I literally fell into oyster farming - one Easter morning 14 years ago, with two infants in my arms, my dock collapsed into a very cold Widow’s Hole. At the time, I had just sold my software company and was having a difficult time enjoying early retirement. As soon as I had dried off and warmed up the kids, I called Costello Marine and ordered a new dock and ramp. [...]
Jigging for squid is the most democratic form of fishing. One simply needs a cheap pole, 25 - 50 feet of line and a jig: a feathery object surrounded by nasty prongs. No need to buy bait, fancy reels, carbon-smarbon rods, a boat or hire a professional guide. No, the humble squid are jigged from a dock, at night, preferably around the crest of the diurnal flood. A Coleman lamp [...]
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 [...]
Five hundred yards from my house, Captain Sid Smith ties up his 75 foot ocean dragger, the Merit, on Greenport’s Railroad Dock. Despite the fact that he scoffed at my efforts to farm oysters here when I began 13 years ago, I have always admired Sid, and men like him, who defy the open seas to catch the fish we all crave. Like most people, I have a fear of [...]
We had a two days warning for the blizzard, so spent Sunday, the proverbial calm before the storm, harvesting. We then tied the boat up in the creek- to be lee of the 40-50 knot gusts of east wind - then stowed all loose gear away and clear off the new dock completely.
Then we watched the storm roll in, slowly and silently. Isabel made white beans, kale and pork chops [...]
For the last week, I have not been able to control my elation. After almost four years of permitting, our dock builder, John Costello, showed up and began siting our new dock. We were all so busy sorting oysters, that for 30 minutes, we did not notice him and his workers. As my son was loading sorted and cleaned oysters into cages on the beach, he shouted out that "John [...]
Deep in the perfume of the sedge-meadows, Jason Stulsky stands in his skiff. Silhouetted against a winter sky, in the back of Southold’s Mill Creek, he bull-rakes clams. Jason has pulled ‘the stupid stick’ since he was legal age for a digger’s permit, 14. Nineteen years now, he has toiled on that bull rake.
“I guess it’s called a bull rake because you have to pull like a bull,” he explained [...]
For most Americans, the Normandy beachheads evoke images of courage, carnage and sacrifice. Ironically, to the French, these beaches are now associated with some of their finest oysters. The huge 45-foot tidal variation that bedeviled General Eisenhower provides the modern French oyster farmer with easy, albeit risky, access to his crop.
During the height of this year’s endless winter, my family and I visited the Danlos family, Norman oyster farmers whose [...]
Two weeks ago, we began acquiring oyster seed at 2mm. The size of a grain of sand, it's called spat. We buy from several nearby hatcheries, in case one has a poor set and cannot supply us with the requested amount.
The first batch came from Aeros aquaculture in Southold. They sold us 500K in a two liter pouch. At that time, the water temp was a chilly 49. Monday, with [...]
This time of year, before the algae bloom obscures the water and begin feeding the oysters, we set off in our skiff to scour our oyster plot for sunken cages. Most of them, their buoys are submerged because a storm tumbled the cage and the buoy line wrapped around the cage. Some of the buoys have been cut by pleasure boaters who wander into our underwater plot and get tangled on [...]
We've attended two board meetings in the last 8 days regarding our dock application. At the work session last week, members of the board asked me about my already permitted upwellers in Widow's Hole. After first noting that the upwellers were not on the permit under discussion, I told them that the upwellers use a half horse pump encased in oil, then submerged 2 feet below the surface of the [...]
Our family oyster farm is under attack. Twelve days ago, we had a public hearing for a major, 175 foot dock expansion on the east side of my property and a minor repair to my existing three docks in Widow's Hole on the west side of our place. Those floating docks can be seen by my four neighbors who abut our property but do not own any waterfront. They mounted [...]
All last Fall, while harvesting and selling oysters into the city, we saved our best looking, fastest growing, thickest shelled animals. Around New Years, I gave them to the Cornell Hatchery here in Southold to breed. For two months, the conditioned them, that is, they kept them at 20 degrees celcius and gorged them on algae. Monday, they spawned them by raising the temperature up to 30 degrees, then dropping [...]
We sold out of market-sized oysters last week. With a fine dust of snow on the ground, we have a few months to repair damage from the hurricane and get ready for spring. I've ordered 2mm seed from a couple of hatcheries and am spawning my best growers at another.
We chpped and split firewood at Dean's place yesterday and both wood stoves are aflame. Kids are reading, as I have [...]
We ran oysters into New York yesterday, packing them in snow. Winter has finally shown her cold side, if for only a few days. We cut back from 7000 to 4000 oysters and will continue to diminish our shipments: the big ones are all sold and demand in general falls after New Years.
We had to shovel three inches of snow out of the boats before making the harvest. As we [...]
The year is ending. North winds are slicing through the leafless trees. I returned from our New Year's delivery into the city and found the flag ripped into two strips on the flagpole. Time to retire that one. Another nor'easter had pushed the debris from October's hurricane higher up the banks of Widow's Hole. No damage to the docks nor boats.
I'm running a light in the engine compartment overnight to [...]
While I was in the city making deliveries Wednesday, the temperature dropped into the 20's, so I asked my kids to drop a cage of oysters off the new boat into the creek overnight. I forgot to remind them that the winch could only be used off the starboard side; so, when they lifted the oyster cage over the port side, the mast ripped off the deck.
My son called me [...]
The sun is rising over a calm Greenport Harbor. Hard to believe that same body of water a month ago was smashing into my seawall and spraying homes a block away. Fortunately, our damage from Sandy was minor: one destroyed floating dock and 30 roof shingles. I've ordered a new, better replacement and tacked down new shingles.
Why FEMA agents offered me forms to pay for my dock I'm not certain. [...]
Seasonality, in today's world, is a term most often associated with sports. Despite the growing 'vore movement, most Americans would tell you that September is the beginning of Football Season. Yet, 150 years ago, New Yorkers eagerly greeted the arrival of September, the first of a series of eight months having an 'R' in it, as the beginning of Oyster Season.
Only then, was it safe to consume New York's most [...]
This Thanksgiving, I began buying live, wild scallops from a local Greenport bayman, Joe Angevine. He arrives at my dock in Widow's Hole on Mondays at noon. He's been scratching the bay bottom all morning and brings me 1000 beautiful, delicate animals, still clucking in their shells. I transfer them from his totes to purses which I hang along the edge of my dock, handling them as gently as farm [...]
We now have one million seed in the upweller. Wall Street shorthand for that number is 1MM, or, a thousand times a thousand. At one time, a million was a milestone number, a millionaire a wealthy person. Although a million oyster seed may not generate riches, it is still a milestone.
Tomorrow morning we'll sort the first batch of seed that I purchased in mid-May at 1mm. We'll run it through [...]
Heat and growth: while the rest of the country is either on fire or baking, we are cooking our baby oysters in the nursery system. Last week we saw a 50:1 growth since midMay, with each week the oyster spat doubling in volume. Over half our seed, which was 1 mm in May, now retains on a 10 mm mesh. We'll re-measure again tomorrow.
Ordered another 300K this morning, should be [...]
A pair of kingfishers flew into the creek this afternoon. Friends stopped by to pay our daughter for watering their plants while they were gone. We sat on the back porch and watched the kingfishers. They have a very noticable chatter. Also, terns dipped into the shallow water for herring, ospreys soard over the bay, mockingbirds and robins sang, egrets sailed overhead and doves rustled in the bush.
Rowed at sunset [...]
Today I must have spent two hours obtaining the proper forms to 'import' oyster seed from Maine. New York law requires any non New York hatchery to provide a health report about the oysters they want to ship into New York. It's understandable that we want to safeguard our waters, but, having waited now for over a year for my hatchery permit to be approved - or most likely denied [...]
Water temperature is everything to the humble oyster. Yesterday, I noted a temperature of 70.7 in Widow's Hole. Perfect swimming weather, and, the threshold that induces oysters to spawn. I had noticed for the last two weeks the increasing size of an oyster's gonad when I shucked them for guests. Normally, we don't reach 70 until early July, so this year's Memorial Day really felt like Indepence Day.
Even though our [...]
We just put 700,000 spat into our upweller this week. They are around 2 millimeters, the size of a grain of sand. The first batch has grown by 50% in one week and we'll do a volumn on the second next week. We intend to put 1.2 million spat into this nursery system this year in order to boost our production of market oysters 18 months from now.
The creek, Widow's [...]
The whelk traps we set out last week have been catching. Italians are the largest western consumers of the whelk, which they call scungilli, so the baymen out here call the whelks scungies. Actually, Asians prized the meats and most of the commercially harvested whelks are shipped to the Orient. Since the baymen no longer trap lobsters here in the Peconic, they've turned to scungies full time.
For years, I've waved [...]
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 [...]
This morning, the NY Times ran an opEd calling for more regulation of child labor on the farm, pitting-child-safety-against-the-family-farm.
However broad minded this may be, it would kill us. My children are the best workers I have. And, they religiously save the $1/hour I pay them. My son has been driving a boat since he was 3, my daughter has cranked the winches since she was 4, leaning over the gunwales [...]
Last week, Sag Harbor Cove was closed due to Red Tide, an algae harmful to humans. Prior to that both Shinnecock Bay and Mattituck Inlet had been closed. Since a ferry has been proposed to run from Sag to Greenport, I freaked. Every time I saw a yacht, I shuddered. Did it come from Sag? What's in its bildge. Is Alexandrium, the red tide algae, in the water cooling its [...]