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West Tisbury

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Solar panels in West Tisbury. – File photo by Michael Cummo

The West Tisbury landfill solar voltaic project went online last week after delays pushed the completion date beyond the June 30 original estimate. The Cape and Vineyard Electrical Cooperative (CVEC) built the solar array on approximately six acres of the capped town landfill at no cost to the town, and will run the facility for 20 years in exchange for tax breaks and incentives from the state. The array is expected to produce more power than is used by town buildings and streetlights, and may save the town between $30,000 and $40,000 per year in electrical costs, according to pre-construction estimates.

Selectmen, at their meeting on Jan. 7, gave a go-ahead to town administrator Jennifer Rand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a date to be set.

Selectmen also approved town treasurer Kathy Logue’s request to allow town landowners to receive their tax bills electronically if they chose. West Tisbury taxpayers already have the option to pay online. The new option will be available on the tax collector’s page on the town website.

In other town business, selectmen decided to appoint a use/needs committee to study the highway department’s proposal to either renovate or replace the Old Courthouse Road building that is now used to store some of the department’s equipment.

Local civil engineer Kent Healy, after consulting with new West Tisbury building inspector Joseph Tierney, gave ballpark figures for the work in excess of $250,000 for renovation work and $300,000 for replacing the 150-year-old building with a steel structure. Selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell, after some quick math, adding up the costs of a site development and possible demolition, agreed that a working number for total cost would no doubt be closer to $500,000, and that it would take a year before the project could be studied, designed, and brought before a town meeting for approval.

Mr. Knabel volunteered to help draft the committee.

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Paula Sullivan looks forward to more time on the beach with a fishing rod in hand. Joe Massua just wants to relax.

West Tisbury postmistress Paula Sullivan will retire on the last day of 2014. –Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury postmaster Paula Sullivan and Chilmark postmaster Joe Massua will each retire from the U.S. Postal Service on New Year’s Eve after a combined total of 58 years of moving the mail. The timing is purely coincidental.

Deb Little of Vineyard Haven, a clerk at the Edgartown post office, will take charge of the West Tisbury post office until the Postal Service selects a permanent replacement.

“I’m very pleased to transfer the office to her,” Ms. Sullivan said in an email to The Times; “it will be in good hands.”

Leigh Vanderhoop, who now works at the Chilmark post office, will take over for Mr. Massua.

A native of Natick, Ms. Sullivan began her postal career at the Medfield post office on April Fool’s Day in 1986. President Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, and a first-class stamp cost 22 cents. She worked for 16 years as a retail clerk, a financial clerk, a bulk-mail tech, and a customer and delivery supervisor before she arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 2001 to take the job of Chilmark postmaster. In 2005 she transferred to West Tisbury.

Chilmark Postmaster Joe Massua is retiring.
Chilmark Postmaster Joe Massua is retiring.

Mr. Massua, a native of Everett, began working for the post office in Randolph in 1986 as a letter carrier. In 1993, he moved to Hyannis, where he began working in management. In 1998 the postal service asked him to move to Martha’s Vineyard to take the helm of the Vineyard Haven post office.

Mr. Massua said he arrived at the end of October, and the Island was very, very quiet. “Back then it was dead here, and I wondered what I got myself into,” he told The Times in a telephone conversation Monday. “But I fell in love with the place. I stayed, and here I am.”

Mr. Massua moved to the Chilmark post office last year. Compared with the pace in Vineyard Haven, it was something of a rest.

Mr. Massua said he has no immediate plans for his retirement beyond relaxing and staying busy. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad I’ve met so many great people,” he said.

Ms. Sullivan looks forward to spending more time with her granddaughter, bicycling, reading, and walking her dogs. Beachgoing and fishing top her list of retirement activities.

“I’m fortunate to have been a part of the MV Surfcasters since I moved here by myself,  knowing no one here at the time,” she said. “I’m now on the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee, and have met wonderful friends.”

Postal privacy rules keep Ms. Sullivan from recounting the details of many of the memorable moments from her years on the job, but not her sense of gratitude to the community.

“The memory I will carry with me when I leave is the pleasure I’ve had this holiday season with my customers, the sweet sendoff Skipper [Manter] gave me at the West Tisbury town Christmas party with Shari and Diane, my co-workers,” she said in an email to The Times. “Community means everything, and you all have shared that with me. Thank you and see you on the beach. Tight lines!”

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A group of nine women artists on Martha’s Vineyard critique one another’s work.

"Dune," by Claire Chalfoun.
The artists, from left to right: Lyn Hinds, Hermine Hull, Ruth Kirchmeier, Liz Taft, Leslie Baker and Wendy Weldon. Missing were Claire Chalfoun, Jeanne Staples and Nancy Furino.
The artists, from left to right: Lyn Hinds, Hermine Hull, Ruth Kirchmeier, Liz Taft, Leslie Baker and Wendy Weldon. Missing were Claire Chalfoun, Jeanne Staples and Nancy Furino.


I stood in the doorway of the Program Room looking in at the art arranged along the walls. We had hung the show earlier in the day. The nine of us are: Leslie Baker, Claire Chalfoun, Nancy Furino, Lyn Hinds, Ruth Kirchmeier, Jeanne Staples, Liz Taft, Wendy Weldon, and me, Hermine Hull.

Beth Kramer, listening from the circulation desk, called our way of working together “collaborative engagement,” another way of saying we discussed everything. It was like making a painting, deciding on design, shape, color, balance, the flow of one’s eye from one piece to the next. Analyzing. Assessing. Making a decision. Yes or no? Here, or in another place? In our studios we make these decisions for ourselves and our work is all of a piece. This was different. Agreement had to be by consensus here. Even what to title this exhibition; are we “artists” or “women artists?” “Nine Women Artists” was our choice.

We are artists who have been meeting monthly for 15 years now, an outgrowth from Tom Maley’s drawing group. We began meeting for critiques, a useful several other sets of eyes and critical judgment for our work in progress. It can be helpful to have fresh eyes look at things we have been wrestling with in our separate studios, so studio visits for critiques were our original raison d’être. There were dinners too, and lively conversations, the shared experience of making art and passion for our work. We have all been professional artists our whole lives.

"Yellow and Blue Landscape," Lyn Hinds.
“Yellow and Blue Landscape,” Lyn Hinds.

We decided the most important view was from the doorway, so the first pieces we set out had to be strong. Lyn Hinds’ painting, “Yellow and Blue Landscape,”fit perfectly to one side. “First Choice”by Wendy Weldon became its complement. Both powerful abstract compositions, strong colors and shapes, a square next to a long horizontal bank of windows visually stopped by a vertical. Perfect. Then two monotypes by Leslie Baker on the adjacent wall, geometry and gestural markmaking, visual poetry.

Ruth Kirchmeier’s woodcuts come next, hung together in a section between windows. Her newest woodcut is seen for the first time here, “House by the Hospital”;she has been working on it all summer. “Pathway With Bittersweet, Duarte’s Pond” is Ruth’s masterpiece of twisted vines and branches covering a sun-dappled path. “River Through the Trees”is all rushing water, just as it sounds.

Liz Taft’s “Menemsha Marsh” comes next, a large painting all done on site at the right time of day, the right time of year, studied and described over time and close observation, big enough to envelop the viewer in brushmarks and green space. Nancy Furino’s “Herring Creek Farm”shimmers in pale sunlight and infinite contrasts of broken brushwork and smoothly-colored areas, warm and cool, light and shadow.

"Insider," by Wendy Weldon.
“Insider,” by Wendy Weldon.

Three paintings by Claire Chalfoun string across the back wall beside the doorway. You have to look from inside. The light makes them magic, subtle and inviting places, private worlds to enter. Claire describes the grasses and sand grains, leaves and brushy shrubbery.

Nancy Furino painted “West Tisbury” at haying time. Midsummer green fields stripped pale, now golden hay rolls drying in the sun. The painting stands alone in a space with just the right lighting and space for it.

A vertical space, a doorway, becomes an element in the ongoing composition. A large, mostly green complexity of integrated shapes and colors, moving in and out, “Insider,”by Wendy Weldon. Then three small square landscapes I painted on site, places I have explored and painted over and over again: “Murphy’s Pond,” “Our Woods to the South Side,” and “My Favorite View,”autumn, winter, and early spring. “Yellow Roses and My Paintings”is just what it sounds, painted in my studio with part of a painting above and another on a table easel. The roses appear and disappear, visible and invisible in front of the yellow painting on the wall.

Then softness, an abstract vertical painting by Leslie Baker, “Breaking Light.”Orange light slashes through a lilac and pale blue surface, analogous to the orange and lilac sky in its companion piece, “Portrait of Drack”by Jeanne Staples. Jeanne’s painting is luminous realism; Leslie’s is luminous in its way too. Different. Still, they complement each other.

Liz Taft hangs the work.

We did it. We hung our work, so different in medium, style, intention, color, and presentation, and made it a homogeneous whole. It was like making a painting, bringing the elements together to create something other than its parts. A composition or an exhibition. Complete. We are all excellent composers of visual space.

I have marveled over the years at our work. Every month some of us or all of us bring what we are working on at that moment. Whether it’s a piece of simplicity or complexity, a fixed vision to be perfected or something newly tried, I marvel at our capacity to continue working, to keep figuring it out anew.

Read the artists’ statements in the book accompanying the exhibition. Everyone writes about walking into their studios, the arrangement of the studio, the different ways of working, of seeing, of approaching painting or printmaking, the full engagement of making art, the delicious process. It’s what we do, as simple as that.

Nine Women Artists – 15 Years will remain on view at the West Tisbury library through September. Artist Talk on Monday, Sept. 15, 5:30 pm, in the Program Room. For more information, call 508-693-3366 or visit westtisburylibrary.org.

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Celebrating Sergeant Jim Neville's promotion are, from left, mother Judith Malone-Neville, wife Rachel Neville, mother-in-law Barbara Paciello, and father Jack Neville. (Photo by Michael Cummo)

West Tisbury selectmen approved the promotion of patrolman James Neville to the position of sergeant at their meeting on Wednesday, September 3.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I recommend James Neville’s appointment,” said police chief Daniel Rossi.

James Neville (left) and Chief Dan Rossi. (Photo by Michael Cummo)
James Neville (left) and Chief Dan Rossi. (Photo by Michael Cummo)

Mr. Neville, the father of five children, has been a member of the West Tisbury police force for six years, He spent 10 years with the Dukes County Sheriffs Department, where he attained the rank of captain, and served as an officer for the town of Aquinnah for three years. Selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell voted for the promotion. Chairman of the selectmen Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a police sergeant, abstained from the vote.

Mr. Rossi told the selectmen that Matthew Gebo, an officer with the department for five years, has been named a detective.

In other town business last week, selectmen decided to not sign an agreement presented by two representatives of a film crew working on a program for the Discovery Channel, until the agreement is reviewed by town counsel. The television producers, Travis Dowell and Kevin Warnecke, asked for permission to film for about one hour at the dumptique, the recycling center at the West Tisbury dump, as part of a six-episode show, tentatively entitled Big Swords.

The episode will highlight West Tisbury resident Michael Craughwell, an Island artist and welder who makes medieval swords for medieval battle reenactors, often from things he finds at the dumptique.

Hermine-HullEvery year I dig out clumps of phlox from my garden, swearing to eradicate it forever. Somehow it reemerges the next spring as rampant as ever. Ever hopeful, or forgetful, I let it remain, thin it, then watch it descend into the mildewed mess it tends to become. This year it is beautiful. Hardly any mildew. Nothing but sweetly fragrant balls of pink and white flowers. With the scent of the last Casa Blanca lilies, it makes walking to and from the house a delicious experience.

Condolences to the Colligan family. Ed Colligan died last weekend. He was always cheerful, funny, and helpful when I met him years ago when Mike and I were building our house and needed appliances. Colligan Appliances was the place to go. I have heard so many stories about his kindness, nice things he did for no recognition or recompense, only that he was a truly nice man.

Everyone in town is getting ready for the Fair. Driving by the Ag Hall grounds, there are rides and tents, the fire department’s hamburger booth already going up, a bustle of activity. Eleanor Neubert called with a reminder that entry forms are due no later than 5 pm Monday, August 18. There is an entry box on the porch and the Ag Hall office is open between 9 am and 12 noon. Getting your forms in earlier is appreciated. Plan to deliver your exhibits on Wednesday, August 20, between 12 noon and 5 pm. This year’s Fair begins a week from today, Thursday, August 21.

Eleanor mentioned that this is the 20 year for the Fair at the new Ag Hall and fairgrounds. Hard to believe.

The art for this year’s Fair poster is a portrait of a horse named Sunny painted some years ago by Omar Rayyan. Sunny died this past winter. He was owned by Bruce Marchard. It’s a fitting tribute and a good story that makes this a very special poster.

Island Theater Workshop’s production of Peter Pan, directed by Kevin Ryan, is a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Center For Living. There will be one show this Friday evening, August 15, at 7:30, at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 for adults, $12 for children 12 and under, available online atwww.itwmv.org. The Center For Living is a great Island organization that runs the Supportive Day Program, a medical taxi, provides emergency food, and runs support groups and educational programs for families dealing with Alzheimer’s. For more information, call 508-939-9440 or 508-737-8550.

This Saturday, August 16, is the West Tisbury Church Peach Festival, from 12 noon to 4 pm. Tents and chairs will be set out on the lawn making a comfortable spot to enjoy fresh peaches, peach smoothies, peach shortcake, peach ice cream. There will also be pies, cobblers, and, new this year, peach chutney to take home. One lucky person will win the raffle and go home with a White Lady peach tree.

The Granary Gallery will host a reception this Sunday, August 18, 5–7 pm, for artists Jeanne Staples, Ross Coppelman, and Bob Avakian.

The West Tisbury Library has canceled Mother Goose on the Loose this coming Monday, August 18. It seems that Nelia Decker has flown the coop, but will return next week.

The Monday Night Movie, “Chere Louise,” begins at 6:30 pm. It is the first installment in a trilogy of documentaries by French filmmaker Brigitte Cornand about the legendary artist Louise Bourgeois. Free movie and free popcorn.

You can also bring a blanket and a flashlight to learn about the constellations. Lenny Schoenfeld will talk about stargazing Monday nights at 9:30, August 18 and 25, behind the library.

There is still time to sign up for Mathea Morais writing/reading workshop for kids aged 9 to 14. It begins Monday, August 18, and runs through the 21st. Sessions last from 10:30 to 12 noon. Pencils, paper, books, and snacks will all be provided by the library. You may sign up for one day or more. Sign up at the circulation desk. It’s all free.

Time to sign up, too, for Laura Edelman’s yoga classes at 10:30 at the library. Monday, August 18, for teens; Wednesday, August 20, for kids aged 4 to 8.

Sam Low will read from his book “Hawaiki Rising – Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance” on Wednesday, August 20, 5 to 6 pm, in the library’s program room.

Democratic and Republican party primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, September 9. Town Clerk Tara Whiting has absentee ballots in her office. If you plan to be off Island, you may vote by absentee ballot up to the day before the election. The Public Safety Building will be set up for Primary Day voting between 7 am and 8 pm. Stop by Town Hall or call Tara weekdays, 8:30 to 1:30, at 508-696-0148 with any questions.

I’m sitting and writing in my quiet studio. I have held my last opening for this year. Our houseguests have left, our last for the summer. At least that’s the plan. I’m looking forward to having my husband back after the Fair, after the hamburgers are all cooked, the booth cleaned and taken down, stored away. Fair week is the climax of the summer season. Illumination Night and fireworks happen that week, too. Then, the Island will slowly empty of summer visitors, the air will crisp and clear, and time will begin to feel like my own again.

Got West Tisbury news? Contact Hermine Hull here.

Hermine-HullFlowers everywhere. August is the best time of summer gardens, arms full of flowers for bouquets around the house, baskets of produce for dinner. Squash and tomatoes and raspberries and beans to eat right in the garden. I can’t pick them fast enough.

Summer friends are arriving as fast as the summer’s produce. Dorothy Barthelmes and Bob Henry arrived for their six weeks at the Joshua Slocum House. Dorothy’s daughter Buffy Webber is here with them. Their first guests, Rick Trevino and Larz Pearson, have sent a case of wine ahead; they arrive next Monday for a week.

Michael and Linda Dzuba appeared at our house Thursday afternoon with their black lab, Mimi, a special friend of our dogs, Talley and Nan. We had the three of them chasing each other in circles around the yard, barking, full of energy.

Pat Ternes will come on Friday with her daughters, Liz Zeiss and Cathy Ternes, for the opening of an exhibition of watercolors and oils by her late husband, Bill Ternes, well-known painter and workshop teacher for many summers here. Bill died in February, so this show is my tribute to a dear friend and mentor. As with all of us artists, he has left behind a studio full of paintings. Hopefully, everyone will come and we will sell lots of them to those who remember Bill and those who discover his work at this exhibition. It will be at my gallery, Hermine Merel Smith Fine Art, this Sunday, August 10, 4 to 7 pm. Please park behind the Fire House and walk across the road; there is limited parking at the gallery for anyone who can’t walk any distance.

I love the summer traditions all these visits perpetuate, the looking forward to special meals and outings that have to be just as they always are. The Book Sale with Bob and Dorothy, our first dinner of pork tenderloin, potato salad, and corn, the amazing feast Larz and Rick will prepare, ladies nights out, just Dorothy and me, while Bob plays bridge and Mike works on the hamburger booth for the Fair. Michael and Linda will come for dinner tonight, lobster, which Mike hates, so we do it on a Monday when he’s at the firehouse; Mike’s famous hamburgers for their anniversary dinner on August 10. Pat is a wonderful cook who spoils us when she comes to visit. There are special breakfasts with Julie Kimball, firemen’s hamburgers at the Fair, lunches or dinners on my porch when Mark Reisman returns from a trip with off-Island treats, beach walks with Brooks Robards, Ellen Weiss, and Mary Beth Norton, movie nights with Chari Isaacs, seeing everyone at the Farmers’ Market.

I went to the Friends of the Library’s Book Sale this morning and came home with two boxes and a shopping bag filled with books. Since I have been writing more, my choices comprise volumes of poetry and essays, plus some mysteries and children’s books I couldn’t resist.

While there, I had an interesting conversation with Tom Thatcher about West Tisbury Library history I didn’t know. Tom was on the first Library Board of Trustees and had spearheaded the transformation of the second floor of the Music Street library into the first children’s room. It had been a museum filled with stuffed birds and memorabilia, rarely visited. The librarian of the day was Lena McNeil. Tom helped clean out the space, put in lighting and heat, brought in shelves and books. I remember it as a cheerful room with red-painted bookcases when I arrived in town in 1985. Ann Fielder and Gay Nelson were the children’s librarians. I don’t imagine it had changed much from the time of Tom’s renovation.

The library remains the place to go the year-round. Here is the schedule for this coming week: Poets Justen Ahren and Amira Thoron are reading Thursday, August 7, at 5:30 pm. This Saturday, August 9, there is a rocket-making workshop from 11 am to 1 pm, and a frozen Tisberry Yogurt Social at 4 pm with music by The Vineyard Sound. Mother Goose on the Loose story times for infants to three-year-olds meets on Monday mornings at 10:30 am. Mac Pro Paul Levy continues his drop-in help for those with Mac problems on Mondays from 11 am to 1 pm. The Monday Night Movie is Marcia Rock’s “Surrender Tango”the screening and tango demo beginning at 6:30, with dancing afterwards. On Wednesday, August 13, 10:30 am–12:30 pm, Debbie Yapp will give a workshop for fifth and sixth graders on identifying, collecting, pressing, and creating art from botanicals found on Martha’s Vineyard. Yoga for Kids four to eight years old will be led by Laura Edelman at 10:30. Nicole Cabot will read and sing about melons in a special Island Grown Harvest Story Hour for kids on Thursday morning, August 14, at 10:30 am. Sue Guiney will read from her latest novel, “Out of the Ruins” on Thursday evening. Paintings, collages, and original prints by Elizabeth Langer are on display throughout August in the Program Room. Pre-register for Mathea Morais’s writing/reading workshop for ages 9 to 14 that will be held the week of August 18-21, 10:30 am–12 noon; snacks, books, paper, and pencils will be provided. All programs are free.

Tuesdays at Twilight, a concert series sponsored by the West Tisbury Library Foundation, will host Spotlight on Youth, a concert showcasing the Vineyard’s best new talent on August 12. The concert begins at 7:30 at the Grange Hall.

You may have noticed a photograph of a familiar-looking cat in a familiar-looking setting in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Jan Van Riper’s Prince, from Lynn Christoffers’s “Cats of Martha’s Vineyard,”appeared in an article about Vineyard books. Suzan Bellancampi’s “Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature” and “Morning Glory’s Farm Food; Stories From the Fields, Recipes From the Kitchen” by Gabrielle Redner were also mentioned.

Domingo Pagan will open his studio at 121 Waldron Bottom Road this Saturday, August 9, from noon-4 pm. He calls his show Flowers and Other Colors.

Allen Whiting has new paintings hung at his Davis House Gallery, open Thursdays-Sundays, 1–6 pm.

North Water Street Gallery opens a show tonight, Thursday, August 7, 5–7 pm, of work by Wendy Weldon, Carrie Gustafson, and Jim Holland.

On Sunday evening, 5–7 pm, the Field Gallery opens their new show of paintings by Craig Mooney and Traeger Di Pietro.

I attended the fabulous print show at Featherstone Sunday evening. Having been a privileged observer of Leslie Baker’s weekly sessions at the print studio (I’m on her way home, so she stops for coffee and to show me her latest monotypes) I have had my interest in monotypes rekindled. They are a combination of painting and printmaking, where the artist paints on a plate, then runs it through a press, transferring the image onto dampened paper. It only produces one impression, hence a monotype. They were called The Painterly Print in a show at the Metropolitan Museum back in the 1970s. Rembrandt, Degas, and Whistler were early masters. The show at Featherstone features some worthy continuers of this artistic tradition.

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Rusty Gordon offers a glimpse into life on the farm.

An increase in the number of farms and farmers on Martha’s Vineyard has meant an increasing variety of produce available at farmstands and markets across the Island. In a series of profiles, The Times introduces the men and women who work the earth. This week we talked to Rusty Gordon of Ghost Island Farm, located on State Road in West Tisbury. Rusty started the farm in 2012, and since then has been producing bountiful crops of kale, tomatoes, salad greens, and much more. For more information, visit the farm, call 508-693-5161, or visit ghostislandfarm.com.

How did you get into farming?

When I moved down here, Andrew at Whippoorwill had an ad in the paper in 1989. I called up and went and started working for Andrew in the spring.

What are you growing this month?

Pretty much everything right across the board. Having the farm stand, you want to have the biggest variety you can.

Ghost Island grows a variety of produce using all organic soil and fertilizer.
Ghost Island grows a variety of produce using all organic soil and fertilizer.

Do you have a favorite crop?

Tomatoes have always been my specialty, so we’re growing 60 varieties.

How do you choose the seeds for all of those varieties?

I break it down into a bunch of different things: the number of days it takes them to mature, and also the type of tomatoes – determinate or indeterminate.

Determinate tomatoes will grow into a small bush and then they’ll stop growing and they’ll produce their tomatoes. The plant will start to die and the tomatoes will ripen in a short period of time.

Indeterminates will stay alive – in theory, forever – and they’ll just keep growing up and up and you just keep picking them. It’s better to trellis them. I’m starting to do a certain system where I’m using both in the greenhouses, with indeterminates in the center and determinates on the sides. But I’m also trying to get multiple crops into the greenhouses. So, just to do a quick, early tomato, and then use them for other things, like winter greens and late summer tomatoes.

Do you ever have days off?

No, I’m pretty much here everyday from morning until midnight. There’s so much going on between doing all of the picking until it gets dark, and there’s so much to do in the store. The store itself is an entirely different business than farming. There’s also, after the picking, all of the processing that we’ve got to do with the greens – washing and drying and spinning and bagging.

Is there a certain crop that is the most labor intensive?

Well, all the greens are, because of the way we do things. This field has a lot of clay in it, so we can’t direct seed anything. So we started seeding everything in flats in the greenhouses, and then transplanting them outside and covering them with the insect netting. And then we pull that off to pick, wash, spin, then air dry and bag. When it’s just a tomato, you can just go pick it and it’s ready.

What would you say your biggest challenge is farming on Martha’s Vineyard?

I think that starting out is hard; just being somebody coming here without any money or family land is hard, and just trying to make a business and make it work – especially a farm. And getting it set up and all of the infrastructure set up and done and paid for before you can start making a profit. But it’s all I’ve been doing and I don’t want to be doing anything else.

What part or phase of your farming excites you the most?

I guess looking at the whole picture and doing the planning – figuring out exactly what’s going to happen, where stuff is going to go, that kind of thing. Getting the seeds, figuring out all of the varieties and putting it all together.

I guess that is the way that it all worked out, because instead of doing the bulk of the labor, because we now have five employees, it’s more of just staying on top of everything business-wise. I mean, I love being in the dirt and working, but I’m not there as much as I want to be right now.

How does the community factor into your work?

Well, heavily. We have the co-op program, which is a community supported agriculture, which is doing great. And I think that starting this was really important – without the community, we wouldn’t have been able to start this project and have this farm.

What do you do in the winter?

We have seven greenhouses now so were working on experimenting with what can work and what can’t. And there are a lot of things we can do. We do pretty much anything we can that will help the farm for the coming season. These last couple of years we were open until Christmas time with late crops.

I don’t know what the future holds as far as opening and closing, but we will definitely close for a break at some point. In the winter it’s mostly about preparing for the season ahead; working on the shelves and the farmstand itself and buying the seeds, all of that good stuff.

Do you ever buy genetically modified seeds?

No. None of our seeds are treated or genetically modified. We don’t use any of that. I actually keep a bunch of signs up about our organic growing methods because we’re not allowed to say organic because we’re not certified, but we only use certified organic soil and certified organic fertilizer, and we don’t spray anything at all – except water.

What are you working on today?

Today I’m doing a lot of processing. A lot of stuff is getting picked right now. Usually stuff gets picked either at night or first thing in the morning, so today I’ve been washing kale and bagging, and helping the guys out in the field to get the pumpkins in the field, and then we’re going to plant some green, yellow, and purple soybeans.

Everyday there’s stuff getting picked and other things getting planted. Early in the year its mostly seeding, and then it’s mostly planting, and now it’s getting to the picking stage.

Is there anything we should be looking for in the next few weeks?

Yes. All of the tomatoes are starting to ripen now, so we’ve started picking already, and we’ve got so many different kinds – there are lots to try. We’ve also got 12 varieties of kale, and tons of different kinds of cucumbers of all different colors and sizes, like Middle Eastern ones, brown ones, yellows, whites. We’re trying to do a lot of colors this season so we’re doing the rainbow chard, rainbow bok choy, and red, yellow, and white beets as well.

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Barking dogs housed in the kennel behind Animal Health Care on Airport Road have been a source of neighborhood disturbance. — Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen, meeting Wednesday June 25, unanimously approved a plan designed to reduce the volume of sound from barking dogs boarded in the outside kennel space at veterinarian Steven Atwood’s Animal Health Care Associates (AHC) located adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Almost one year ago, a group of neighbors from the Coffin’s Field subdivision across nearby Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, represented by homeowner Elaine Friedman, asked the board for relief from the barking dogs. The Coffin’s Field group and AHC agreed to attempt to reach an agreement but differences in the data presented by each side’s audio experts lead to differing conclusions and no agreement.

Mr. Atwood’s attorney, Rosemary Haigazian, and an audio expert, Lawrence Copley, hired by Mr. Atwood, presented a plan at the Wednesday meeting to enclose the kennel wall facing the subdivision, hang a vinyl curtain across the longest open wall and apply sound damping material to an interior back wall and the kennel’s ceiling.

Ms. Haigazian said the project would cost between $5,000 and $8,000. She said AHC hoped to get some financial assistance from the neighbors. There were no offers of assistance at the meeting. At the selectmen’s meeting a week earlier, the Coffin’s Field group proposed that Mr. Atwood provide a 12-foot wall made of soundproofing material which AHC argued was too expensive.

Selectmen gave AHC 60 days to complete the work.

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Caroline Mayhew gets married, up-Island style.

Marching Down Music Street, from left: Jack Mayhew, Caroline, Daniel, Daniel's sisters Toni and Damarise Johnson. Toni's husband Scott Moulder is the tall man visible behind. — Photo by Sarah Mayhew

At about 4 pm on Saturday, June 14, 2014, people living on Music Street in West Tisbury looked out their windows and saw a long procession coming out of the playground next to the town hall. About a hundred people headed down the street, walking, not marching — there was no band, or any music, only Tom Hodgson, who seemed to be leading them toward the entrance to Look’s Pond Way, where they turned left and proceeded down the dirt lane.

What was going on? They all looked happy and were chatting with each other as they walked — some were even holding hands.

Tom-Dan-Caroline.jpgTall, short, thin, fat, old, young, white, black, Asian — there seemed to be no pattern to help an onlooker figure out who they represented. But I knew — they were all friends and family members of Caroline Mayhew and Daniel Johnson, who were leading them all, behind Mr. Hodgson, who would marry them when they arrived at their destination. Caroline is my granddaughter and Daniel has been her loving companion for 12 years — since they met at Simon’s Rock College.

I, too old to parade down Music Street, had sneaked in by car and took a seat on the edge of Look’s Pond to await them. There they came, through the yard of the house I had lived in for 55 years, past the stone wall, and down to the lower edge of the field. Some of them filled the dozen chairs that had been set up and others spread blankets on the ground to sit on, much like a beach party.

This was the spot Caroline had chosen for her wedding ceremony because her parents, my son, Jack, and his wife, Betsey, had been married here on the edge of Look’s Pond almost 30 years ago, in 1984. This was going to be a very unconventional  ceremony – Caroline and Dan had asked Tom Hodgson to marry them via the one-day privilege Massachusetts will grant to anyone who fills out the proper forms, pays the small fee, and gets a letter of recommendation from someone attesting that this is a good person to do the job. I wrote that letter, as I had known Tom since he was five years old.

Daniel Johnson and Caroline Mayhew.
Daniel Johnson and Caroline Mayhew.

When everyone was settled down, my youngest granddaughter, Katie Mayhew, opened with a song called Picture in a Frame; middle granddaughter Lucy Mayhew, Caroline’s sister, accompanied her on guitar. Tom then spoke very kindly about Caroline and Daniel and how committed they are to each other. Another song followed called One Voice. It was harmonized by my daughter Deborah, Katie, Leah Shearer, and Toni Johnson, Daniel’s sister.

Caroline spoke to the crowd, made up of her family, Daniel’s family, school friends of both of them, friends of Jack and Betsey, neighbors, and two people from Caroline’s law firm in Washington, D.C. In the crowd Ohio, California, Texas, North Carolina and probably a few other states were represented. Her talk thanked each group who had helped her along the way to this moment in her life. Daniel spoke in the same vein, with sincere thanks to his family and all his friends for being in West Tisbury to help him and Caroline celebrate this momentous occasion.

Caroline’s mother, Betsey, spoke and then her Aunt Deborah, who had collected some quotes about marriage from some famous people. She quoted Franz Schubert who once said, “Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.” Caroline and Daniel have had 12 years to cement their friendship as they start on their life together as husband and wife. Caroline’s sister, Lucy, also spoke, welcoming Daniel into the family.

A real up-Island event – standing, from left: Tom Hodgson, Deborah Mayhew, Daniel and Caroline Mayhew and Jack Mayhew.
A real up-Island event – standing, from left: Tom Hodgson, Deborah Mayhew, Daniel and Caroline Mayhew and Jack Mayhew.

When Lucy finished, the bride and groom exchanged vows and rings. Daniel had designed their rings, made of silver with a small inscription on each. Yellow and blue were the colors of the day; the sun and the moon their symbols. Caroline’s ring was engraved with a moon and a small blue sapphire: Dan’s had a sun and a small yellow sapphire. They had found a jeweler in Alaska who made them to order.

No long white dress with veil for the bride and no tuxedo for the groom. Comfort came first. Claire Aquila, a costume designer and friend from New York City had designed a lovely pant suit for Caroline; Daniel wore a grey vest over a bright yellow shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.

When Tom concluded the service and the couple had each answered “I do,” he asked the congregation to agree that this was a good union and we all shouted, “We do!”

A song called We Are Gonna Be Friends, sung by Deborah and her daughter Katie, accompanied by Lucy on the guitar, concluded the ceremony, and everyone left to retrieve their cars while Eli Dagostino, the official photographer, took the formal family photographs near the pond. My daughter Sarah, who grew up working in my darkroom, is also an accomplished photographer, and she could be seen dashing around taking candid shots.

The Bodes played at the reception.
The Bodes played at the reception.

But wait — that was not the end. We all found our way to Jack and Betsey’s house in North Tisbury, where a huge tent had been set up and tables for eight arranged under it. Smaller tents for sleeping were sprinkled on the other side of the house for those who preferred not to (or couldn’t) spend big money for overnight accommodations  A badminton net was strung across the backyard, and one end of the tents was set up and amplified for the music that would take place after dinner. West Tisbury weddings — and sometimes West Tisbury memorial services — often have local musicians as part of the program. In this case it would be The Bodes — four middle-aged men who had started the group while in the regional high school, some 45 years ago. One of them was Jack Mayhew, Caroline’s father.

As dusk settled, the ambience was festive with twinkling lights strung among the trees and bushes surrounding the house — the music was rock and roll and the dancing began — not on a dance floor, but on the lawn. Katie sang four songs with the Bodes and Lucy joined them on the keyboard for several songs. This was truly an Island wedding — potluck dinner with smoked bluefish and smoked chicken by Aunty Sarah (who had been taught well by her father); pulled pork, grilled chicken, and lobster salad by Betsey; rice and salads and breads brought by guests — and, not a traditional wedding cake, but dozens of cheesecake and flourless chocolate cupcakes made by the bride over the winter and frozen until June 14th.

The decorations on each table were designed and made by members of the family and their friends — a tree stump topped with a candle in the middle surrounded by small clay animals — all animals and birds found on the Vineyard. Garlands of ivy surrounded the stumps which were what remained of a spruce tree in their front yard that had to be sacrificed when their solar panels were installed. They had saved the trunk and Caroline helped saw it into the right sizes with her dad’s chain saw. The little animals were made from clay that didn’t need baking – friends and family had been turning them out, a few at a time, for months.

Caroline didn’t want paper party ware — she wanted real china and glass glasses. She put out the word to the members of her family and all her friends to scour their local thrift shops and pick up plates and dessert dishes with any blue on them. Her dad, Jack, started collecting empty wine bottles from a local restaurant, cutting them down to size, and polishing the edges to a smooth finish. By Christmas the house started to fill up with odds and ends of blue and white china dishes and wine bottle/glasses. The freezer filled up with delicious cupcakes. Betsey had bought fabric from The Heath Hen Shop and made up all the napkins tied up with twine.

This was truly a Vineyard wedding — recycled dinnerware and wine bottles, recycled spruce tree that had grown to 40 feet from the day that Jack had planted it in their yard many years before, a wedding location that was very meaningful to the whole family, especially for the bride’s parents, homemade decorations and delicious food from everyone who attended.

And a final convention discarded — instead of the bride taking her husband’s name, the groom took his bride’s name and became Daniel Mayhew. He is a wonderful addition to our family.

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Despite its imposing size, Breaker 732 destroys trees in its path gently.

West Tisbury Fire Chief Manny Estrella next to Breaker 732. — Photo by Rich Saltzberg

West Tisbury shares more than 5,343 acres of State Forest with Edgartown. In addition to all the woodlands, shrublands, and barrens within that acreage, the town contains many other sizable tracts of preserved land, or simply undeveloped land, thick with natural obstacles and cut through with few roads. For firefighters and emergency personnel, these wild parcels present serious access problems. To reach plane crash sites, to combat brush fires or rescue those who may be caught in them, the West Tisbury Fire Department cannot afford to hemorrhage time by buzzing swaths through brush and timber with chainsaws. For over half a century the department has utilized brush trucks or brush breakers, vehicles fitted with such menacing frontends, they look boosted from Lord Humungus’s driveway. Part plow and part armor, the protuberant steel caging in the trucks’ fronts protects both the occupants of the cab and the truck itself. That steel also enables brush breakers to motor over thickets and topple pines and oaks of up to 19 inches in diameter.

The protuberant steel caging in front of the truck (this one is another breaker, number 731) not only protects the occupants of the cab, but enables the monster breaker to motor over thickets and topple trees up to 19 inches in diameter.
The protuberant steel caging in front of the truck (this one is another breaker, number 731) not only protects the occupants of the cab, but enables the monster breaker to motor over thickets and topple trees up to 19 inches in diameter.

“This type of wild land fire apparatus is unique to areas of the country with fuel loads like those found in West Tisbury,” said Kenneth R. Willette, Division Manager of Public Fire Protection at the National Fire Protection Association via an e-mail to the Times. “They allow firefighters to make a safe and effective fire attack on a fast-moving fire that can be a distance from access roads. West Tisbury FD’s decision to include two of them in their fleet illustrates their commitment to defending the community against this risk.”

Two of the three brush breakers in service on Martha’s Vineyard are owned by the West Tisbury Fire Department, one garaged in each of the town’s stations. The other breaker in service is at the Chilmark Fire Department. Yet another breaker on-Island is a retired veteran of the West Tisbury Fire Department, old 732, a 1959 Ford currently sunning itself behind the Dumptique on the property of Richard T. Olsen & Son in West Tisbury.

Like its Ford predecessor, the current Breaker 732, a Sterling-chassis behemoth, enjoys a Marmon-Herrington all-wheel-drive system. A benchmark of heavy-duty vehicle mechanics, Marmon-Herrington used to manufacture tanks, armored cars, and heavy trucks and now builds heavy axles for military vehicles and big trucks as well as making the type of all-wheel-drive conversion kit on Breaker 732. That kit, along with a steel-plated underside, and specially configured brakes and tire rods, lets the breaker steam over stumps, limbs, brush, rocks, and vine knots that would snarl many of the best 4×4 vehicles passing over the same terrain.

Lieutenant Danny Prowten in the cab of Breaker 732.
Lieutenant Danny Prowten in the cab of Breaker 732.

When encountering a tree in its path that it cannot wheel around, breaker 732 doesn’t build up speed and ram it, as one might assume. It plows into trees quite slowly, at speeds of around two or three miles per hour or less, essentially nudging them over. According to Lieutenant Jesse Oliver, one of the crewmembers of breaker 732, besides minimizing wear and tear on the vehicle, low speed contact with trees helps to drop them away from the breaker instead of hewing them down mid-trunk and sending the bulk of the tree backwards where it may land on firefighters positioned in the open rear of the truck.

Breaker 732 is fitted with a 20,000-pound capacity Ramsey winch to address emergency hauling and towing situations. It also boasts a custom skid-mounted rear pump, according to Jeffrey Mazza, President and CEO of Bulldog Fire and Emergency Apparatus. The custom pump, like the whole vehicle, was put together by Bulldog in Hopkinton. Whereas most fire engine pumps are internal and difficult to extract, the skid-mounted pump allows firefighters the ability to exchange the pump with a replacement unit in the field should it succumb to clogs, leaks or other failures.

The high sides of breaker 732 give firefighters extra protection from branches and heat. From behind them they can draw on the 650 gallon tank to douse flames with water or Class A foam. It is on one of those high sides that the initials of a fallen member of the West Tisbury Fire Department are emblazoned in tribute. In the winter of 2010, lieutenant Daniel Prowten perished in a house fire on Indian Hill in West Tisbury. He had been a key member of the 732 breaker crew.

“He was the best brush firefighter we ever had,” said Lt. Oliver.

Chief Manuel Estrella III, a longtime crew member of breaker 732, served with Mr. Prowten for decades.  “We joined at about the same time — about 45 years ago,” said the Chief. “We miss him a lot.”

In addition to being an indispensable piece of emergency apparatus for the rugged terrain in parts of West Tisbury, breaker 732 is also a vehicle of honor for a firefighter who was one of its most esteemed crewmembers.