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Novem, from left: Dorian Lopes, Brad Austin, Shelley Brown, Julie Williamson-Moffet, Jenny Friedman, Joyce Maxner, Ken Romero and Kevin Ryan. (Accompanist: Peter Boak) —Photo by Michael Cummo

Trinity Methodist Church in the Oak Bluffs Campground was all aglow on Wednesday evening, December 17, a welcoming haven of serenity and loveliness for the 18th annual Reflections of Peace Concert. Held every Christmas season, the well-loved concert gathers many of the Island’s top musicians performing to benefit Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.

Audience members arrived early, filling the pews, and quietly greeting friends and neighbors. The 1820s vintage church with its white walls, dark wood trim, and tall Tiffany-inspired windows, was adorned simply but brightly for the season. Candles glowed, an angel-topped tree sparkled with white lights, and evergreen wreaths, red bows, and a bouquet of red and white roses added Christmas color.

For many audience members, the concert is a yearly tradition, an evening of contemplative and uplifting music and community during the busy season. Many come not only for love of music, but also for love of Hospice, which has touched so many families.

Hospice director Terre Young welcomed the appreciative crowd, thanking all who contributed to the evening. “We couldn’t do it without you,” she said. “We make an important difference, and you are part of that difference.”

She reported gratefully that since its beginning Reflections of Peace has raised $50,945 for the organization, and she emphasized that all Hospice care is given for free.

“What makes this concert so special is the collection of beautiful musicians who work very, very hard at such a busy time of year to bring the community to a special place and give us this music with an intention of peace and calm,” Ms. Young said the following day. “They do it for Hospice; they understand how important we are to this community.”

The annual concert is a gift of love to Hospice and the community through the dedication of founders and producers Kevin and Joanne Ryan, and the generosity of the musicians who play for free.

Mr. Ryan, who also sang in the performance, said their intent is to benefit and bring public recognition to Hospice. He said that Hospice has been invaluable to his family during deaths of loved ones, so he knows its importance well. He added that musicians chose the selections with care, to fit the theme.

“This is a message of hope, a message of peace,” he said.

Many guests of the Reflections of Peace concert attend year after year. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Many guests of the Reflections of Peace concert attend year after year. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Lynne Whiting shared rich Hospice experiences as a recipient of comforting bereavement support then as a volunteer, deeply honored to care for her first patient. Later, the understanding she gained through Hospice helped during her mother’s death.

“I could not have done what I did with such grace if it had not been for Hospice training,” she said.

The exquisitely performed music expressed the caring and gentleness that is the essence of Hospice and it soothed the soul.

From the tone-setting meditation on “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” played by the gifted Brown brothers, Garrett and Wesley, effectively pairing the woodwind-voiced organ with bright, clear piano,to whispered notes of “Still, Still, Still” suspended in the air like snowflakes, the program was striking for its unusual selections. Many were refreshingly unfamiliar even to dedicated lovers of Christmas music. Those better known were set to innovative arrangements, making them shine like new.

Novem, the polished vocal octet was the mainstay of the program with guest musicians. The group opened with “Torches,” a rousing call to the manger on Christmas night in Bethlehem. For “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” Peter Boak twined piano lines from Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata through the verses, a surprising and perfect match.

Mr. Boak, whose piano accompaniments were at once unobtrusive and glowing performances in themselves, sang in the first concert. He has taken part ever since, inspired by the joy the music brings to audiences, and the important work of Hospice.

“We’re walking in the air, we’re floating in the midnight sky,” fanciful lyrics from “The Snowman,” shimmered. Scored for four women’s voices, they conjured dreamy visions of a boy’s journey with the friendly snowman.

Shelly Brown and Joyce Maxner’s tinkling, delicate “Flower Duet” from Delibes’s opera Lakme was breathtaking, their clear voices joining with easy grace in close harmonies and challenging runs.

In “Wondrous Star” Jenny Friedman’s bell-like soprano floated around Brad Austin’s bass, conveying sweetly mysterious Christmas enchantment.

Other Novem artists included Julie Williamson, Ken Romero, Dorian Lopes, and Kevin Ryan.

Brian Weiland and his talented teens, Liam playing cello and Avalon harp, offered a trio of carols arranged by Mr. Weiland himself. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was haunting, men’s voices trading lines, Liam’s cello a rich complement to his father’s guitar. Ms. Weiland’s harp added delicate texture to the Scottish “Aran Boat Song,” a modal, dance-like instrumental. “I Wonder as I Wander” evoked that night sky, long ago.

“Wassail” promised old-fashioned Yuletide revelry; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” melded memory with hope. John Rutter’s lovely “Christmas Lullaby” was a sweetly sacred cradle song, a gentle, angelic hymn to the blessed mother and baby.

Finally, musicians and audience joined in a hushed, companionable singing of “Silent Night,” holding a promise of “heavenly peace” as they filed out into the Vineyard evening.

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The Vineyarders skated strong out of the gate in their home opener Saturday.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity hockey team dropped its season home opener to Lowell Catholic High School in a grinder Saturday night at the MV Ice Arena. The final score was 4-1.

Nick Vukota celebrates a goal.
Nick Vukota celebrates a goal.

Nick Vukota gave the Vineyarders an early first period lead in a physical game that included 11 penalties. MVRHS goalkeeper Wyatt Jenkinson faced 22 shots in goal compared with 13 Vineyarder shots on the Lowell Catholic net.

Goalie Wyatt Jenkinson had his hands full defending the Vineyard net.
Goalie Wyatt Jenkinson had his hands full defending the Vineyard net.

The Vineyarders are now 1-2 on the season and 1-1 in Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) play. The team travels to the University of New Hampshire for a three-day tournament next week and resumes play at home against Bourne High School on Jan. 7 in a non-EAC matchup.

Emerson Mahoney takes a shot.
Emerson Mahoney takes a shot.

A season of Wampanoag cookery.

Among the Wampanoag, winter months are known as the Time of the Long Moon. – Photo by Steve Myrick

For earth-wise indigenous peoples, intimate and profound knowledge of the seasons form the rich foundation of cultural sustainability over millennia. The traditional cookery of the Wampanoag of the Cape and Islands evolved in harmony with what the land and sea could provide, with the innovative techniques the people employed to yield a rich bounty, and with the cyclic turning of the dramatic New England seasons.

wampanoag_cookery“We began planning for the cold season long before it arrived,” writes Chief Flying Eagle of the Mashpee Wampanoags in the Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook, co-written by Betty Breen of Falmouth. “The pole beans would be tied together with the squash and corn to unite the Three Sisters. Most onions, carrots, and beets were kept in the salt hay and soil in the cellar, but some were left in the ground under salt hay to sweeten with the first frost… Meanwhile, because of the cold, we’d be getting ready to slaughter a pig.”

Winter months, or Quinne Keeswush, Papsaquoho, Paponakeeswush, are also known as the Time of the Long Moon, the season when the darkness of night has seized the sky and the cold of winter has seized the land. In traditional times, dried legumes, berries, vegetables, cured meats, and seasonings would be collected and stored carefully in pits, near or inside the wigwams. Wampanoag Cookery, published by the Boston’s Children’s Museum in 1974, says that people “lined the pits with mats, carefully put in their dried vegetables, meats, and nuts and covered the pit with another mat and heaped earth on top of all of it. When people needed food in the winter, they would get it from these pits, with the exception of a fish caught through the ice or animals taken in traps.”

Recipes survive as a complex interplay of oral and active traditions. Foodways evolve with modernized techniques and ingredients, yet seek to replicate the essence of how a dish tasted the first time, way back, in our unalterable cultural sense-memory. “Winter is the time when the land rests,” says Wampanoag Cookery, and yet the simple abundance of the traditional table should be admired for the inspired dishes that sustained and warmed people as the wind and ice wrapped the darkest days of the year.

Deer Stew
Recipe by Helen Attaquin, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

Brown two to three pounds of deer meat cut into pieces in bacon fat. Add two large sliced onions and continue browning. When nicely browned, stir in 3 tbsp. flour and place in baking dish. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar, 3 tbsp. ketchup, 1 tbsp. sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the meat with water and bake at 375ºF degrees for two to three hours, until the meat is tender, adding water if necessary to keep the meat covered. When done, thicken the gravy and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Gay Head Beach Plum Porridge
Recipe by Rachel Jeffers, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

First parboil raisins (beach plums) and pour off the water. Then add fresh water and boil until tender. Heat milk and add sugar to taste, also butter and nutmeg. Then add a bit of flour thickening.

Wild Duck
Recipe by Earl Mills Sr., Chief Flying Eagle, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Stuff duck cavity with sliced apples and celery tops. Place strips of bacon over the breast and add 1½ cups of water or chicken stock, along with the neck and giblets, to the pan. For a well-done duck, roast 15 minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes with the fat stock in the pan, along with a mixture of 2 tbsp. of butter and ½ cup red wine.

Goodin’ Puddin’ and Goodin’ Puddin’ Pie
Recipe by Ruth Ellis and Norman and Shirley Stolz, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease 8” by 4” by 4” loaf pan with 2 tsp. cooking oil. Add 1 cup cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, and ¼ cup chopped nuts to loaf pan. Beat ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, and 1 egg until smooth. Fold in flour and pour mixture over berries. Bake for 45 minutes. You may double the recipe and bake in a deep-dish pie plate, for 6 to 8 servings.

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The Indian burial grounds sit across from Mayhew Chapel, on Christiantown Road in West Tisbury.

The historic Mayhew Chapel on Christiantown Road in West Tisbury, long neglected and in disrepair, is slated to undergo an extensive cleanup, and could once again be open to welcome visitors and host worship services and ceremonies, Bettina Washington, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) historic preservation officer, told The Times.

For the past six months, the tribe’s natural resources department has devoted one to two days per week to clearing brush, cutting trees, and restoring the grounds of the small chapel, as well as the adjacent Indian burial ground where the earliest Wampanoag converts to Christianity are buried. A piece of sheet metal has been used to close a hole in the roof of the small chapel, erected in 1829 to replace a similar one that was burned.

“The plan is to clean all the cemetery area,” Ms. Washington said, “then landscape around the chapel. We’re looking at our options on what we’re going to do with the chapel. We would like to have it open this summer, but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”

Ms. Washington said the long-term goal is to have the chapel open and staffed by tribal members on weekends.

“Some of those trees needed to come down; they were becoming a little dangerous. It’s quite a job, the overgrowth; we really didn’t realize the number of headstones. Those have to be cleaned out by hand.”

Small stones mark the burial locations of some of the first Native-American converts to Christianity.
Small stones mark the burial locations of some of the first Native-American converts to Christianity.

The small headstones, mostly unmarked, are designated by small orange or white flags, in order to help work crews clear brush and overgrowth without damaging the boulders used as grave markers.

The chapel roof has badly deteriorated.
The chapel roof has badly deteriorated.

For many years, little if any attention was paid to the chapel or the burying grounds. Grave markers were lost in a tangle of brush and poison ivy, the chapel roof was rotted, and the small rows of pews were littered with fallen plaster.

Ms. Washington was asked why the historic property fell into such disrepair.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think the focus was not there. We’ve turned our focus back there, making sure it gets taken care of.”

Sacred place

The Mayhew Chapel dates to 1680. It is named for Thomas Mayhew Jr., the first minister to Christianize any of the indigenous peoples of New England, beginning in 1643 when he was 22. The land was set aside by the Wampanoag Sachem Josias as a place of worship for Indians who converted to Christianity. The praying Indians, as they came to be called, and their descendants constitute the oldest continuously existing community of Christian Native Americans.

At the foot of the path leading to the burying ground across the road sits a large boulder with a bronze tablet affixed. It was erected by the Sea Coast Defence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Vineyard Haven, to commemorate “the services of Gov. Thomas Mayhew and his descendant missionaries who here labored among the native Indians. The meeting house opposite erected in 1829 replaced their original house of worship and this boulder heads the path to their burying ground.”

In 1986, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank purchased 7.5 acres surrounding the Mayhew Chapel so that the background “would not be spoiled by houses.” In 1988, the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs named the Christiantown Woods, Mayhew Chapel, and Indian burial ground as “significant to the character and natural history of the Commonwealth,” the first such designation for Martha’s Vineyard.

Dukes County owned the chapel until Nov. 15, 1993, when after two years of negotiations, the three county commissioners in office at the time transferred ownership. The tribe paid the county $15,000 for the property.

Part of history

The Wampanoag Tribe wants to add another historic designation to the chapel and burial grounds. Ms. Washington said a tribal committee intends to apply for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that could make the property eligible for federal grants. Ms. Washington said the burial grounds are a very important part of Wampanoag history, and the history of Martha’s Vineyard.

“For us, there’s a lot of family,” Ms. Washington said. “There was intermarriage between Gay Head, Christiantown, and all the other villages. A lot of folks from Mashpee have ancestors there. You take the historic significance of the Sachem setting aside that property for those Indians who chose to become Christians. It’s an important place. However you look at how Christianity affected us, in terms of tribal history and traditional ways, that’s all part of the history.”

In a telephone conversation Wednesday morning, Wampanoag tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop, elected to the tribe’s top administrative position in November of 2013, commented on why the area had been allowed to fall into disrepair and the current restoration effort.

“It certainly wasn’t something that happened on purpose,” Mr. Vanderhoop said. “When we realized what was happening there we did our best to give it the care that we need. We have redoubled our efforts.

“The community really does care about the area. The community is really insuring that we do what is our responsibility. We have descendants of the Christiantown people that are members of our tribe, so it’s very important for us to honor and maintain a presence for their family’s history.”

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The Island Home sets sail on a calm Wednesday afternoon. —Photo by Michael Cummo

The Steamship Authority moved forward last week with plans for two large capital projects, a new passenger/vehicle ferry that will serve the Vineyard route and the reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal and relocation of the boatline’s administrative offices.

Meeting last Thursday in Hyannis, authority members awarded a $36,448,000 contract for the motor vessel Woods Hole to Conrad Shipyard of Morgan City, Louisiana.

The overall budget for the project is $40,236,500, which includes the cost of design and engineering services, SSA oversight and SSA furnished equipment. The board has authorized the sale of up to $38,250,000 in bonds to pay for the new vessel.

The single-ended boat will have an uncovered back deck and be capable of carrying 384 passengers and 50-55 cars or 10 semi-trailer trucks. It will serve as a replacement for the aged Governor, which will be sold or scrapped.

The members also approved a report by Betreaux and Iwerks Architects for a feasibility study of the reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal that includes a proposal to move the SSA’s administrative offices from Woods Hole to a new building that would be constructed on SSA property adjacent to the Palmer Avenue parking lot in Falmouth. Management concluded that the Woods Hole site could not accommodate needed office space and parking.

In a telephone conversation, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, told The Times that after a rocky start the SSA and community members led by Catherine Bumpus, co-president of the Woods Hole Association, had worked well together and reached consensus on most issues.

The existing terminal building that also houses administrative offices would be demolished, opening up views to the water, and the existing terminal pier would be partly removed to make way for a relocated slip number three. The new terminal would be set back from the water. The price tag for the entire package is expected to be close to $61 million.

Fuel for the fire

SSA officials also told The Times that despite a drop in oil prices, boatline managers have no plans to reconsider a slate of rate hikes approved October 21 that are scheduled to take effect in the new year.

Beginning January 1, the discounted vehicle excursion fare for Island residents, parking rates at Falmouth lots, and passenger fares for all travelers will increase.

In October, Mr. Lamson said the hikes were needed to cover increased operating costs projected for 2015, including fuel costs, vessel maintenance, employee salaries, health care benefits, and pension benefits.

At the October meeting, several members questioned the budget projection for fuel costs, given the current downward trend in wholesale oil prices.

“The market is correcting right now,” SSA treasurer Robert Davis said on October 21. “Talking with our consultant, he is still feeling the $90 range is a good range to be targeting.”

In public comment, Oak Bluffs businessman Todd Rebello, a former selectman, said, “I do believe there is a little fluff in the potential fuel budget that could be significant.”

Mr. Rebello said he did not expect any savings to be passed on to the ratepayers. “You’ll find another place in the budget to plug a hole,” he said.

This week the price per barrel of crude oil had dropped close to $60.

No rollbacks planned

In an email to The Times on Wednesday, Mr. Lamson said at this point he is not recommending that the SSA forestall the rate increases approved in October.

“Fuel is only one of the SSA’s expenses, and we already know that we will be incurring significant unbudgeted increases in our repair costs next year,” he said.

He cited almost $1.4 million in higher than expected costs to replace the dolphins at the Vineyard Haven terminal, repair the older portion of the dock at the Oak Bluffs terminal and dry-dock the Island Home next March.

“In addition, while we may all have opinions as to the range of oil prices that we are likely to see going forward over the long term, no one knows for sure at this point where the price of oil will ultimately settle at in 2015,” Mr. Lamson said. “The Department of Energy’s latest forecast says that WTI crude oil prices are expected to average $78 per barrel in 2015.  If that prediction proves to be accurate (and even the DOE cautions that energy price forecasts are highly uncertain), the SSA might spend around $1,300,000 less in vessel fuel expense next year than projected in its 2015 budget, but that amount will still not offset the unbudgeted increases in our repair costs that we already have incurred.

“Further, given that the SSA’s vessels consume almost 60 percent of their fuel during the months of July through December, it would not be prudent to base all of next year’s fuel price assumptions on the price that we are currently paying, which by most accounts may only be temporary.”

Mr. Lamson said the 2015 budget projects a net annual income of a little more than $3,000,000, which provides for “a very thin margin of error. “Even just a few unexpected events can turn the SSA’s black ink to red. On the other hand, if we do end up with a larger surplus next year than anticipated, the extra money will automatically flow into the SSA’s special purpose funds to be used to pay for the cost of our capital projects, which will help keep our rates lower in the future.”

Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, the SSA’s Martha’s Vineyard member, supported Mr. Lamson’s reasoning in a telephone conversation on Wednesday. Mr. Hanover said the SSA must take into account the volatility of the market and its future capital expenses. He said the notion that the boatline is socking away money at the expense of the ratepayers is not accurate.

For example, he said any unexpected surpluses would help lower borrowing costs.

“This is the first rate increase in four years,” Mr. Hanover said. “Costs have been up 2.5 to 3 percent per year and it is a $1 on a car and 50 cents on a person and it is pretty nominal at best.”

Rob Ranney, the Nantucket SSA member, agreed with his island counterpart. “Of course, there is also no way of knowing how long fuel costs will remain low for now,” he said in an email to The Times. “I don’t know what gasoline prices are on the Vineyard, but here on the outer island I paid $3.95/per gallon for the cheap stuff yesterday to fill up my car.”

Mr. Ranney said the SSA takes a longer view on these issues, “due in part to mandated bond repayment requirements, pension, healthcare and labor costs, maintenance schedules and unforeseen expenses.

“Also, despite outward appearances to the contrary, nobody at SSA likes rate increases, not me, not management, not passengers, not the ports, not anybody.”

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Tisbury selectmen approved the 2015 tax classification schedule Tuesday night. From left, Tristan Israel, Jon Snyder, and Melinda Loberg. —Photo by Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury selectmen concluded a tax rate classification hearing Tuesday for fiscal year 2015 with a unanimous vote to maintain the existing property tax formula for residential and commercial property. Selectmen made no change in the residential exemption that results in a portion of the tax levy being shifted from qualifying taxpayers domiciled in Tisbury to the tax bills for non-resident property owners.

The hearing had been continued from December 9 when selectmen learned that the state Department of Revenue had not yet certified town figures used to compute the tax levy. “At 2:30 pm today we received an email from the Bureau of Local Assessment stating that we had received final certification,” assistant assessor Ann Marie Cywinski told selectmen at the start of the meeting.

Ms. Cywinski confirmed Tuesday night that the tax rate for fiscal 2015, which began June 30, 2014, would be $8.92 for residential property and $8.34 for commercial property.

Selectman chairman Jonathan Snyder opened the hearing by reading four taxpayer letters into the record. Letter writers spoke in support of the current formula that benefits year-round residents at the expense of seasonal homeowners.

A letter signed by Janet Woodcock and Carol Collins stated: “The tax exemption recognizes the vast financial difference between those having second vacation homes here and those of us who are here year round working and adding to the community.”

Letter writer Cynthia Richard said it was a matter of fairness. “I believe over the years that it has been a substantial financial help to year round residents of Tisbury with moderately valued homes,” she wrote. “It’s truly a matter of fairness. It is a break to a group of people who do not normally receive tax breaks. Businesses and non-residents feel it is unfair to them because they are not entitled to this tax break while the rest of us are excluded from those that they receive. I would also point out that the fiscal year 2014 tax rate for commercial properties was $7.85 per thousand while the rate for all residential and non-residential properties was higher at $8.39. Is that fair?”

Sherman and Susan Goldstein, owners of the Mansion House, said the current tax structure has enabled the Mansion House to continue its “program of upkeep and beautification.”

Calculated

The current Tisbury tax rate is $8.39 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential properties and $7.85 for commercial. Under current policy, the residential exemption is calculated based on a percentage, currently 18 percent, of the average value of residential property in town ($765,695) in fiscal year 2014. A total of 1,045 property owners now benefit from the residential exemption in the form of a reduction in the assessed value of their property — $137,825 last year.

Non-residents also pay a personal property or personal chattel tax equal to 4.5 percent of  the value of their buildings. Persons claiming Tisbury residence do not. Ms. Cywinski said that the precise term for having Tisbury residence is domiciled in Tisbury. “You have to file income taxes from Tisbury in order to benefit from the residential exemption,” she said.

The exemption was originally adopted in 1988 at 10 percent and increased in 1989 by the selectmen serving at that time to 20 percent, the maximum the state allows.

Last year, on a motion from Mr. Snyder, selectmen voted to lower the percentage to 18 percent.

Speaking to the issue at the November meeting, Mr. Snyder said, “I’ve always been troubled by the fact that the residential exemption shifts the tax burden onto the homeowners who are not voters, who have no say in the matter, and who are essentially taxed without a voice in the matter.”

Seasonal silence

Selectmen discussed the residential exemption and noted the lack of input from seasonal taxpayers.

“I think the preponderance of residential comments that I heard, and I didn’t hear a lot from summer people for whatever reason,” selectman Tristan Israel said, “was to keep this residential exemption and keep it strong. I think it’s tough making a go here for all of us. I think this really helps.”

Mr. Israel spoke to the issue of personal choice. “When someone owns a home here and owns a home off Island, for whatever reason, they have a choice,” he said. “In other words, they’re not being excluded from residential exemption. If they were to live here six months out of the year they can have that residential exemption… people have a choice about where they want to call their home, where they want to pay taxes, what community they want to support, if you have two homes.”

Freshman selectman Melinda Loberg said she would be in favor of a reduction in the percentage but favored the exemption.  “I like the residential exemption,” she said. “I think it serves a good purpose. I was listening to our tax assessor talk about what the impact the [exemption] has on the town and I think that it should gradually diminish  — not to zero but to some 10 percent like she recommended. But I think it’s a bad time to do it this year.”

Mr. Snyder repeated his reservation about the tax structure but stood with the board. “It has always felt to me a bit unfair to tax one group of homeowners more than another,” Mr. Snyder said, “but I agree with Tristan that we have heard a great deal from residents and very little from non-residents about this issue and I’m not sympathetic to going up but I would also agree that holding at 18 percent is fine. “

Selectmen voted in favor of the existing formula for residential properties and turned to commercial properties and a potential re-imposition of a commercial shift that would impose a higher tax rate.

“Well I don’t think it’s an imposition but it’s a right of the town to do it if it chooses to do it and I would always like to reserve that right,” said Mr. Israel. “We have equalized. I think that’s fine for now. Most of the comments I heard from businesses were to keep it that way so for now I think that’s a good idea.”

Ms. Loberg said it appears that businesses are getting preferred treatment by having a tax rate that is slightly lower than the residential tax rate. “That’s all the effect of the exemption. So in order to, you know, really equalize the tax rate all the way across the board we would have to impose a shift onto the businesses, correct?” she said.

“I also favor keeping the commercial shift at zero,” Mr. Snyder said. “I think that one thing that we don’t often talk about is how much this town depends on a healthy commercial sector. As taxpayers go, the commercial businesses are a fairly small part of our total real estate taxes, but they provide a great deal of the economic impetus in this town — provide jobs, provide reasons for people to come here — and I think we need to be very supportive of those businesses. So I would also support keeping the commercial shift where it is.”

The board then voted for no change in the commercial tax rate.

Radio upgrades

In other business, Fire Chief John Schilling, Ambulance Coordinator Tracy Jones and EMT Maxwell Maurice requested tuition funding for Mr. Maurice’s yearlong off-Island paramedic training.

“We’ve been filling the schedule with per diem paramedics from the Cape and the South Shore,” said Chief Schilling, “couple from Falmouth, one from Fall River, one Centerville/Osterville, one from Hingham. They come over to work 24-hour shifts. They fill in the schedule. We haven’t had any full-time employees and of course we’re still actively looking for another full-time employee but we can’t sit around and wait for somebody to walk through the door.”

Selectmen made no decision.

Chief Schilling also asked selectmen to support using embarkation fee funds to purchase new radios. “The radios we’re presently using in the fire department were purchased in 2000,” he said. “They have very limited programming capability.”

As an example, Chief Schilling stated that a catastrophic incident at the Steamship Authority requiring National Guard medical evacuations would find Tisbury unable to communicate with the evacuators.

Mr. Snyder asked Police Chief Daniel Hanavan if selectmen should anticipate a similar request from the police department in the future.

“Our radios are older technology,” Chief Hanavan said. “We’re going to have to upgrade as well.”

Tisbury Police Lt. Eerik Meisner also proposed embarkation fees be spent on a network of police-controlled video cameras that would monitor the vicinity of the Steamship Authority terminal and Five Corners.

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New shelf stable chocolate bars by Not Your Sugar Mama's are debuting stores around New England. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Two idealistic young Island women, both committed to healthy food, clean living, and “kick-ass chocolate,” launched Not Your Sugar Mamas (NYSM), a tiny, homegrown enterprise, in 2011.

Now, only three years later, NYSM has grown through trial, error, and remarkable success. The line has expanded and been refined. Products are sold in 130 shops across New England, including 19 Whole Foods branches. With their new tempered raw chocolate bars added to original favorites, owners Bennett Coffey and Kyleen Keenan are gearing up for nationwide distribution.

Owners Kyleen Keenan (left) and Bennett Coffey with Ms. Keenan's daughter Francesca at their Vineyard Haven chocolate factory. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Owners Kyleen Keenan (left) and Bennett Coffey with Ms. Keenan’s daughter Francesca at their Vineyard Haven chocolate factory. —Photo by Michael Cummo

But they are not neglecting their Island customers. NYSM is opening its chocolate factory in Tisbury Market Place for a “Pop-Up Shop” December 15 through 19, and December 22. This Thursday, Dec. 18, 4 to 7 pm, chocolate lovers are invited to enjoy samples and healthy, festive beverages, music by DJ Pretty Ninja, and browse the array of scrumptious gift choices.

Nor are they abandoning their original mission: to “spread health, happiness, and love through powerful superfoods.”

It may sound like a fun project, beginning a friendly little health food chocolate business on an Island with a like-minded friend. But although the owners have always maintained their excitement and enthusiasm about the enterprise and the products, they are quick to explain that NYSM is not a casual candy-making pastime. It is a serious business requiring hard work, from planning and production, to packaging and marketing.

The Times talked with the two women last week in Ms. Keenan’s comfortable living room, sampling the newest chocolate bars while Ms. Keenan’s baby daughter napped nearby.

Change has been a constant as the business grew. While some new ideas were discarded as impractical or not productive, every experience provided learning.

“We thrive on seeing growth and progress,” Ms. Keenan said. “The business looks different every year. So much changes. That makes us happy, that’s what we want to see.”

Asked whether they were surprised at the success of NYSM and the leap to selling nationwide, both said no.

“We always thought about the business in a big way,” Ms. Coffey said. “We wanted it to be something that sustains us here.”

The duo started with organic raw chocolate and a commitment to natural, sustainable, healthy ingredients. Ms. Coffey was the kitchen wizard, experimenting with combinations and techniques, perfecting the original raw chocolate refrigerated bars.

A holistic nutrition counselor, Ms. Coffey studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Discovering the delights of raw chocolate, she began working on recipes. Ms. Keenan, who had graduated from Bentley University’s School of Business, took on the business and marketing aspects of the company.

Many Vineyarders were won over, entranced by the unique flavors, creamy texture, and high-quality natural, organic ingredients. Customers were happy to pay a little extra for a super-healthy bar made with love and care. Plus, the products were delicious.

It began with three all-organic flavors, based on the same combination of raw cacao, cacao butter, and coconut butter. The bars rely on organic maple syrup for sweetening; some also include agave, honey, and coconut nectar. Add-ins included essential oils, herbs, and spices. The basic Be Original bar includes cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla bean, and Himalayan sea salt. Be Cool added lavender, peppermint, and St. John’s Wort to “soothe body and soul.” Be Sexy boasted extra maca, and a flourish of Skye Botanical’s love potion.

Ms. Coffey came up with delectable new creations. Be Jolly arrived for Christmas. With pomegranate, nutmeg, and antioxidant-rich ingredients, it remains a yummy pick-me-up for the busy season. Be Fresh hit the shops in spring, emphasizing superfoods for the changing season: camu camu, mesquite, African baobab, and organic lemon verbena. The partners were delighted to launch Be Local, using Vineyard sea salt and lavender, and Massachusetts honey.

Off-Island marketing was next. Ms. Keenan said introducing the unique chocolate to retailers was challenging, but soon it was being sold in dozens of small venues like spas, health food stores, and yoga studios. When Whole Foods in Hingham agreed to carry the products, it was an exciting coup.

The first retail shop and chocolate factory opened in Vineyard Haven in 2012, a step up from the borrowed commercial kitchen where Ms. Coffey first made chocolates.

With a talented baker on staff, the company turned out a variety of pastries — cookies, muffins, scones, cupcakes — all healthy and natural, of course. The Edgartown shop opened that summer, both sites offering chocolates, baked goods, and innovative beverages, including shakes, smoothies, and the Dandelion Latte, a cult favorite.

New products proliferated: smoothie mixes, Be Cozy hot chocolate, Be Saucy (guilt-free hot fudge), pastries, truffles, and energy balls. Many are being phased out to streamline the business and focus on chocolates. The toothsome Be Kookie chocolate chip cookies remain available, to the relief of fans.

“It’s more efficient to just narrow it down and just be good at making one thing,” Ms. Coffey said.

A revolutionary change was this year’s introduction of raw chocolate bars that need no refrigeration. Employing a tempering technique and eliminating soft coconut butter enabled Ms. Coffey to create a durable smooth-textured bar. It can be more safely stored, shipped, and displayed, critical for nationwide marketing.

Some flavors echo the originals, others are new like Rose Maca, and immune-enhancing Ginger Pomegranate with cacao nibs. Top seller Salted Caramel features a rich vegan caramel layer.

But recognizing the allegiance (and addiction) of customers to the refrigerated bars, the company is keeping them available on a limited basis at the factory and by mail.

There has been lots of hard work, some ideas that didn’t succeed, but there have been many rewards, achievements, and milestones.

Most recently, NYSM won the Star Chefs 2013 Rising Stars Award in the Best Concept category, a significant accomplishment. The company has received favorable write-ups in many local and off-Island publications.

Now that production has geared up and the kitchen staff has expanded, Ms. Coffey no longer makes every chocolate bar, but she oversees quality control. Off-Island demonstrations keep the product in the public eye. The mail-order business thrives.

Daunting as all this may seem, Ms. Coffey and Ms. Keenan were relaxed, all smiles as they munched bites of chocolate and looked towards the sweet future.

“It’s come a long way from making 10 chocolate bars at a time in my Mom’s kitchen in a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon after teaching yoga,” said Ms. Coffey with a laugh.

For more information, visit notyoursugarmamas.com.

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Town officials are considering several options, including replacement, for the highway storage barn. —Photo by Susie Safford

West Tisbury selectmen learned last week that the town public works building on Old Courthouse Road in North Tisbury may be too far out of date to be a suitable candidate for renovation and might best be replaced.  Once used for town meetings and later as a fire station, the mid-19th century building is now used primarily as a garage for highway department equipment.

At the Wednesday, December 10, selectmen’s meeting, highway superintendent Richard Olsen explained the situation. “My intent was to redo the building, if that was possible” he said. “We weren’t looking for a whole lot, but I think from what Joe [building inspector Joe Tierney] has told me, in order to bring it into compliance [with the building codes] it’s probably better to build a new building, at the same location.”

In April, the town appropriated $10,000 for needed repairs to the building. A major rebuilding project would be subject to a capital improvement committee feasibility study before any more money would be committed.

Mr. Olsen said the logical location for a new highway department would be on the grounds of the new police and fire stations on State Road but “there are too many variables at that site.” He said a new building would require a new septic system for which there is no room.

“I think we are stuck where we are. Which is fine,” he said. “In order to bring this up to code there is so much to do, the windows, the insulation. Regardless of what we do we need a new well and a septic system.” He said that his department could use more room so that an addition might be in order.

Mr. Tierney said he consulted with West Tisbury civil engineer Kent Healy on the condition of the building. “There are a lot of structural issues with the building from the foundation to the second floor,” Mr. Tierney said. “So the amount of money we would have to dump into it and the fact that it may not meet his [Mr. Olsen’s] needs when we got done. That’s why we were searching for other locations.”

Mr. Tierney said he thought it would be a better investment for the town to build a new building either on the present site or on a new site.

Selectman Richard Knabel asked if there were any hard numbers to accompany the various alternatives.

Mr. Tierney said that he and Mr. Olsen, wanted to speak to the selectmen and seek some direction before they proceeded further.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said that the deed on the land is not clear and should be cleared before any work is done on the land to be certain there are no deed restrictions. “I may need to spend some money on a title search,” she said. “What we have found to date would make us believe that there are probably no restrictions.”

Mr. Healy said it is a small site but there is room for a septic system and a new well. “The building is really of limited value,” he said. “The best way to replace it would be a new concrete slab and put a new building on top of it.” He said that he thought a new metal building might be the most economical way to deal with the situation.

Mr. Knabel asked whether the building has any historic significance.

Ms. Rand said she would investigate the history as well as the title and restrictions issues. Mr. Healy volunteered to get prices for replacing the building and installing a new well and septic system.

Rich history

Prior to its use to store highway department equipment, the parks and recreation department used the building for equipment storage. It was also where town residents went to purchase town beach stickers in the summer. The sign on the front of the building still reads West Tisbury, Parks and Recreation Committee, Community Hall.

Mr. Knabel told The Times in an email the building was formerly called “Association Hall.” The owner of record in 1884 was the Vineyard Literary Association.

Former selectman and county commissioner John Alley, a lifelong resident of West Tisbury, told The Times that he remembers when town meetings were held in the building. “There were rows of benches, a stage and a ballot box,” he said. In 1959 when town meetings were held in the Grange Hall, then called the Agricultural Hall, the town voted to turn the building into fire station number two. It was at that time that the old wooden floor was replaced with a concrete slab and the front was replaced with two large garage doors.

“The building was never a courthouse,” he said. “The road is named ‘Old Courthouse Road’ because it once went all the way to the present intersection of Scotchmans Lane and Old County Road and on to the current intersection of Old County and the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road where there was a courthouse.”

Ag Hall events under review

In other town business last Wednesday, Mr. Tierney told selectmen that after reviewing events held at the Agricultural Hall at their request, he found most were in compliance with town zoning regulations. “For the most part this year the activities have been mostly compliant. There are a lot of grey areas.”

Mr. Tierney said he and outgoing building and zoning inspector Ernest Mendenhall recommend that selectmen require an event permit for events at the Ag Hall. He suggested the permit application be submitted four weeks prior to an event so that he could determine, with advice from counsel when necessary, whether the grey area events met the zoning regulations.

“Ninety percent of the events will probably not be a problem,” Mr. Tierney said. He said the four-week lead-time would give the town time to make a determination.

Ms. Rand said, “Many of the things that go on at the Ag Hall do not currently get an event permit; and have never had an event permit.”

Selectman chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said that the event permit interpretations would pertain to zoning regulations only and not to deed restricted activities.

The Vineyard Conservation Society and the town jointly hold an agricultural preservation restriction over the property that limits use of the property to the “full-range” of nonprofit and educational activities the Ag Society “has historically pursued,” as well as limited commercial activities that “relate directly to the nonprofit and educational function of MVAS.

The selectmen agreed to consider the permit suggestion when they discuss the definition of events requiring an event permit at a future meeting.

Fenced in

West Tisbury selectmen learned that $75,000 is not enough to replace the fence around the town cemetery. —Photo by Michael Cummo
West Tisbury selectmen learned that $75,000 is not enough to replace the fence around the town cemetery. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Also last week, selectmen discussed the town cemetery fence. The one bid received in June in response to a request for proposal (RFP) to rebuild the cemetery fence exceeded the $75,000 approved at April town meeting for the entire fence. The bid price ranged from $83,520 to $92,470 depending on options offered by the bidder, Landmark Fence of Eastham.

Mr. Manter suggested that the community preservation commission be asked to rewrite the RFP to allow for work to a portion of the fence for the $75,000. Mr. Knabel and selectman Cynthia Mitchell agreed with the suggestion but noted that the change will require a vote at town meeting.

Selectmen voted to go into executive session to discuss the possible acquisition of a triangular piece of land at the intersection of Indian Hill and State Road. Mr. Manter would not say what the selectmen had discussed as uses of the land.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that selectmen learned of the fence bid on December 10. Selectmen have been aware of the bid amount since June.

And the melodies that preserve the bonds among generations.

Sam Jasny with his son Max in his arms, as they made the voyage to the United States. – Photo courtesy of Max Jasny

When Shmuel “Mula” Jasny was 14, he lied about his age in order to be permitted to work outside the ghetto in his hometown of Sosnowiec, Poland. He got a job as an icer in a bakery. One day on his way home, soldiers stopped the trolley he was riding, and took him along with all the other Jews off to Nazi labor camps. Many months later, Shmuel was sent on an errand to get nails, and vodka for the officers. He took the opportunity to sneak off and visit his family. It was the last time he ever saw his parents, David and Freymeta, his younger brother Menachem Mendel, and older sister Regina. They all eventually died in Auschwitz. Sam, as he was later called in America, survived. He survived years in labor camps. He survived the notorious forced death marches. He survived Dachau concentration camp, and the typhus he contracted there. He was “a survivor.”

Today I look around his apartment in Florida. It is small but very clean and bright. An elegant crystal chandelier hangs above the dining table but the big mirror on the wall behind is draped over with a sheet. We are observing the Jewish mourning practice called sitting shiva. Almost everyone in the room is a survivor, or the child or grandchild of a survivor, and everyone is telling stories. Mostly in English but if you sit quietly for a while you will hear Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, maybe even a little Russian.

The remaining survivors are in their eighties and nineties now, their group gradually dwindling away, but the ” young” people, those in their fifties and sixties, have taken on sharing their parents’ histories, helping each other fill in the gaps. I became part of this group 25 years ago when I married Sam’s eldest son, Max, who likes to say he was born in a resort town on the edge of the Black Forest in Germany. In reality, it was a Displaced Persons Camp where his father went after liberation to recover, then stayed to work for UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. It was there he found Leokadia, the cousin of his best friend from childhood.

I find  a pre-war picture of her in a photo album. “This is grandma Lola,” I show my children. She is with her friend Stasia. Not long after the picture was taken, she, Stasia, and Stasia’s sister would jump off a train bound for Auschwitz and run for the woods. Stasia and Leokadia would make it to the safety of the trees but Stasia’s sister would be shot down as they ran. I look at the elderly women sitting around me, their stiffly coiffed hairdos, costume jewelry, and heavy make-up. As they reminisce fondly about Sam, or chatter about mundane things, it is hard to imagine what they endured in their youth.

At Sam’s funeral, as each family member and friend spoke, the same theme prevailed. What a loving man he was. How family meant everything to him. How he never said an unkind word about anyone. Remarkable. Later, at the apartment, there would be more stories, of his accomplishments, but also of his human foibles. There would be more laughter. But there, at the cemetery, as the rabbi chanted the ancient melodies and the Hebrew prayers drifted over the simple pine casket, it felt as if we were saying goodbye to all of Eastern European Jewry,  to a world and a culture that had once been vibrant and thriving, but had been obliterated in what this group still refers to simply as “The War.”

The truth, however, is that Eastern European Jewish culture has been undergoing a revival. The effort to keep memories alive has moved from remembering the tragedy and loss of the Holocaust to also preserving and reviving Yiddish literature, language, and music. For me, it has always been about the music, those aching minor melodies, the way a klezmer violin can laugh and weep at the same time.

Klezmer. The word comes from the  Hebrew “kley,” meaning vessel or tool, and “zemer,” meaning song. Klezmer in Yiddish originally referred to a musician but eventually came to mean an entire genre of celebratory music. Rooted in the traditional melodies of the synagogue, as Jews moved around Europe, klezmer also took on some of the styles of surrounding cultures, including influences from Ukrainian, Bessarabian, Romanian, German, and Russian folk music, and later from American jazz.

By the time this is published, we will have returned home to continue the week-long ritual of sitting shiva. I will cover the mirrors in our house. Each night friends and family will come say the mourner’s Kaddish with us. But we will also have begun the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah starting at sundown Tuesday. The story has been told for thousands of years, how Judea was occupied by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greek) forces of the tyrant Antiochus in 168 B.C.E.. How a small group of Jews, the Maccabees, fled to the hills and fought, rather than submit to forced conversion or assimilation. How the Maccabees eventually won their battle for religious freedom. The word Hanukkah means “dedication” and refers to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after reclaiming it from the Seleucids.

Sam was a survivor. The Maccabees were survivors. The Jewish people have had lots of practice restoring our culture after one tyrant or another has tried to destroy it. On Friday evening December 19, the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center will hold a community Hanukkah celebration from 5:30 to 7:30. All are invited to join as we light menorahs, eat latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), play dreidl, and dance to music provided by two members of the internationally renown Klezmer Conservatory Band, an ensemble founded in the 1980s by Hankus Netsky, that has been at the forefront of the Yiddish music revival. I can hear Sam, who never lost his heavy accent despite 60 years in America, nodding and smiling and saying “very good, veerrrry good.”

Michelle Jasny is the Visiting Vet columnist.

Amy Williams’s chili gets its kick from bourbon.

Photo courtesy of Amy Williams

Even in the slow season, many of us have frantic days where eating is almost an afterthought. If we have more than ourselves to feed, it can become a source of stress in itself. So, how do we provide healthy meals for ourselves and our families in limited time without sacrificing health benefits, eye appeal, and flavor? In this ongoing series, Islanders share their quick, go-to recipes.

Amy Simcik Williams cooks big. She is the involved mother of Rosalyn, a third-grader, and a helpmate in her husband Seth’s plumbing business in addition to her commitments to Island community service, so she hasn’t a lot of time to cadge together an evening meal. So, she cooks ahead.

“The reason we would need a fast supper,” Amy explains, “is because our lives kind of revolve around the school schedule and my husband is busy in his line of work and we’re usually coming together around dinner time. Making that part of the day less stressful and easier to get together is a priority for us. Having a meal that’s ready to go and easy to serve is especially beneficial.”

Amy devised her turkey chili recipe on her own. “I was with some friends and we were talking about what to have for dinner one night,” she recalls. “A young friend of mine — a teenager — said ‘How about chili?’” Tired of the usual fare, Amy decided to make it with turkey instead of the usual beef. “I wanted to add more vegetables, but I also wanted to make it meaty. Seth likes heartier foods.”

At Cronig’s, she found Plainville Ground Turkey and continued around the store to pick up ingredients that would seem to enhance the dish. “I bought three kinds of beans,” she says.

And the bourbon? “I thought, turkey can be kind of bland, so I was trying to think of some sort of liquid that would give it some extra flavor in addition to the kick of the chili spices.”

Besides the convenience of keeping it stashed in the refrigerator, Amy likes the versatility of the dish. “Chili recipes are pretty straightforward,” she says, “and you can adapt them to your taste any way you want. You can use more beans and less meat, substitute sweet potato instead of butternut squash. If you want to add onions, add onions.”

For health reasons, Amy cooks gluten and dairy free. Instead of corn bread, she serves the chili with Late July Multi-Grain Corn Tortilla Chips. “What I like about this recipe,” she says, “is that I can make a lot of it and we can eat off of it for almost a week. We have it available for lunch and/or dinner. That way I will have a back-up for a night that I don’t have time to cook a meal.

“It sits in the fridge and it seems like the longer it sits, the better it tastes.”

img_0117Bourbon Turkey Chili

Serves 8 to 10

5 4-oz. pkgs. of Plainville Natural ground turkey

1/8 cup grapeseed oil

1 1/2 Tbs. paprika

2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. black pepper

7 or 8 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp. sea salt

3 shot glasses of Knob Creek Bourbon

Add oil and ground turkey to Le Creuset or other large French/Dutch oven, cook at low to medium heat, adding spices, garlic, salt, and bourbon. Stir together and cook, mixing and chopping turkey mixture occasionally.

1 jar Amy’s (brand-name) family organic pasta sauce, or choose your favorite pasta sauce, and add some water from rinsing jar (1/2 cup).

2 26-oz. POMI (boxes) chopped tomatoes

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can of red beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

2 1/2 cups of butternut squash, cubed small

1 bunch of cilantro washed and finely chopped, without stems.

When the turkey is thoroughly cooked after mixing and chopping up large pieces with a wooden spoon, stir in tomato sauce, water, and the chopped tomatoes. Then add the beans (drained and rinsed well) and butternut squash. Stir ingredients. Cook together for 30 minutes over low to medium heat, cover pot. Check and stir occasionally.

After 30 minutes or so, add the cilantro. Mix together and let cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, until butternut squash is softened and all flavors marry. Add extra salt or pepper as desired. The chili tastes even better after a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Reheat slowly, adding a little water to soften cold chili. You can freeze the chili once it has thoroughly cooked and cooled, storing it in plastic freezer bags.