Skip’s crew might be dwindling but we’ve still got plenty of work ahead of us. We’ve got an acre or so of open lease to plant; like any other farm or crop rotation, after a crop has been harvested, the land has to be cleared before you can plant again. We’ve spent the summer picking it clean and now we’re filling every last corner of it with new seed. (And to answer a Mom question, there are other sections of the lease that are packed with full-grown oysters which were planted last year.)
Skip is taking a break from “shovel” planting to try a hand at hand planting. We’re planting onto a part of the lease that’s just north of the cages (nursery) where the seed is being stored so for the next few days, we’re carrying bags from the cages straight over to the lease, opening them, and emptying them out by hand into a small square area. This is a pretty cool set up since we can shake the seed right onto the ground when the tide is out and see what kind of density we have in that spot. Shaking the bags feels a little like operating a fertilizing machine. You hold the bag horizontally and shake it carefully from side to side while walking backwards so that you can cover a small line of area with a consistent number of oysters. Between Monday and Tuesday we put down thousands of oysters into a fairly small window of space. The seeds are still only about 3/4 to 1 inch long and they’re all set pretty close together. Imagine that same space in about a year when the land is covered in three-inch oysters. Pretty incredible that we can get so many of them into a condensed area. But, as I keep saying, there’s still a ton of seed.
Speaking of which, we may be at the tail end of our upwelling season…finally! Having watched and been very much a part of the process from the beginning, I can say that it’s a fascinating system. Force feeding the oysters in a controlled environment produces an incredible yield. (But it’s not without its headaches: at the very whisper of nearby Hurricane Bill this weekend, the Maritime School almost pulled all of their docks — and our upwellers — out of the water. Thankfully, the storm went far enough east so we we able to keep everything intact but the idea of getting the seed moved and possibly disassembling the upwellers was a major hassle. The only good thing that storm produced was some huge swells for Berg and Greg to ride on Sunday afternoon.) We’ll probably do our last grade tomorrow and get that seed into the nursery. (It will be the last seed we plant later this season.)
Besides completing my tasks as Mama Seeda for the season, I’ve been able to spend more time on the float with the crew. Sadly, we’re getting down to bare bones: today is Maggie’s last day for the summer and Catie is out after Friday (she’s taking a job as an eco-consultant in Burlington). But I have the feeling both will still be around quite a bit over the winter — at least they better be. On Monday, it’ll be back to me and a crew of guys: A2, Berg, Will & Greg. It’s a good number for the fall so I think we’ll have plenty of hands to get work done. It’s just so hard to believe that summer might be coming to an end. Didn’t it just get started??