Summer is our slower season. We don’t ship into the city; and, only sell a small amount to a few restaurants in Greenport. After all, there is not an R in the month, nor in the next. Thus these months named for the Roman Emperors, we devote to growing seed that will be harvested 2 years from now.
We had noticed the last few years, that our greatest mortality occurs in oysters between 1 mm, the size we buy them from local hatcheries, and 5 mm. Those small animals need daily cleanings and a gentle flow of water, something our large floating upwellers make difficult. So this winter we built a small plywood trough, coated it several times with epoxy, and plumbed it to house 6 silos of 16 inch diameter. The results have been fantastic.
We bought 1 million 1 mm seed at the end of April, when the water was still cool and containing very little nurturing algae. But the silos, at waist height, were easy to tend, and as the bay warmed and bloomed with algae, our million babies swelled. What had been a handful at Easter blossomed into six silos by June of 4 – 6 mm spat. We changed the mesh in the big upwellers in our creek to stainless steel to inhibit fouling from tunicates and their jelly-bean like offspring and last week had to install a rolling steel gantry and trolley to hoist the bins and barrels from the upwellers and over to the sorting machine.
My back is getting old, so mainly I assist our teenagers, Susanna, 16 and Mercator 15. They have grown up here, driving boats at 3 and hauling cages at 5. We began this oyster farm so our kids would grow up well rounded, but, I never thought it would cause them to sprout into such competent and hard-working adults.
They had to build the gantry, repair and lube the rusting chain hoist, build a cart to transport the seed to and from the sorter and then decide how to dispose of the sorted seed. By the end of the weekend, 25,000 seed at an inch were put out into the bay, one tote seed retained on 15 mm screens, 5 totes on 10′s, and one tote on 5 mm.
Our current problem is where to house all these oysters, now that our survivability has skyrocketed. We’ll consume our vacant cages within a few weeks. So we will devise a system of cables and purses to hang them off the array of pilings our dock builder added to the new dock into the bay. Low tide is at four, so we have a few hours to ponder this problem before diving into a solution.