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time: 12:20 pm air temp: 64 F water temp: 41 F tide: high, falling conditions: calm, sunny, WARM!

oyster farming oyster gear
One of many, many loads of gear ready to head back out to the farm.

Well, the spring grind is here! About a month ago on a couple of calm, low tide days I finished the first (and arguably the hardest) task of the season, which is to raise the many heavy bags of sleeping, overwintered oysters back up to the surface once again. Once floating, the next task is to swap gear out (dirty slimy gear that's been out all winter has to come in for cleaning and mending). And since I tend to overstock oysters in bags to give them more weight and security on the bottom for the winter months, the oysters also need to get spread back out into more pieces of gear, giving them more room to grow into when they resume feeding (which should be any day now!)

So since the initial oyster raising activities, life has been a blur of going through the many many floating bags that I own, mending things that are worn, and then loading up the truck and then the boat to bring them back out to the farm. The dirty winter gear that gets replaced in the process then comes back in for washing and mending before it heads back out. Musical chairs, but for oyster gear, and man does it feel endless!

Pretty obvious which oyster bags have been out all winter and which were just deployed.

There's also lots of organizing and planning that goes into this project. I spend a lot of time trying to anticipate how much space my crop will need to grow into both in terms of space in each individual bag, but also space on the floating longlines. This is particularly important with my smallest (seed oysters) which were added to the farm last year and which will grow to take up exponentially more space over the course of this summer.

This year class of oysters was graded three times last season, meaning there are four different size groups carefully separated out and bagged up together within the lot. I use color-coded zip ties on the gear to differentiate each group, and am careful to carry that code on through into the new clean gear that they will inhabit THIS season so as not to loose track of those four different size grades. This will make my harvesting successions easier when they eventually come to size the next year or two, allowing me to know right where all the biggest oysters are so I can get to them first.

It's hard to tell from the photos, but it's pretty awesome to be moving into my larger lease as I work my way through the spring spread out!

In the last log I explained a little about rearranging moorings to expand my footprint outward onto my new lease space. Now that a little more than half of the gear is back out on the water, I can't believe how crammed in I was before this expansion! Not only am I thrilled to have room to grow into, I'm just so excited to be able to spread my existing gear out more. With more space in between bags, not only will the gear get less beat up from banging around into other gear, but the oysters will hopefully have more access to food and be less in competition with one another. Not to mention, more room for me to maneuver and work in between lines of gear.

Once all the gear makes it's way back out and the oysters are set for growing season to commence, there will be a little lull in activity on the water as I sort of wait for growth to really ramp up. In that time I'll be prepping to receive this this year's oyster seed, assessing what additional gear I may need for the season, building that gear, getting ready for busy summer markets, and doing all sorts of other odds and ends.

Moby is my helper every step of the way :)

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