Newport, ri to Cape Hatteras, NC
March 7 thru March 21, 2019
Are you crazy?
“Are you crazy?” I hope not. “It’s gotta be a mid-life thing” Impossible. I’m too old!! What sort of experience do you have?” Very little. “Then why are you doing it?” Well … it’s kind of a long story, so let me begin with what I said on NOAA’S Volunteer Application Form “Comment” section below:
journal entry, day 1
Passageway To State Room 1-32-1
Another Day Off
Journal entry, day 2
March 9: day 3
Notes to self
General areas AROUND the ship
Trawls and Rigging
Trawls, CTB, & Bongo
JOURNAL ENTRY, Day 4
streaming & haul back
journal entry, day 5
What’s a trawl?
Standing-by to receive a catch
March 13/14: day-7/8
A Holy Crap Haul
March 15/16: day-9/10
March 21: almost home
I began farming for Island Creek Oysters (ICO) in Duxbury, MA on Monday, July 31. Below are some images. There's so much to learn.The lobster fishing I experienced earlier this season is what I would say is 2-dimensional work: 1. set the traps, 2. haul the traps. There is, of course, much hard work and lots of activity, but it's a pretty simple process. Oyster farming is a whole different story.
The Oysterplex, which is a floating platform and shed use for culling, counting, bagging, and transporting the oysters by mini-barge to a refrigerator truck for delivery to restaurants. We cull, count and bag thousands of oysters a day:
The gear shed, adjacent to the dock
Culling is sorting through a big pile of oysters by hand, to chose the ones that are the absolute best for market. ICO produces a variety of three oysters throughout the bay: Row 34's, Aunt Dotties and Island Creeks. The pile below are the Island Creeks.
Tools used for culling: a 3' PVC ring and a screwdriver.
Island Creeks are culled in five separate sizes. It's taken me awhile to internalize exactly what the correct sizes are, especially the "premium" and "selects", which are the two smaller sizes, the premiums measuring slightly smaller than the selects. The "regulars" are easy, as they measure the diameter of the 3' ring. The "extra large (aka "chuncky)" will exceed the diameter.
Row 34's can be culled directly from their trays at really low tide, eg: "on the tide", or in the Oysterplex
ICO oysters are counted 100 per bag:
Row 34s (note the bag below that’s inside-out) are culled and counted by two different sizes - "regular" & "select".
Aunt Dotties are pre-sorted for us by "select" only.
Island Creeks, are sorted and counted by five different sizes: "jumbo", "chunky", "regular", "select" & "premium":
THE TIME FOR FARM-WORK DEPENDS ON THE TIME OF LOW TIDE
The sweet-spot for harvesting Rows and Dotties is an hour or-so before, thru an hour or-so after, dead low.
Spring tides happen when the sun-earth-moon are in alignment. Neap tides happen seven days after a spring tide, when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other.
A fews more photos will wrap up August, 2018! :
Working the grader
see you, august!
What a sweet beginning …
Good morning, sunshine!
a peek at island creek from 50,000 feet
September 4 & 10: Saquish
My first trip by skiff to the Saquish area was this week. Subsequent trips during the month were by truck along the six-mile spit of land from Powder Point to Gurnet. Joe R. manages (below) the growth, quality and harvesting of the Aunt Dotty oysters here.
A New Farm-Hand doing His Job
Cory’s and my make-shift culling station:
Ursula, Hannah, Shawna and Emily harvesting Row’s on Hunt’s tidal flat in Duxbury Bay:
Kira, my Finnish Lapphund
A shout-out to my loyal pup Kira, who enjoy’s helping me with chores around the dock on weekends. She’s in her 17th year!
Fall is closing in …
September 17 - 21
Setting out to harvest oysters under moonlight.
September 24 - 28
Hunts Tidal Flat
Wind and rain on the farm will keep nobody down!
Left-to-right: Hannah, Emily, Ursula, Shawna: what a spirited team, rain or shine!
Setting out for Hunts to harvest Row 34’s in a driving rain. Joe R. was experiencing the same over at Saquish, harvesting the Aunt Dotty’s. It was a real soaker, and no one was worse for the wear!
Watching the Pats crush the Dolphins and saying good-bye to September at ICO’s Raw Bar with Emily and Shawna.
A personal shout-out to Mike Fallon, USMC
I met Mike just after Labor Day when he joined the farm crew to work for Joe Pierce’s section (the Back River farm lease). Mike’s a terrific guy and an incredibly hard worker. His last day was on Friday (9/28), and I was able to get together with Mike and his family at Island Creek’s raw bar on Saturday, motored out to the farm, and said our goodbye’s. We had many great conversations, and developed a sincere bond. Mike Fallon is the “real news”. He’ll report for basic training on Parris Island, SC on October 9.
So long, September!
ICO’s “Saltwash Dinner Series”
Joy and I were lucky enough to enjoy the last of three Saltwash Dinner’s of the season. Island Creek’s been hosting the post-labor day event each Monday from SEP 10 thru SEP 24. It was amazing!
.. to the hatchery and farm ..
Scenes and Sounds
The Lunar Tide
Time to go to work
No one said it would be easy
From the Hatchery to the Back River Nursery
Sorting, bagging, un-bagging, lifting, hauling, dragging, getting dirty - enjoying every minute, wind, rain and shine. From the Hatchery to the Back River Nursery is where so much begins to come together, as millions of baby oysters (spat) grow big enough to move out to the Saquish and Hunts flats in Duxbury Bay.
Oysters are filter-feeders, feeding on phytoplankton and other nutrients from the ocean water. From the hatchery, adult female and male oysters are put into breeding trays where they spawn. Several hours later, the fertilized eggs hatch the larva. By the time they’re about 6 weeks old, they’re ready to leave the hatchery and moved to the upwellers. In a month-or-so, the baby oysters (spat) will be big enough to move from the upwellers to the Back River Nursery where they continue to grow. After about six weeks, they’ll be ready to be moved into the bay.
What is an upweller?
miscellaneous photos from the dock
Grading baby oysters: meet Bubba
A trip to the back river nursery
Breaking it all down for the fall and winter
This season’s first nor’ easter
It was relatively puny, and with most of the gear contained it couldn’t have come at a better time. Cleanup was minimal.
Saquish: 31 October, 2018
island creek’s 2018 fishing tournament
Chris Sherman, Sean Telo, Miche Wong
Skip, Ben Caliendo
Mark Boutlillier (won biggest fish), Colby Connell, Anna Priester
Bob Mills, Dave Schneller, Matt D’Amore (won smallest fish)
Tommy Reale (won quantity of catch - 18 stripers!), Jon Gomer, Joe Gauthier
No one caught Tautog or Sea Robin, so no awards given …
Mark and the winning striper. Instead of fishing all afternoon he, Anna, and Colby steamed down to Plymouth for an afternoon of bar-hopping. On their way back from getting hammered, Mark thought he’d drop his line in the water just so he could say he actually fished, and BOOM!!
The cat in the hats
So long, October!
so long, october!
welcome, tim mahoney!
… to the farm crew
Pulling gear and stacking equipment
Joe & Nick, pulling the empty grows* from the Back River Nursery, with Tim standing by to receive them.
Grows are large floating trays that contain six large black mesh bags (see the photo above of bags about to be power-washed) of thousands of baby oysters per tray, safely growing in this excellent tidal zone Spring through mid-Fall. When they baby oysters are big enough, they’re planted in the Bay to become Island Creek, Row 34, or Aunt Dotty oysters.
Nick & Tim, racking and stacking the grows on ICO’s Washington Street property.
ICO’S HUNTS LEASE: night farming
Me, Cory, Emily, Ursula, Tim, Hannah (behind the camera), Skip (behind Hannah, farming!). Absent from the photo are Shawna, Cat, and Nick, who’s silhouettes are somewhere in the lower-left picture below. #hannahpearson15
Ursula showed us the way of oystering under a canopy of stars and constellations on a rare & beautiful moonless night, followed by a spectacular dark/clear morning. Temps were in the upper teens on the Hunts lease, and I wasn’t 100% dressed for it!
the Orion constellation
Mid to late November
ICO’s Saquish Lease
Joe, considering the options on a particularly stormy day.
After a week of high winds out of the east, Nick and I were tasked with returning hundreds of Back River oyster bags into the bay. It was heavy work. Nick grumbled to me: “to bad we don’t have a dolly”. Low and behold, my brother-in-law David has a dolly for his dingy at the family cottage right next door. I pulled the dolly from the garage and gathered some old boards lying around ICO’s wood shop. Nick then lashed them on the dolly to transport the bags.
Shawna, Hannah, Cat, Emily, Matt, and Tim off-loading oyster trays that they had stacked on ICO’s barge to transport from the Hunts lease to the dock.
the crummy weather is winding down
november 30: cold, calm, and perfect
the suminoe oyster
Joy’s and my friends and neighbors, the Scanlons, live right across the street from us. Megan travels a lot for work, and earlier this month she was in Xiaman, China. At the same time I had been reading “The Geography Of Oysters” and had just finished a paragraph on the Chinese oyster Suminoe (Sumo for short, as in those huge wrestlers). Meg’s Instagram message below is what caught my attention:
I did a little research and learned that Xiamen is a highly industrialized bay, so I gotta wonder about the size of these oysters. Are they mutants ;-/ …?
november - the end!
More nights on Ursela’s ‘Hunts’ lease
More days on Joe’s ‘Saquish’ lease
A visit to Clark’s Island
Changing skyline at the dock
Holiday Hustle / ACDC
more nights on URSULA’S hunts lease
A shout-out to Emmy Hagen of ICO’s media group for her photo’s!
Almost the whole gang was out on this particular night. From the Hatchery was Hannah, Shawna, Emily, Cat, and Nick; from the Farm was Skip, Ursula, Cory, Tim, and me. Joe worked all day but had to head to BU for his MBA class. Emily Hagen was behind the camera.
By the end of December, over 2,000 trays like these will have been moved onto the property for winter storage.
… picking at night:
… and culling in the morning:
Below is an average December work week from an exercise (and weather) standpoint, so-says my Fitbit - which I’m thinking represents a general benchmark-week for Island Creek farmers (fellow farmers are half my age and twice as strong, so my guess is that their step/cardio benefits are a lot higher).
more days on joe’s saqiush lease
A view of the commute to Saquish from “The Ford”:
A view of the commute to Saquish from “The Carolina”:
Cat, preparing to bag some Aunt Dotties:
a visit to clark’s Island
A short skiff ride to the Taylor property
Walk in the Wood
CHANGING SKYLINE at the dock
Out of harms way for the winter
Mark with Cory wrote, choreographed and implemented the final removal from the bay of at least twelve more platforms and houses - in just one day. It was a pretty awesome undertaking …
Thousands of holiday orders: How do Island Creek Oysters get from here to there?
Cooperation, and timing!
Come and ride with Joe, Nick and me on a 90 second commute from Duxbury’s town landing -delivering oysters to Island Creek’s new operation/distribution center:
- ACDC -
So long, 2018
HAPPY 2019 oyster lovers!
sea foam farming
the big chill
a primer on oyster seed production
Growing an oyster hatchery, pt. 1
sea foam farming - january 14
An interesting day on the Saquish lease
This is not snow - it’s frozen sea foam that’s deep and heavy. Joe, who manages the Saquish lease, was through this last year, and knew exactly what we had to do to extract over 800 pounds of Aunt Dotty’s. It took four trips: thought that I was going to DIE!! Truth be told, I sat out the last run - my excuse being someone had to record this epic effort ;-)
THE BIG CHILL - january 21
It was too cold to work on this particular day, but not cold enough for a few pictures :-)