More than 100 years ago, the Green Briar Jam Kitchen began as a tea room. After her mother died, Ida Putnam returned from New York to her family’s home on Discovery Hill Road in Sandwich, portions of which date as far back as 1780. Ida opened the tea room in a renovated woodshed off of the house, relying on word of mouth and a wooden sign at the end of the road to entice travelers on Old Kings Highway (now Route 6A).
The tea room lasted a few summer seasons, but one element quickly outshone the rest of the establishment’s offerings: Ida’s fresh jams and jellies. Once Putnam focused on preserves, her business grew quickly. While she had previously chosen native berries and beach plums picked from her immediate woodland and beach surroundings for the jams and jellies, she soon began purchasing additional fruits and vegetables from a network of family, friends, and neighbors. The smells of warm pears, plums, grapes, crabapples, quince, and tomatoes wafted through the air around the kitchen and changed with the seasons.
My grandmother, Mae Foster, began working at the jam kitchen in the 1940s. She spent happy days cooking jams, relishes, and preserves alongside good friends like Martha Blake and Mizue Murphy. Mae continues to share stories about those times with her great-great grandchildren today.
When I was six years old, I used to spend entire days working with my grandmother in the Green Briar kitchen. I used to help stir the humongous pots full of blueberries, with a ladle longer than my arms. I also ate a good number of those blueberries! When the jars were filled and carefully wiped of sticky drips, I would climb a step-stool and stare into early “sun-cookers”—the kitchen began utilizing wide, glass-covered shelves for solar cooking in 1920—to see if I could watch fruit transform before my eyes. It didn’t, but I always seemed to try again the next day.
The grounds outside are just as I remember. In 1980, the Thornton W. Burgess Society assumed management of the Green Briar Jam Kitchen and the surrounding woodlands where Burgess found inspiration for his popular animal adventure stories featuring Peter Rabbit and friends. The nature center’s focus is a great complement to the jam kitchen as a “living museum.”
On a visit to Green Briar in August, this special place looks very much the same, with many of the same contented workers turning out delicious jams and jellies. The day I stopped in, Mizue Murphy was stirring those same pots on the same row of stove tops and she and her colleagues diced up peaches by hand at the window stools. The kitchen crew use the same recipes, cooked in traditional ways, obeying the cadence of the seasons to determine what to preserve next. “It’s such a pleasant place,” says Mizue, who has spent more than 30 years on the job. “People can visit any time of day, and they can’t help but relax while they’re here.” Doreen Brackett of East Sandwich, who has been with Green Briar for three years, says that the strenuous work is satisfying. “It’s actually quite hard work doing everything by hand,” Brackett says, “but when you look at the beautiful view and feel the serenity of stepping back in time, you just can’t beat it.”
Today, a beautiful new outbuilding houses the Thornton Burgess Museum’s Animal Room where kids can come explore and interact with nature. There are weekly activities for children and families, classes like “Froggy Frolic,” “Off the Trail with Map & Compass,” wild nature crafts, and, of course, a variety of jam workshops in the kitchen. I recall many museum explorations from my own childhood. We spent many happy hours searching for famous Burgess characters like Grandfather Frog and Jerry Muskrat.
Green Briar also hosts seasonal festivals for the public. On October 2, the annual Cape Cod Cranberry Day will be held. The festival brings together local volunteers, who help cook chowder and chili as well as warm cranberry crisps for all to try using Green Briar recipes. In the Jam Kitchen there are many seasonal cooking demonstrations, offering a great inside look at the traditions that have made this little place so special for generations.
The Thornton Burgess Society’s Green Briar Jam Kitchen has deep roots in Cape Cod’s history. Interested in some Jam Kitchen fun facts?
• The society has at least 10 antique cherry pitters
in its collection.
• It takes 30 days for melon rind pickles to ripen.
• Each year, the museum’s kitchen staff fills more
than 27,000 jars.
• Strawberry jam is the number-one seller.
• Favorite Jam Kitchen job: Sampling the products!
• Least favorite Jam Kitchen job: De-stemming
• A horseshoe hung by the Jam Kitchen’s founder,
Ida Putnam, still dangles over the Jam Kitchen door.
• Sugar for the jams and jellies is stored in
a 300-pound barrel.
Cranberry Apple Jam
(Yields four to six eight-ounce jars)
6 cups whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3 cups apples
4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Pick through cranberries to remove stems and debris. Wash cranberries. Peel and chop apples into small chunks. Add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to a rolling boil. Cook until thickened and pour into sterilized jars.
For more information, visit the website of the Thornton W. Burgess Society at www.thorntonburgess.org.
“I grew up spending summers in a little Cape cottage my parents bought in 1956,” says Sue Sargent. Her mother, an avid gardener, planted perennials the family could enjoy during their Orleans vacation days. “My mother always gardened, she was a very natural gardener, and a great fan of Rachel Carson’s,” says Sargent, referring to the early environmentalist and author of Silent Spring. “I would watch her work. Later, when I married, I would come to visit the Cape with my husband and our daughters. After my parents died, my family continued to come to the cottage and in 1999, a fabulous gardener friend of ours designed and helped in planting the first meadow garden along our driveway.”
Today, the original cottage’s meadow garden is filled to overflowing with huge grasses—Miscanthus “Adagio” and Pennisetum “Hameln.” “I’ve divided them an awful lot over the years, I’ve even had to take some out,” says Sargent. She has under planted the grasses with multiple layers of Sedum “Autumn Joy” and Sedum “Matrona.” The Sedums’ succulent erect stems and fleshy leaves provide a great contrast to the billowing mounds and linear spikes of the ornamental grasses. When the Sedum come into bloom, the meadow is transformed with flushes of pink.
Pink accents show up again in a stunning Marsh Mallow (Hibiscus) with large ornamental flowers, planted near the house. “I love Marsh Mallows, they remind me of my mother; in fact, two of her Mallows survive to this day,” says Sargent. Her mother’s Mallows sit on a rise above the home Sue and her husband, John, built in 2001 on the same site as the original cottage. “John and I knew we wanted to retire here and realized our summer home, filled with memories, was not sufficient to meet our year-round needs,” Sargent explains. “We couldn’t bear the thought of tearing the house down and were fortunate to find someone willing to take the cottage and move it. For awhile we had what we called Tippy Village, a shanty town in our backyard—our old summer home cut into quarters—waiting for the movers to take it to a new site in North Eastham.”
Before the original cottage was moved from its foundation, Sargent dug up her mother’s garden and healed in roses, Hydrangeas, Phlox, and “Black-Eyed Susan” (Rudbeckia) in a safe place far from the construction. The plants have all found their way into the many beds and borders surrounding the new home. Soft pink “Fairy” roses her mother had planted now edge a pull-in place off the crushed shell driveway. “After the house was built, meadow number two was planted and then I kept expanding,” says Sargent.
Meadow “two” lines the other side of the drive. Birds flutter in and out of the grasses—Panicum “Shenandoah”, the reed grass Calamagrostis “Karl Foerster,” and the graceful Japanese silver grass Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light.” She added a punch of color to the mix when she replanted original red “Knockout” shrub roses.
Both meadows are anchored by a blue spruce, adding structure and color. There are also blueberry bushes and colorful butterfly bushes. Sargent has planted various coneflowers (Echinacea) a great meadow plant; also, native goldenrod has snuck in and been allowed to stay. “Russian Sage” (Perovskia) adds dashes of purple as does the Nepeta “Six Hills Giant” (catmint). Adding a whimsical touch, Gaura lindheimeri “Belleza” weaves its way through grasses with small dancing blossoms, brightened by yellow splashes of “Black-eyed Susan.” A Kousa dogwood adds grace when four-petaled, white blossoms open out in late spring. “May Queen” Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) bounce in the breeze. American native “Joe Pye” (Eupatorium purpurea) has done very well and is a little too happy, says Sargent, who has no qualms about ripping out any plants that become invasive.
“I have lots of ‘Stella d’ Oro’ daylilies (Hemerocallis) and I like another daylily called ‘Hemero Pink,’” Sargent notes. When she needs new plants, she never buys just one—rarely three—but usually five to seven of the same variety—the bigger the pot size, the better. “I’m impatient and I’m what I’d call a frothing gardener,” says Sargent. “There are very few empty spaces, the plants run into each other. It is very informal. I like a natural look.”
Spring is spent tidying up the garden as most plants are left for winter interest. “We leave the leaves in the garden as a winter mulch,” Sargent explains. “In the spring, John weed-whacks the meadow gardens back almost to the ground.” The Sargents do bring in outside help when getting the gardens ready in the spring for a day of weeding, edging the garden, moving John’s cuttings to the compost heap, and laying down 20 yards of mulch.
“Our biggest work time is in April, May, and June,” says Sargent. “I spend a lot of time in the garden, certainly every day, sometimes for five hours, sometimes for two. Then it eases off. In the hot weather, I’m not totally anxious to be out there, but will head out a couple times a week to deadhead.”
Beyond the meadow gardens, graceful borders swing round the house. Sargent has filled the beds with pink “Gumpo” Azalea, the compact Japanese holly Ilex crenata, various Rhododendron, blue Ageratum, autumn-bright Leucothoe fontanesiana shrubs, “Cranesbill” perennial geranium, delicate “Lace Cap” Hydrangea, more Sedum, and lots of “Lady’s Mantle” (Alchemilla mollis) that Sargent cuts for house bouquets. “I love its fragrance and as a cut flower the ‘Lady’s Mantle’ is beautiful,” she says.
The oldest survivors in the garden are the huge Rhododendron. “My mother and father planted those back in the early 60s,” says Sargent, noting that she looks forward to the display of blossoms each spring. New additions to the garden have been added by her son-in-law, David Hawk, president of the landscape architecture firm, Hawk Design. “He is really talented and the nicest guy in the world,” says the proud mother-in-law. “His sense of design is unbelievable. He designed a beautiful rock wall for us and a circle garden filled with annuals.” Sargent is also partial to a planting David created with matching beds of Hydrangea paniculata, under planted with round balls of boxwood and a feathery pink Coreopsis perennial.
Although a bad back has slowed her down a bit, this gardener says she still finds time in the summer to swim and swing golf clubs or a tennis racket. There is no stopping this busy, multi-talented woman.
Inside Riverbend, Donna and Frank Doyle’s 4,600-square-foot home at the mouth of the Herring River in West Harwich, windmills are as much a motif as nautical accessories and the creamy color palette. One windmill in particular-—built in 1924 overlooking a secluded inlet—is a centerpiece here. The windmill is rendered in countless photographs and paintings throughout the home, including several on a wall just past the home’s entrance way. It’s also the subject of an image mounted above the fireplace in the living room, a work supplied by Orleans Camera derived from a photograph Donna’s late father shot of the windmill. This windmill also once graced the cover of an issue of Cape Cod Life. Read more…
After eight years of living in the cramped quarters of an 1820s Federal home in Provincetown, Neal Balkowitsch and his partner, Donald Nelson, decided they needed to upgrade the house to make it more functional. “At first we just wanted to add a master bath and replace some rotting windows, but this quickly ballooned into a whole house renovation,” says Balkowitsch. The old place was small and dark with an unfortunate 1930s addition that had a crumbling foundation. The only way to the master bedroom was via the antique, ultra-steep staircase—and the lone bathroom was on the first floor. “Try climbing those stairs in the middle of the night half asleep,” quips Balkowitsch. Some of the old sashes had been replaced with a large plate glass window in the 1950s, rendering the original historical façade unrecognizable.
The realistic coexists with the fantastic on the stoneware created at Flying Pig Pottery in Woods Hole. Using a rare sgraffito technique—carving designs into white clay through a contrastingly colored slip—the Woods Hole company produces a line of plates, bowls, mugs, and more functional items adorned with renderings of maritime icons like mermaids and fish. The company has just released a new line produced by using a warm brown glaze with green highlights over blue slips. On top of their tactile appeal, the pieces are durable and dishwasher safe. For more information, visit www.flyingpigpottery.biz, call (508) 548-7482, or visit their headquarters at 410 Woods Hole Road.
If you need an invaluable, one-stop guide to distinctive products created by Cape and Island artisan—everything from custom sinks to hand-woven fabrics on to stone fireplaces and much more—be sure to order this attractively packaged, easy to use architectural and design sourcebook ($39.95) from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce’s on-line store. Many of the items have been featured on programs like NECN’s “Dream House.”For information, go to www.capeandislandssourcebook.com or call (508) 362-8910.
Eight people, from teenagers to 80-year-olds, sit in a half circle on the floor, inside a sunlit studio on a Chilmark knoll. They scribble quietly in notebooks and tap away on lap-top computers, responding to the day’s writing workshop prompt: “Dinner at our house was….” A half-hour later, the writers take turns critiquing one another. The only rule is that the remarks one writer makes to another must reflect what they like best about the piece. Read more…
Up to the age of 22, I spent my life solidly in leaf-peeping country. I grew up in Maine, on the coast, on a road tangled with white pines and red maples and tall, strong oaks. The population ebbed and flowed with the colors: full on red, empty by brown, and come green, filling up again.
For college, I moved to Vermont, and the rule held fast there, too. The start of classes marked the arrival of the lackadaisical, meandering drivers: Subarus pulled over shoulder-side, necks craned, mittens clutching cups of cider and big eyes gazing up toward the sky. Their windows danced with scarlets and mustards and vermilion as they cruised up and down Route 7, back and forth until the first snowfall came.
When I moved to the Cape, I realized that here, it’s a whole new game. Driving out I watched the trees shrink down, broad deciduous shoulders giving way to scrawny, tufted pitch pines along the edges and a swath of rusted oaks in between. I felt the town swell up with visitors in May, and let out with a whoosh come Labor Day. I waited for those crisp, bright fall days. The feeling came, but the colors were all a different paint. The last of the beachgoers left, and in their place settled muted oranges, browns, a quiet grey.
The second fall, the year I was 23, my friend Caitlin sent a letter from Vermont. “October 17th,” she began, “The foliage is back again.” There was a maple leaf tucked in—dried and pressed, a bright, carmine red, and on the back of the card, a recipe for a warm fall salad of roasted pumpkin and harvest veggies with chickpeas. I clipped it up on my recipe board and promised to write Caitlin back when I tried it that week. November passed and then December, and slowly, two years trickled by. I got used to the quiet and the grey, and new recipes covered the notecard up.
Last fall, in early October, when the squashes arrived at the farmers markets—Hubbard, butternut, acorn—I brought a sugar pumpkin home. I had a few lingering tomatoes and cucumbers, too, and a stockpile of red onions I was drying out for the fall. I rustled through my recipe pile, searching for inspiration, and a red maple leaf fluttered out.
I paged through my clippings, and at the bottom of the stack, there it was: a navy blue and yellow note card with Caitlin’s handwritten instructions scrawled out. I followed them to a tee: roasted the pie pumpkin, tossed it with garlic, boiled the chickpeas with onions and a bay leaf. I chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and made a dressing of olive oil and lime juice. I peppered and salted and mixed, and in less than an hour, I had on the table Caitlin’s dish.
It was perfect the way it straddled the seasons—the last of the fresh harvest, the first of the storage goods. It wasn’t cold tabouli, but neither was it hot soup. It walked the same middle ground as October, one day warm and bright, another that quiet, chilly grey. The next morning, I got out a note card and a pen, wrote Caitlin a letter and stuffed the envelope with the small tan leaf of a Cape Cod oak.
Elspeth’s recipe for pumpkin, chickpea, and harvest vegetable salad.
Looking for a way to spice up your table this summer? These fish pinch pots ($44 for a set of four) from Jobi Pottery are sure to be welcome additions to any home. Hand-made in a variety of colors and glazes reminiscent of vintage Fiestaware dishes, these bowls are adorned with one or two hand-painted, whimsical fish at the bottom. The pinch pots are perfect for sushi condiments, desktop organizers, organizing jewelry, or as a decoration. Each bowl is made by Susan Urtzman in her Truro studio, using original molds from the shop’s beginnings in the 1950s. Jobi Pottery also makes matching mugs, dinner plates, mugs, serving bowls, sushi plates, and more. To see the rest of the collection, visit www.jobipottery.com.
Nantucket novelist Nancy Thayer offers an enchanting read with her latest novel, Beachcombers ($25). After losing their mother at a young age, the three Fox sisters—Abbie, Emma, and Lily—went their separate ways. They reunite on their home of Nantucket for a life-changing summer. In a series of mishaps, adventures, and endeavors, the sisters find themselves overcoming their differences and discovering the happiness they had been searching for. Thayer’s emotionally charged writing brings readers to the characters’ world on the island, sprinkling romance, humor, and depth onto each page. Visit www.nancythayer.com for more information.