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...

time: 6:00 am

air temp: 50 F

water temp: 48 F

tide: low, -.9'

conditions: calm, sunny

Beautiful (rare, this spring) mirror calm on the way out to the farm this morning!

If this spring were to write an autobiography, it would be called Spring 2020: Hold onto your Hat, Because it's going to be Windier than a Hurricane on a Roller Coaster trying to outrun a Global Pandemic. Or something along those lines. I think all this wind (and especially the POLAR VORTEX wind and snow we had this past weekend) is starting to get into my head and make me a little crazy... its making it hard to find windows for harvesting and farm maintenance, and in general I'm just feeling exhausted by it. Spring can blow itself out of here and make room for summer heat and calm any day now, in my book.

The farm is faring the wind well, though, fortunately. My reinvented gear construction, prompted by some mishaps I experienced during the bigger gales last fall, is working beautifully, and the oysters are sure getting a through pre-season tumbling out there in the chop.

The fruits of 2020's first snorkel harvest (brr)

I've got the oysters spread out in anticipation of the water warming up (any day now... seriously Mother Nature, don't we deserve a little sun and hint of summer on its way?!). So things are pretty well situated out there for now. This morning I took advantage of a brief calm, sunny morning low tide to wrestle myself into my cold water wetsuit and do a little snorkel-harvest for some oysters that I bottom planted last year as a little experiment. I know, snorkeling in May sounds crazy and my face definitely went completely numb in about five minutes. But it felt really good to get in the water for the first time this year, and I'm super excited to infuse the week's harvests with some of the beauties I found down there! The products of this environment that I've made my farm in never cease to amaze me. There is just so much life in such a small area.

The farm, ready for the water to warm up... any day now...

Fortunately I haven't had too much extra time or energy to spend on stressing about the weather and slow warming of the water. Last week marked the launch of my first farmers market season, which was everything I was hoping it would be, especially considering the current state of the world! I am immeasurably excited to see how this addition to my business and schedule grows and develops through the summer. I know that I sure am feeling relieved to have regular access to fresh local produce and food that doesn't require me standing in line in a parking lot, and my sense is that other folks are feeling the same way. Both the Portland and Bath farmer's markets have welcomed me in this season, Portland on Wednesdays in Deering Oaks Park, and Bath on Saturdays in Waterfront Park, and both markets have done a wonderful job of organizing vendors and flow and increasing signage to make the shopping experience a very safe option for people. And I am so excited for the opportunity to increase my customer base and have more face time with people to tell them about what I do!

Farmer's markets! Come find me! Look for the Emily's Oysters tent :)

Also, if you need a new podcast to add to your arsenal, check out Femidish here, and specifically episode two - featuring yours truly! It was really fun to talk to Hope and Sandy about the basics of aquaculture and how setting up and oyster farm works. We also dispelled some myths about oysters, discussed our favorite ways to cook oysters, and I speak a little bit about what its like to be a woman working in male-dominated marine industries, including some of the choicest gems of insulting comments that have come my way, and how I respond to them.

The beginning of this farmer's market season also marks for me officially, FINALLY, being a FULL-TIME oyster farmer and self-employed individual. That's not to say I haven't been putting a full-time amount of work into Emily's Oysters all along... just that this season and having these markets in the mix means that I have finally been able to forgo the part-time lobstering that has sustained me through the last two years of building this business to this point, and that maybe now I'll finally have time to get a little more sleep and, you know, take a day off every now and then. While it feels crazy to be launching into this full time during THIS particular time in history, with an economy that has plummeted seemingly into the deepest depths of recession and countless Americans so hard up, I feel fortunate that I picked food to build a business around, and I'm hoping that my model will continue to successfully do what it was intended to do - make oysters (premium healthy protein!!) more accessible, more user friendly, and more affordable than you find them in most other familiar venues. So this week I am celebrating that, and I am looking forward to the many new faces that I'm sure will become familiar ones this season!

time: 7:00 pm air temp: 46 F

water temp: 44 F (!) tide: -1.6' conditions: calm number of bags: 51

Wee boat full of mud, and haphazardly floating gear as I work to get as much on the surface as possible while the tide is out and I can see and reach my bottom cages. The next step is to spread the oysters out to that the bags are less heavy, and the oysters have lots of room to grow big and fat!

What crazy times we are living in these days. I feel as though I am still trying to wrap my head around what our world and lives have morphed into, even though it's been so many weeks now since this all began. I feel incredibly lucky that my friends, family and customers are well, and that my work and the farm can carry on more or less as usual, that I can safely stay busy and occupied while so many others are cannot.

The ocean water has warmed quickly over the last weeks, to the point where oysters are likely starting to think about coming out of their winter slumber to resume pumping sea water and eating once again. This being the case, I have been grabbing whatever windows of decent weather and low tides I can to get out to the farm and start re-rigging my lines and hauling my crop up from the depths to the surface once again. This is a back-breaking process, made more challenging this year by a lingering (and oddly unrelated) back injury that I sustained doing something way less impressive. So I've been doing the farm raising in stages, and trying to stretch and rest as much as possible. I'm still working out of a smaller boat this time of year, as my dock and larger boat are still getting prepped for the season, so its been a bit of an awkward process, but has gone smoothly thus far. I've been happy to find my oysters, both big and small, largely alive and well and undisturbed in their winter bottom cages - always a cause for celebration.

At the end of the second long day, looking much tidier.

I'm always happy when things go according to the plans that I cook up for myself in my head, and this farm evolution so far has happened perfectly. I'm still working frantically at home to get gear fixed up and ready for the season, and the next stage (hopefully with the bigger boat in the water) will be to start transporting the rest of the gear out to my site so that the oysters can be further spread out in preparation for new growth. It sure feels good to have things floating again, and while the work list is suddenly huge now that the oysters are up, I'm again feeling grateful that I can keep operating at all. The oysters sure don't care about the economy or public health crisis, so farm work carries on!

Social distancing, with oysters. Grateful for all my customers.

Among the list of things I'm feeling grateful for during these uncertain times falls MY CUSTOMERS, both old and new. The incredible outpouring of support for my business and for many other local farms and fisheries workers has been tremendous and inspiring to watch and be a part of. I always thought that we Mainers were particularly good at supporting our own and buying locally, since we have such an abundance of high quality fresh stuff available and near by. But this crisis seems to have taken awareness of local resources to a whole new level, and I just think it has been really cool to witness people seeking out of food producers in person during this time. I hope that the desire to buy from lobstermen, farmers and aquaculturists directly remains a lasting theme after all this blows over, because how cool is it to know exactly when and where your food came from? And, to know that when you buy directly from the grower/catcher, you are actually fully supporting the person who worked to bring it to your table, often at a more affordable price, without a large cut of the money you spend on it going to someone who just bought and resold that product? Just some thoughts I'm having while observing the market adaptations going on around me. It's bringing me incredible joy to deliver oysters to folks right now, and I hope that the outpouring of support for local food continues and helps to see us through this pandemic and on to brighter times.

Keep up with Emily!

© 2019 by emily's oysters. Proudly created with

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon