Dr. John A. Hargreaves, son of Jack and Ute Hargreaves, left for Iraq last month armed with a doctorate in biology and a heart filled with idealism. John is part of an assessment team from Texas A& M University that is exploring ways to rehabilitate agriculture in that war-torn country. His specialty is aquaculture.

While in Iraq, he will work under the auspices of the U.S. military and will stay on military bases. He will assess and make recommendations to military commanders on the health and vitality of fish farms, hatcheries, and feed mills in areas south of Baghdad in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, an area that has been under cultivation for 3,500 years.

His work there is part of a much larger military effort to stimulate the economy. Although he has strong reservations about our war effort in Iraq, he is excited about his work, hoping that it will help create economic stability in Iraq and thus hasten the day when our troops can come home.

For a glimpse of Iraq that you will not find on television, log onto John’s blog (iraquaculture.blogspot.com). In brief essays that are well written and appropriately illustrated with high-quality photographs, John focuses on efforts to improve agriculture and to begin the process of establishing democratic government at the village level.

You can’t miss the Brooks house at the corner of Brewster avenue and East Chop Drive. Have you ever wondered how it works? Recently I sat with Scott Brooks on his wonderful porch and received some answers.

The house was purchased by Scott’s great-grandfather James Archibald Brooks in 1882. The story goes that great-grandfather James was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862 in the Civil War. From the battlefield in Manassas, Va., James was shipped via train to Boston to undergo surgery to remedy his medical problems. Along the way, his entourage made a mysterious side trip to the Vineyard. James was enchanted with his stay here, and vowed to return in the event he survived the operation. He fulfilled his dream in 1872, returning to rent the house that now bears his name. He purchased the house, the small cottage behind it, and the house now owned by Sally and Bob Hammett in 1882 for $1,700.

James had four daughters and two sons who summered here. In 1905, Scott’s grandfather, John H. Brooks, bought out the shares of his five siblings. From 1905 to 1962, John and his wife Augusta ran the house with an iron will. Augusta left the house to her 11 grandchildren in 1962.

Such a will has the potential for disaster; however, there is a tradition in the Brooks family that their Vineyard home is a treasure, a gift that nobody really owns. This tradition led family members who lost interest in the Vineyard or who purchased houses on other parts of the Island to surrender their interests quietly, demanding little or no monetary compensation for their share of the house. It also led to the placement of the house into a trust in 1985, which has enabled former owners to surrender their individual property rights to the trust.

At present, Scott and his cousin Jock Brooks are the trustees with 10 great-grandchildren of John and Augusta listed as beneficiaries. House expenses are funded from rentals, a per diem charge to each family member who stays there, and contributions from family members. We are glad that they are all still here, and that their beautiful house somehow works.

The Cousen Rose Gallery will feature the black and white photographs of John Breckenridge this week. An artist’s reception is set for Saturday, July 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. This is the 14th year that John’s work has been displayed at the gallery. John specializes in Vineyard scenes, though this year he is adding photographs from a recent trip to Rome and Sicily.

Finally, last week the fifth grade class from the Oak Bluffs Elementary School embarked on a five-day cruise on the Shenandoah. The East Chop contingent included Amy Peterson, Shane Wilder, Ellie Reagen, Tory Reagen, Sam Reagen, Emily Hammett, and Charlotte and Samantha Potter. The kids worked on the ship, performing tasks from raising the sails to swabbing the decks. But what they liked best was their special perch in Edgartown harbor for the Fourth of July fireworks, and the wonderful stories of Capt. Robert Douglas.