Small Village Life

Start song! Night They Drove ol Dixie Down

Yesterday was the public hearing to determine if Greenport Village a) wanted a ferry to Sag Harbor and b) where to dock it.  For three weeks, my wife and I have been writing letters to the village board pleading that they dock the ferry in the Village Marina, about 1000 yards away, and not at the Visitors’ Dock, less than 100 yards from the plot where we farm our oysters next to our house.  Greenport is very unusual, in that 140 years ago, the state gave every waterfront property owner title to the land underwater entending 500 from shore.  This was done to spur the oyster business, which was then a huge industry – Greenport being the capital of New York’s oystering.  At that time, 25 oyster companies operated in this one square mile village.  Ten years ago, we attemped to revive a small part of the defunct industry – the last cannery closed in 85 after two years of back to back brown tide.


Just this month Sag Harbor Cove, along with two other relatively nearby inlets and large embayments – roughly 10 miles from us – were closed due to red tide.  Once red tide arrives in force in any water body, it tends to reappear yearly under proper conditions as the algae encysts and drops into the mucky bottoms when dormant.  Whether we  were overreacting is hard to gage, but no oyster farmer in the Peconics would want a ferry and the contents of its bilge docking within 200 feet of their oysters.  Greenports sewer system and huge tidal flush do protect it, but, as some point its defenses could be overwhelmed.  So, in addition to letters to the board, my wife, who was at the farm last week while I was in the city, soliciated friends to pack the hall to support our cause.


I had advised Isabel, who could not sleep the night before the meeting, to be prepared metally for a defeat.  I was.


But, much to my surprise Isabel had worked the sidewalks and the phone lines, and, our supporters were 80% of the room.  They suggested that the board err on the side of caution and move the ferry further away from us.  The board agreed unanimously and we returned home relieved.  Of course, the red tide could always arrive in the bilge in one of the numerous pleasure boats that are now cruising around.  Still, we were pleased with the results and went to bed happy, although the excitement of the evening took many hours to pass from our nervous system.

This morning Riad Nasr, the chef from Minetta Tavern in NYC brought some friends out here to go fishing.  This is his third trip in less than a year to bag stripers in Plum Gut.  We went Mohawk on the stripers, using a friend Sloan Gurney as a guide, getting the limit in less than two hours and tossing back over 20 30 pound stripers back to their rocky hiding grounds in the spot where the Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean.


Isabel fixed up all a wonderful meal of blowfish, Chinese pork with noodles and fresh mustard greens from our garden.  We are on a roll of positive vibes.  Then, late this afternoon, I bought a fish tote of bunker for $11 from a young local bayman, Timmy Seat, who had just gill netted them and we baited our scungilli traps and tossed them amongst our oyster cages.  Scungis are a predator to oysters and I enjoy eating them and my clients in the city demand them.  Permits for scungis are frozen, but another older bayman, Dean Yuksa, whom I let overwinter his boat on my dock this year, has them and does not use them, so he’s letting me sell off them.  There is the possibility that we’ll eat a good chunk of our catch.


Today was our first 70 degree day of the year.  All our oysters, two and one year olds, are clean and sorted.  My 1mm spat is cooking away slowly in an indoor hatchery nearby, until it gets to 3mm and will retain on the 2mm screens in my upweller.  We are ready for the start of summer and its huge burst of growth.  The creek was green today and I could not see 6 feet to the bottom – plenty of food for our three sets of animals to fatten up on.


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