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There are weeks throughout the summer that just happen. The tides hit. The seed gets graded. Farm work gets done. And this was one of those weeks.
Ages ago (last Sunday), we hit a 6 am tide to do some hand picking and set cages. It was foggy and rainy but the crew was in high spirits. Because, of course, it was Sunday. Despite having to sacrifice a few hours of restorative weekend sleep, we were happy to be out there getting the work done.
Monday, we went out again. The weather turned a little nicer, the tide lasted a little longer, and once again, we got it done. We spent some time walking over and around the seed we planted last fall and those tiny little guys are absolutely cruising in size. Thinking back to all the washing, grading, and planting last summer, it was awesome to see this year’s crop doing so well. After the tide, the seed crew washed some seed, moving in and out around the rowers and trying desperately to keep them from falling in upwellers or tripping over silos.
Tuesday: The tide went out even longer, came low a little later, and officially drained the bay. We had a photographer with us and Gardner and I finished setting cages (the most gratifying feeling in the world is seeing all 300 cages set and the project-finishing fist bump).
Wednesday: It was another long tide but the water came screaming back quickly. Still, we managed to get a ton of crates picked and put on the float for the weekly number.
On Thursday, the crew went out to the back river to get our lines squared away for the river bags. We’ll have seed ready to deploy back there as early as next week so it was a scramble to get the lines set and ready to go. Skip also got one more batch of seed — this time, a group of triploids, which (hopefully?) will be his last… for now anyway.
Friday was the day. The Big Grade. Our first of the summer and a successful one at that. It always happens around Father’s Day, Skip reminded me. We were three weeks in to seed (where did those weeks go?) and the babies were ready for it. We started by grading the biggest stuff, from two different hatcheries. The result was decent – a mostly full tote of quarters (oysters that are a quarter-inch in size) which we can start putting out as early as next week. Eva and I spent the day remembering all of those little tricks and motions that make the grade go easier. Dumping that first silo into a tote takes muscle memory. Then it was figuring out our system with the three-person grade, then remembering what it feels like to stand in front of a tote of water under the glaring sun for 8 hours, and finally, the feeling of immense satisfaction at tightening the last bolts and closing all the upwellers for the night. Getting it all done in one day, feeling like we’ve finally kicked off the summer, and knowing that we’ve got a million days just like that to get through before it all gets planted this fall.
And suddenly, it’s Saturday. I’m up at 5:30 (because to my body, that’s sleeping in), I can feel every little muscle tweak, I’m nursing a half ripped toe nail (stupid upweller doors), and all I can think about is seed. How much we got done yesterday and how much there still is to go. My parents are in town for the weekend so Dave and I are taking them to the farm for a tour today.
Because even at the end of a Big Week like that, all I want to do is go back.
Summers on the farm, I’m learning, follow a fairly specific pattern. We’ve got seed in the upwellers, which we’re washing three times a week (like last year), we’ve got a number of busy-work projects to get through before the seed gets planted (like last year), and our daytime hours seem to follow the same path of the sun, starting early and ending late (again, much like last year).
But new crew members breathe new life into what could be a predictable routine. We may have lost Catie Moore and A2 but in return, we’ve added Michelle Wong, Gardner Loring, and Matt Titus, a new set of faces to get to know and work with.
This year’s seed crew will be Eva (truly FOB this year) and Michelle who just finished her first year at UNH. Already a great team, the girls and I are fully into our seed practices, making sure the babies are clean and safe, keeping the screens on tight and making sure the silos are securely locked into place.
Despite our best efforts, Papa Skip is still going to fret. He’s given up drinking until the babies are safe and secure… or at least until we’re ready to start grading. (For his sake, I hope that happens as soon as next week.) It’s a tough couple weeks to muscle through since every storm and southeasterly wind makes the docks rock and roll. We’ve only had a few scares (one last week had Skip sleeping in his truck by the dock) but once the seed gets big enough to keep from blowing around, we’ll all sleep a little more soundly.
In the meantime, there’s work to be done on the lease, like placing buoys and getting the cages set. The crew’s been out there this week getting things ready. (We’ll all be out there bright and early for the 6 a.m tide tomorrow.) The next two weeks are going to give us a nice lull before the seed is ready to go out — we can get our gear set and and be ready to go once it’s time to move it all into the nursery.
On the office side of things, Festival plans are coming along nicely. We seem to have an abundance of eager wine donors as well as a few new committee members, all of whom are doing their best to make my life easier. As this year’s event director (mostly?), I’m spending most of my free time mentally problem solving my way through the entire Festival from start to finish. I wish I could say I’ve got it all figured it out but that probably won’t happen until September 12 — one day after the party’s over.
I’ve also taken a few rare bursts of energy to get out to eat, tasting my way around the city’s latest and greatest restaurants. Boston’s been a hot bed of new food and chefs this spring. Two highlights this week were eating at Menton, Barbara Lynch’s new Fort Point spot (the butter soup is mind blowing) and trying Tiffani Faison’s new menu at Rocca (beet-cured tuna and tagliarini with mint and blueberries – try them immediately). But the best meal I’ve had in months came from our close friend Dante Cantelupo who is leaving Boston (and his post at Parson’s Table) to open a restaurant/business with his family out in San Diego. As a going away gift, he prepared a seven-course feast for all of his friends at his home last weekend. What he prepared was a tribute to all of the chefs he’s worked with over the years as well as a few of his own innovative touches. I was honored to see his duo of Island Creeks — served on the half shell and tempura fried — but even more pleased to sit back and let the chef do his finest work.
These are just a few of the highlights to what ended up being an unforgettable afternoon. Huge thanks, D. You have incredible talent and will be sorely missed.
Now, I’m off to bed at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night so I can be up and at ’em by 4. If I’m lucky, I’ll be home with coffee brewing before Dave and Rex even realize I’m gone. Ahhh, summer.