time: 2:00 pm

air temp: 34 F

water temp: 42 F

tide: rising

conditions: chilly, calm

Working my way through the last of the farm-sinking process. Generally the last to go down are the oysters that are big enough to be harvested, and which I will keep harvesting throughout the winter.

First week of December. The last of the farm has been nestled in for the winter that has suddenly made it's presence known, with much colder air temps and some winter storm-like conditions the past couple weekends.

I feel lucky to have things secured safe and sound, and to be so much more closer to having a little bit of a rest for myself too. Just about all of the gear that has come ashore (more than ever before!) has been pressure washed and trucked home, where I will take my time picking through everything to mend and replace the pieces that need it before next spring. Aside from that never-ending task, the only things remaining to do on the winter prep list are to haul out old Mignonette, my three-season work boat, and get my smaller winter craft (a 14' aluminum skiff) tuned up and moved to the South Freeport town landing, where I'll keep her for winter harvest access. This move in berthing happens because the end of the Harraseeket River, where I normally come and go from and keep boats, will soon get too icy to operate out of.

Winter farm. Pick up buoys marking oysters to be harvested over the coming months.

As for winter harvesting, I make things as quick and easy as I possibly can for myself. I cull out as many market-size oysters as I find while I consolidate the rest of the stock for sinking. The beauties that are slated for winter shucking then get sunk with pick up lines and buoys attached, so that I can easily zip out and haul up as many bags as I need, and head right back into the harbor. Eliminating the need to do any processing or counting or culling on the water makes those winter expeditions just a little bit more comfortable (and safe) for me.

In the meantime, while I wrap up getting things cleaned up and stored for winter, I'm hard at work marketing and preparing for the holiday rush - making and sending out tea towels and shucking kits, gift certificates and answering emails upon emails! After a long hard growing season of physical work, it's a nice change of pace for me to be able to do this different kind of work, and to spend some time exercising a different kind of creativity. Also, sleeping. I'm catching up on so much sleep now that I am not back and forth from the farm everyday with loads of gear and harvests to process, and it feel so so so GOOD.

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!

Keep up with Emily!

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