Surviving Sandy

Thank you to the many guests who have emailed us, concerned at how A Butler’s Manor fared in the “Frankenstorm” called Sandy. I want to let everyone know we are safe and the Manor is intact. We were very blessed to have been struck only a glancing blow by the storm, losing only one large tree in the area behind the pool. Our power went down for a few hours before the hurricane made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ, but was back up before nightfall.

As often happens following a horrific storm, Tuesday, October 30 dawned clear and sunny here in Southampton, with only a light breeze. Chris and I started at 8 AM to take down the fallen tree, a 30′ Leyland Cypress that had, alas, fallen atop our favorite tree, the specimen Japanese Maple that graces the back of the pool. This little warrior took a hit about six years back when we had a Nor’easter blow through in late April, taking down five trees. That same Leyland Cypress, and the slightly smaller Arborvitae in front of it, dominoed down on top the Japanese Maple, amazingly breaking only the top of its crown. We were able to save and cable both the Leyland and the Arborvitae…until Sandy. It took Chris about four hours with a chainsaw to free the little tree. It will be one funny shaped Japanese Maple for a few years, but we hold out hope that it will recover and continue to add its beauty to the landscape for years to come.

We’ve been driving around the village of Southampton to assess damage. As expected, our south facing Atlantic beaches took a major hit, scouring the dunes from most of the beaches. The pictures and video here that show rocks and revetments were photographed on Tuesday evening. In our twenty years in the Hamptons, we’ve never before seen the hardscape, as they were completely covered by dunes. Meadow Lane, which services the ocean front mansions, was flooded and impassable on our reconnoiter, but it was nothing like the photos we saw online of Dune Road in Hampton Bays. (Dune Road and Meadow Road were once the same road; the 1938 hurricane that created the Shinnecock Canal split the barrier beach into two parts, separated by access from the ocean into Shinnecock Bay.) The easternmost end of Dune Road, where Oaklands and Sundays on the Bay are located, have lost ALL of the dune that separated the Atlantic beach from the road, the parking lots, and the marina on the bay. The road disappeared entirely under sand, and the entire spit is flat as…well, as a beach.

But Southampton village is fine, has power, and is open for business. Restaurants are serving meals to those either without power or just consumed with cabin fever (the Southampton Publick House was PACKED last night!) Road crews have cleared broken tree branches to the road verges and the town and village trucks are busy collecting debris, while LIPA is in evidence restoring power to those who still are out.

I apologize for sounding banal, with our tiny little losses, when so many, many others have suffered far worse fates and will be putting their lives together for weeks, maybe months. Our hearts, prayers and positive thoughts go out to our friends and guests west of us on Long Island, and especially coastal New Jersey who have suffered catastrophic losses.

On a positive note: We just had our first EVER trick or treaters knock at the door of A Butler’s Manor! (When the street parallel to you is called Elm Street, and many of the houses on it decorate accordingly, no one usually ventures beyond to our humble front door.) Bless kids — no hurricane damage is going to keep them from Halloween candy!

May we learn from their resilience!

Gearing up for Frankenstorm

The weather predictors are in their element; according to them, we’ve got a massive confluence of weather events coming together to create a monster storm that is supposed to impact just about everybody east of the Mississippi (and a fair amount of folks west of there, too). Hurricane Sandy is currently tracking up the Mid-Atlantic and is supposed to make landfall on the Jersey Shore sometime Monday night. Long Island, on the northeast side of the counterclockwise winds, could be walloped with sustained winds of 50 MPH or more for several days.
However the Frankenstorm playes out, what is assured is that the storms, which coincide with a full moon on Monday, will wreak havoc on our beaches, with storm surges expected to be at eight feet or more. This picture was taken early Sunday morning at high tide at Southampton’s Gin Lane beach. There is only about fifty feet of sand from the pool of water mid-frame to the parking lot. It’s my guess that the waterfront “cottages” will see some flooding — the town has ordered manditory evacuation of homes and businesses on Dune Road (especially in Hampton Bays). Two of our favorite lobster houses, Oaklands (which closes for the season today) and Sundays on the Bay, will be battening down the hatches for the next few days!
Thankfully, we have no guests scheduled at A Butler’s Manor for the duration of the storm. Instead, Chris and I are preparing to hunker down and watch it blow the rest of the leaves out of the trees. No storm shutters this time, and I do have some concerns about the giant Sycamore Maple tree that anchors our back yard, but otherwise, we’ve assessed our food/water/battery/back up systems and are as ready as we can be. But the funny things you think of (well, I think of, and admittedly I’ve got a weird mind): Since I expect Frankenstorm will decimate the remainder of the autumn garden, at least for awhile, I made sure to collect scads of brightly colored maple leaves this morning on my walk to refrigerate so that I have some material for plate decorations. And I picked all the flowers I could find in Chris’s garden to make a Sandy bouquet, before the rain washes their petals away.
We’re going to light the fire, have the coffee and wine at hand, get out our books and have a “hurrication,” and hope that Sandy blows herself into oblivion elsewhere!
Stay safe, everyone!

Quote of the Day: “It’s not a bad lesson to learn in the bleaker months: how you view a storm is a question of perspective; provided you find the right rock to watch it from, it could be the most incredible thing you’ll ever witness.”  ― Dan Stevens



Last week, we shut down A Butler’s Manor for a few days for our first days off since March 15, to enjoy a “playcation” here on the East End with my cousins from the West Coast. Their visit gave us a chance to check in with many of the activities we often recommend to guests but haven’t been able to experience for a while. Among the highlights: We visited Fairview Farm’s Corn Ma[i]ze, open through November 4, where you select a “passport” of trivia clues based on different topics that help you negotiate the maze. Each of us had a different topic, so each intersection was a group vote. I’m not sure if we did it the most expedient or elegant way, but we did manage to come out at an exit after about an hour, so we deemed that a success.

We also had a chance to spend some time over on the North Fork, exploring a couple of the many wineries that have opened in the last few years. In the twenty years that Chris and I have been on the East End, the amount of wineries on the North Fork has nearly tripled, and we feel an obligation to our guests to try and keep on top of who’s who and who is bottling what. (Well, that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it.)

Winemaking has become such a booming industry worldwide that I’m sure a lot of thought goes into what to name your winery in order to help it stand out from the crowd on the wine store shelves. (How could you resist the South African wine called Goats Do Roam?) I’ve been intrigued by the name of the newer wineries on the North Fork called One Woman Wines so we had to visit the tiny, rustic tasting room. One Woman primarily makes whites, and we particularly enjoyed their Gewurtztraminer, which had a lot of fruit and spice to it. We also stopped in at Shinn Estates, which has been on our list since they opened. They are known especially for their merlot, but we found all their reds distinctive, and also enjoyed their Brut sparkling wine.

Of course, we introduced Deb and Jim to Hamptons cuisine via several of our area restaurants, including Cowfish, Le Chef, World Pie, and Plaza Cafe. Hey, since it was our playcation, I was taking the opportunity to eat out! YUM!

It definitely felt like a getaway…and we never left home!

Quote of the Day: To people outside, they think, Gee, that’s great. You get to go here and there. The other side of that is our expression, This is location, not vacation. — Tom Berenger