A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of seven collections of essays, most recently a collection of his radio scripts, published by On Cape Publications. He is co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives


A Cape Cod Notebook
5:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

What's In a Pond's Name

1908 U.S. Geological Survey Map
Credit wikimedia commons

The names of our local ponds, like those of our roads, were not always fixed. In fact, a certain ambivalence attaches to some of them today. On the Wellfleet-Truro border, for instance, there is a pond known to some local residents as “Ryder Pond,” but to others it is “Aunt Mary’s Pond.” The Ryder family was the first to build a house on that pond, so I suppose they have historical precedence for their name, though I have no idea who Aunt Mary was, and for all I know she has perhaps the better claim.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:07 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Pausing to Consider the Trade-offs in Restoring the Herring River

Herring River with the nearly hundred-year-old dike.
Credit Mass.gov

Last week I recounted the history of the Herring River Restoration Project in Wellfleet and Truro. I listed some of the many benefits projected to result from the restoring full tidal flushing to the valley, as described in a brochure I received from the Friends of Herring River. And as I said at the end of that program, I support the project.  As an environmentalist it would be hard not to. Yet I do so with reservations, some of them fairly trivial, some perhaps not.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:48 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Restoring Herring River Starts with Removing a Nearly 100-year-old Dike

Rebuilding the Herring River dike in the 1970s.
Credit nps.org

Recently I received in the mail a brochure from the Friends of Herring River, a non-profit group that is supporting the Herring River Restoration Project. For those of you who may not be aware of this project, which has been in the planning stages for several years now, a little background might be helpful.           

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:28 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Of Solar-Powered Raspberries and Organic Electricity

Credit jenny downing / flickr

I am not someone who is usually obsessed with my energy consumption. Our house is pretty tight and well-insulated, and we use a relatively modest amount of electricity and fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. 

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:51 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Starlings in Dennis Harken Back to Shakespeare's England

Credit Hope Abrams / flickr

On Thursday afternoon, on my way back from the periodontist, I stopped in East Dennis for a cup of coffee. The intersection there, at the junction of Route 134 and Route 6A, is a place I have frequented hundreds of times over the years. It was a cool, crisp November day, and as I stood there, warming my hands with the coffee, I saw a flock of several hundred, perhaps 1000 starlings, wheeling above the intersection, perching on the telephone lines, then taking off again.

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Cape Cod Notebook
1:54 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Big Storm Leaves Splendors in Its Wake

Cahoon Hollow
Credit chezsven.blogspot.com

On the night of October 22 a large storm system gyrated up the coast and hit the Outer Cape with the season’s first full-fledged northeaster.  All night long the storm thundered its power, pelting and slapping the house with wind and rain as if in punishment for some sin of which we were unaware. I

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:14 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Family Cemetery in Wellfleet Offers a Mystery with More Than One Possible Explanation

Lombard Cemetery in Wellfleet.
Credit http://www.cctrails.org

On the north slope of Bound Brook Island in Wellfleet, beneath tall shady pines and overlooking the marsh that separates Wellfleet from South Truro, is a small family cemetery. Such modest graveyards can be found in most towns on the Cape, but this one is different.  Most family cemeteries are located near the original family homestead. This one is in a remote location, far from any house. It is smaller than usual, containing only three graves and two stones. And yet, it’s enclosed by substantial granite posts and a double railing of galvanized iron pipes.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
3:48 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Beach Roses, Pitch Pines, and Big Dunes are Not So Cape Cod as You Imagine

Ah, the lovely beach rose - quintessential Cape Cod, yes? Think again. Rosa rugosa is an invasive species, native to Asia.
Credit Roger LeJeune / flickr

It’s an old saw that there’s not one square foot on Cape Cod that has not been altered by some human activity over the centuries. Harbors have been dredged, highways have been built, marshes filled in, beaches lined with stone jetties or concrete bulwarks, and woodlands carved up for subdivisions – just to name a few of the more obvious effects.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
1:56 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Mysterious Tower in North Truro Entwined with a Legend of Jenny Lind

Jenny Lind Tower in North Truro.
Credit Ktr101 / Wikimedia Commons

One of the oddest juxtapositions of architecture on Cape Cod can be found in North Truro at the boundary of the old air force base and the Highland Links Golf Course immediately to its north. During most of the Cold War, the North Truro Air Force Base was part of the DEWLINE, or Distant Early Warning system.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:44 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Fort Hill Harbors 400 Years of History, But Little of It Shows

Fort Hill Trail, Eastham
Credit bbcamericangirl / flickr

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk along the trails at Fort Hill in Eastham. Young milkweed plants are peeping up in the recently-mown meadows as if it were spring. Mixed in with them are the deep brick-reds of Virginia creeper and poison ivy vines, the yellow-dotted pale but intense lavenders of New England asters, the golden leaves and deep red berries of bittersweet, and, out in the marsh, the white feathery seed tufts of marsh elder. Along the shore a wide band of Phragmites reed, or Pampas grass, waves in all its soft brown and silver plumery.

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