The Long Winter (or, The Most Boring Post)

This past winter was an eye-opening experience, and one that I wished to have shared but couldn’t figure out how to draw any readers towards a series of blogs saying “today was cold, my hands went numb, and we had to chop ice to get the boat off the ramp.” Since this isn’t what the blog will consist of moving foward (at least until December,) I figure I can at least recap.

When I first helped Don out, it was late October of 2012, and I figured that there was no way I would be out on the flat during the winter. A short month later I experienced my first snowstorm in a boat, and two months later found myself waiting for my hands to go numb so I could get started with harvesting without the pain. I’d get home from work each day and crawl under my covers for an hour before I felt my core temperature rise again, and found myself walking around the house in shorts and tank tops on my days off, sweating. Below is my gear list over two seasons, but I think it warrants a mention first that the biggest difference, hands down, was better waders and gloves that fit.

2012 Winter Gear List (worn all at once)

  • 3 pairs socks
  • Silk longjohns
  • Fleece longjohns
  • Polartec longjohns
  • Nike Running Sweatpants
  • Nike cold-weather running turtleneck
  • Smartwool winter turtleneck
  • Hooded sweatshirt
  • Insulated foul-weather jacket
  • Neck gaiter
  • Lined beanie
  • Lined rubber gloves (snowblower gloves)
  • Waders (off-brand, fall weight)

The hardest part was undoubtedly the ride out to the grant, a 15-minute ride in oftentimes sub-35° weather that chilled you to the bone before arriving to work. With all of my hiking experience, I do look back on this list as rather foolish and inefficient, but I learned.

This past winter, I came to play. I spent the summer reflecting on why my hands and feet went numb, how to keep the cold away from my chest, and how important it was to wear better waders.

2013-14 Winter Gear List

  • 1 pair Smartwool Ski socks, 1 pair Smartwool Heavy wool socks – Quality > Quantity
  • 1 pair Under Armor ColdGear tights
  • 1 pair fleece longjohns
  • 1 pair fleece sweatpants
  • Nike winter turtleneck
  • Smartwool winter wool turtleneck
  • Insulated hooded sweatshirt
  • Gage rain/wind jacket – If I learned anything from hiking other than how to walk all day, it’s that wind and water protection is the number one key to staying warm.
  • 700 gram Thinsulate neoprene waders – Worth their weight in gold
  • Buff gaiter – One of my favorite accessories
  • Neoprene facemask for ride out/back
  • PROPERLY FITTING INSULATED GLOVES – This part was major: The gloves I wore were too big the past season, and the additional effort it took to maneuver them ruined my circulation.

And this is how I defeated winter. Jan. 12 - Not many pictures from very cold days, iPhones like to shut down below a certain temperature. (Cowards)

 

An Introduction to the Farm

What better day for a first post than Earth Day? It occurred to me last summer, halfway through the grow season, that this is an incredibly interesting opportunity that should be shared and documented.

A little about me: I am 27, born and raised on the South Shore of Massachusetts, a proud resident of Boston, business student and full-time oyster farmer. I began oystering as a fluke, helping a friend starting their retirement project in October of 2012, but here I am 18 months later absolutely in love with these little guys and fascinated by the entire landscape of aquaculture. That fall I remember thinking that there was no way I would be sitting out on that grant during the snow, but for two winters in a row I found myself waist-deep in icy water and beard full of rime, loving every moment of it. I have no background in marine biology, nor do I make any claim to being marine bio-savvy, and graciously accept any sort of dissenting opinions, corrections, or suggestions from anyone who has taken the time to read this blog. One of the biggest things I love about oystering is the intimacy with the sea that consuming them requires, and I think that this intimacy can translate easily to a farmer-consumer relationship as well.

I am aware that the word “farm” often raises the hackles of many people, bringing to mind gratuitous application of pesticides and hormones, terrible environments and an overwhelmingly exploitative treatment of animals. I’d like to put these images to rest before we go any further with the blog. Attempting to use pesticides or any other sort of chemical on an oyster grant would be fruitless; imagine me standing on a boat dumping a barrel of chemicals into an open bay and hoping they do something. Oysters are natural filter-feeders and feed on micro-organisms, and the biggest thing that we as farmers can do to help that food supply is by having as little impact on it as possible. I guess you could call our oysters “free-range,” even though they don’t move very much (at all). Additionally, as stated, we have no intervention in their food supply. The only intervention we have in the process is in protecting them from predators when they are infants, and of course, planting them where they aren’t native. We take “all-natural” to the next level by dumping our mature oysters onto the bottom of the bay, and hoping they don’t get eaten by predators, carried off by storm currents, killed off by a disease, smothered by sediment, baked in the sun, frozen in the winter, a combination of some or all, or other surprises.

Hopefully I’ve covered the introduction. Bear with me, I am going to be figuring out what this blog is going to look like as I go. As I said, suggestions are more than welcome!

-Dennis