Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we put in some solid work to get our bag numbers filled. As a team, the Andys & I get a specific bag count each week (each bag has 100 oysters) which we’ll usually get done by Thursday.
Essentially, when we cull, we weed out any oysters that have chips in the shells or aren’t fully grown. We also separate them by size and return any that are too small — or too big. Though sometimes we keep the good jumbos and bag them, too (some restaurants prefer them big). To cull, we stand inside the Plex (ie: garage, house, float) at two long tables that are propped on orange crates so they’re about rib level. We dump a crate out onto the table and just start sorting, tossing out any clunkers (open shells) and other junk and separating the good oysters into empty crates. Sometimes we get little crabs or hermit crabs in the mix; sometimes clam shells or barnacle covered rocks. Most of the crates we culled this week were dragged from the bottom so the oysters were covered in dirt which is why we wear orange rubber coveralls and thick, lined gloves.
After getting our bags done for the week on Thursday, we went out on the tide early yesterday morning to collect a bunch of netted bags from the lease (the leased area that Skip farms). These bags are about a quarter full of oysters that had been returned from a cull a few weeks back. They’re put back so they can repair themselves from any nicks or dings on the shell (oysters can heal themselves in a few days when the temperature’s right). It was frigid yesterday but once we got out on the mud, I was fine. Covered head to toe in waterproof gear (most of which is lined) and wearing those thick gloves, I could have sat out there all day. It was coming back in going into the wind that was brutal. And if you get even a drop of water into your gloves when it’s that cold out, you’re pretty much screwed (which I was at the end when I dunked my hand in the tide by accident – lesson learned).
So, a little about my crew. The two Andys (Berg and A2) are essentially my two pals for the day. Berg is the farm manager and keeps us in shape. A2 and Berg know each other from their days at the University of Rhode Island (I think they graduated last May. Needless to say, I am ancient in their eyes.) Because we spend a lot of the day standing, sorting, washing, bagging, the banter between these two can range from epic quoting sprees from the Office or some Seth Rogan movie to educational dialogues about how oysters retain carbon. It’s fascinating, actually. And really fun. Yesterday, one went something like this.
Berg: You’re like a roaming water buffalo. Only, you just stand there.
A2: No, you are. You’re like a… a…
A2: I don’t know. I couldn’t come up with anything. So, Berg. Tsang’s for lunch? She wants to go. [They’ve started calling me She or Her]
Me: I’m starving.
Berg: Alright, I know you want to go to Tsang’s. Let’s get done with these bags first.
A2: (under his breath) Yes.
And on and on we go. Probably not the greatest example of their work but it all sort of blends together into one comical day-long conversation.
We did make it to Tsang’s for lunch and because I’ve been Twittering from the farm, I got my first taste of the Suits v. Boots controversy. The guys in the office: Suits. Us: Boots. I twittered something about hitting up Tsang’s for lunch and immediately got messages from Matthew and Shore (Suits) wondering why they weren’t invited. One week in and I’m already causing trouble! I had no explanation – but Berg did. It’s a two-way street, guys. Invite us out for lunch now and then and we’ll do the same. Ok?
I’m kidding, sort of. The Andys love to joke about it but at the end of the day, we went over to the office, called a truce and opened a couple Harpoons. Fitting way to end the week.