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...

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!

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