Tree hugging

Superstorm Sandy, which devastated so much of the Jersey Shore and the South Shore of Long Island the end of last October, by comparison dealt the East End only a glancing blow. The biggest damage incurred was to our beaches (which, with the advent of the spring ocean currents that return sand taken away in winter, have begun to rebuild themselves) and to the trees. Like an airbrush tanning session, the wind-driven salt-laden air coated the leaves. As it was late Fall, the deciduous trees shed their leaves as usual. But the evergreen trees retained their spray tan…and because we had almost no rain in the months that followed,  many pine and fir trees in fact have turned rather bronze. Unlike on humans, on a tree, bronze does not look healthy.

The tree gurus tell us that most of the evergreens will sprout new growth and eventually push off their unwanted “tan.” But it may take more than one season to do so. I am heartened, though, as Spring is upon us, to see some green pushing through the boughs of some of the white pines around town, which were as a species particularly hard hit. So maybe it will be all right after all. Coming as I do from the reclaimed desert that is Southern California, trees are precious to me, and it hurts to lose them!
Here at A Butler’s Manor, Sandy wasn’t the worst of the problem…it was the series of nor’easters that followed over the course of the winter. The last one, in early March, brought down five large trees around the perimeter of the pool and the back of the property. Replacing those, as well as the ornamental trees that did suffer hurricane-related damage, has been one of our focuses this Spring.
Last week, we had five good-sized crytomaria planted, as well as two small Japanese Maples to “buddy up” to our bloodied, but unbowed showpiece tree that suffered the only major blow Sandy dealt us. A large Leyland pine came down in the windstorm, on the head of the Japanese maple, severing many limbs. (The picture above was taken the day after Sandy — you can barely see the limbs of the maple under the fallen Leyland.) But our plucky survivor (seen on the right), while rather odd-shaped, has just started to sprout leaves, and its two buddies on either side will help fill in the hole in the landscape (and add beautiful red color!).
Still to come are a couple of large cherry laurels and a golden cypress, which will help fill out and add texture around the left side of the pool (now open, as seen in the picture). Another ornamental tree we just replaced will be a separate post, as it has its own story.
Chris has been working hard in his garden, trying to transfer to the carefully-weeded beds a nice layer of the black mulch that is currently taking up real estate in the back of the car park. Dozens of varieties of daffodils are currently in bloom, most of them cream-colored double daffs with frilly petals and touches of peach, salmon, or  pale yellow. They are gorgeous in the guest rooms.
Quote of the Day:  Storms make trees take deeper roots. –Dolly Parton

A happy coincidence

Spring weather report: A little cooler than usual this weekend with a cool breeze though the sun is out, and we had guests enjoying the area on bicycles yesterday. Beach report (at 7 AM this morning): Water a granite grey-green, with small, choppy waves. Great day for a brisk walk on the beach with someone you love.

All the harbingers of Spring are present: fat red robins out on the grass, the first daffodils in the garden, buds on the forsythia just showing a hint of their brilliant yellow flowers to come. Yesterday Chris reveled in his first sunny Saturday spent in the garden, turning over the vegetable beds and starting seeds for lettuce, peppers, and both edible and ornamental sweet peas among other horticultural delights.

Many of you know that I write books in my spare time; that in addition to A Butler’s Life and our cookbook, I’ve written two novels of psychological suspense and, most recently, one of women’s fiction. Alas, if there’s something harder for me to do than to find time to write, it’s to market the books to a potential agent (who in turn hopefully sells the novel to a publisher). Nonfiction, such as the memoir A Butler’s Life is sold by proposal and, on request, an outline and sample chapters, meaning you needn’t necessarily have the book completed before you query. Fiction, on the other hand, is sold only when the book is completed, editied and polished to within an inch of its life.  But you don’t send that polished manuscript in unless you’re invited to do so. Before that, you send a query and if the book interests the agent you’re targeting, he or she may ask to see more of it.

I’ve been committed to trying to find a home (besides mine) for this new book, and last week I queried a particular agent. Her name was familiar, but with the research I’ve done on agents, after awhile names DO look familiar, and besides, I knew from my records that I had previously (unsuccessfully) pitched a book to her. A day or so later I received an email saying that she would be happy to look at a few chapters, especially as she remembered me and had such a nice experience while staying at A Butler’s Manor last fall. Eeeeek, no wonder her name had sounded so familiar! Since Chris and I rarely learn what most of our guests do for a living, I’d never connected the dots. Still, whether or not it pans out, I’m still grateful that a happy association with our inn afforded this opportunity!

Wish me luck!

Quote of the day:  The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.  –Benjamin Disraeli

Breakfast in the garden

Guests who visit A Butler’s Manor during the warmer months know that weather permitting, we serve breakfast in Chris’s stunning garden, on the patio beside the fountain. But it isn’t often we have the opportunity to do such in early Spring, yet this week Nature smiled upon us and gave us a couple of gorgeous days where temps rose into the mid-70’s. So for the first time all year, breakfast was served outside, and everyone agreed that with the magnolia in full bloom and all the birds busy tending their nests in the birdhouses, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

One of the things we enjoy most about innkeeping is seeing our guests enjoy themselves, and each other. And on an unexpectedly warm day in April, the laughter and chatter over breakfast was especially happy. Heartwarming indeed!

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. -Walt Whitman

Kim Allen

Taking advantage of beautiful weather!

I just got back from a walk into Southampton village. There’s nothing like a spring day — especially one after days of disheartening rain — to make you long to be outside. Up and down Main Street and Job’s Lane, restauranteurs had set up tables on the sidewalk in the open air, each set with a vase of spring flowers, and diners lounged in the chairs, reveling in the beautiful weather. I’m positive their lunch tasted better for the fact it was served outside! Similarly, many of the clothing stores had placed a basket or two of merchandise, or wheeled out a rack of clothing, in the front of their shops, encouraging sidewalk browsing. Other merchants couldn’t help but hang out in their doorways, enjoying the sun and the mild temperatures. Shoppers and walkers greeted each other as they passed. It felt like an impromptu street fair — we only needed some sidewalk entertainment to make it complete. The whole mood of the village was upbeat and as sunny as the sky above us.

Here at A Butler’s Manor, the magnolia’s spectacular pink flowers have begun to open in earnest, also encouraged by the sun. Soon the cherry tree will follow, and for a few weeks we will have a breathtaking mass of pink in the garden. We opened the pool on Wednesday, and while it is far from warm (-!!), just seeing the shimmering blue expanse makes it look as if we have our own perfect pond. And reminds me that summer is coming…soon, the lucky spell of warm weather forecast for this weekend will become the norm.
Quote of the day: Happiness is the result of making a bouquet of those flowers within reach. —Proverb
Kim Allen