time: 3:30 pm
air temp: 74 F
water temp: 57 F
conditions: beautiful, warm and calm
Well, it sure is hard to prepare for winter when it still feels like summer out there. Man oh man have we had the most gorgeous fall so far - warm, calm and sunny with none of the usual windy bluster of a typical Maine fall (....yet... don't think that I don't expect that weather to come knocking any minute now). This uncharacteristic lingering summer has kept me moving a little more slowly than usual with my winter prep tasks, though, and it's just about getting to be the time when I need to start the long process of getting ready for the cold and snow and ice.
The last couple weeks have seen my attention devoted again to doing another (final) round of seed grading. I try to grade my seed every 4 weeks or so in it's first year after I introduce it to the farm. The purpose of grading oysters of any size is simply done just to group oysters of like sizes (and thus like growth rates) together. Since they'll continue to grow at a similar rate, I save my self a lot of work grading bigger, heavier oysters down the road if I can be really meticulous about it while they're still small. At this point I've now
completed four rounds of seed grading, and accordingly have four groups of oysters bags stocked with the biggest oysters from each of those grading rounds, marked with color-coded zip-ties so I know what's what in terms of size. And it's quite the range! As it stands, my biggest seed comes in close to 2" this year, and the runtiest of the lot are as small as .5".
So, now that the seed is all graded out for the year, it's on to prepping for winter in earnest, despite the fact that it feels like it might never come. Firstly, I've started the process of culling, counting and setting aside some of the many hundreds of oysters that I hope to be harvesting throughout the winter. I like to get as many of the incoming market size oysters as I can prepped now to make my life as easy as possible during the cold, tough winter harvest days ahead. Pre-counted and culled means quick grab-and-go harvesting operations, instead of hours spent sorting on the water in January. All the rest of the oysters, seed and product that's still too small to sell will get consolidated into half as many floating bags as I have out now (more oysters per bag is okay during the hibernation season when the animals aren't feeding, plus has the added benefit of making the gear heavier and helping it stay put through winter weather.) Then those heavy bags will go down to sleep on the ocean bottom when I find the right calm, low tide day for it. After that, it's endless gear and waterfront clean up time! 😅