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time: 12:30 pm

air temp: 50 F

water temp: 52 F

tide: not low enough

conditions: calm (again!)

number of bags: 13

 

notes: Whew. Mission accomplished! Thirteen bags stuffed with market size oysters are all that remain on the surface at my little farm. That sure feels good.

Just buoys! And some big beauties still floating waiting to be sold.

I'm exhausted and sore (something new and different), but feeling good to have gotten that done! Hopefully I can catch a low tide soon to line everything up nice and neat. I already feel the learning curve coming my way as I continue to expand the number of oysters on the farm at a given time... I'm getting better at experimenting in a smarter way (i.e. not subjecting my entire crop to some newfangled idea I have for gear rigging, etc.). But this was hard, and I'm going to need to be better organized next year and give myself some time to streamline and make things more methodical and predictable. Fortunately I've got a whole winter ahead of me to plot and scheme for that.

 

In the meantime, with all that hard work out of the way, I have two rather exciting tidbits of news to share! The first is that my lease application, which I've discussed in previous posts, sailed fairly smoothly through its scoping session last Wednesday. The scoping session is the first of two public meetings that accompany aquaculture lease applications. The purpose of this first public session is more informational, to allow me, the applicant, to share my ideas and hopes and dreams with anyone who cares to show up and learn more. It's also a space for me to hear from other folks who use or interact with the area, and a chance for me to gain more knowledge about the uses of the spot I hope to expand into.

In the press, again! I'm feeling so excited and grateful that my story was again deemed worthy of a write up in yet another reputable Maine publication. Thanks to Maine Women's Magazine for this awesome At the Helm feature.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting one the riparian landowners who owns property on the mainland nearby. She came in with ecological and aesthetic concerns, and after a productive conversation about my plans and about how different shellfish aquaculture is from other (and mostly older) forms of fish farming aquaculture, I think we are well off on a path to being neighbors and friends in the area. Generally speaking, it's becoming pretty clear to me that I and my shellfish farming industry really need to do more educating about how environmentally beneficial shellfish farming actually is. There is quite literally no other means of creating protein in such a sustainable way - provided we aren't setting farms up in endangered or protected habitat, the introduction of our shellfish to the coast of Maine only stands to do good during these days of climate change and ocean acidification. Keep an eye on my social media this winter, as I aim to do a little more educating through it while I have more free time, and I hope you will help me spread the good word!

 

Ok finally, go check out Maine Women's Magazine's November issue, and this ridiculously awesome article about me, written by the lovely Amy Paradysz, photos by Jenny McNulty. It feels so good to have people take notice of what I've been working so hard at lately, and to think it cool enough to be worth sharing with the wider community. Such an honor, and what wonderful fuel it adds to my already raging fire...

 

time: 4 pm

air temp: 48 F

water temp: 52 F

tide: can't remember

conditions: glassy calm

number of bags: shrinking

 

notes: Well, this fall has been a learning experience. I feel like I say that a lot lately. We've had three significant wind storms since the beginning of October, and while nor'easters are pretty normal for fall in Maine as the universe prepares to transition from warmer air and ocean temps to colder ones, the exaggerating effects that climate change has had on these normal seasonal shifts has meant that these weather events have been getting more severe as time goes on.

Lil' baby from this summer! They are big and beautiful now, and still sporting their glamorous stripes which makes me happy happy.

Fortunately, the farm has faired these blows well and I haven't lost anything. Some gear failures that resulted in some unintended bottom seeding of some of the one year old oysters, but as I talked about in the last post, they will just be a fun snorkeling adventure next summer. The worry and sleepless nights during these storms, however, are not worth the stress they have impacted on me, so I'm learning and adapting my fall farm layout plans to try to account for the seemingly more frequent fall storms.

 

I took today to start moving all my seed from this year, as well as the one year old oysters that aren't yet big enough to harvest, into clean bottom cages to get settled for the winter.

What I love most about where I've sited my farm is that it's shallow enough for me to get away with doing this before the oysters fully go into their winter state of hibernation - they can go down to the bottom now without too much of a change in temperature or food supply. Typically, we oyster farmers are watching and waiting for the ocean temps to hit 40 degrees, the sleepy time threshold for our animals. Sinking oysters too early can result in their suffocating or starving due to the fact that right now, they are still feeding like crazy and working on storing up as much energy as possible. But my little guys will fare just as well down there now, and I will hopefully get a little more sleep. Next year, I plan to start this process much earlier.

So much dirty gear came in today. I have hours and hours of pressure washing ahead of me....

I've been building my own bottom cages over the past couple months in anticipation of winterizing the farm in a way that is manageable for me in my solo-status, and I'm excited that today went smoothly. Tomorrow will hopefully see the rest of the little guys safely settled onto the bottom, and then I will just need to venture out on a good drainer tide and make sure the cages landed correctly, and probably corral some of them back with the rest. The tide wasn't quite low enough for me to be able to see where things landed, so a double check will be in order.

time: 12:30 pm

air temp: 58 F

water temp: 54 F

tide: high @ 2

conditions: NW wind gusting to 25, partly sunny

number of bags: 140

 

notes: Well, if you live any where in coastal Maine you know we have had a pretty crazy week up here. We've had two fairly significant nor'easters roll through in a week's time, the

The #calmbeforethestorm. It's a real thing, folks.

first lingering for a few days with more moderate winds and relentless, big seas offshore. The second, which passed through very quickly this past Thursday (two days ago), packed a strong punch to the coastline. Damaging wind gusts of over 50 kts caused widespread power outages and we lost a lot of big old trees, as we do in these storms, something that always makes me so sad.

 

Fortunately, the farm fared well through both weather events, and this second blow in particular was a good test of how I rigged my gear this year. All the jerking and jostling caused by the wave action resulted in a couple of my bungee closures on my bags getting yanked open and dumping some of my two year old oysters out onto the bottom, but they are big enough to survive quite happily on their own down there at this point, and to be honest they probably are loving life on that hard muddy bottom! I'll be able to retrieve them at a low tide when things calm down a bit and visibility is restored. I'd much rather do some fall snorkeling than lose the gear entirely, and now I know the quick easy solution to storm prep with my gear set up is to just throw a couple zip ties in the bungeed ends of my bags.

Coming home from checking on the farm post blow. Enjoying the fall colors in the marsh grass and trees.

In other news, my lease application process has been proceeding along well. I'm now preparing for my scoping session, which is essentially just an open public meeting at which folks who are curious about my hopes to expand can come learn a little bit more. And this afternoon I'll be headed to Portland with my pal Amanda (who grows oysters a half mile south of me off of Lanes Island in Yarmouth) to Thompson's Point to participate in Harvest on the Harbor's OysterFest event, which is being hosted in conjunction with the nice folks at Maine Oyster Company. There will be something like 30 different Maine oyster farmers there shucking oysters! I've packed up a bag full of tea towels and shucking kits and am hoping to sell some of my homemade oyster goodies while there, and to recruit some new farm share customers :) Wish me luck with the crowd! That many people in one room sure does make me anxious.