August is a frenzy and a blur on an oyster farm no matter how prepared you are for it. During the weeks of this month, when I'm not prepping for the biggest harvests of the year (it's peak market season!) I'm bouncing between a couple different but equally important summer farm tasks.
The first of the big August projects is doing battle against the many fouling organisms that thrive on the gear and oysters in the heat of this time of year. The mussels, tunicates (weird slimy spongy things) and algae that cling and clump not only make the gear heavy and hard to work with, but they clog up the holes in the mesh reducing water (and food) flow to the oysters. The easiest way for me to deal with this summer slime fest is to rotate gear on and off the water, allowing my growing bags to air dry for several days on land to make sure things are good and cooked before swapping them back into the water. This winds up being a good time for this project because generally the midsized oysters (next year's harvest, last year's seed) has grown a lot and is ready to be spread out a little thinner, meaning I would be breaking into this year around this time anyways.
The second focus of this month is on periodically grading and dividing this year's seed oysters into more bags as they rapidly grow and require more space. They grow SO fast in this first year -- think 3mm to up to over an inch by the fall -- that it feels like you turn your back on them for a week and suddenly they're outgrowing their gear again. Since they're young and delicate and susceptible to being stunted by neglect in this juvenile time, I try really really hard to focus on them as soon as they demand it and not a moment later. Grading and sorting them according to their size/growth rates is also important, as they always just seem to do better with those that are growing and sizing up at the same pace. Plus, doing lots of grading NOW when the oysters are smaller and easier to physically manage tends to carry through unto the next two years until reach harvest size. Since I farm in a really minimal way, without the use of a big powered tumbling and grading machine like other farmers rely on, this early grading is especially important.
It feels crazy to even think, but once these big August projects are behind me, it will be September and time to start thinking about preparing for another winter....