time: 9:45 am

air temp: 67 F

water temp: 49 F

tide: falling

conditions: unseasonably warm, calm, sunny.

The process of getting the farm ready for winter is a long one. Empty dirty bags that have already had their inhabitants consolidated and transferred into clean gear.

Well, if you are a fellow Mainer, you would likely agree with me when I say that this fall has been one the more lovely ones we've had in a while. Though we did have an early frost and a good few cold days, the intermittent stretches of glorious calm weather have really been a treat. Sometimes this season brings great weather-related stress on top of the usual prepping-the-farm-for-the-winter stress, but not this year!

This is one of my busier stretches of time during the year, behind-the-scenes on the farm. Getting the bulk of my oysters consolidated, swapped out of hairy, dirty gear and into nice clean gear, and sunk to the bottom for the winter months is a lengthy (weeks long) task that takes a good deal of planning and a lot a lot of physical work. I sort of feel like I'm on a big smelly merry-go-round, back and forth from the farm with boat loads of dirty and then clean and then dirty gear. I've been diligently culling out and setting aside the many oysters that are big enough to go to market this winter, and those will all get grouped together and apart from the rest of my smaller stock to ease

A load of dirty gear heads home from the farm after a long day of restocking oysters into clean bags. Once ashore, alllll these many slimy bags will spend a little time resting to dry out the growth, and then they will all get pressure washed...

the work of harvesting in the winter. Everything that won't get harvested, including this year's seed, will get safely tucked away under the surface to ensure that the oysters don't get swept away by foul weather or damaged by sea ice during the coldest months.

Oysters feed actively until the water temperature gets down to around 40 degrees F. At that point, they stop feeding and enter a period of dormancy until the ocean temperature warms back up over that 40 degree threshold. Since they are still alive and well while dormant, they are good to harvest and eat, so I like to continue harvesting right on through the winter! Because I do so, it goes a long way towards ensuring my comfort and peace of mind if I do a really thorough job this time of year of organizing and double checking things before it gets uncomfortable to be out for long periods of time in harsher conditions.

A really cool sunrise drone shot of me out working on the farm early this morning. Photo thanks to talented photographer Steve De Neef, who came out to visit and take some pictures for me. Oh Casco Bay, you have my heart <3

time: 2:00 pm air temp: 74 F water temp: 60 F tide: rising conditions: light and variable, beautiful fall day.

Firstly, apologies for this post coming about a month too late. It's so impossibly hard sometimes to be out in the world, working as long and hard as I do this time of year, and then come home to sit in front of my computer and do the website and blog posts and emails that I think about wanting to do during the day. I will try to be better about carving out time for this!

Fall on the salt marsh at Porter's Landing.

Since my last post, fall has come in strong, with a few nights teetering on or just below freezing here in Freeport. The marsh grass has started to turn fiery orange at its tips, which is always my favorite indicator of this season. And the water temperature has begun its downward turn, down about twelve - fifteen degrees since this time last month. It's been a bizarre season, with record ocean temps recorded in Casco Bay, but a relatively short growing season at the same time with a late-to-arrive spring, and then an unseasonably early first frost date. Just further reminders of the unpredictability that has become a defining feature of climate change for us here in Maine.

Big, beautiful incoming crop! I can't wait to start harvesting these oysters.

Despite a shorter season, growing conditions were still fantastic this summer, as evidenced by the explosive growth I've seen on the farm, across the board. My 2019 crop is huge and beautiful, and likely ready to hit the market after this fall. While the oysters themselves might be big enough to harvest, it generally takes two winter seasons for the shells to reach a place where they are hard enough to shuck cleanly without breaking. And this years' seedlings are bigger than I've ever seen a seed class get in their first season. 3mm at the beginning of June, to probably 50% of them solidly in the two inch club by now!

From here on out, I'm shifting gears towards making a plan for winterizing the farm, which is a transition that has happened differently every year thus far, largely due to the fact that my volume has increased so dramatically over each of the past four years. While it's still a daunting task to wrap my mind around, each of the past winters has made me more and more comfortable with the challenges of working in and on a winter ocean, and it doesn't feel

Yesterday's ocean dip. It's getting harder and harder to motivate myself to take the plunge...

quite so bad to me any more.

Until the day comes to sink the many oysters that won't get harvested this winter, things are otherwise pretty wrapped up out there in terms of maintenance. The oysters will keep feeding and growing for another two-ish months, but they will be eating to conserve energy and strengthen their shells for their winter snooze, rather than eating to grow in an outwards direction, which means less work on the water for me, and more time on land to prep for winter and for the holidays (eek! I said it).

In all, it's been a stupendous season on all fronts, and in spite of the pandemic. I learned a lot, especially in how to be more efficient and process larger quantities of oysters through summer grading and maintenance more efficiently, and without destroying my body, which is definitely a win. And while I will always mourn the end of the season of bare feet and daily ocean dips, this work also makes me look forward to a slower winter schedule, and lots of opportunities for rest!

time: 6:15 am

air temp: 74 F

water temp: 67 F

tide: high

conditions: northeast wind, cloudy and threatening t-storms

Yesterday's killer sunrise.

A brief mid-July farm update - brief because it's 5 pm and I'm minutes away from falling asleep on my laptop. The last month has been a complete blur of farmer's marketing and trying to keep up with the farm, which is growing so fast

I am wholly failing at managing that part right now. Luckily for me, my inability to keep up doesn't matter to the oysters. They keep on keeping on, growing like crazy, regardless of wether or not I'm getting them spread out into more gear on schedule or not. I've been catching a lot of early mornings for my farm/harvest days lately, and they've been particularly beautiful the past couple weeks. My phone is chock-a-block full of pictures of the sky, of which I'm forever in awe.

The babies aren't so baby anymore... four weeks of growth, left to right.

The other thing I'm currently in awe of (this awe happens yearly, FYI, get used to it), is the BABIES. Remember the babies I introduced to the farm in my last post? They averaged 3mm in size when I got them, just shy of a month ago. Today I relocated them from their nursery boxes to the smallest mesh size floating bag I've got, which has 4mm wide holes, and HOLY COW THEY ARE SO BIG ALREADY. After four weeks, they have increased in size by about 6 times what they measured when I got them! What's extra cool about this is that this new method of oyster nursery is working well for me and my farm, and I now know that my seed boxes are just as effective a method for promoting fast first-year growth (and possible more effective) as the upweller is. And this method is way, way, WAY easier, cheaper, and less time-consuming for me. So that's this week's victory. I'm getting a little mid-summer fatigue going, but everything has been going so well on both the farming and the marketing sides of business right now, I feel like I'm hardly even noticing. And now... time for bed. I don't even care if it's not dark out yet. Try and stop me.

Keep up with Emily!

© 2019 by emily's oysters. Proudly created with

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon