Behind the Blueberry

The innkeepers at Blueberry Cove Inn, Narragansett, RI invite you to their world of innkeeping. This is a behind the scenes look at their version of innkeeping.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who Does your landscaping?

This is an example of a question that caught us completely off guard. Most of what we've done with the grounds has been piecemeal, one project at a time work that gets squeezed in during the few spring weeks when it's warm and dry enough to be outside but not yet hot enough to attract beach-goers to the inn.

Seely's mom, Gert, gets the credit for most of the front gardens and the line of blueberry bushes that helps screen the parking lot. When you drive by the front of the inn or come into the driveway, the first flora you see has mostly been selected and organized by her. Gert comes for visit every other spring and, after a day or so of brainstorming, takes the truck and heads out for a full day combing the garden stores for decorative shrubs. It helps that she is a life long gardener,a former volunteer at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, MO, and that St. Louis is actually in the same planting zone as Narragansett.

We have also planted a number of trees (walnuts, cherry, pear, birches and a few evergreens). The original idea was that someday the nut and fruit trees might provide actual breakfast fare for the inn, like the blueberry bushes. However, we forgot to factor in the effect of our year-round residents with the bushy tails. Since the squirrels are much more limber and skilled at scaling tree trunks than we are, they get the lion's share (99.6 percent) of the nuts.

Our most ambitious recent project is the nature preserve in the side yard. When we had to remove a buried oil tank from the premises, we discovered to our dismay that it had been leaking for years, thus contaminating the soil and forcing us to remove all the dirt down to a depth of eight feet from the inn's foundation all the way to the hedge. The company that did the excavation filled the massive crater with the cheapest, sandiest, rockiest fill dirt imaginable. Clearly, we needed to come up with something to make this barren looking quadrant at least respectable.


Seely's solution evolved into what we now call the nature preserve. Seely caught the back hoe guy in a good mood and asked him to dig the pond. Well, if you have a pond you need moving water. The next winter we rebuilt the front porch and salvaged the large rocks from under the porch to build the waterfall. Being totally clueless on how to line a waterfall a salvaged child's slide became the water chute. (The next phase is to cover the slide with rocks and shells to create more turbulence.)

So once you have a pond and a water fall and ten cent gold fish growing into 6 inch beauties you have to put in a patio. Dave was sent out to salvage paving slates from a guy that was tearing his patio out before the state put a highway ramp through his back yard. Presto! a paved apron for the pond plus path of paving stones leading from the front porch to the Hideaway Suite leading right past the goldfish.

We put some bird feeders in the area and now when the guest are at breakfast they can watch the birds feed and hear the soothing sound of running water from the pump.

By now you are are wondering why this post lacks photos. Quite frankly, we completely forgot to take any while the gardens were in full bloom. If anyone has any I would be happy to post them with photo credits. Until then (or next summer) you'll just have to visit to see the grounds.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My favorite new food blog

Eight of my innkeeper friends have banded together to begin a recipe blog called Bed and Breakfast Foodie. They are great and inventive cooks to begin with and exhibit a great sense of humor. Where else would you find a dedicated group of professionals referring to themselves as "eight broads?" They are gearing up for Facebook and Twitter. It's a great collaboration with a big bonus: you can make any recipe for company without needing to practice it first.

In addition to being great cooks, these women have my respect for being astute business people. Our industry is tougher than most travelers would imagine but they have thrived and strive to keep their businesses and lives as fresh as possible.

And that works for me on Wednesday and every other day of the week.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Rooftop Rabbit

Several of the memorable events during construction and the early years of operation here at the Cove have involved animals, both wild and domesticated.

But none was more bizarre than what I saw as I returned from a trip to Home Depot late one autumn afternoon. This was at the end of a long day of destruction -- removing plaster, pulling out lath and dead wiring. While the dust settled, I made a run for supplies to be used in the ensuing reconstruction.

I pulled into the driveway at about 4:45, just as the sun was sinking below the tree-line. As I stopped to look at the rosy sky off to the west, a far more interesting sight caught my eye. Huddled in the middle of the roof over the front porch was a rabbit.

I was so stunned by the vision, which would not go away no matter how often or how hard I blinked, that it took me a minute or two to realize that the bunny perched on my porch roof must be Theo.

Theo was a pet rabbit kept by Lawrence, one of the tenants we inherited from the previous owner of the property. What we didn't know at the time was that Lawrence considered Theo to be a free-range bunny, often letting him roam the second floor while he was at work.

The weather that November was unusually warm, prompting the upstairs tenants to open the windows at either end of the hallway, neither of which had a screen. In the spirit of adventure, Theo had apparently hopped out to catch the cool breeze coming off the water.

Or maybe one of Lawrence's floor mates, who wasn't crazy about sharing the public spaces with a furry friend, put him out there. We never found out for sure. But we did institute a new policy limiting Theo to Lawrence's room while his owner was off the property.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Escape

Sometimes you just have to get out of the house! There are days when I am actually finished with my indoor chores and then there are days when I just have to flee from the glamor of making another bathroom sparkle. So where do I go when I don't have time to really go anywhere?

The swings. Our first yard swing sits out of the way in a well shaded spot in the corner of the front lawn. I love how the birch trees have overgrown to make a little bower for the swing. Tip your head back to get a lovely view of the sky between the birch bower and the old maple.

It is the best spot to ponder the twisted curves on the old maple tree.


It's a good spot to look out across the Veld - our eastern side yard. It makes me feel like I'm in the country (if I ignore the occasional car driving by.)

It's also a great spot to look at the house but if I look too long I start to think about all the things I am avoiding. You can see the side yard if you twist a bit.

Which leads us to my new most favorite swing, over there, by the pond.

The pond is a work in progress. The slate has been salvaged from several locations around the state. The waterfall is made of rocks unearthed while digging the porch foundations. At some point the slide will be covered with slate and rock.

The otter came with us from Houston. The plants often threaten to take over the pond but provide plenty of food for the dozens of darting goldfish.

And now this cozy spot has a swing. A deeply relaxing, close enough to watch the fish, cozy enough for two but great to stretch out on to read a book swing. A perfect place to forget about your obligations (or abandoned chores.)