time: 3:00 pm

air temp: 78 F

water temp: 65 F

tide: rising

conditions: muggy, calm

It's been an interesting few weeks on the farm lately - some new-to-me challenges, and some regular old mid-summer craziness to manage. My seed arrived as anticipated just about a month ago, and in that time its gone from itty-bitty 3mm to almost triple the size.

Left fingers - 3mm babies, June 16. Right fingers, the 8-9mm babies, July 12.

Yesterday I finally got around to grading all those little babies, to sort out the smaller ones from the bigger and send them back out into the water in more appropriately sized gear. For whatever reason, the smaller oysters especially seem to do better and grow faster when they are grouped together with other slower growers. And, the more size grading I do now, the easier it is for me to keep track of and manage the crop as it grows. The smaller oysters went back into a couple nursery boxes to do some catching up, and the bigger ones went into 4mm mesh bags. It won't be long before I have to come back around and divide them into twice as many bags!

Sponge treatment: 6 min dip in concentrated salt-water solution, followed by a 1 hour minimum air dry.

The newer challenge that I've been working out has been the discovery of my first really problematic pest on the farm. It was only a matter of time before I had to deal with something along these lines. Cliona celata is a shell-boring sponge species that can be found up and down the east coast and is often a problem for oyster farmers like myself. While it's not exactly a predator of the oysters themselves, this sponge can become a big issue if let be because of how it makes it's home. Through a chemical reaction, it bores it's way into the shell material of oysters and clams and creates these maze-like galleries within the layers of the shell, where it then lives and grows. This boring and tunneling action causes the oyster's shell to become very thin and brittle, and because the sponge almost always seems to target in the hinge area of the shell, the affected oysters are more challenging (and sometimes impossible) to shuck without it turning into a crumbly mess of shell bits and orange sponge tissue.


You can bet that I did as much research as I could on possible treatments as soon as I discovered an oyster with indications of cliona present, as well as lots of sampling on the farm to try and get a sense of which oysters and how many were affected. The good news here was that it just seemed to be my oldest year class that had signs of it (only about half of the total farm), and maybe only 6-7% of those oysters with obvious sponge presence. Because this is the time of year that cliona reproduces, though, I wanted to act quickly in treating things in the event that this infection was only just getting started. The treatment solution I landed on came from a well-documented study from Canada that was most importantly one that I could pretty easily conduct on my boat. Simply put, I submerged the oysters in their gear into a concentrated salt brine solution for six minutes, and then laid them out around the boat for at least an hour to dry. Nice hot sunny weather helped to speed the drying along, and after about two and half long days of this, I managed to get everything dipped and dried.

All back in the water after the end of a long dip day.

Circling back a week or so later, I was pleased to see that oysters with obvious sponge presence now have obvious signs of very very dead sponge. This was hard to tell, but I learned to notice that what little bits of sponge I could see through it's bore holes had gone from the usual bright orange color to black. I bashed up a few badly affected oysters to really be positive, and sure enough, dead sponge. My oysters seem to have survived the treatment well, by and large. There were a few casualties here and there where they must have accidentally gulped some of the brine solution, but those losses seem worth it to know that I've stopped this problem from progressing.

As stressful and dooming as it felt to make this discovery this month, at the end of the day, I'm glad it happened. It was a good test run for me on doing a widespread pest treatment on the farm, and it will make any future issues feel much less daunting to deal with.

time: 3:00 pm

air temp: 74 F

water temp: 60 F

tide: high

conditions: fog coming and going, light easterly

Beautiful calm farm as I got ready to head for home. Fog bank sitting off behind the islands.

Things are finally rocking and rolling on the farm in true summer growing season fashion. Since the last log update, I've finished getting all the gear made, mended and out to the farm, and the oysters stocked unto that gear at their growing season densities. Now it's just a matter of keeping the gear as clean as I can, and giving things an occasional shake to knock some of the fast, flakey shell growth off to encourage the oysters into a rounder shape with a deeper cup.

This is an update on last year's seed! This is I think the fastest growing oyster class I've had yet. I'm so excited about these babies.

I've also been busy prepping things in anticipation of getting the seed call any day now! Early-mid June is usually about the time that oyster babies (we call them oyster seed) are ready to go from their hatchery nurseries out into the big wide world.

My 100k, 3mm diameter oyster seed will get evenly distributed into 10 floating nursery boxes that I designed and built and started using last year. These boxes are constructed with small enough mesh to keep the oysters from slipping away into the sea, and they'll stay in the boxes until they are big enough to safely go into real growing bags. The smallest mesh size growing bag I own has about 4mm diameter holes, so it doesn't take long for the seed to graduate out of the boxes!

I'm finally feeling on top of this years months-long farm start up period. It took a little longer this year for a number of reasons (relentless wind, weather, puppy, other life stuff....) but I'm feeling so good this week and ready for the blur of summer heat, harvesting and farmers markets ahead!

Moby has come a long way in the 2.5 months that he's been with me! He's four and a half months old, and such a good little boat dog and companion. I am so lucky. He love to smell the wind when we go fast.

time: 12:30 pm

air temp: 65 F

water temp: 52 F

tide: high

conditions: gorgeous

A great snapshot of the wear and tear I'm constantly on the lookout for on the farm. I replaced these buoys just in time! You can see where the constant bobbing back and forth on the surface wears the spot where the mooring line attaches down to nothing overtime.

The past month and a half or so have been a bit of a slog and a challenge. It's been such a windy spring, which is not conducive to getting the work done that has to come after the initial push of floating the oysters back to the surface... the work of bringing out all the clean gear, dividing all of those overwintered oysters out into that clean gear at growing densities (much fewer oysters per bag), and lugging all the dirty winter gear back ashore to get pressure washed and mended. Many boatloads and days later, I am alllllmost done, but still have about 20 more bags of winter gear to swap out, which I'm hoping to get through this week.

In between the days where I've been able to get on the water to do the gear shuffle, I've been at home in the shop furiously building new bags - about 75 new ones this year, in fact, plus about 17 homemade bottom cages as well. Gear building is one of my least favorite chores, however, I was excited this year to finally be able to add that much more to my farm, as it will allow me for the first time to really stock my bags at a much lower density initially, hopefully eliminating the need for me to divide everything half way through the summer as it grows and starts to crowd. Basically, I don't to have too many oysters per bag, as this can cause them to start to compete for the food in the water around them.

Because they also grow a lot and take up much more space at the end of the summer than

This is what the farm is looking like now - not quite ready to roll for the season, but close!

they do now, I'm trying to factor that growth amount in NOW, so that I'm stocking as many oysters per bag initially as that bag will be able to accommodate in August, so that I don't need to spend a big chunk of time mid-summer frantically bringing more gear out and splitting everything into second bags. This way, I'll be able to really focus on just keeping the gear clean, shaking bags as they grow to chip new shell and help steer the oysters' growth to a nice product, and harvesting!

I've been pretty all-consumed with these projects lately, but I'm also back to twice weekly farmer's markets and as I've harvesting more, I'm excited to see signs of growth in the oysters once again! The telltales are little bits of fragile, flaky shell starting to form around the bill of the oyster, and when shucked, the oysters themselves are looking a bit plumper and like they've started to recover from their winter fast. Nothing makes me happier than bringing big, fat happy oysters in for my customers. :)

Happy oysters.