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!

time: 6:15 am

air temp: 74 F

water temp: 67 F

tide: high

conditions: northeast wind, cloudy and threatening t-storms

Yesterday's killer sunrise.

A brief mid-July farm update - brief because it's 5 pm and I'm minutes away from falling asleep on my laptop. The last month has been a complete blur of farmer's marketing and trying to keep up with the farm, which is growing so fast

I am wholly failing at managing that part right now. Luckily for me, my inability to keep up doesn't matter to the oysters. They keep on keeping on, growing like crazy, regardless of wether or not I'm getting them spread out into more gear on schedule or not. I've been catching a lot of early mornings for my farm/harvest days lately, and they've been particularly beautiful the past couple weeks. My phone is chock-a-block full of pictures of the sky, of which I'm forever in awe.

The babies aren't so baby anymore... four weeks of growth, left to right.

The other thing I'm currently in awe of (this awe happens yearly, FYI, get used to it), is the BABIES. Remember the babies I introduced to the farm in my last post? They averaged 3mm in size when I got them, just shy of a month ago. Today I relocated them from their nursery boxes to the smallest mesh size floating bag I've got, which has 4mm wide holes, and HOLY COW THEY ARE SO BIG ALREADY. After four weeks, they have increased in size by about 6 times what they measured when I got them! What's extra cool about this is that this new method of oyster nursery is working well for me and my farm, and I now know that my seed boxes are just as effective a method for promoting fast first-year growth (and possible more effective) as the upweller is. And this method is way, way, WAY easier, cheaper, and less time-consuming for me. So that's this week's victory. I'm getting a little mid-summer fatigue going, but everything has been going so well on both the farming and the marketing sides of business right now, I feel like I'm hardly even noticing. And now... time for bed. I don't even care if it's not dark out yet. Try and stop me.

time: 4:30 pm

air temp: 67 F

water temp: 64 F

tide: rising

conditions: mostly sunny, almost summery

four lines out!

This country is a crazy place right now, and it's been somewhat of a comfort to dive headfirst (literally) into the growing amount of farm work that the oyster growing season brings with it. While the coronavirus resurges in places that choose to reopen, and protests for equal rights and demanding justice and a solution to police brutality happen worldwide, I have been watching on in solidarity and donating (mostly money, because free time is fleeting these days) when and where I can. It feels like we might be on the brink of real change, but only time and momentum will tell. I so hope we are.

In farm news, I got my fourth and final (for the time being) string of three moorings and floating lines set up last week, in anticipation of the arrival of my oyster seed this month. I'll be maxed out on the space I'm allowed by my limited purpose license until my pending lease application completes processing and is hopefully approved for me to expand. This process has been largely put on hold due to the fact that it requires a public hearing, and we are still not allowed to gather in groups. This hold up has been particularly tough on folks like me, who are growing a business and increasing production incrementally... I'd been planning on having a resolution to my leasing process sometime late this summer, but that has all gone out the window, meaning I'm going to be operating on a pretty crowded little farm this fall, and am going to need to get very creative with my gear arrangements to accommodate all my oysters as they take up more space. I have been on a personal mental mission, though, since pretty much the middle of April, to not allow myself the time or energy to dwell or worry on the impacts coronavirus will have on the immediate future of my operation. This bug and its effects seem very clearly to be with us for a while longer, and I am doggedly trying to just continue counting my blessings (I have SO many right now), and keep on doing what I can with what I've got for space. My farmer's markets and weekly deliveries have been so successful over the last month, I'm just going to bask in that and keep on.

a little sampling of my newest farm friends. 3mm babies, acclimatized to their new home and ready to go out in their floating trays!

And speaking of counting my blessings, this morning I drove up to Bremen to Muscongus Bay Aquaculture's hatchery facility to pick up my baby oysters for the season! 100,000 3mm of the cutest, roundest little bivalves you ever did see. This is my most favorite time of the year, because I (and you, if you follow along) get to spend the next eight weeks watching these little buggers explode with new growth and evolve from these little quinoa-looking nuggets into actual little tiny oysters. It's the coolest!

I'm trying something new this year with these babies. In previous years I've teamed up with colleagues and used an upweller in the harbor to incubate and encourage maximum growth for the first month or two. This year, I built a handful of floating nursery boxes constructed with fine mesh lids to contain these guys safely, and put them straight out on the farm. I have a good strong amount of water flow in and out over my farm site, and I am curious to see how they do without the upweller period. I'm sure I've explained it somewhere in the farm log before, but an upweller is essentially a floating nursery for wee oysters, that keeps them contained in silos below the water and constantly pumps (force feeds) seawater through the animals. We shall see how it goes... It can be tough to compare year to year, because so many factors are in constant variance, but I think at least I should get a sense pretty quickly for the comparative pace of growth. Time to watch and wait...

Keep up with Emily!

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