Home & Garden

The writer had grown accustomed to seeing her neighbor's porch light on.

I run through the tall grass to Cary’s house next door to get a number from the auctioneer. The path has not been used in a while. By the time I get to her kitchen door, dew soaks the cuffs of my jeans.  The lilac against the house has hardly any flowers. No one has tended it since Cary died three years ago at ninety-five. In two weeks her house will be sold.

Bare feet from the same two families have worn down the grass path connecting her house and mine for seventy-five years. Four generations have shared days that began with a morning swim and ended with a communal dinner under star-filled skies.

The connection began during the Depression. In 1937 my in-laws, Whit and Mary Griswold, bought the house we now live in. They were looking for a quiet summer retreat and found it here overlooking James Pond in West Tisbury. Cary and her husband, Bob Luckey, purchased the land next door a year later. There was no house on it, so they bought an old Cape from the Hough family up in Indian Hill, and had it flaked and moved by truck to Lambert’s Cove.

Eventually these two summer houses became year-round homes, and the path was used during the off-season too. Cary moved back to her house full time after the death of her second husband and lived alone with her dog, Tiga Pie. We moved into the family home for a year’s experiment of living on the Island full-time and never left.

Cary and I would meet often for a sandwich or an evening drink. We’d toast the winter quiet and look forward to the raucous summers when her son and his family arrived from New Haven. Before going to bed each night I’d look out our bathroom window to make sure Cary’s front door light was lit.

By 8:45 a.m., the field next door is full of cars. A line of people waits on Cary’s back porch. Many seem to be estate sale regulars. They’ve arrived with shopping bags and warm cups of coffee, and they greet one another casually. The familiar screech of the aluminum storm door announces the sale has begun and the first twenty of us are ushered in through the living room door. It feels odd walking into Cary’s living room with a group of strangers. The sight of her faded pink couch is comforting, but it has been moved to a new position and there is a price tag on it.

It is important to me to be here, but I have no idea what I am looking for. Maybe it is just to stand in these rooms one last time. Knickknacks crowd tables and most things look worn. People come in quickly and choose things in a hurry. I pick up an Indian basket, an old kerosene lamp, and a faded hooked rug mainly because I don’t know what to do with my hands.

I go into each room. The quilt on the upstairs bed is one of ours. Carried over one night for a sleepover, it remained. In the guesthouse is a pile of DVDs, and several belong to my daughter. There is more than one book with my name on the inside cover — summer trades. Overwhelmed by memories, I step into the yard and there are our old Labs lying under the lilac as they often used to do.

I carry the basket, lamp and rug along the path to home feeling empty-handed. I show them to my husband and he decides to have one last look, too. Twenty minutes later, he walks back across our yard carrying the chair Cary sat in at her kitchen table and seven cheap champagne glasses. When I put them in the dishwasher that evening I remember that I’d bought the glasses years ago as a birthday present for Cary’s daughter-in-law Ettie, a dear friend. There were eight then. Finally I’m laughing. Do I really imagine an object can contain those precious years of living side by side? They have vanished like the eighth glass. I can’t wait to call Ettie and tell her the story.

A few weeks later an orange-yellow half moon is setting over James Pond as I walk in to Cary’s yard. The grass is uncut and the peonies have not been picked. I peek in the window and see the house is utterly empty. No one is here but the three deer I startle, grazing by the pond shore, and a skunk rooting right where the new owners plan to put in a pool. No one will know if I sit here on the deck and watch the moon, but this house belongs to someone new now, and I’m trespassing. I turn on the unclipped path and head back home. Before going to bed, I catch myself looking out the bathroom window for the front door light next door. For now, it remains off.

Home Bird, Four Seasons on Martha’s Vineyard, with essays by Laura Wainwright and illustrations by J. Ann Eldridge, was published by Vineyard Stories in 2012. It is available at Bunch of Grapes, Cronig’s, Alleys, and other Vineyard locations.

Potato and kale latkes.

Catherine Walthers is a private chef and cookbook author. Her new book, with Alison Shaw, “Kale, Glorious Kale,” will be published by Countryman Press in September.

Just days ago, it was hard to believe that anything green would ever come from the earth. But spring, reliably, has arrived; the smell of dirt, and green and growing is in the air. Soon enough, Island gardens will yield spring crops — baby salad greens and arugula and chard and kale and asparagus. Lucky for us, Island farmers and cooks shared their favorite spring bounty recipes.

North Tabor Farm

North Tabor Farm has greens and more.

North Tabor Farm has greens and more. — Photo by Susan Safford

At North Tabor Farm in Chilmark, planting is in full force in the greenhouse preparing for this spring. New from the farm this year will be bags of three different kinds of baby kales – great for kale salads – as well as bags of both up-Island cress and tatsoi. Farmer Rebecca Miller says tatsoi is a great alternative to spinach and they hope to educate customers to its uses. The farm’s stand on North Road – always open – also features the mixed baby salad greens and arugula North Tabor is known for, as well as the shiitake mushrooms available when temperatures climb over 50 degrees. Here’s one of their favorite recipes:

Poached Eggs over Wilted Greens and Shiitakes

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons butter

1 1/2 cups North Tabor shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced

2 eggs

2 cups arugula or cress

1.    Heat the oil and butter together over medium heat in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes, until cooked. Season with salt.

2.    Meanwhile, bring a saucepan or skillet with 1 ½ to 2 inches of water to a bare simmer . Crack the eggs one at a time into a small dish or ramekin and gently slide the egg into the water. Poach for 2 to 4 minutes. (?? any help here in poaching directions)

3.    Place the greens in a strainer and pour about a cup of the boiling water over the greens to quickly wilt. Drain well.

4.    To serve, place the greens on a plate, top the egg and a portion of the mushrooms. Season with salt.

Cook’s Note: If you haven’t poached eggs before check the web for general suggestions.

Green Island Farm

Susie Middleton makes quesadillas from Swiss Chard.

Susie Middleton makes quesadillas from Swiss Chard. — courtesy Susie Middleton

Turn at the greenish-blue egg on State Road across from the West Tisbury Ag Hall for Green Island Farm, open year-round 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eggs are reliably available from their 450 chickens. Starting mid-April into May, look for tender young chard, kale, spinach, and their specialty baby lettuces. Some of the 16 to 20 lettuce varieties include Speckled Amish and Flashy Green Buttercrunch – bagged and ready to enjoy. Owners Roy Riley and Susie Middleton are doubling the size of their vegetable garden this year, and increasing the flock to between 600 and 700. Susie shares her vegetable expertise in her latest book, Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories, helping us in the kitchen with the produce we purchase here and elsewhere. Read her regular posts and recipes at Sixburnersue.com and try a Swiss chard and cheese quesadilla below:

Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese

Makes 4 quesadillas, or 12 slices total

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions (12 ounces), thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

Kosher salt

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

4 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves (from 8 ounces of chard, stemmed)

Four 6-inch (fajita-sized) flour tortillas

2 cups (6 to 7 ounces) coarsely grated Pepper Jack cheese (or Cheddar)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat the oven to 200°F if you want to hold each quesadilla as you make it. In a small bowl, combine the sherry vinegar and honey.

In a medium (10-inch), heavy nonstick skillet, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are very limp and a light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Turn down the heat as needed if onions are browning too fast.) Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the Swiss chard and a pinch of salt to the pan and toss with tongs until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle over the vinegar-honey mixture, tossing well. Transfer the chard-onion mixture to a plate to cool a bit and wipe out the pan.

Return the pan to medium heat and add 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add one tortilla to the pan. Sprinkle a small amount (one-eighth) of the cheese over one-half of the tortilla. Cover that with a quarter of the chard-onion mixture and a sprinkling of cilantro (if using). Top with a bit more (another eighth) of the cheese. Fold the empty half of the tortilla over onto the full side and press down lightly with the back of a spatula. When the bottom of the tortilla has lightly browned, 45 seconds to 1 minute, turn the quesadilla over and cook until the other side is browned (and the cheese is melty), another 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the quesadilla to a wooden cutting board and let cool for a minute or two before cutting into wedges. (Alternatively, you can hold the quesadillas in the warm oven.) Let the pan cool for a couple minutes. Return to the heat and repeat with remaining filling and ingredients.

Recipe from Fresh from the Farm, by Susie Middleton, available now.

Morning Glory Farm

Asparagus is good roasted, and on the grill.

Asparagus is good roasted, and on the grill. — Photo by Alison Shaw

Fresh asparagus picked daily is a specialty that awaits us at the opening of Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown on May 1. The Island’s largest farm stand also plans to have salad greens, spinach, bok choy and tatsoi – grown in high tunnels. Expect new batches of pork and beef, plus eggs, new and better breads, and even an early crop of tomatoes by May’s end. Look for a new cookbook this summer, titled Morning Glory’s Farm Food: Stories from the Fields, Recipes from the Kitchen. Each chapter is devoted to a specific crop. Here’s a sample of farm chef Robert Lionette’s roasted asparagus.

Roasted Asparagus

Thick-stalk asparagus will work well with this technique, yet might require a bit more roasting time than the ‘pencil’ thin spears. Peeling the ends of the asparagus is not a necessary step for roasting.

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off, washed and dried

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt


4 ounces tender pea shoots

1 leek, white part only, cut lengthwise, then across 1/4-inch thick

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse or country mustard

3 to 4 turns fresh black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.Line a roasting pan with parchment         paper (optional). Lay the asparagus across the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the         spears begin to caramelize (brown).Remove from oven and pour off         excess oil and liquid into a sauté pan. Place over medium-high heat         and add the leeks. Sauté for 5-6 minutes or until the leek soften,         but do not turn color. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Increase         heat to high and add the shoots. Toss thoroughly and remove from         heat. Add the chives and pepper.Place the asparagus on a serving         platter and spoon the pea shoot mixture on top.

Recipe from Morning Glory Farm, Chef Robert Lionette

Ghost Island Farm

Expect lots of kale – 13 different varieties – plus salad mixes, arugula, spinach, pea shoots, scallions and other spring offerings at Ghost Island Farm on State Road (also the site of Nip ‘n Tuck Farm). Farmer Rusty Gordon is busy putting up greenhouse number seven to increase overall production for the farm stand and the farm’s CSA co-op where members pick up produce and other items at a discount whenever they want. Opening is set for Memorial Day weekend, possibly a bit sooner. His goal this year is to double the CSA co-op from 100 to 200 members. Learn more at ghostislandfarm.com

Potato Kale Latkes

Makes about 18

2 pounds Idaho potatoes

3 cups kale, stalks removed, finely chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil


1/2 cup finely minced onion (about 1/2 onion)

1/4 cup flour

2 large eggs

Olive oil, peanut oil or butter for cooking

Dill Sour Cream

1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (optional)

Salt and fresh pepper

1.    Place the chopped kale in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 pinches of salt. Massage kale for 2 to 3 minutes. If it seems moist, use a few paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

2.    Peel the potatoes. Either grate the potatoes with a box grater, or quarter lengthwise and use the shredder attachment on the food processor. You should have about 6 cups. Place grated potatoes in a bowl of water for 10 minutes or so.  Line a bowl with a clean kitchen towel or two layers of paper towels. Lift the potatoes out a handful at a time, squeezing out the water with your hands over the soaking bowl as you go, and place into the clean towel or paper towels. Save the bowl with the soaking water and potato starch, and let potato starch settle to the bottom (this might take a few minutes).  Squeeze the towel to soak up excess moisture from potatoes getting them as dry as possible. Add potatoes to the kale, along with the minced onion.

3.    Pour off the water in the soaking bowl, leaving white potato starch at the bottom of the bowl (there will be up to 3 or 4 tablespoons). Add the eggs and flour to the starch, and mix with a fork. Add this mix to the latkes. Season with salt.

4.    Heat one or two large skillets (non-stick work nicely) over medium high and coat the bottom with about a tablespoon of olive oil or a mix of olive oil and a little butter. Pack a 1/4 measuring cup with the potato-kale mix. Unmold into the skillet, without crowding, and gently flatten each with a spatula. Pan fry until latke is golden, then gently flip and cook the other side, about 10-14 minutes in total. Repeat with the remaining latkes. (Sometimes I make a test latke to help find the right level of salt). Place latkes on a baking sheet lined with paper towels in a 200-degree oven to keep warm, until ready to serve. Serve with sour cream mixed with the chopped dill and horseradish.

Recipe from Kale, Glorious Kale, by Catherine Walthers, coming out fall 2014.

The Greenhouse

“Learn, grow and connect” is the idea behind the Greenhouse in Oak Bluffs (behind Dick’s Bait & Tackle) featuring local, organic vegetables available for U-pick all winter and spring. Warm, inviting and filled with rainbow chard, multiple varieties of kale and collards, baby lettuces, mache, even radishes and cherry tomatoes, the 2,000-square-foot greenhouse and non-profit (formerly known as COMSOG) is a community gem where members and non-members can visit any day and fill up bags of fresh produce for dinner. Learn from master gardeners and work alongside fellow gardeners on volunteer days culminating in a free lunch of soup and greenhouse salads.  The Greenhouse also sponsors gardening workshops and festivals, including their Earth Day fest [spring fest? ] on April 12 and  heirloom tomato seedling sale on May 10, the week before Mothers’ Day. Learn more at comsog.blogspot.com.

Green Goddess Salad and Dressing

Serves 4

Green Goddess Dressing:

1/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as a basil, dill and/or parsley

Salt and pepper


6 cups baby salad greens, watercress or arugula, rinsed and spun dry

Spring radishes, thinly sliced

Spring red onions, thinly sliced

3 to 4 eggs, hard-boiled (optional), quartered

1.    Place all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the dressing is creamy and herbs are incorporated.

2.    Place the salad in a wide bowl. Mix lightly with desired amount of the dressing (you’ll have some leftover). Top with radishes, red onion and eggs.



Big Ideas in a Small Space

David Stanwood has moved from his piano studio into the house.

A Lambert’s Cove couple has spent 40 years collaborating on their work at home — doing everything from perfecting piano mechanisms to creating bracelets you can throw in the compost heap (not that you’d want to).

“Eleanor and I have spent our lives trying to get to the essence of things,” says David Stanwood, an inventor in the field of piano technology. His wife of 40 years, Eleanor Stanwood, is an artist who works with wool.

The Stanwoods made a small house a little less small, and made room for their creative pursuits.

The Stanwoods made a small house a little less small, and made room for their creative pursuits. — Laura D. Roosevelt

“It’s fun to feel we’ve unlocked a Rubik’s cube,” he says, “that we’ve accomplished something with our work.” He notes that there is a significant connection between the mediums in which they work – pianos and wool. “Pianos evolved with the use of wool felt as a material in their construction and functioning. Felt has the highest regain of any fiber – when you crush it, it springs back to about 90% of its original loft. Other fibers don’t do that. But wool always remembers how it was when it was on the back of the sheep.”

The Stanwoods are problem solvers. While working in sheep farming in California in the late 1970s, Eleanor was dismayed by the wasting of wool on farms raising sheep for meat only. Recognizing that wool was a renewable resource, she found a way to process the “waste wool” into a durable, springy batting that could be used to stuff comforters and other products.

One of the first problems David recalls solving was when, as a little boy, he was disappointed to learn that a piano teacher had said she was unable to take him on as a student. “I had my mother call the teacher and hold out the phone while I played a song for her. When I finished, she said, ‘OK, I’ll work with you.’”

“If someone says something can’t be done,” says David, “then they’re probably missing something, and that’s where I want to go. It’s worked for me my whole life.”

Eleanor Stanwood used to make wool batting-stuffed quilts in her separate studio building. She makes smaller items now — bracelets and earrings — out of wool felt, and does it all in the Lambert's Cove house.

Eleanor Stanwood used to make wool batting-stuffed quilts in her separate studio building. She makes smaller items now — bracelets and earrings — out of wool felt, and does it all in the Lambert’s Cove house. — Laura D. Roosevelt

When the couple moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1981, people told David, who was then tuning pianos for a living, that he’d never find enough work here. This proved to be untrue, and Eleanor, too, soon found herself more than adequately busy after receiving an order from the Harborview Hotel for over 100 wool batting-stuffed quilts. Collaboration is a constant with the Stanwoods, and several of the quilts bore a stenciled compass rose pattern that David had designed.

At that time, David and Eleanor were both working in a two-story studio they built behind their West Tisbury house. The first floor was David’s piano workshop, and the second floor Eleanor’s wool-working space. David describes the building with obvious fondness, noting that it was built entirely traditionally (no plywood or other shortcuts), that its footprint is the Golden Mean, and that its 13’ roof pitch is one he’s never seen elsewhere. “Usually it’s 12’,” he says, “but 13 is our lucky number; we were married on Friday the 13th.” He adds that both the workshop and the main house are situated so that on the summer solstice, they face the setting sun, and on the winter solstice the rising sun. “It’s very special, this place,” he says.

In 1992, David did a trade that changed his life. Pat Gregory of Educomp, who had a piano that needed tuning, convinced David that he needed a computer. David began using the computer for recording and graphing measurements of the components of piano actions.

One long, open room incorporates the kitchen, dining area, sitting room and space for David's piano.

One long, open room incorporates the kitchen, dining area, sitting room and space for David’s piano. — Laura D. Roosevelt

In 1994, after a couple of years of studying the graphs and noticing patterns, David developed a mathematical equation that ties together all the weight and leverage characteristics of a piano’s mechanics, enabling a level of fine-tuning of the instruments that had never before been possible. “That equation broke everything wide open,” he says. “It’s not rocket science, it’s see-saw science; it’s algebra. By applying a simple methodology to pianos, which everyone thinks are complicated, I’ve taken something that’s very complex and turned it into something that’s simple.” Patented as “Precision Touch Design,” David’s methodology has spread around the world, as has his 2009 invention, Stanwood Adjustable Leverage Action, which allows a pianist to turn a knob to shift the pivot point of all the keys simultaneously, without interfering with the piano’s normal functioning. (“It changes the relationship between the pianist and the sound,” David explains, “and the sound changes.”)

Over the years, both Stanwoods’ work has evolved and changed. Eleanor went from making batting-stuffed quilts to making felt, then on to creating dyed and appliqued felt jackets, shawls, and scarves. Now, she’s fashioning jewelry from wool, dying and molding compressed wool circles into shaped bracelets and earrings. But the ethics behind her output are unchanged: “It’s totally sustainable,” she says of her jewelry. “You can throw it on your compost pile.”

David has gone from tuning pianos to tuning piano actions via his patented technique. He does most of his work by email: people he’s trained in his technique send him measurements, which he analyzes and reprocesses to specifications, and returns the customized results. He also travels, both to teach and to work on very high-end pianos. But when he’s home, he’s no longer in his workshop; he’s in the house, on the computer, generally in his library, where it’s quiet.

As Eleanor’s creations have gotten smaller in size, the need for her large, open workshop space has also declined, and now she, too, works in the house. “I have good light here,” she says, “I have a washing machine” (for turning batting into felt). “We could have put water and everything into the workshop, but I really like being at home.”

The house they originally moved into was very small – a two story (one room per floor) structure dating to 1840. It was moved to Lambert’s Cove Road in 1944 from the up-Island end of West Tisbury-Edgartown road, where for some time it had served as the doctor’s office of Nancy Luce’s uncle. The people from whom the Stanwoods bought their property in 1981 had built on a small addition, but still, the place was more than cozy. The Stanwoods eventually added to the structure themselves, creating a two-story addition, the downstairs of which is where most everything in the house takes place. A single, long, open room incorporates the kitchen, a dining area, a sitting room, and space for David’s piano.

“The space is absolutely perfect,” says Eleanor, “for sitting and eating, reading, working, listening, cooking.”

When David plays the piano for Eleanor, she lies on the sofa and he unplugs the refrigerator and turns off the furnace. “I’m inclined toward quiet,” he says, “because it helps creativity, not only in my piano playing, but also with inventing. One of the dangers of modern life is that there’s too much distraction. But winter here on the Vineyard is a space itself, a quiet space, a distraction-free space, which is important to both me and Eleanor. We revel in the quiet of the Vineyard in winter. It’s a special season, a precious time.”

Eleanor gazes out the windows that line the back side of the addition she and David built, overlooking a meadow where sheep used to graze. Now, a new season is arriving, and chickens scuttle about, enjoying the warmth of an early spring day.

Experts weigh in on prep, color, and tools.

With 40 years of experience, Bob Kimberly has a lot of painting facts at his fingertips.

The Vineyard never experienced “out like a lamb” when March came to a close. But now, with April moving along, the weather truly has grown milder, crocuses are a common sight as are the tips of hyacinths and daffodils, and the daylight just keeps stretching. It’s at this time of year Islanders find themselves moved to spring paint (often after a good round of spring cleaning).

Sometimes the weather does the scraping for you.

Sometimes the weather does the scraping for you. — Jamie Stringfello

Whether inside their homes or outside them, thoughts about color begin to percolate, even if that color is only white. And the decision is weighed as to whether it will be the homeowner’s hand that scrapes and sands and brushes or that of a hired professional.

Bob Kimberly is one of the premier painters on Martha’s Vineyard. After more than 40 years of working on the Island there’s little he hasn’t encountered in his craft. One aspect of painting he increasingly finds to be a rarity, however, is a homeowner willing to attack a house’s exterior.

“I don’t see a lot of people painting their own houses these days. Certainly not the outside. I guess it’s just too daunting. Sometimes I’ll get a call from someone who says ‘We can do everything else if you can do the high stuff.’ Usually I end up doing it all.”

Bob Kimberly.

Bob Kimberly. — courtesy Bob Kimberly

Mr. Kimberly adds that the Island’s inherent marine humidity plays a large role in what can make it too daunting. Should a homeowner be ready to tackle the effects such humidity can have on exterior painted surfaces, he offers some advice that can be both a precursor to a full exterior paint job or just an inexpensive way to bring new life to old paint work.

“Often people see that the trim on their house isn’t looking good but they’re not sure what they’re seeing,” Mr. Kimberly said. “In most cases what they’re seeing is mildew. The first step in painting a house is to wash it off. Once it’s gone the house can look 90 percent better. We live in a mildew intensive environment — lots of fog and humidity. The only thing I’ve found to remove it efficiently is bleach mixed with water. There are products out there that are ‘natural’ and user friendly, but they just don’t really do it. I’ve tried them. The bleach and water is 10 times faster. It works like magic. Start by just adding a little to the water and add more if it’s not doing the job. It’s a good idea to soak any shingles below the places you’re bleaching because any dripping bleach can discolor them. I apply the mixture with an old brush, working the heavier areas with the bristles. It goes pretty fast, though I know most people would rather use a sprayer or a power washer. Hiring someone to power wash your house can be fairly expensive. Give the bleached areas a rinse when you’re done.”

As to choosing color for a project, Mr. Kimberly emphasizes this can be a complicated matter. “When it comes to color decisions, oh boy,” he continued. “There are painters who refuse to get involved in that aspect at all. It certainly can be a can of worms, so to speak. It’s a funny psychology based on personal associations. We all see color differently. I’ve spent endless hours mixing, matching, and changing colors for people, repainting whole rooms, sometimes three times. The thing is, any color can be nice. It really depends on the whole color scheme of the room. It is very satisfying when it clicks.”

For Amy Upton, an expert in interior decorative painting and color consultation with 20 years of experience, colors are her stock in trade.

Exterior colors hold better with oil primers.

Exterior colors hold better with oil primers. — Jamie Stringfellow

“Oftentimes I am brought onto a project simply to consult on color,” Ms. Upton said. “People can save themselves a lot of time and money talking to a professional about their palette. It isn’t easy to visualize the whole space from a tiny paint chip or to imagine how the entire space will come together with all of the relating colors at play. Sometimes I am called in only to find that the room has come down with a case of the spots, 20 little splashes of color on a big white wall. It can make a person crazy and I am happy to help avoid this scenario. Often a client knows what colors they like: it is evident in the clothes they wear or the dishes they choose. Sometimes a favorite rug or piece of furniture can be the beginning of the process. I can be of assistance in helping them to realize their preferred palette and translate it into painted surfaces.”

On the subject of paint composition, Mr. Kimberly acknowledges latex’s predominance.

“It’s pretty much a latex world now as many of the ingredients of the oil paints have been removed for environmental reasons. The paint stores are dropping most of the oil paints.”

John Montes, owner of Edgartown Hardware Inc., now in its 68th year, concurred from the counter of his new Vineyard Haven outlet.

John Montes at Edgartown Hardware.

John Montes at Edgartown Hardware. — Kelsey Perrett

“Oil paint is still around, but in limited quantities. Oil primers are exempt from the rules because they are needed for proper color hold out, especially on exterior paint. Oil paint is available in quarts only except for certain industrial applications.”

Ms. Upton added that the decline of oil-based paints is due to government initiative.

“The government is phasing out High VOC products, which are most of the oil-based ones, for good reason. They are terrible for the environment, and the people who handle them, or are exposed to them in their homes. I prefer Benjamin Moore Paint. I know that they are putting their best and brightest into coming up with products that comply with the new laws. I have had great success with their product ‘Advance’ (waterborne alkyd paint) in a variety of applications.”

Mr. Kimberly furthered the dangers of reformulating old-style paints. “After the formulas were changed to comply with the new codes, the products [oil paints and stains] didn’t work as well. Cuprinol, the oil-based product used to treat decks, was drastically altered to a silicone-based liquid which was terrible, and now it’s been discontinued. Probably the best paint for the house was the old lead paint. It was literally a coat of armor. Of course it was terrible for people and everything else. The latex paints on the other hand have been steadily improving. They dry quickly and there’s no need for toxic solvents. With oil paint you’d need several hours of good drying time before the fog rolled in or the dew set, otherwise the paint would ‘flash’ — lose its sheen. I do, however, still use oil-based primers on occasion. The one problem with latex primers is that they won’t block stains. Pine boards have knots that will bleed through paint unless they are sealed. The only product I’ve ever found to block this is the shellac-based paint called B.I.N. by Zinser.”

Regardless of whether they’re dispensing advice to do-it-yourselfers or commenting on their own choice of implements, Ms. Upton, Mr. Kimberly, and Mr. Montes consider a superlative brush a decisive factor in one’s success with a painting project.

“The most important thing when doing any painting but especially windows,” advised Mr. Kimberly, “is to invest in a good brush. The temptation is to buy a cheap brush, but a good brush — and it might be $15 compared to $5 — is a pleasure to use. The economy brushes can be frustrating. The bristles are coarse and when dipped in the can they pick up a blob of paint which is really difficult to control whereas the bristles of a good brush are finer toward the end, actually ‘flagged’ or split, making it easier to control the amount of paint on the brush. The tip will be nicely tapered and straight, which will greatly improve your accuracy.”

“As with anything, choice of tools is critical,” said Ms. Upton. “I use a variety of brushes depending on the project at hand. Choosing my tools carefully is part of the process.”

“It makes a big, big difference on the finished look, and especially trim,” said Mr. Montes. “A good brush allows the paint to flow properly, but that needs to be combined with the proper technique.”

Alyssa and Nayelli Vieira planted their own cranberry bean seeds, and learned how the beans were used in early times.

Bright sunshine and warm temperatures set a summertime mood as the Greenhouse of Martha’s Vineyard in Oak Bluffs got a head start on the season Saturday. The “Early Earth Day Celebration” offered an opportunity for serious gardeners and green-thumbed dabblers alike to enjoy a planting preview.

Joyce Brigish tended to seedlings.

Joyce Brigish tended to seedlings. — Photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Formerly the Community Solar Greenhouse of Martha’s Vineyard, familiarly known as “COMSOG,” the greenhouse was bursting with enthusiastically growing things. Along with tiny seedlings there were full-grown greens that thrived in the indoor warmth all winter.

Beginning with its annual Mother’s Day Sale on May 11 and throughout that month, the greenhouse will offer these lovingly grown organic seedlings to home gardeners. The selection rivals that of a commercial nursery, and it includes lettuces and other greens, squash, cucumbers, and more. Heirloom tomatoes are a specialty along with conventional specimens.

“We have the most heirloom tomato varieties of any place on the Island by far,” Said Thalia Scanlan, Master Gardener and longtime board president.

Sungold tomatoes.

Sungold tomatoes. — Photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Ms. Scanlan pointed proudly to the extensive list of peppers both hot and sweet, and a large variety of eggplants from the traditional Black Beauty to Asian, Italian, and other types. Flower seedlings and herbs will be for sale, and lush blooms in hanging baskets.

Outdoors, fascinated children clustered around a table as Diane Sylvia guided them in planting their own little pots of cranberry bean seeds. Along with the delight of real gardening, the children learned how the beans were used in early times.

Youngsters took their potted seeds home, excited to tend them and watch the beans sprout. Ms. Sylvia handed out fact sheets and even a traditional recipe for bread pudding baked in a pumpkin shell.

A retired math teacher, Ms. Sylvia is greenhouse manager. She was named to the post after having been an active member and volunteer for some time, even maintaining a blog and Facebook page for the facility.

At another table, Laurisa Rich shared information about rain barrels, a boon for environmentally minded gardeners. Ms. Rich, who organizes rain barrel sales for the Lagoon Pond Association, said these big green vats gather valuable, nutrient-rich water and can be equipped with a hose.

Herbs and pink and red geraniums soaked up the sunshine, and blooming daffodils welcomed visitors at the greenhouse door.

Gail Tipton stocked up on Swiss Chard.

Gail Tipton stocked up on Swiss Chard. — Photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Drawn by the promise of spring, people came to browse, buy, ask questions, or help with chores. Those who wanted the pleasure of getting their hands dirty could transplant seedlings or plant seeds for blue or golden Hubbard squash. The squash plants, Ms. Sylvia said, serve as “decoys” to lure pests away from other vines. Another volunteer happily grabbed a rake and got busy tidying the grounds, while a little girl wielded a big watering can.

Behind the greenhouse, the garden plot was still at rest, but soon it will be planted. By mid-summer the garden provides an abundance of flowers and vegetables sold to members and at the Oak Bluffs Open Market. Specialties include lemon cucumbers, and okra that is hard to find here.

“People come just to buy okra,” said Ms. Sylvia.

Volunteer energy keeps the greenhouse thriving throughout the seasons as it has for many years. Members lend a hand all during the winter, sprouting and tending plants, then gear up production as springtime nears. Springtime sales of young plants are an economic mainstay and summer flower and produce sales bring needed revenue too.

Yarrow seedlings are ready for spring.

Yarrow seedlings are ready for spring. — Photo by Danielle Zerbonne

At $30 for individuals, $35 for couples, membership fees are modest. Members are invited to volunteer and may purchase produce and plants at cut rates. A big benefit is picking greens year-round. There are more than 200 members on the roster, including some three dozen faithful volunteers. Others pitch in when possible.

During chilly months volunteers gather for a Wednesday chore day. After a busy morning tending plants they enjoy a potluck soup lunch with salad made from freshly picked greens growing close at hand.

According to Ms. Scanlan, doing chores in the greenhouse’s tropical atmosphere during cold winter weather is a delight, not a burden.

“It’s a very restorative kind of thing,” she said. “It’s a healthy thing. There’s nothing quite like it. In the winter you slog through the cold ugliness then you open the greenhouse door and you’re in another world. It makes you feel ‘we can get through this. It’s not a problem.

“It’s just a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work.., but that’s the joy.”

Organizers changed the facility’s name from the familiar “COMSOG” last year when the greenhouse celebrated its 30th anniversary. The change was an effort to bring the greenhouse into the public eye and let people know more about activities and opportunities.

A bright new green sign stands at the New York Avenue entrance and the jaunty artwork is echoed on a bright brochure. “Come Grow With Us,” is the message, “Learn, Grow, and Connect,” the motto.

Ms. Scanlan said the name change has had a revitalizing effect. “It is catching on and there’s a feeling of new energy,” she said. “People are really responding. There’s quite an upbeat feeling.”

Everything's blooming at Vineyard greenhouses.

While we wondered if winter would ever end, elves at local greenhouses have been busy with seeds and seedlings; cleaning and refurbishing shops, grounds and display areas and stocking soil, fertilizer, potted plants and shrubs ready to burst into bloom.

Ashley Lister at Donaroma's.

Ashley Lister at Donaroma’s. — Ralph Stewart

Most nurseries opened quietly last month for those intrepid gardeners who wanted to get a head start on the season. These days, they are buzzing with preparations for Palm Sunday on April 13, which for many Islanders is the unofficial “grand opening,” when the spirits of plant lovers are lifted by displays of early spring flowers, the smell of warm soil in greenhouses filled with young growing plants, that long-awaited breath of spring. It is indeed a time to awaken from the winter doldrums and begin dreaming of flowers, herbs, vegetables, and the warm days ahead.

All nurseries carry conventional and organic soils and fertilizers, pest control products, gardening tools, containers, and paraphernalia. They offer a variety of special discounts and bargains to tempt the green-thumbed customer.

Vineyard Gardens

Palm Sunday Open House: 11am to 2 pm; free plants, refreshments and Easter Sunday Egg Hunt (1 pm).

What else: Saturday morning (11 am) free lectures range from starting plants from seed to vegetable gardening, lawn care and maintenance and more. Saturday hands-on workshops teach how to prepare seeds and seedlings, and bring them home to plant ($20 fee).

What’s new:  Greenhouse attached to front shop; Amish-made Adirondack chairs.

What’s special: Each week, a special plant is offered at a 20-percent discount.

“Please stop by for a breath of spring,” says Chris Wiley, co-owner with husband Chuck. “The greenhouses are full and gorgeous.”

484 State Road, West Tisbury. VineyardGardens.net, 508-693-8511

Middletown Nursery

Palm Sunday: Family Fun Day visitors can plant a mini-strawberry or flower garden.

What else: Free seminars with organic gardener Roxanne Kapitan, “The Backyard Vegetable Garden from Seed to Harvest,” begin April 19, 1-2 pm. Topics include composting, building organic soil, and maximizing garden yield.

What’s new: remodeled the shop and creation of parklike display grounds with educational displays and new plants.

What’s special: the Island’s exclusive Husqvarna Dealer offers power tools and equipment. “Yard Sale” discounts are offered through April 19.

“We hope for a beautiful Easter Sunday and invite families to join us from 10 am to 1 pm for an Easter filled with the colors of spring,” said manager Steven Elliott.

680 State Road, West Tisbury. (508)696-7600

Jardin Mahoney

Easter season: Easter Cookie Decorating party for the kids on Easter Sunday, 9 am-3 pm.

What else: Lush tropicals and indoor hydrangeas, tulips, daffodils and even aromatic herbs welcome visitors into the big greenhouse. Also, fruit trees including apple, pear, plums, and cherries and berry bushes.

What’s special: Sale on blueberry bushes while supplies last.

Wandering the grounds makes for a nice spring walk and the garden center stocks everything you need to get outdoors and start digging.

45 Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. jardinmahoney.com, (508) 693-3511.


Palm Sunday: 10 am-2 pm, Donaroma’s welcomes guests with cut daffodils for all; Easter Sunday from 10 am-2 pm.

What’s new: Easter Lilies and hyacinths; early blooming shrubs like lilac, forsythia, and dogwood.

What’s special: A spring sale runs April 11 to 13; weekly specials for landscapers only.

The spacious florist shop and greenhouse is bursting with cheerful Easter decorations, plant baskets, bunnies, butterflies, and chicks.

Upper Main St., Edgartown. Donaromas.com; (508)627-3036.

Heather Gardens

Palm Sunday (8:30 am- 3 pm) open house featuring free plants, warm refreshments, and sweet goodies.

What else: According to owner Mike Saunier, the nursery features the Island’s largest selection of locally grown, hand-seeded annuals in six-packs.

What’s new: Expanded variety of shrubs.

What’s special: one greenhouse filled with lush tropical houseplants and the tiny potting shed offering antique garden collectibles.

“We have the same friendly staff as in previous years who are always eager to help,” said Mr. Saunier, echoing the welcome of all Island nurseries.

377 State Road, West Tisbury. heather-gardens.com, (508)693-1467.

This story was updated on April 14, 2014, to correct a mistake in the Middletown Nursery section. Steven Elliott was mistakenly identified as the owner of the West Tisbury nursery. John and Heather Hoff have owned the business for five years. Mr. Elliott is the manager.

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the start of Vineyard Gardens’ free and weekly Educational Lecture Series, beginning this Saturday, April 5.

Running from 11 am to 12 noon each Saturday through the nursery’s season, the first topic is Starting Plants From Seed. Next, on April 12, is a hands-on workshop: Starting Both Vegetable and Flower Seeds, which costs $20 and in turn you take home what you worked on. For more information, call the West Tisbury nursery and garden center at 508-693-8512.

Pomegranate, amaryllis, and geraniums brighten an indoor garden, while awaiting spring.

Abigail-HigginsAbigail Higgins has been writing Garden Notes since 2002, and she has kept a kitchen garden for about 50 years. A resident of West Tisbury, she is an officer of the M.V. Agricultural Society.

Gardeners are eager to immerse in all spring work, but the forecast calls for extended cold and wintrier than normal spring conditions.

Condolences to the family of Donald Mills Jr. of Hillside Farm. It is sad saying, “rest in peace,” because he was a good guy, gone far too young. Donnie was one of the most modest members of the often colorful Island agricultural community, with such a self-deprecating manner that many Island residents perhaps did not know him. Nonetheless, for those who did, the laconic and humble Donnie always had a pithy or amused observation to make, whether on the struggles of Island farming or the crazy greater world at large.

False starts, cold temps

Crocus ancyrensis, closed against the rain. We have waited so long for you.

Crocus ancyrensis, closed against the rain. We have waited so long for you. — Photo by Susan Safford

There was solace in pricking out lettuce seedlings indoors while a blizzard thrummed outside, although I’d have rather been working in the garden. Island gardeners are eager to immerse in all spring work with headlong energy, rather than waiting. However, it would be wise to practice restraint since the national weather service’s seasonal forecast calls for extended cold and wintrier than normal spring conditions.

Ahhh, color.

Ahhh, color. — Photo by Susan Safford

There will be many broken twigs and branches from wind, ice, and snow loads; damage will continue to become apparent as plants come into growth. Pruning and general clean-up is integral to spring garden maintenance and of that, clean-up and pruning the sub-shrub category of blooming plants constitutes a large part. Hydrangeas, Montauk daisies, caryopteris, potentilla, Rosa rugosa, perennial herbs such as lavenders and salvias, and buddleia: these all need tending.

Think twice about pruning them this year and do not berate yourself for putting it off if more freezes or snows threaten.

The above-mentioned are sub-shrubs being neither “woody” nor “herbaceous.” They derive a certain amount of their ability to survive in this hardiness zone from the cold protection afforded by their old wood. Remove the old wood prematurely through seasonal clean-up, and cold shock may cause the loss of swollen buds protected by it. In some cases, the entire plant may die from it. Use your judgment, depending on Island location and exposure of individual sites.

Big to-do list

The recent weather conditions have created for many a backlog of garden tasks. What might have been done in March will now mostly take place in April. In no particular order of importance, here are suggested tasks:

  • Dig and stew dandelions, root and top, from untreated lawns and gardens. The traditional tea is an excellent spring tonic, with kidney and liver cleansing effects; roots lose potency upon flowering.
  • Start tuberous begonias if you have not already done so.
  • Prune Hydrangea paniculata back to lowest pair of strong buds on last season’s growth, likewise H. arborescens (‘Annabelle’s and similar).
  • Clean up winter trash and the remains of last year’s annuals and perennials. Cut back herbaceous perennials and divide.
  • Prune shrub roses.
  • Indoor plants (in photo: amaryllis, pomegranate, and pelargonium): feed every two weeks at half-dilution and spray with insecticidal soap. Repot any needing it with fresh potting mix before moving outside in warm weather.
  • When soil reaches 41°F, cold-hardy vegetables such as broad beans, carrots, lettuce, and peas may be planted, but may need further protection of floating row covers.
  • Prune canes of Rosa rugosa back to a strong bud, or about 12 inches.
  • Top-dress evergreen and deciduous trees with HollyTone, TreeTone, ProGro, or ProHolly.
  • Henbit, spitting cress, and chickweed are up and growing in beds and vegetable gardens. Weed them out while young and before flowering (latter two make good salad greens if harvested from untreated soils).
  • Add organic matter to ornamental and vegetable garden soils, but refrain from digging prematurely, until drying-out has occurred (working sodden soil destroys structure and creates compaction).
  • Cut back ornamental grasses.
  • Apply corn gluten (10-0-0) as a weed/crabgrass pre-emergent.
  •  Last call for spraying with lime sulphur oil mix: fruit and other small trees, shrubs, roses, to control mites, scale, leaf diseases. Ideal conditions for applying occur when air temperatures are above 40° for a 24-hour period, with no rain in the forecast. Do not spray if you see any leaf growth, as this will burn the foliage. (If bought separately, both sprays can be mixed in the same tank; mix at recommended rates.)
  • Spray deer repellant on susceptible plants, such as fruit trees, lilac buds, daylilies, and tulip shoots.
  • Lawn mower maintenance: sharpen blades, change oil and air cleaner, and clean.
  • Shear groundcovers such as ivy, epimedium, ceratostigma, and liriope.

Clematis care

Despite the vagaries of the weather, by now clematis should have been cut back. The method, however, depends upon which category your clematis plants belong in (a complex discussion in its own right and worthy of a separate column). Save pot-tags or record name of cultivars planted; books and the internet supply lots of information on clematis categories if you know the cultivar name.

Group 1: prune right after flowering. Group 2: large flowered hybrids, pruned variously. Group 3: (includes sweet autumn clematis) flower on new wood produced in the current year; prune back severely every year in late winter, when they are completely dormant, to about 12 – 14 inches.

Ag Society news

On Sunday, April 6 at 1 pm, M.V. Agricultural Society presents Jonathan Bates with “Paradise Lot, Growing an Edible Garden Oasis.” Presentation is free and open to the public, and will constitute April’s Homegrown meeting. Along with Eric Toensmeier (and their families), Jonathan Bates has been demonstrating the self-sufficient, permaculture lifestyle on Paradise Lot, formerly a junked-up urban yard in beautiful rust-belt Holyoke. For more information about Jonathan Bates, please go to www.foodforestfarm.com.

On Sunday, April 13 at 12 noon, MVAS presents Lamb-O-Rama, a Palm Sunday noon meal (adults $12, children $7, tickets at the door) that complements the Farm Institute’s April 12 Sheepapalooza, a “celebration of all things sheep,” and the regular Sunday get-together of the Spinners & Weavers.

The former Thimble Farm has space for community farmers.

Interested in trying out your green thumb? Want to till some soil this summer? If your property has less than desirable conditions for plotting your own garden bed, consider buying a plot in an Island community garden. Home grown cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and more can be yours at one of three local farms.

Thimble Farm

According to Island Grown Initiative program administrator Emily Duncker, the community garden at Thimble Farm will be the first space on the farm to collaborate, inspire, and connect more people to the preservation and stewardship of the unique property. “We are committed to developing Thimble Farm as a community resource, and this garden is one of the aspects of the concept plan we presented to the public on February 8,” Ms. Duncker said.

The Thimble Farm community garden space, on the Tisbury-Oak Bluffs line, off  Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road will be a half-acre with handicap accessible beds and plots of varying sizes. Plots are available in three sizes 5 x 20 ($50), 10 x20 ($75) and 20 x20 ($100), with scholarships available as well as a sliding cost scale based on income.

”One of our main intentions is for this garden to be as inclusive as possible, including offering support for novice gardeners. We hope the smaller sized plots will attract novice gardeners who are maybe interested, but not fully sure of how to garden yet,” Ms. Duncker said.

Native Earth

Native Earth Teaching Farm, at 94 North Road in Chilmark, also offers a community garden.

“Our plots are all organic, fenced, various prices according to size, and barter and work trades are sometimes possible,” owner Rebecca Gilbert said. “We also have a farm library available, when the farm is open three days a week, and a garden mentorship program which includes seeds, seedlings, and training for beginning gardeners.”

FARM Institute

The FARM Institute in Edgartown offers 25 individual garden 8×20 plots for $75. The farm provides fencing, irrigation, compost bins, and tools to share.

Rebecca Sanders has been the FARM Institute garden manager for the past two years and took over responsibility of the Community Garden in 2013. “We have a community garden workday each spring, which will fall on April 5 this year. This is the first day gardeners can get into their plots and get started,” Ms. Sanders said.  “We’ll have cold hardy seedlings for sale, as well as wood chips available for gardeners to mulch the pathways around their plots.”

The FARM Institute’s Community Garden started seven years ago.

“The Community Garden was started in 2007 by our former education coordinator, Melinda DeFeo, and former development director Chrissy Kinsman, both avid gardeners,” Ms. Sanders said. “Tools were purchased for the garden with help from Scott and Julie Lively. Ms. DeFeo brought her Edgartown School students to plant a grains array in the garden in 2013.”

More information

Interested in trying out your green thumb?

Thimble Farm: Contact Emily Duncker at e.duncker@gmail.com for more information about the community garden at Thimble Farm, a contract and/or to rent space for the season.

Native Earth Teaching Farm: To make arrangements for this season at Native Earth Teaching Farm, call the farm at 508-645-3304 and talk to Rebecca.

The FARM Institute: Reserve your spot at the FARM Institute in Edgartown by calling 508-627-7007.

Bob Donovan of West Tisbury unloads wood pellets he purchased off-Island.

Vineyard retail outlets that sell wood pellets have exhausted their supplies and left customers who use the recycled wood product to heat their homes scrambling to find enough fuel to stymie the cold. The shortage is being felt throughout New England and is the result of an unexpectedly long, cold winter, and an increase in wood pellet stove use, according to industry sources.

Robert Donovan, who heats his house on Indian Hill in West Tisbury with a wood pellet stove, was surprised when he was unable to locate wood pellets at Ace Hardware in Vineyard Haven, his usual source, or John Keene Excavation, which brings trailer loads of pellets to the Island regularly, when they are available.

“I called around the Island and no one had pellets,” Mr. Donovan told The Times in a telephone call last week as he prepared to go off-Island to buy fuel. “I called a couple of dozen places in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. I called manufacturers way up in Maine and just got voice messages saying ‘we are currently out of pellets.’”

He found one supplier on the Cape that has pellets, with a five bag limit per customer on purchases. That would last him about three days with the freezing temperatures expected this week. ”I have high ceilings. I burn about a bag and a half a day,” he said.

Mr. Donovan’s perseverance paid off, he said in a second call to The Times made later the same day.

“I just snagged pellets way up in Holbrook,” he said, in a call from his cell phone, as he was on his way back with his heavily laden car. “They have a 15 bag limit but when they heard I was hoping to pick up some bags for other Islanders they let me buy 40. My car is not made to carry a ton.”

Back on the Island with his pellets, Mr. Donovan was sympathetic to those in the same situation.

“I feel sorry for others who use pellet stoves as their primary heat source and don’t have flexible work schedules that allow them the time to hunt down pellets like I do,” said Mr. Donovan, “It is my only heat source.”

After this pellet crisis, Mr. Donovan says he is making other plans.

“After this winter, I will be using the stove as my secondary source,” he said. “I’m installing a propane/heat pump system, a mini-split system, before next winter.”

Precious pellets

Wood pellets which come in 40 pound bags.

Wood pellets which come in 40 pound bags. — Photo by Tony Omer

John Keene Excavation office manager Darlene Oberg said many customers buy pellets by the 50 bag pallet. The West Tisbury company brings truckloads of 22 pallets to the Island every winter. She said that some of their customers have not run out yet, but that their Rhode Island supplier has. She doesn’t know when Keene will be able to buy more.

At Ace Hardware, a sign on the door Friday announced no pellets and no ice melt. Ismael “Izzy” Calixto said Ace sold out its last delivery of 1,200 pounds, 30 bags, in three days last week and won’t have any more pellets until April 9.

In Oak Bluffs, Reliable Market’s Robert Pacheco has sold pellets for only two years. This year he has not been able to buy enough to keep them in stock. He buys pellets from a grocery distribution center in New Hampshire.

“Sales have doubled this year,“ he said. “We got into selling pellets because we had requests from customers. This year, sales have snowballed but that’s come to a screeching halt. We sell out every week. We haven’t been able to buy enough to keep them in stock.”

He said his supplier started limiting sales about four weeks ago. Last week, Reliable was limited to one pallet of 50 bags that sold out in a couple of days.

“My supplier said there won’t be any for our Sunday night trailer, and she said that for our Wednesday night trailer, she will do the best she can. Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” he said. “We hope to have some by the end of next week.”

He said he has tried other suppliers in Massachusetts and in Maine but hasn’t been able to find anyone who has pellets to sell to new customers. His primary supplier told him that the pellet manufacturer in Maine has nothing in reserve.

“I was told they’re packing to fill orders for trucks that are waiting,” he said. “They have no back stock at all.”

An article in an industry online trade publication, “Biomass Magazine,” attributes the shortage of pellets to an industry wide failure to predict the longer and colder winter and the increased use of wood pellet stoves, not to a shortage of production capacity. Much of the industry has operated at an average operating capacity of 50 to 60 percent for much of the winter, according to the article, while the average user is burning close to twice as much fuel.

Wood pellet stoves are advertised as an easier, cleaner, and more efficient heat source than conventional wood stoves. They are generally smaller, and the bags of pellets are about the size of a large dog food bag, weighing 40 pounds, so they are easier to store than firewood. The pellets, made of compressed dry wood, and often recycled materials, are fed into the stove usually by an electric feeder. The fire is relatively easy to start. Depending on the stove’s hopper size, it may need to be loaded only once a day.

The fire is contained in a heat box inside the unit, and the combustion is hotter and cleaner than would be the case with wood, with minimum of smoke, which creates considerably less ash and less creosote than firewood does.