Picnicking like the Wealthy

The main house at Long Hill

The North Shore, especially Cape Ann, has sometimes been called Boston’s Gold Coast and identified as a pretty dang rich area.  It’s been a place where coastal resorts have flourished and also failed.  There are plenty of present day mansions (just drive along 127 through Beverly Farms and Manchester by the Sea) and large former summer estates both near the coast (such as the Coolidge Reservation) as well as farther inland.

Our family was proud to celebrate Patriot’s day with a trip to Long Hill and the Sedgwick Gardens in Beverly.  This was the summer home of Harpers editor Ellery Sedgewick between 1916 and 1979.  Although you can tour the Federal Style house, we came just to enjoy the lovely day and the gardens, as well as catch what may be the final blooms of spring.  With the hot weather approaching leaves are springing forth generously every day.  We did the “popular 1.2 mile loop trail” and enjoyed rambling through the blossoming orchard at the end of the trail.  They have a large sized lot for parking up a long paved driveway, yet we were only one of three cars parked there, so it was pleasantly uncrowded.

The estate is a very functional in addition to beautiful place.  It boasts a 2 acre farm for the Food Project, where you can purchase a summer CSA.  They also have pick-your-own-flowers in the summer, and for a DIY bride, provide beautiful centerpieces and a wedding bouquet for a very reasonable price.

Keeping Warm with the Arts

Holiday Craft Fairs, the Beverly Art walk, and Felted Sweaters Galore.

As the weather is finally getting nippier, it’s also getting fantastic-er.  With what you may ask?  The Beverly Art Walk!

I remember having a conversation in 2009 as I returned from the Salem Film Fest with a friend that while Salem has tons of history and tourist attractions, Beverly had an art college.  It was just that… the city was wasting it’s jewels by keeping them locked up all the time.

Apparently not anymore.  This weekend brought a slew of Art related events in Beverly.

The Beverly Art Walk with 15 possible stops showcasing tons of Montserrat student art, as well as plenty of other artists in restaurants, cafe’s, and galleries.

In addition to that, the Porter Mill Studio had it’s first, and they dare to say, annual Holiday Open House.  Here’s hoping this is very true, especially since I was working, and could not make it.  Alas. Their pictures from blogspot made me so curious, but I will have to stow my curiously until a later date.

Porter Mill Studios in Beverly

Finally, my stop at the Montserrat Holiday Sale brought me to the brink of buying a concrete cupcake which looked delicious enough to devour… only to turn out my pockets and realize I was cashless.  Sad Sad Day.  I would have enjoyed having that confectionary in the middle of my table.  Even worse,I have no pictures of it.  You’ll have to imagine a very heavy, stiff pink frosting-ed cupcake like something your punk rock best friend would have made you.

I’m loving late November and early December for it’s strong focus on local arts and crafts.  Every weekend there’s a craft fair in sight, and it’s beautiful to be able to see the inside of others’ brains laid out on a table.   Don’t miss out this season on what others have to offer, especially as you might be inspired to make something yourself.

I certainly have been, happily turning wornout, no-elbowed sweaters I have into an approximation of these bird ornaments.

Felted Birds via http://artplatter.com

Pumpkin Farming and Community

I have been busy the last three days hauling roughly 2000 ripe pumpkins with a cadre of international friends and learning how to make tofu from soy beans.  That, and reading The Small-Mart Revolution (by Michael H. Shuman).  Maybe you aren’t aware of this, but pumpkin picking, piling, wiping, and moving is repetitive, mindless work.  Since it took a total of 8 – 10 hours to complete a 4 acre field, I have also had time to formulate how best to sum up this book for the discerning community participant, which is y.o.u.  What follows are several “what you can do” points from the book (and more can be found here), a whirlwind of Massachusetts local information on farming and food, and some observations and ideas on retail and community living in Beverly.

Luckily for all of us, Shuman does not feel the need to start his book with a reiteration of WalMart as the anti-christ/devil incarnate.  (I usually put down books which waste ink, paper, and brain cells on repetitive diatribes without solutions.  Half this book is dedicated to solutions.)  As Shuman himself points out on page 7; the point of a Revolution is to “improve prosperity of every community…by maximizing opportunities for locally owned businesses… which is half the typical economy.” He also provides a statistic on page 43 that this half of the economy also provides “at least 58 percent” of jobs. (p. 43)

Jobs which are not place-based, and largely non-locally owned (ie: Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon) leech from the community (best approximated by tax jurisdiction) money which could be spent improving the community. (p. 40)  They are also plied with incentives from community builders that usually destroy locally owned (ie: mom and pop) shops.  Then he describes an interesting term I hadn’t heard before: “multiplier.”  He writes, “Each purchase you make triggers purchases by others.  For instance, a dollar spend on rent might be spent again by your property owner at your local grocer, who in turn pays an employee, who then buys a movie ticket.”  This is a multiplier, how many times the dollar is used in the community.  He says, the best thing you can do, is keep your money local.  He cites a study of “leakage” of dollars in Austin, TX. which notes that of 100 dollars spent at Borders 13 circulate back into the local community, of 100 dollars spent at 2 local book stores, 45 circulate back into the community.  The more times the money circulates, the more tax revenue it generates.  (Also, you can view the study on this blog/website.)

Then he gives Massachusetts residents a kick in the pants about purchasing things in Tax Free New Hampshire.

That, friends, is the book in a nutshell.  It’s chock full of other case studies about big vs. small business, incentives the government provides to big businesses, and how diversification is best for an area, and as previously mentioned also full of five chapters of how y.o.u can make a difference.

A riddle posed at most farms, and among most foodies I’ve lived with and talked with can be summarized like so, “How come we’re buying apples from New York (Washington, Nova Scotia, Vancouver…etc) when we grow apples right here in Massachusetts (list other places here.) and they’re buying our apples.”  To this, Shuman proposes a little slogan that’s been kicking around for awhile. “Local First.”

“Local First” says, if you can, choose to buy your apples from a local source (perhaps one of the farms the Massachusetts government lists on their website here. Or one the Food Project so kindly provides a link to here.)  And if you can, choose to buy your beer from a local source.  And if you can, choose to eat out at a locally owned restaurant.  And if you can, choose to entertain yourself with a local band.  But here I am, just listing off to you half a dozen links I know of, and you probably can’t click them all.  But if you do get the time, click of them, and this other project that is really taking off called the 3/50 project.

Finally, since I spent 20 months in downtown Beverly without a car and had plenty of time to walk around Rantoul and Cabot streets in all kind of weather, I humbly propose that there are still several businesses missing from downtown that could round out the Beverly Main Streets. (Actually, I’m sure there are dozens, but these are the items that took the most hassle to get without a car.)

1. A shoe store.  2.  A book store (if you are going to forgo Amazon.com, or even just for the atmosphere) 3. Non-used clothing.  (I’ll be honest, thrifted socks aren’t appealing to me.) 4.  Home Goods (shelving, dishes, curtains, towels and the like.  It’s either Family Dollar or the Antique Shop.) 5.  A real honest bakery with bread.  I love pies and pastries too of course, but a good loaf of bread was hard to come by.  (sorry Stop and Shop, and Cassis.)

And, I will leave you with one last great idea to support local business in Beverly (and the North Shore).  The BevCard. which is like a insider SamsClub type card providing you with deals and discounts to different shops and services.  I think this is a fantastic idea, even better than the Beverly Main Streets coupon book, but hopefully would work in tandem too.  I hope that in the next few years it will be able to provide many more links between businesses and that people will rush to be part of a great network.

Mystery and Tangents

After ensconscing myself in Michael Chabon’s Mysteries of Pittsburgh then further into my reading of his essays Maps and Legends I think I have come to appreciate the subtle sidepaths of my life.  Similarly, I have been adding to my repetoire of Beverly knowledge.  For example, Saturday and Monday included hour long jaunts into the newest discovery of ‘”Secret Beverly.”

At this point, I have read four of Chabon’s seven or eight books, and I am only all the more keen to discover the other ones, looking for similarity.  During this summer I have discovered at least three separate parts of Beverly which I think are “Secret.”

The first “Secret Beverly” space includes an abandoned lot with sardonic graffiti down near The Bridge, the second the fickle-houred Cupcake Café, a third Green’s Hill, and a fourth the Old Beverly Commons.

These Secret spaces are so because they involve a level of intentionality, rather than unearthing, searching, or detecting.  They are all located readily on a map and the internet.   They are hidden in plain sight.  The secrets of life take a little bit of effort to get to and work through, and because of that they have less traffic and are able to be personalized.  Before all that, they involve taking a first step.  You must begin at the beginning and find out what can be known.  And when that is mastered then you can step into another trail, which will lead to another discovery.  Enrich, Expand, Engage. 

For further reading – Places to Visit in Massachusetts

Real Classy Beverly.

I imagine this is how the conversation went between husband and wife one day in late January 1975.

Wife: Honey, we should take our Christmas Village down now, it’s almost February.

Husband:  I know, but that display window took a lot of effort to build, I don’t want it to stand empty.

Wife: I have some antique furniture we could put in the window.

Husband: I love cornflakes.

Wife: And I also have a beautiful handcrafted wreath.

Husband: I love cornflakes.

Wife: What about some vintage serving dishes as well.

Husband: I love cornflakes.

Wife: What are you trying to say?

Husband:  I just think a box of cornflakes would look really good in the display window.

Wife: Alright, sounds good to me.

Your Love is my Drug

When I have other things that I’m supposed to do, I find myself setting goals in manageable areas.  It seems to be a rule of activities in general, that the ‘lamer’ they are, the more verbal uproar you must make to justify their perpetuation.  The less complex they are, the more they are surrounded by mystery and commentary.  The sillier they are, the more you must cram your heart and soul into talking about them.

I am supposed to be planning my wedding.  Wedding planning is paradoxical as the more time you spend planning, the more there is to do.  To divert myself I have therefore declared the *cue cymbals and trumpets*

SUMMER OF THE FROZEN YOGURT. 

This is the gingersnap frozen yogurt at Dick and June’s of Beverly.  They are currently in their 42nd year in operation (May hours 11-9).  Dick and June have a fairly substantial list of frozen yogurt.  It may even trump their list of actual ice cream flavors.  I’m sure you can probably combine some of the flavors to make new and delicious ones as well.  However, with a daunting list before me, including some scary flavors (granola, really Dick and June?) I think I will have my work cut out for me.  Even without repeating the nofat/lowfat versions it’s a large undertaking.  Having downed four cones now though with no noticeable weight gain in a 10 days stretch (thank you bike commuting!) I feel I must make a strategy for the rest of the summer.  And a punch card.  And to find out when the least busy time of the day to get frozen yogurt is so I can strike up a friendship with Dick and June and develop my own flavor named after me!

Perhaps planning to eat frozen yogurt will turn out to be a paradoxical activity as well.  Bigger and Better, as they say, Bigger and Better.