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It's suddenly been feeling like summer out here this week, although from the looks of the

Moby approves of the new shell growth we're starting to see on the oysters!

substantial amount of new shell growth on the oysters, they've been feeling it for a while longer than I have. Casco Bay has been warming up fast, and for the last month and half or so I've been focused on making sure the farm is good and ready for how much these babies are going to gain in size over the next 4-5 months.

This prep mostly consists of spreading my crop out as evenly and thinly as I can, getting every last grow out bag back into the water. The oysters (especially last year's seed) get dispersed into those bags at as small a volume as possible leaving them as much room as possible to grow into. This ensures that they will have ample access to their food supply as it floats on by, as well as plenty of room to move

Gear air-dries on a calm sunny day to help managing fouling.

and tumble around, which helps them to develop nice round, strong, even shells.

I aim to have all this prep done with before this year's crop of seed is ready to be picked up, which is usually sometime between now and the end of June, a goal which I am well on track for this year. Once the babies join the farm, they will require a lot of tending and grading and attention, so it's nice if the bigger oysters can just do their thing without needing a lot from me.

The other task that's back in the regular routine is air-drying! The oysters aren't the only thing that's starting to grow like crazy now that the bay is warming up. All of the fouling organisms are also back in growth mode - the algae, tunicates, barnacles, mussels, and squirts are also making their homes in and on my gear so regularly flipping bags up to air dry becomes an important means of keeping the oysters and their gear clean.

a rouge beast of an oyster I found while doing some low tide mooring inspections! Maybe 6 or 7 years old?

Here we go! Despite the wind being less than cooperative, extra low new moon tides on this

Freshened- up buoys ready to head out first

second week of April meant it was time to rock and roll toward getting the 2024 oyster season up and running, and three long days later, the oysters are floating once more!

There's a little bit of hurry up and wait that happens when planning for this first season start. It really is so much easier with my current set up if I can time my oyster raising days with the lowest tides possible, and since I want to be sure that I'm ready to really go when those tide days come around, I tend to front load my gear prep for this first stage a little earlier than I need to.

First to go out are the bigger summer buoys with their fresh paint and reflective material to replace the slimy, smaller winter ones. Then I prep my long line rigging systems and spreader bars for my floating arrays,

Hooking up longline systems and spreaders right before raising oysters.

which are reinstalled right before the first round of oysters come up (so they have somewhere to attach to once floating!) Then, one by one I haul my way by hand along each line of sunken gear, reattaching floats to each bag of oysters as it comes back into the boat and then hook it up to the fresh new floating rigging.

It's not a fast or easy process, but it's simple and works well enough for me and allows for me to check on things and see how they fared through the winter piece by piece. And so far so good! Looks like lots of happy oysters coming out of winter hibernation mode. Next up: many, many loads of clean, empty, mended gear to spread the oysters out into in preparation for warming waters and the first signs of growth.

The winter season is winding down and as spring starts to make it's impending arrival

an oyster boat tied to a dock on a winter morning
A beautiful winter harvest morning

known (somewhat early this year but the feel of it), I am starting to at least think about and make lists for spring prep.

All told it was a fairly mild and easy winter. I had a lot more oysters ready to go to market this year than in years past, thanks to seeding increases the past couple years, and so I worked a little more than I usually do, making sure all those oysters got off to market so that the gear they were occupying would be free and ready come April when it's time to raise the smaller oysters back up to the surface and spread them back out.

Oysters in the back of a truck headed off to market
Put lots of big winter harvests like this one on the books this year!

Aside from a little boat maintenance in January, though, not much has been happening on the farm while the oysters snooze through the cold water months.

The list is long for start up preparations, though, and it's almost time for me to get a jump on those items that need to happen on land first! This is lots of equipment and farm rigging prep, making sure buoys are properly marked and labeled, cutting and splicing fresh new long lines and spreader bars for my floating gear arrays, and cleaning and mending all those oyster bags and cages that came ashore after winter harvest days. There are docks to launch, tides to watch and plan around, and eventually it will be time to start floating the farm again.

and oyster
There have been some stunners coming out of the water this winter. Very proud of these oysters.

In the meantime, there's a bit of behind-the-scenes work going on to keep the larger business of Emily's Oysters moving along - think inspections and recertifications of licenses for the coming year, farmer's market dues and plans as well as the production of the non-oyster merchandise items that we sell alongside the oysters.

While there's not as much hard physical labor that comes along with this time of year (until we get to schlepping all that gear back down to the boat and out to the farm!) the spring is definitely the most financially challenging part of the year for just about every farmer of every type, and I am no exception. Farmer's markets are slow until we move them back outdoors, supply for market on the farm is getting low, and the costs for this years seed, gear replacements and repairs, licenses, insurance, market dues, and so much more all come due at the beginning of the year. This is why this tends to be the only time of year that I really promote and and advertise my CSA program! Signing up now, even if not planning on picking up any oysters until later in the spring or summer helps me out so much with this first big hurdle of season kick off. Learn more about what CSA is and how to join at (sorry for the shameless plug here, but it's such an important part of keeping this farm running!)

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