One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘Cape Cod Bay’ Category

Chasing the Sun

It’s a rainy day here today, so I’m glad to have saved a bunch of sunshine from Sunday to share today.

Sunday was, as its name implies, a warm and sunny day.  As Sundays sometimes are, it was a day long enough for relaxing, puttering and just a smidge of really hard work.   Maybe because the week before had been so cold and dim and rainy, when Sunday began to wind down, I still wanted a little more sunshine.

So as the evening rolled around, I wasn’t quite ready to collapse in a heap before the television and I walked through the neighborhood and down to Rock Harbor to enjoy the day’s end.

There was roses and other things blooming all along my way, and I’ve already shown you some of that last time around.   I’m sure if you’d been along, we’d have found something to talk about for nearly every step of the walk and possibly all this would’ve been merely backdrop for our experience, some of it even unnoticed.

On my own, however, I was lost in my own thoughts and free to stop and admire things here and there.

Walking to see the sunset and driving to the beach to do the same are completely different experiences, of course.  You can see (above, left) the small crowd gathered at the boat launch on the Orleans side of the harbor.

If I’d driven down to the shore for the occasion (and the sun setting almost always IS an occasion – sometimes here at the harbor, they even have a steel drum band!), I might’ve stopped somewhere for an ice cream on the way, and I’d probably stay until the last glimmers of light faded from the cloud-streaked sky.

But my walks are exercise as much as anything, and since I also like to have arrived back home before full dark, the sunset for me is a walk-by experience and while everyone else lingers still at the shore, I’m already working my way back to the house.   (On this night, I wanted to be home in time to see most of the Tony Awards, after all.)

But every now and then, I looked back over my shoulder.


Best Anticipations: An April Garden Report

I don’t look forward to Earth Day anymore.    Two years ago, I went for a walk on a sunny morning in late April and discovered a days-old development newly carved out of a patch of woods by the bayshore.  Lots for Sale.    The splendid yellow bulldozer still lingered on the scene, the air still toxic with the fumes of the macadam cul-de-sac.

Then last spring, I turned on the radio and heard about an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the start of a summer’s long environmental crisis in that part of the world.   This year, Earth Day is still a week or so away and we have sewage plant disks that will linger on our shorelines probably as long as that pesky little radiation problem in Japan will be a devilment over there.    They sent work crews down to the Cape last week to clean up the disks, but there are still plenty to be found.    If I’d gone for the close-up, I have no doubt you’d find half a dozen in this photo below.    Hidden pictures, anyone?

Fortunately, April is also about rebirth.    Everywhere you look, there’s a slow motion fireworks display getting underway, with bright colors bursting out of almost every corner of the landscape.    Nature’s cycle begins anew, growing fresh green over the scars of the past and rewarding the faith of gardeners everywhere.

In the last week we seem to have turned a corner with our weather.   Our temperatures are just a little warmer, now.  This past weekend, we slept with windows open for the first time, the peepers in the surrounding wetlands singing us off with a springtime lullabye.   Oh, what a treat!

Pansies have appeared on the landscape, too, on plywood display racks in front of nurseries and groceries and garden centers everywhere.

A hanging basket of assorted colors was my first purchase this year, but just the thing to encourage me out onto the deck to re-install the first of the shepherd’s crooks.

Similarly, it was purchasing a whole flat of pansies in a range of purple-blues and tiny violas in yellow for contrast that got me to start raking out beds and cleaning up the lawn.   There’s an extra layer of thatch to be teased free after last year’s droughtiness, but the raked spots green up so nice, it’s worth the effort.   The robins stalk my progress, digging worms out of the ground where I’ve been.  Cardinals sing down the sun as I rake.

It feels so good to be outside, to be finding everything coming back to life:   the tulips that will be blooming before long, the heliotrope which will tower shortly thereafter.    All the perennials are lush and green looking, as I clear away the debris of last season and the leaves which gathered through the winter’s storms.  I think it’s fun to put on the yard’s happy face at the start of the season, as I consider all the possibilities that lie ahead.
The signs of the season are all around us.   All of the different blackbird varieties have now returned, their presence noted in and around feeders.  Last weekend, a convention of raptors was spotted overhead in our yard, seven or eight of them.    They were up pretty high and we weren’t trying too hard to identify them, but the likeliest suspects are red-tailed hawks, ospreys and/or turkey vultures.    Down on the ground, chipmunks are beginning to scamper about, cautious of the danger overhead, but eager to find food.

This young flicker has been advertising his baser instincts by jackhammering against the vinyl siding right behind where I sit at the computer each sunny morning this week.   You’d think this would give him a wicked headache, but this is how his people attract the attention of a pretty young girl flicker.  There’s a whole family of flickers visiting the yard this spring, in fact.   I’ve seen one or two in the past, but they have apparently found something to bring them back here with their growing family.

You can be sure that I am not the only one who’s noticing the change in the seasons.   Spring (and no doubt the scent of all those birds) has most certainly gotten into to the nose of my roommate and we have been re-introducing after-dinner walks around the yard into our evening routine this week.

My pal Badum is always happy to get out and do a little exploring, but especially so at the end of a long winter (but not all thaaaat long, as we did manage one of these walks one surprisingly-warm day in early January).   It’s fun to see a different side of his personality when we get outside and I try to stay out of his line of sight, when possible, to give him the authentic “I’m outside on my own” experience.   I sometimes suspect he’s as pleased to have some protection from that large birds we now-and-then see overhead.

Anyway, it’s mostly about him finding the kind of grass he likes to nibble on best.   Once in a while, tho, something catches his eye, like the black cat he spotted lurking in the woods at the back of our property tonight.    Fortunately, he didn’t bolt, since he might easily have escaped the harness and I used that…and the falling dark…to justify the end of the evening’s explorations.

Still, it is loads of fun to get out there and see the world through his eyes.   I never know just what it is we’ll find.   For instance, it was the Gardener’s Cat who pointed out the wild white violets which were quietly starting to bloom at the feet of our aging catawba tree.    Amusingly enough, he seems not to have a clue that a family of squirrels have been seen building a home inside.

“Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.

It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.”

~ Charles Dudley Warner

Wretched Refuse

Now that we’ve Sprung Ahead, P and I have been getting ourselves into some nice late afternoon walking habits, getting ourselves to the bay and back a few nights a week.   After a long and sometimes lazy winter, the exercise feels good and its so nice to be out there in the fresh air.    Our route offers all kinds of wildlife viewing possibilities, what with geese and ducks and herons in the  marsh and all sorts of shoreline wildlife once we reach the bay and we never know quite what we’ll encounter.

Anyone who’s walked along the shore knows that all kinds of things wash up in the seaweed left by high tide.    Sometimes we fill our pockets with pretty shells or pebbles or interesting bits of driftwood.   As often as not, there’s a dead fish or bird or crab in the wrack, but all kinds of brightly colored evidence of Man, too.    Just the other night, for not the first time, we bemoaned not having remembered to bring trash bags to collect some of the garbage that floats up.

Really, it’s how the whole tidal marsh system works:   the high tide carries in all the refuse of the sea, which is filtered out of the water by the tall marsh grasses, which then settles and builds up the layers that form a salt marsh, and eventually more land.  Sort of a compensation for erosion elsewhere.   Of course the system was designed to address and recycle organic materials, not all the plastic cast-offs our culture creates.   All kinds of stuff washes up on the bay shore, which is why Provincetown artist Jay Critchley‘s been making art of washed-up tampon applicators for years.

But then we heard about the disks.   Somehow the story only got out into the media this weekend, even though the original incident happened back on March 6th:    a sewage treatment plant in New Hampshire experienced an “escape” of some 4 to 8 million of these little two inch disks, which are used to filter bacteria out of waste water.

What a convenient word, “escape”, excusing everyone responsible by imbuing these filty plastic filters with a desire to break out of captivity and taste freedom.    Here’s the whole story.

Probably not the whole story, though.    After I posted a link about this “local”/regional story on Facebook this evening, Jess pointed out that a seemingly-identical “escape” occurred at a sewage treatment plant in Westchester County on the very same day, causing those discs to begin washing up on Long Island’s North Shore beaches now.  That nearly identical story is found here.

So WTF is the real story, eh?   Is it just mass simultaneous incompetence?   I suppose that’s easy enough to believe.   But now I wonder if there are other coastal communities experiencing similar things from their moron-operated sewage treatment plant.   My personal conspiracy theory so far falls short in imagining some appropriately-nefarious “real reason” behind these little disks’ great adventure, but it must be something bad.   As if trashing our precious waters isn’t bad enough.

In any case, we are assured they are harmless.   Isn’t it funny how often we hear that song anymore these days…?   The disks, they say, have spent enough time in the water that there’s no more bacteria to worry about.    Just as we hear there’s no reason to worry about the radiation, it’s blowing out to sea.    We ask so much of our oceans.

Having heard on the radio this morning that these discs were beginning to find their way onto our shores, tonight we armed ourselves with gloves and trashbags and when our walk brought us to the shore, we began looking around for the things.    At first, we didn’t spot them.   But then we began to see them everywhere.

We collected discs for about an hour, adding deep knee bends and squat thrusts to our regular walking exercise, as we teased apart the piles of seaweed along the wrackline, finding them full of discs and all sorts of other manmade debris.    Dead cigarette lighters, a flashlight, various bits of rope and netting, twisted tangles of pretty colored ribbon attached to now-dead latex balloons, tampon applicators, ToGo containers and Starbucks cups, golf balls and condoms (both used and unused, apparently), plastic water bottles, that little plastic ring you peel off your milk that the cat likes to play with, fishing lures and miscellaneous plastic bits and discs, everywhere we looked more discs.    Augh.

Wouldn’t you hate it if you lived in one of these shells and then these things washed up in your front yard?

After picking along the shoreline for an hour, we’d each collected hundreds of the things, along with all that other debris.    It was a good hour or so of work, and as the sun sank it was getting colder and the tide was creeping in, pushing the dampness ahead of it.

It was time to stop, but so frustrating to do so.   The tide would just bring in more and move around the ones we hadn’t gotten to back into the spots we cleaned.    A couple of hundred discs that felt like an accomplishment a few minutes before seems suddenly a drop in a bucket of 4 to 8 million.

All along the beach are still hundreds, probably thousands of them.    They are washing up on beaches all along the bayshore and have been found on the oceanside beaches, as well.    If conditions are right, some could catch a ride on the Gulf Stream and find their way to Europe.

We’re going back again after work tomorrow and we’ll see what we can accomplished.    We’re hoping we’ll see more people there, so if you’re on the Cape (or the North Shore, for that matter), grab some gloves and a bag and come join us.   Or go to some other beach near you.   It sounds like there’s plenty to go around and though it’s frustrating work, every bit helps.

If only we could get everyone to show up at the beach and pick up a few.    It would start to put a dent into the millions.    As we worked, we pondered aloud the idea that  you could get more people to come help out if you presented the possibility of winning prizes for the number of discs collected.    What a shame it comes down to bribery.   You’d think it’d be more clear that cleaning up our environment is its own reward.

Whoever cleans up the most trash gets to save the Planet.    OK, go!