Recently Dana Deskiewicz published a book entitled "Appreciating Oysters" and we were lucky enough to be featured in it! It is a great book for anyone who has ever eaten an oyster and even those who have yet to have their first! Find the book at the link below!
This year on top of the normal farming operation, a contract was secured through the NRCS to do some oyster reef restoration work. Along with 4 of the other farmers in the pond, spat on shell was secured from the ARC hatchery, and the plan was to grow it out on our farms until it was around an inch in size. Once at an inch, we will move it to designated sites in the pond and place it on top of clean shell piles to hopefully get some reefs started.
After a great first year of farming came a long icy winter that felt like it would never end, work finally resumed on the farm in early April. Luckily, not much damage was sustained from the solid foot of ice that was over the farm for almost two months, so I was able to get right back to business.
After waiting longer than expected for the cold to leave, the water finally warmed up and the oysters started feeding and growing again. The first solid growth was noticed right at the end of April. Which is much later than is typical for the pond.
The first big project of the year was finding another boat for the farm. After quite a serious search I ended up finding a pontoon boat in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Pontoon boats make the perfect work platform for use in the pond.
After stripping down the boat and outfitting it with everything I would need, it was time to start getting ready for this year's oyster seed. This included getting more cages and trays, building a few hundred bags, putting out new buoys, and building a bunch more pipe racks.
At the end of the Spring I had an opportunity to go help support my friends up at the New York Harbor School with a fundraiser that they did for the Billion Oyster Project. They put together an event in Brooklyn that included all sorts of food, beverage, and most importantly, oysters. Farms from all over the country came to help support the cause. It turned out to be a really awesome event, with some 400+ people having the opportunity to taste our oysters. You can read all about them and the awesome project that they are doing on their website: http://www.billionoysterproject.org/
The past two months have been very exciting ones. Everything has been going great on the farm. More seed, more gear, and continuing rapid growth have keep me very busy. At the end of August another 15,000 babies were put on the farm, bringing the total for 2014 up to 165,000 pieces.
The farm got tumbled and sorted twice between August and September and each time it was just as impressive seeing the growth the oysters were putting on. Luckily I was able to find plenty of people willing to lend a hand. There was a lot of work to get done but there was never any shortage of fun to be had,
As of now there are also some pieces that are reaching market size, around 2.5-3 inches. Hopefully in the coming weeks the first customer or two can be picked up. The goal is to have at least one restaurant carrying 401 Oysters through the winter.
I've been finding all sorts of critters living in the bags and cages this season. It's always a surprise what you will find when going through gear. Things such as blue crabs, pipefish, shrimp, eels, tautog, oystertoad fish, and black seabass are all common sights on a typical day. The pictures below are a couple of the juvenile tautog that I have seen.
September brought some amazing sunsets over the pond.
July has so far been quite the busy month on the farm. The oysters have doubled in size for the second time since getting them at the end of May. What started as 52 bags of oysters has turned into 200. Also, this month I added 50,000 more oysters to the almost 100,000 already on the farm.
Many more PVC rack sections have been needed to be added to the lease site, along with a few two tier wire cages for the larger oysters. Each cage can hold approximately 6 bags worth of oysters.
Another new piece of gear for the farm is the hand tumbler that I built. It was built to fit across the front of the boat and is able to sort three size grades of oysters at a time. With all of the growth being put on this will be a valuable tool in increasing efficiency on the farm.
At the beginning of the month, a friend who works at URI gave me some blue crab traps to catch a few of the many crabs that are seen crawling on the oyster gear every day. So far they have been very successful in catching them. There have been quite a few females caught that were showing eggs, which is a great sign for the future of the crab population in the pond.
Today began the sorting of the small seed. It is shaken on a 9mm screen and then a 14mm screen. This leaves three size classes of oysters, which are labeled #1's, #2's, and #3's (with #1's being the smallest). In just two weeks the volume of oysters in each bag has almost doubled.