Island Alpaca staff members Ashleigh Plante and Andrea Figaratto with the banner. – Courtesy Island Alpaca

On Friday, Ashleigh Plante and Andrea Figaratto of Island Alpaca Farm traveled with three Island alpaca to West Springfield to participate in the three-day alpaca event at the 99th annual Eastern States Exposition. They were among many alpaca breeders at the event, and brought home the coveted prize: the Eastern States Exhibition Sweepstakes Banner.

The Alpaca Show usually draws over 200 alpacas; this year, Island Alpaca not only won the “Reserve Champion” award, but also garnered a new prize, the Sweepstakes Champion. This goes to the exhibitors earning the greatest number of total points in the Alpaca Show, based on ribbons awarded for each alpaca, their fleece, and fiber products.

Also awarded was a Blue Ribbon and Reserve Championship for their alpaca Estrada’s Hot Shot, and five additional blue ribbons, including for the category of Breeders Best Group of Three.



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Vineyarders, from left, Maddy McBride, Whitney Schroeder, Mya Bass, and Courtney Howell celebrate the second Vineyard goal, courtesy of Mya. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard varsity girls soccer team powered past Coyle & Cassidy 2-0 on Tuesday afternoon behind a brace from birthday girl Mya Bass. The Vineyarders capitalized on sloppy Warriors marking, and created chances from all over the pitch. Olivia Smith had several long, stellar runs through the Coyle

Olivia Smith megs a defender on her way to goal. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Olivia Smith megs a defender on her way to goal. – Photo by Michael Cummo

defense, but could not find the final touch to score. Sophomore Mya Bass, after scoring the first goal early in the game, had several long shots skim just wide of goal. With 11 minutes to go in the first half, she connected with the ball and lofted a beautiful shot past the Coyle keeper to make it 2-0. This is Mya Bass’ first year with the team after moving to the Island over the summer.

The Vineyarders’ next game is at home on Thursday to Bishop Stang at 3 pm at MVRHS.

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Ken Beebe battles Parkinson’s with wit and grit.

Ken Beebe launches a plug into the surf at Norton Point. - Photo by Barry Stringfellow

With September’s first blast of cold air at his back, Ken Beebe worked the surf at Norton Point late Sunday afternoon, lashing the water with a fluorescent orange pencil popper lure. Although he was casting from a sitting position in a low-slung beach chair and gripping his pole with tremulous hands, his lure arced well over the breaking waves.

Ken was sporting a new purple Derby hat with registration pin attached. He’s fished the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby for 20 years, and although he’s a very accomplished fisherman, he’s never been on “the board” — the running tally at the weigh station that shows the top three fish landed in each category.
It looked like a promising night to break that streak. Baitfish were jumping close to shore, en masse. Dusk was rapidly approaching. Terns were scanning the water in increasing numbers.
But the bluefish weren’t cooperating.
Ken switched from the orange pencil popper to a red and white Roberts Ranger. “The best one for blues,” he said. His shaking hands struggled with the snap swivel, but he eventually succeeded.
Ken was an avid fly-fisherman for many years until Parkinson’s disease left him unable to tie the delicate knots that are required, but it has not put an end to spin casting, which he does three or four times a week during the season. He used to fish alone in the predawn hours, but his increasingly tentative balance put an end to that.

Ken and Laura Beebe at Norton Point. - photo by Barry Stringfellow
Ken and Laura Beebe at Norton Point. – photo by Barry Stringfellow

“Laura doesn’t like getting up at 4 am to go fishing,” he said, referring to his wife of 48 years, who was working on a quilt while he fished. A self-confessed “obsessive quilter,” Laura’s stitching won second place at the Ag Fair this year, and first prize the year before.
When Ken lands a fish, Laura will put down her quilting and help him out. “I’m also the Sherpa,” she joked, as she took a bucket of lures to him.
Laura also is a translator. Sometimes Ken’s sentences are loud and clear; oftentimes they are not. Laura has a keen sense of when his words don’t land, and she glides in and out of a conversation as needed.

Always a wise guy
Parkinson’s is a cruel disease. It slowly inflicts debilitating tremors, sudden fits of muscle rigidity, and can even compromise a person’s ability to blink, or to swallow, or to smile. It has taken away Ken’s ability to drive, and his ability to fly-fish, and it’s slowly robbing him of his ability to walk. It has not, however, robbed him of his mischievous grin.
“I was always a wise guy,” he said, taking a break from casting. “None of the teachers in my elementary school would take me twice. I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. When I was a principal and kids were sent to me, I’d say, ‘Don’t tell me a story, because I’ve already used it.’”
Ken was a school principal in New Hampshire until his school burned down. He’d never been to the Island when he applied for a job at the Tisbury School. “I didn’t even know you had to get a boat to get here,” he said. Although the job went to longtime principal Alan Campbell, Ken took the assistant principal job. When his position was eliminated, Ken worked for the telephone company on the mainland, first in the Boston area and later in Vermont, where he continues to maintain a home. When Ken was 55, the shaking and tingling in his arm was diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease.
“That’s when I retired,” he said. “I wanted to go places. I wanted to play.”

Dr. Play opens Island practice
Ken and Laura moved to the Vineyard full-time in 1999, and when he registered his Jeep in Massachusetts, he got “Dr. Play” license plates. The “Dr.” comes from his doctorate in education, which he earned at the University of South Dakota. “We lived there for three years,” he said. “It’s not exactly the best place for a liberal from the East Coast. And I missed the saltwater.”
Ken has a long and deep connection to the beach. It’s where his father taught him to fish in his native Fairfield, Conn., and it’s where he met Laura. The back bumper on his Jeep has a rainbow of oversand permits, and a “Ken’s Sandbox” bumper sticker, which he had made after a friend commented on the copious amounts of Chappy sand that always covered the floor.
The “Play” in Dr. Play comes from a core belief Ken embraces, as much as his body will allow. The back of his Dr. Play business card, which he reckons he’s given out thousands of times, reads, “Make play a high priority in your life, for if you die tomorrow, no one can play for you but someone can and will work for you!”
The front of the card has his contact information, and two small drawings — one of a fisherman landing his quarry, the other of a telescope.
“It was the closest I could get to a spotting scope,” he said, referring to the favored tool of bird watchers. Dr. Play is also an avid birder, and every year he and Laura participate in the Island bird count, usually done the Saturday after Christmas. He’s also taken birding trips to Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona, since his diagnosis.

Attitude is everything
In June 2004, Ken was one of the first people to undergo a relatively new procedure called “deep brain stimulation” at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire. The procedure involved drilling through the skull and placing an electrode in the brain, which required him to be awake so doctors could ask questions to determine if the electrode was positioned correctly.
“Since I was one of the first, they didn’t know how it was going to turn out,” Ken said. He described the results as “miraculous.” He was not as effusive about the results from a subsequent surgery in 2011. Yet Dr. Play remains committed to his regimen.
“Attitude is more important than anything,” he said. “You have to be proactive. If you don’t get out and see people, [Parkinson’s] will eat you alive. That’s why I love to fish. You always meet interesting people.”
Last year Ken took his third trip to Alaska to fish with his son Chris. “A plane took us to a boat, and we went way into the wilderness. We saw grizzly bears every day,” he said with a large grin.
The father-and-son tandem has also gone whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River, and fished the Blue River and mighty Colorado River while rafting.

‘This I believe’
“You can catch a big bass anywhere on this Island,” Ken said. “If you want to catch a fish, pick a spot, anywhere you like. Go every day and take five casts. I guarantee the fish will show up at some point.”
Ken has a number of maxims, which he’s compiled into “This I Believe.” A sampling includes:
If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly, especially when attempting to learn a new skill.
Tell me what you can do, not what you can’t do.
If you can afford it, do it. Today is the rainy day you have been saving for.
Doing nothing is sometimes more important than doing something.
Sometimes you need to make a decision, and if needed, fix it later.
If you’re afraid to travel alone, you’ll never go anywhere.
One of his favorites is “Never defend a no.
“If you’re asked to volunteer for something and you don’t want to do it, just say no and leave it at that,” he said. “Nobody ever asks you to explain a yes.”
“He still says yes a lot,” Laura said.
Mr. Beebe remains on one committee. He is a co-facilitator for the Martha’s Vineyard Parkinson’s support group, also known as “Vineyard Isle Parkinsonians” or “VIPs.”
Ellen Reynolds, outreach worker at the Up-Island Council on Aging, estimates the group, which meets the second Monday of every month at 10:30 am at the Up-Island Council on Aging on State Road, has about 25 regular members. “We think there are probably three times that many people with Parkinson’s on the Island,” she told The Times.
The VIP outreach crews are comprised of a registered nurse, a social worker, and a patient facilitator, a role Ken often fills.
“The model we use on the Vineyard is somewhat unusual,” Ms. Reynolds said. “The Boston chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association has used us as a model.”
Ms. Reynolds had high praise for both Ken and Laura. “He’s a special guy,” she said. “Laura is also incredible. There’s not always a significant other who is so dedicated.”
There is also a caregiver’s support group that splinters off from the VIP meetings.
“Caregivers usually don’t take as good care of themselves as the person they’re caring for,” Ms. Reynolds said. “It helps to be with others who are going through the same kind of experience.”

Sunrise and sunset
The bait was still jumping after the sun set at Norton Point, but no predators had shown up. Asked about his most memorable fishing moments, Ken didn’t recount an epic battle with a finned foe. “The sunrise and sunset,” he said. “So many people haven’t seen the sun rise over the ocean. They’re really missing something.”
After watching the sunset, Ken called it a day. Laura helped him to his feet and helped him back to “Ken’s Sandbox.” He tried to gain purchase in the deep sand with his aluminum cane, but it was heavy sledding. A three-foot incline almost toppled them both, but Laura steadied him, and together they made the last few steps to the Jeep.

With Laura by his side, Dr. Play calls it a day. — Photo by Barry Stringfellow
With Laura by his side, Dr. Play calls it a day. — Photo by Barry Stringfellow

“I’ll probably come back tomorrow or Tuesday,” he said, settling his six-foot frame in his seat and catching his breath. “Gimme a call if you want to fish.”

To the Editor:

Tuesday night I attended a meeting of the Tisbury board of selectmen about the plans for the reconstruction of Beach Road. While there were lots of differing opinions coming from every corner of the room, and conflicting opinions about what works and what doesn’t, there was an almost unanimous agreement about which of the three options presented was preferred: Option 2, the one called the “hybrid option.”

At the end of the evening, after all this discussion, two of our three selectmen voted against this choice, citing their own personal opinions about an alternative they liked better.

Sometimes a community is divided on an issue, and a selectman has to make a tough call that might alienate half the town, but that is not the case here. Remarkably, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of members of this community, volunteering their time, attending meetings and hearings, reviewing plans and reports from local and state agencies, have managed to produce a plan that enjoys wide support.

I would like to remind our elected officials that they were chosen to represent the town, not to replace it.

I appreciate the fact that their objections are sincere; I have a few of my own, and it is altogether possible that one or more of the possible alternatives is better. But if that’s the case, one has to make a cogent and winning argument for it. Failing that, an elected representative of the town needs to either vote for the community’s choice or abstain.

At this point, I would urge our selectmen to take this up at their next meeting and reconsider this willful and arbitrary decision. If not, then the town should call a special town meeting to allow a formal vote by the whole community on this important issue.  

Lacking that, I would recommend that the planning board refer this issue to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact, which it manifestly is.

 Henry Stephenson


 Mr. Stephenson is the former co-chairman of the Tisbury planning board.


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Board looks to exemplify regional cooperation by confronting Island housing shortage.

The All-Island Planning Board (AIPB), a recently formed regional committee created to bring modernity and unity to Island zoning bylaws, met at the Chilmark Community Center last Thursday, and the shortage of year-round housing consumed the two-hour session. Representatives from the six towns and regional organizations spoke about a wide array of solutions, which were as different as the towns themselves. Tiny houses, large apartment buildings, and systematic acquisition of existing housing stock were a few of the options aired.
“No question, the place where we’ve found the most common ground is affordable housing,” Rich Osnoss, Chilmark planning board chairman, who ran the meeting, said. “We have people with expertise, like the Island Housing Trust, and we should be asking them for help. Philippe has been at this a long time, and he’s a wealth of information,” he said, referring to Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi.
Chilmark planning board member Joan Malkin, who is also a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), said that before specific solutions are discussed, the AIPC needed to define its mission.
“I think we need a clear picture of what our priorities are,” she said. “I see our role enabling the six planning boards to work together, and possibly creating a plan for all-Island funding. But it needs to be clear: Is the priority workforce housing, rental housing, ownership?”
“We need 12-month leases, badly,” Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCHRA) executive director David Vigneault said. “It is a dominant issue in the economy right now, and the body politic gets it. Businesses get it. Parents get it — many have adult children who can’t afford to move back here. The 25- to 35-year-old population can’t live here. That’s a huge loss for us. The school population isn’t going down, because people who’ve made their nut off-Island are moving here to raise their kids.”
“The MVC did the housing-needs assessment, and it was clear priority needs to be given to year-round rental housing,” Christine Flynn, MVC economic development and affordable housing planner, said, referencing a study the MVC released last December. “We need to define what is community housing, workforce housing, affordable housing. It has to be clear so voters know what they’re voting for. Change of this scale can only be decided at town meeting.”
Aquinnah Community Preservation Committee chairman Derrill Bazzy gave kudos to the towns of Chilmark and West Tisbury for passing bylaws that encourage accessory apartments, noting that 49 accessory apartments have been created in West Tisbury.
“This demand for housing is not income-based,” Oak Bluffs planning board member Ewell Hopkins said. “There are people with money to write a check, and no product to buy. This isn’t about charity. We all suffer because we don’t have diverse housing.”
“Market rate has become a dirty word,” Oak Bluffs planning board chairman Brian Packish said. “We need to relax regulation, and we’re heading in the other direction.”

Zoning the crux
Mr. Vigneault said that to make a dent in the shortage, town zoning boards have to create bylaws that allow for multi-unit developments. “It’s all about scale,” he said. “We know we haven’t made any headway even remotely keeping up with the tide.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, only 5.3 percent of housing in Dukes County is in multi-unit structures, as compared to the state average of 41.7 percent.
“Zoning is the crux,” Dan Seidman, Tisbury planning board chairman and founding member of the AIPB, said. “How can we as towns come up with uniform zoning that allows for cluster housing? If we don’t have somewhere to put it, it doesn’t matter.”
Mr Seidman acknowledged that increased density will create wastewater and septic demands, which points to locating new developments in the down-Island towns that have infrastructure to handle it. “You put density where density exists,” he said.
“The challenge isn’t finding a location — we have a lot of space in Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Hopkins said. “It’s all about the political will. If we’re going to [build] it in O.B., we have to see support from other towns.”
Chilmark and Aquinnah have relied on low-density, private development on town-leased one-acre lots. Chilmark’s largest development, Middle Line Road, is comprised of six rental duplexes and six one-acre house lots set on 21 acres.
Ms. Malkin floated the concept of regional funding for multi-unit housing that is built in the down-Island towns. Chilmark selectman Warren Doty strongly opposed the idea.
“It would be a terrible idea to support it elsewhere,” he said. “We don’t want 40-unit housing somewhere else and just write a check. Are you kidding? We need 40 units here.”
Mr. Doty expressed skepticism that accessory apartments will make much of a dent in the demand. He also was not enthused about large-scale apartment buildings. “I don’t see making a 40-unit building attractive. I think smaller cluster housing is attractive,” he said.

Tiny houses trumpeted
Mr. Osnoss noted that tiny houses and cluster developments have been a hot topic, but there are many vagaries in zoning bylaws that forbid their use.
“The tiny house is a great example of an energized group, and they’re finding it falls in a gap in the floor,” he said. “Technically they’re an RV. Most every town on the Island has bylaws that prohibit RV parks. Maybe we have to look at those again.”
Mr. Seidman noted that Tisbury was the only town on the Vineyard with zoning that allows for an RV park. It requires a 10-acre parcel with considerable buffer zones, and lots that are 3,000 square feet, which he considered excessive.
“We could look at adapting a similar bylaw for cluster-housing tiny houses on five acres,” he said. He also said that it would be unlikely in his view that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission would approve a mobile home park, and not without good reason.
“We have to balance the character of the Island with the need for more housing,” he said. “There’s the growth issue, and affordability and the reality. The reality is we can’t all live where we want.”

Overlooked option
Tisbury planning board member Ben Robinson said that there is an existing inventory of houses on the Island that could help ameliorate the problem without waiting for zoning changes, requiring a town meeting vote, and then going through the long process of permitting and construction.
“A lot of the more affordable houses that go on the market, between $300,000 and $500,000, get snapped up by investors who jack up the rents and make their money in the summer,” he said. “If the towns buy those before they fall out of the stock, we’re going to be creating year-round ownership. It’s not as pretty as ribbon cutting, but takes it out of the investors’ hands.”
In an email to The Times on Monday, Mr. Seidman said the Admiral Benbow Inn, a stately Victorian B&B on the market for $1.5 million, is one such opportunity. “The Benbow Inn could be converted to full-time, single-room occupancy that would add at least nine year-round units to the affordable pool. They could be ideal for younger people just out on their own and older people who are downsizing.”
Mr. Seidman suggested another way to integrate existing housing inventory into solving the problem is to relax zoning for the number of people who can live in a house.
“Some of the elderly and empty-nesters have houses that are paid for, but their income is low,” he said. “If they want to rent four of five bedrooms, that’s a good thing. By allowing them to rent by the bedroom, they supply housing and increase their income. And we’re not adding additional buildings. It’s a win-win.”

Beacon Hill beckons
Mr. Hopkins was adamant that to create substantive change, a united regional planning board from the Island has to actively lobby the State House. “We’re not challenging our legislators about what’s important on the Vineyard,” he said. Mr. Hopkins said some towns in Massachusetts lobby Beacon Hill on a regular basis, and a boat ride is no excuse to not make the effort. He also referenced the recently introduced Senate Bill 122, co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Wolf, intended to streamline permitting and zoning laws that hamper the creation of much-needed mixed-use developments. “This will affect our effectiveness as planning boards,” he said. “We need to educate ourselves about this legislation, and decide, as a regional body, if we support it or not.”

Zoning in the zeitgeist
Legislators on Beacon Hill are eyeing the growing shortage of workforce housing statewide. This past Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Housing heard testimony on a bill that requires all zoning ordinances and bylaws to include districts where multifamily homes are allowed by right. The bill also calls for cluster developments to be permitted with planning board approval.
“We don’t build nearly enough housing to keep up with demand, and when we do, it’s often the wrong type, and it’s often in the wrong place,” Under Secretary of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay told the State House News Service. The new bill includes an allocation of additional funding to cover the costs of educating children moving into the cluster developments.ter developments.

Keynote speaker and Marathon bomb blast survivor Jessica Kensky said help from family and charitable organizations was critical to her recovery.

The photo series "Island Women" by Paul Lazes adorned the wall behind the podium. – Photo by Monica Busch

Women Empowered, an Island life-coaching nonprofit, honored four Vineyard women at the organization’s fourth annual fundraiser brunch, held at the Harbor View Hotel Sunday morning. The program featured keynote speaker Jessica Kensky, a Boston Marathon bombing survivor and double amputee.

The honorees were Mary Beth Grady and Allison Burger, co-owners of Chilmark Chocolates; Betty Burton, founder and coordinator of Serving Hands and Family to Family food distributions; and Jo Ann Murphy, director of Dukes County veterans services and Martha’s Vineyard veterans service officer of the year.

Board president Vivian Stein introduced each of the women honored, and welcomed each to the podium for short remarks.

Ms. Grady and Ms. Burger, who was unable to attend the brunch, were lauded for their commitments to making their chocolate business an even playing ground among all workers, regardless of disabilities.

“Everyone is parallel,” Ms. Grady said. “And it remains our hope that more businesses will embrace the idea of teamwork.” Chilmark Chocolates resists mechanized production in order to continue to support manual workers.

Betty Burton tells the audience about her experience funding Family to Family. — Photo by Monica Busch
Betty Burton tells the audience about her experience funding Family to Family. — Photo by Monica Busch

Ms. Burton spoke about how she came to found Family to Family food distributions, which is a service that provides meals to families through the generosity and donations of others, while volunteering for Serving Hands.

“There are people in real need on our Island,” Ms Burton said, as she described a time in 2004 when the need at Thanksgiving was twice as great as what had been anticipated — 40 families asked for assistance when only 20 meals were prepared.

Ms. Burton traveled to the Harwich regional distribution for the Greater Boston Food Bank to pick up the remaining supplies. Moving forward, she established Family to Family, and told attendees that last year, the organization served 225 families.

Ms. Murphy was honored for her commitment to Dukes County veterans’ services. Appointed as the county veterans agent one month before 9/11, Ms. Murphy helps veterans on the Island with a swath of tasks, including filing pension claims, gravemarker applications, and generally assisting veterans in their postservice lives.

Women Empowered board president Vivian Stein, left, hugs honoree Jo Ann Murphy before Ms. Murphy speaks. — Photo by Monica Busch
Women Empowered board president Vivian Stein, left, hugs honoree Jo Ann Murphy before Ms. Murphy speaks. — Photo by Monica Busch

Ms. Murphy spent three years in the Women’s Army Corps, served on the National Guard, and has been an active Island scout leader.

“I repeat: She really cares,” Ms. Stein said.

Ms. Kensky took the podium to share her story about recovery post-Marathon. Ms. Kensky is an oncological nurse by trade, and her husband is a psychologist.

Ms. Kensky and her husband, Patrick Downes, were both at the finish line when the Tsarnaev brothers detonated two pressure-cooker bombs in 2013. Mr. Downes lost his left leg below the knee, and Ms. Kensky lost both legs below the knee.

Ms. Kensky recounted many medical visits, as well as emotional ups and downs, in the nearly two and a half years since she and her husband were severely injured at the Boston Marathon finish line.

“My husband and I feel like we’ve been recipients of kindness from organizations like this,” she said.

Jessica Kensky spoke for a half-hour about her recuperation after the Boston Marathon bombing. — Photo by Monica Busch
Jessica Kensky spoke for a half-hour about her recuperation after the Boston Marathon bombing. — Photo by Monica Busch

Sniffles echoed in the conference room as Ms. Kensky described the two weeks between the bombing and when she and Mr. Downes were reunited. Each had been sent to separate hospitals — Ms. Kensky to Massachusetts General Hospital and Mr. Downes to to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — after the attack, and they did not see each other until a team of nurses transported Ms. Kensky for a two-hour visit with Mr. Downes, where the two had a “date night” in their respective hospital beds.

Ms. Kensky told attendees about medical complications and adjustments that defined the next two years of their lives, including the difficult decision to amputate her right leg below the knee, a result of a complicated and incomplete healing process in her foot and ankle that made walking impossibly painful.

Mr. Downes sat in the audience with his aunt and mother.

Ultimately, Ms. Kensky told attendees that while she had planned to speak about human resilience, she realized while writing her speech that her experience was not about that, but that her story was dependent upon the help she and Mr. Downes received from their families and organizations like Women Empowered.

She was frank about the opportunities for help afforded those who carry the label “Marathon bombing survivors,” and said that equivalent assistance isn’t always available to those whose challenges fly under the radar. She emphasized the importance of helping everybody else, too.

“These women have also been hit hard,” she said referring to clients of Women Empowered. “They just aren’t making evening news.”

“We were gravely injured by two of our neighbors, but we were helped by thousands more,” she said. “I’m begging you to please continue the great work that you do.”

For more information on Women Empowered, visit women-empowered.org.


Correction: A previous version of this story said that Ms. Kensky was an oncologist. The correct profession is oncological nurse.

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Click on the link below for an interactive map to Island yard sales.

Click here, or take a look below for our interactive yard sale map.

September continues and there are still yard sales happening all over the Island. Here’s another handy map for all you bargain hunters looking to visit this weekend’s yard sales.

Although we value the time-honored tradition of circling the sales we want to visit in the MV Times, then plotting them out (numerically, with maps, etc)… we think this is better: just click on a “Yard Sale” way point, and it’ll tell you when, where, and what.

Now you can plot your route on our map, and take it with you on your phone; no more pen and ink needed.


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Usher in fall with this beer and cheese soup recipe. – Photo by Marnely murray

Now that the temperatures have slightly dropped and we’re coming to terms with the absence of an endless summer, the recipes in my kitchen have slowly evolved. Gone are the juicy summer tomatoes, being replaced by gorgeously vibrant fall squash. Say adios to basil and hello to warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. I definitely understand how some of us want to hold onto summer for as long as possible, but growing up on a Caribbean island, where it was a perfect beach day whether it was January or August, has made me appreciate the seasons. I welcome the warm color scheme, the crisp air (read this to me again in February and I’ll probably be singing a different tune), and the spiced everything.

As fall nears, the biggest change in my household is that I become a soupmaking machine. On a weekly basis, two to three soups rotate for our small family of two (my husband and I, although this is the season I convince him to let me get a turtle). And I don’t ease into the season with broth-based soups; I dive into the creamiest, richest soups in my portfolio, like this Beer Cheese Soup, which is best when made with any of the locally brewed beers like Bad Martha’s Black Lager or Offshore Ale’s Beach Road Brown Ale.

This Beer Cheese Soup is a great recipe to cook up for a simple weekend meal alongside a crusty slice of bread. It’s even better when you double this recipe and freeze it in portions for quick lunches throughout the workweek.


Beer Cheese Soup

Serves 4 to 6


2 Tbsps unsalted butter

2 small yellow onions, finely diced

4 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped

4 cups dark beer

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups light cream

3 Tbsps cornstarch

16 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded


In a medium-size pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions, celery, and carrots for about 10 minutes. Add the beer and stock, simmering for another 20 minutes.

In a separate large pot, simmer the cream and quickly whisk in the cornstarch. Add the shredded cheese and whisk until the cheese melts.

Add the simmered beer/stock while whisking in the melted cheese mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes, and serve hot.


Mark Crossland began his landscaping business in 1975. Forty years later, his children are taking over what has become the family business.

Keith Crossland and his sister, Zoe Shanor. Their brother Kyle helps them run Crossland Landscaping. – Photo by Cathryn McCann

The Times recently sat down to speak with Zoe Shanor, Keith Crossland, and Kyle Crossland, the children of Mark Crossland, about their interest in the family business their father began 40 years ago.


MV Times: What’s your background?

Mark Crossland. Courtesy, Crossland Landscaping.
Mark Crossland. Courtesy, Crossland Landscaping.

Zoe Shanor: I’m from Oak Bluffs, born and raised. So are my brothers. My dad used to own Crossland’s Nursery, which is where Mahoney’s is today. I remember the greenhouses, and I remember driving around on the golf cart, things like that. My mom was a gardener, so she would bring me to gardens when I was a little girl and just have me sit while she did her work. But for the longest time I just wanted to have nothing to do with plants. Probably because both of my parents were involved, I was just totally against it. I went to school for journalism, but then I switched to horticulture in my second year and studied plant, soil, and insect sciences.

Keith Crossland: I studied landscape construction at UMass.

Kyle Crossland: I also studied at UMass Amherst. I got a degree in environmental design. I just kind of grew up with it and grew to love it. Then I went out to Arizona and studied ecological design at Ecosa Institute in Prescott, Ariz. In Arizona they have a lot more water conservation issues that are at the forefront there because of the nature of the climate and the droughts out West. I tried to take some of what I learned out there and apply it to water management strategies for the Vineyard.


MVT: How has the business changed in 40 years?

Zoe: It hasn’t, much. We have a lot of the same customers that we had 40 years ago. Things have changed in the green industry, and we’ve adapted to those, but the principles have stayed pretty much the same. Forty years ago, people were a little bit less aware about chemicals, sprays, things like that. We try to focus as much as we can on being sustainable and keeping these lawns looking perfect without spraying them heavily.


MVT: How do you split up the business responsibilities?

Zoe: I deal with the gardening and the overall property maintenance — pruning, fertilizing, deadheading, things like that — keeping the places looking really nice. Flower gardens, shrub planting, containers. Kyle takes care of the irrigation, watering the lawns, watering the shrubs, the trees, adjusting to certain conditions with erosion. He works with the land a lot; he knows how to make the topography most successful with the plants that you choose, and the water. And then Keith, he does the construction. He’s the machine guy. He knows how to drive the Bobcat. He also runs the excavator and digs big holes.

Kyle: On my end, if a client wants an irrigation system installed for their lawn area, or planting beds or something like that, they’ll call us up and I’ll come down there and we’ll lay out an irrigation system for them to maximize uniformity and efficiency. On all our systems we install rain sensors, so when it’s raining outside the rain sensors automatically click on and turn off the system. Another water conservation strategy that we employ is using drip irrigation, which is very efficient for planting beds and vegetable gardens and things like that.


MVT: Did your roles come naturally to you?

Zoe: I guess so. Kyle was doing maintenance for a long time, but then he went to school in Arizona where he learned about water conservation and just fell in love with it. And then he came back and said, ‘Hey, I’d really like to run the irrigation. This is what excites me.’ For me that sounds very boring — I’d prefer to work with the flowers and with the soil — but Kyle likes the water. Keith has got this artistic side that helps him with the stonework and the bluestone patios and things that he does.


MVT: What are the hard parts about this business?

Zoe: It’s seasonal. That’s tough. We work really hard through December, and then January and February we’re kind of itching to get back out there. It’s such physical work for 10 months out of the year, and then nothing. So what do you do? You go on vacation or you study. I try to spend my winters traveling and visiting botanical gardens and gardens elsewhere as much as possible.

Kyle: There’s certainly challenges working with family and that dynamic. We learn to work it out daily, we learn to communicate well, but that’s certainly a challenge. But it’s a close communication, because constantly we have eyes on all our properties. There’s no middle man, it goes right to the source. If there’s an issue, like a client talks to Zoe and says, ‘We’re having trouble with the irrigation, this area is kind of dry, the sprinkler head is broken,’ or something like that, she’ll call me up and I’ll handle it immediately, rather than taking the roundabout route where the client will have to call the irrigation company. We’re in close communication, and that makes things go a little smoother.

Keith: The hot summer months.

 MVT: What do you foresee for the future of the business?

Kyle: I guess I foresee moving more toward ecological landscapes and environmentally organic landcare, switching more to that. Last winter the towns passed a fertilizer restriction, and so the towns are already trying to implement strategies to lessen the nitrogen load into our ponds, and as landscapers we’re on the frontline of that by being able to foster organic landcare strategies. And also controlling runoff and erosion, which also means nitrogen getting into the ponds. So I foresee getting into more strategies to handle those kind of concerns and water restrictions. That’s where I see the future of landscaping going, not only for us, but for the whole region.

Zoe: I see us continuing to run Crossland Landscape the way it has been run for 40 years, but with a whole new spin on things because we’re young, we’re fresh, we are excited, we are educated, we are go-getters, and we’re a team now. When Mark started it was just him, and now there’s three of us. I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity, and I just feel so grateful to have this business given to my brothers and me; there’s nothing better than that.


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In this file photo, wind and sea conditions affect the Oak Bluffs SSA terminal.

The Steamship Authority has begun diverting the freight boat Katama from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven due to weather and sea conditions. Travelers are advised to check with the boatline for up to date conditions and schedule changes.

For more information call 508-548-3788 or 508-693-0367 or go to www.steamshipauthority.com/traveling_today/status.