Updated: Dec 8, 2021
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!
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.
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
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!