advantage of off-season rates for a quick dose of seashore.  A couple who'd recently settled in Rhode Island made us a weekend birthday treat to bring the month to a close.  As for our avian guests, we're overjoyed to report that the bluebirds have decided to make Crosswinds their home this year, and we count at least five pairs, prompting the consideration to change the name to Crosswinds B & B & B.