There is something so elemental about vegetable gardening, putting a simple seed in the ground, watering and watching over it until one day a tiny green sprout appears. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I planted a row of radishes in my first vegetable garden. One of the easiest, quickest vegetables to grow, the sprouts popped up, flourished in no time at all and soon plump red radishes formed, perfect for salads.
I planted that first vegetable garden when I was around 30, in a small space beside our house on the Mount Hope Bay. I was lucky enough to inherit the garden from a previous organic gardener who had prepared the soil really well, removing all the sod and New England stones, digging down several feet, and adding lots of well-rotted manure and organic matter to the soil.
Gardening by the salt water is a gift—vegetable plants seem to love the warm moist air. That first year, besides the radishes, I grew several different kinds of lettuce, fat Early Girl and Better Boy tomatoes, sturdy basil—I even had some pretty good peppers. With our two small children, I used to spend hours in the garden. I was hooked, as were my children, who used to love helping me weed, rake, plant, and especially water, the garden. I thought vegetable gardening was a breeze.
I soon learned that in addition to patience, gardening can teach you humility. My next vegetable garden was in a field behind our new home in Central Massachusetts. As soon as we moved in, I started dreaming of my huge new garden, even envisioning perfect swaying rows of corn.Perhaps I should have listened to the man in his 80s, a devoted gardener, who had grown up in our house, tilled gardens there for decades, and who had a 1930s degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMASS Amherst.
“Well, you can try,” said Fred, a lean New Englander with a strong handshake. “I never had much luck getting anything to grow there—except gourds. Everyone loved my gourds for their Thanksgiving tables. It’s pretty wet back there and you really can’t plant to August, but give it a try.”
Still in my early 30s, I believed I could get anything to grow anywhere if I tried hard enough, so I forged ahead. Our helpful neighbor plowed and tilled the field with his tractor, my small son seated beside him, watching the dark earth appear in beautiful orderly rows like magic. The garden looked so fertile, as if anything could grow there. We excitedly planted row after row of corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash.
It was a disaster. The corn plants were spindly and collapsed. The tomato plants rotted. I think we had a few puny zucchini, most of which got eaten by a huge healthy woodchuck that lived in the woods behind us. Sick at heart, I faced the fact that Fred was right. The soil in the field was very wet, full of clay, and terrible for growing anything but gourds that only flourished because by August, the soil had dried out enough for germination.
After that, I kind of gave up on vegetable gardening, except for a few planters of patio tomatoes and some pots of basil and parsley. Instead, I tackled the old perennial gardens around our yard, planted with drifts of iris, peonies, wildflowers, and daylilies, which thrived and bloomed happily year after year. But every summer, I longed for the taste of my own fresh vegetables.When we moved to Cape Cod several years ago, my son decided that we should have a vegetable garden. Something about gardening as a toddler must have taken root in him and he is a landscape contractor now.
With his knowledge from a Stockbridge degree, he prepared the soil carefully in a somewhat neglected plot on the other side of our driveway, piling dark rich compost from a local supplier into sandy Cape soil.
At the center of the garden, he made a small decorative flower out of paving stones, brought back from a stay in New Orleans, when he helped the city replant its parks after Hurricane Katrina. In neat rows we planted some old standbys—tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and carrots. A more adventuresome gardener than I, he planted things like cilantro and arugula.
Our first garden, planted in 2008, was pretty successful. In 2009, we were devastated by the tomato blight that hit gardens all over New England, but we had arugula and cilantro galore. Last summer, the garden began to really take hold. The kale and zucchini plants exploded, taking over the beds. The Better Boy tomatoes were so plentiful I had enough to share with friends and co-workers and ended up freezing container after container, great for winter spaghetti dinners.
We had colorful “Rainbow Lights” swiss chard, tasty fat brussels sprouts, sweet cucumbers—and lots of basil and arugula, which I have discovered I cannot live without. I am still struggling with peppers and my broccoli was a disaster, but all in all, my latest vegetable garden was the most successful ever.
I hope that if I live a few more decades—say to 80 or so—I will figure out how to grow a perfect pepper. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Although I am an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Or who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have learned that it’s okay to settle for nothing more than a harvest of gorgeous gourds for our Thanksgiving table.
When our publisher, Brian Shortsleeve, suggested that we launch Cape Cod GARDENS as a new April Cape Cod LIFE issue, I could not believe my luck. I can work in my Cape Cod garden by the hour without any sense of time. I am imagining bright red tomatoes, rows of vibrant basil, glimmering mounds of zucchini, billowing hydrangea, and perfect velvet-petaled roses as I plant, weed, and prune. I do not stop until the spring, summer, or fall sun goes down, or a blister develops on my hand, or my family and the dog wander by, wondering about a meal. Reluctantly, then, I put down my tools and turn off the story in my head. But I know I can pass through that gate again tomorrow into that imaginary world.
The same thing happens to me when I am writing . When I am writing at the office and it is going well, I do not hear phones ringing or coworkers talking. I am in whatever world I am creating and reality moves without boundaries just before a blinking cursor on my computer screen. Often, I don’t realize that the day is almost over until it starts to get dark in my office and I notice that my coworkers are heading home. This is what happens when you do not care how many hours it takes to help create a magazine with words and pictures as if it were a garden full of sight, color, and experiences so vivid that others can know it with you.
In this issue, you will see some of my garden world. Just as it is a joy for me to share this passion with you, one of the Cape’s best known garden writers, C.L.Fornari takes you through the world of growing roses, her knowledgeable words guiding you down the path to growing that perfect seaside rose. When C.L. writes about gardening, you can tell that she loves her job, too.
Our photographers move you into the natural world on Cape Cod and the Islands, their images caught in flashes of glory on these pages, so vivid that you want to reach out and touch that hot chartreuse beach grass along a wooded Nantucket path, where a gardener is following his vision of plants and stones and glimmering koi in a small pond…
I hope our very first Cape Cod GARDENS helps you shape your own garden world, perhaps with a little bit of Cape Cod and the Islands beauty from these pages in it, some bright lilies seen in this issue beside a Nantucket pond, or my favorite nasturtiums by our back door dancing in the golden light of a Cape Cod afternoon.
Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor
One of the best things about living on Cape Cod is the diversity of its art world. There are artists of many kinds on the Cape and Islands, and the depth of their talents make it hard to choose who to profile in our arts edition. Some of the people profiled on these pages were suggested to me by friends, co-workers, and other artists. I have met some of them personally at cultural events. I wish that we had endless pages to present more of their work—it is always hard to pick photos reflecting an artist’s talent. Read more…
“Although the location was ideal, the old house was in terrible disrepair—a drab, dark shell with little personality . . . the windows were rotted, mold had set in, the electrical system was outdated, and a colony of mice had taken up residence in the walls.”
When I read this description in one of this issue’s stories about a Chatham fishing cottage’s transformation into a coastal retreat, I shivered a little. I could imagine the rotting windows, smell the mold—writer Nancy Berry paints a compelling picture of a Connecticut couple’s ability to envision a lovely getaway for summer days in Chatham Harbor.
One of the best things about this job is that I get great ideas for our own Cape house from the stories written so artfully by writers like Nancy. Ideas like “She actually painted the floor with a sea foam green rug design accented with sail rope and native seashell motifs” (the background image seen here) become wishes that I write down for the day when we decide to redesign our old Cape. I look at clean, sun-washed rooms painted in serene sea tones in this story’s photos and I wistfully imagine the day when our house might look as lovely as that featured in “Tide and Time” on page 26.
It makes me smile when I read that the new cottage’s “stairs are spattered, a traditional paint treatment found in older New England homes.” Many of the floors in our house are spattered, bright patterns still gleaming on ancient wide pine floors despite wear and tear from generations of sandy bare feet, like those of my children, who perfected walking in this house when they were tiny. I wish that I could hire someone like Marsha Malone of Chatham’s Nautique to transform the marvelous bones of our old house into a brighter, less cluttered, more serene oasis.
It would also be wonderful to have the imaginative vision to decorate my house on my own, like Brenda Lee, whose amazing Hyannisport cottage is like something out of a movie or a fairytale. “I’m not afraid to use color, and I wanted there to be a surprise in every room,” says Brenda, who designed a colorful, fun kitchen around existing red formica counters bold against “nacho cheese yellow” walls. Brenda, a friend who also gardens with painterly profusion, inspires me—some of her ideas are in my House Wishes notebook, too.
Maybe someday I will share thoughts here on what we should do with our outdated kitchen, how we should redecorate the living room. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading about lots more inspiring stories for home and garden in our summer issue. And let me know if your house has a story and ideas that we should share on the pages of Cape Cod HOME.
It took summer a long time to show up on the Cape and Islands this year. At our house in Centerville, we didn’t really get into the swing of life outdoors until Memorial Day. On the morning of the Barnstable Parade, which winds right past our house, we were still scrubbing the cobwebs off the lawn furniture. Even though I am writing this on a sunny June day, it is still cool here in the mornings—when we woke up it was 48 degrees out and the furnace came on. Still, the sun is shining and I know that by noon, Craigville Beach will fill with sunbathers.
As a child growing up in a Mount Hope Bay town called Touisset, one of our rites of summer was getting our sailboats ready for launching. My siblings and I would spend hours scraping, caulking, and sanding our Beetle Cat and sometimes helping Dad work on his Herreshoff 15. We lived on a long street beside the bay and when the boats were ready, neighbors and friends helped roll the boats into the water. That was when summer started for us, the beginning of long days, free on the boundless water.
Today, I love the sight of Beetle Cats—it seems every Cape and Islands harbor has a handful. Last summer, I was lucky enough to sail around the Opera House Cup off Nantucket and I will never forget my first sight of the Rainbow Fleet, the island’s cherished collection of Beetle Cats, each with its own brightly colored sail. Take a look at Terry Pommett’s splendid photos of the fleet in our Great Outdoors section. And if you get a chance, go see the fleet on parade.
We continue this issue’s Outdoor Living theme with Managing Editor Jeff Harder’s fascinating story on a professional surfboard shaper—a Cape Codder who is making waves around the world. And freelance writer Donna Scaglione shares some treasured Cape bike rides for cyclists who want to hit the road.
Wherever you find summer outdoors on the Cape and Islands, I am sure there will be days like this one, when you need to pull on an extra fleece to greet the sun warming chilly mornings on Cape Cod or burning the fog away on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. That is why we love this place so—summer here is spectacular, yet fleeting, a gift of anticipation that keeps us warm all year-round.
And speaking of gifts, I hope you will enjoy my mother’s story about long-ago summer days on the Cape in our Pages of History section. She is the one who set my sails for loving life—and writing about it—on Cape Cod.
How great for all of us to be able to finally say . . .
When you meet innkeeper Ken Withrow at his highly regarded bed and breakfast, Nantucket’s Union Street Inn, it is obvious that this is a guy who loves his job—which is probably the reason why Union Street is a perennial award-winner in travel and lifestyle magazines from coast to coast.
On a warm June morning, Ken welcomes guests to Union Street’s outdoor dining patio nestled beneath a green hillside of ivy and sheltering trees in one of the island’s elegant neighborhoods right off Main Street. While guests start off their day with heaping plates of pancakes bursting with blueberries or fresh salmon cool with cucumbers on fresh bagels (Union Street is the only B&B to offer complete gourmet breakfasts on Nantucket) Ken walks from table to table.
“What would you like to do today,” this urbane, former Manhattanite says to guests who look rested and happy having slept in one of Union Street’s 12 rooms in this painstakingly restored 1770s antique residence. Each room here is a masterpiece of carefully selected furnishings and amenities, ultra-comfortable beds beside fireplaces piled high with Frette linens, baths gleaming with imported Italian marble. Read more…
One of the best things about living on Cape Cod is the diversity of its art world. There are artists of many kinds on the Cape and Islands, and the depth of their talents make it hard to choose who to profile in our arts edition. Some of the people profiled on these pages were suggested to me by friends, co-workers, and other artists. I have met some of them personally at cultural events. I wish that we had endless pages to present more of their work—it is always hard to pick photos reflecting an artist’s talent.
Of course my own personal taste in art influenced the selection of the artists profiled in this edition, as did that of our Contributing Editor Mary Grauerholz, and our Art Director Patty Dysart. We poured over the images sent to us and sometimes disagreed with each other’s choices, but for the most part the paintings, sculpture, fine jewelry, and handiwork on these pages represents a wonderful array of talent encompassing as many styles and mediums as there are creatures in our ocean.
If you are like me, you will look at this issue and long for a Paul Schulenburg or a John Clayton to hang on your wall. Patty Dysart loved the work of Francie Randolph, but after reading Francie’s story, Patty felt that the paintings the Truro artist submitted did not accurately reflect her talents. Patty took the time to contact the artist for more examples of her work. The end result is a profile where the images and the text, written by our talented contributing editor and wordsmith, Mary Grauerholz, come together beautifully.
When it came to choosing the cover for this issue, I asked Patty to design six or seven potential covers to be displayed in Cape Cod Life’s lunch room and asked the staff members (including our Publisher Brian Shortsleeve, who always jokes that he gets at least TWO votes for a cover) for their opinions. We went through several viewings before we chose Jack Goldsmith’s iconic Cape Cod painting of three little girls playing on a bright Cape Cod beach. Something about this painting spoke to everyone.
Whatever your taste, I hope you will be dazzled by this array of art that spans all styles, mediums, and price points, yet is uniquely of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. This issue is its own diverse work of art—just like this ever-surprising coastal world we all love.
With artful best wishes,
In the magazine business, we are always ahead of ourselves. During long dark Cape Cod winters, we start to write merry May stories about days when daffodils burst forth, beaches open to sun-hungry visitors, and soaring osprey return to lift shuttered spirits. This year, Managing Editor Jeff Harder and I hustled through the very cold days of January and February, inspired by vintage photos of Truro’s legendary Days Cottages in this issue’s Pages of History story. We were tempted to head out for fresh seafood after looking at Stacey Hedman’s Wequassett Resort cuisine shots in our new Cape Cod & Islands Dining Section. And it was hard not to long a little for summer staring at photos of right whales frolicking off the coast of Provincetown in Jeff’s feature celebrating 35 years of good work by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
In this issue, we travel far to kick off the 2011 summer season for our readers, who now include an exciting new audience never before tapped by Cape Cod Life Publications since the company’s founding in 1979. Just before this issue went to press, we celebrated the launching of a new Cape Cod Life April issue, Cape Cod GARDENS. We showcased this beautiful coffee-table style annual at the Boston Flower & Garden Show in mid-March, sharing it with almost 100,000 visitors, many of whom saw the magazine for the first time in our gorgeous Cape Cod Life exhibit.
Just as exciting was the launch of Cape Cod Life onto the iPad™, with a user-friendly app, putting entire Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod GARDENS issues instantly before millions of readers worldwide. Through the efforts and talents of our energetic young staff members, Web & New Media Manager Anthony DiSpezio and Graphic Designer Chrissy Caskey, we were able to be the very first New England lifestyle magazine to hit the fast-growing iPad™ market.
As I said to Jeff before this issue went to press—just as we were rushing to tie up everything for your next LIFE—”There is a really lot to this issue—it looks pretty great.” Ten days after the first day of Spring, Jeff struggled into his parka (chilled by reports of a late March snowstorm heading our way), smiled, nodded stoically, and headed out the door. As you read this we will no doubt be preparing ourselves—clad in shorts and flip flops—to write about the autumnal glories of Cape Cod for the September/October issue, trying to remember to take some time to smell the daffodils and welcome the ospreys home.
Seclusion and privacy at the end of a long wooded road in a famous Cape Cod location. Panoramic views of Buzzards Bay. There were a lot of positive things to be said for the Upper Cape property purchased by an active family several years ago for their new seaside summer home.
One of the best things about living on Cape Cod is the great variety of homes and gardens that can be found in every town. In my hometown of Centerville, for instance, seventeenth century Capes with moss-covered wooden roofs share backyards with cutting edge twenty-first century designs. There are sprawling brick mansions alongside Nantucket Sound and tiny shingled cottages hugging the shores of Lake Wequaquet. Something about living by the water seems to invite freedom of expression. When we choose our homes—and our gardens—anything goes.
- Posted in Philanthropy