Surviving the summer

I'd forgotten that what it feels like to get through a summer work day at Island Creek. Between early tides, late nights, and Oyster Fest planning, the time I get to actually sit down and decompress has been shaved down to a few minutes a day. But, I can't complain. That's summertime on the oyster farm.

Hopefully you'll forgive the lapse in posts. But just to recap:

We had two successful float dinners in the last few weeks - one involving a few visiting editors from Food & Wine and their families (dinner: Jeremy Sewall's kickass chowder & heirloom tomato salad, lobster, steamers, steamer dogs); the other for the entire restaurant team from Lineage (dinner: lots of oysters and mignonette, Skip's on-the-fly razor clam, asparagus, and tomato salad, steamers, lobsters, and sausages).

We've gotten the process down pretty pat -- especially nice considering we're putting on a traveling party for anywhere from 15 to 25 people. They are always a success, no matter what the weather (as our F&W friends can attest) and almost always end up with some shenanigans or another (bridge jumping, in the case of the Lineage night).

We're doing fewer charity raw bars now that it's summertime but did make an exception for Mark Wahlberg and his brother Paul who threw a premiere party for "The Other Guys," which Mark stars in. It was a great party at Paul's new restaurant Alma Nove. Mark even ate a few of our oysters. Plus, we got to hang out with this guy:

Meanwhile, back on the farm, we said goodbye to Steve of Jeeves who has taken a "real" job in the seafood industry (he'll be doing sales for a customer of ours). His parting note to Berg put everyone in stitches... even the Bergman himself.

Work? What work? Oh, right. We do grow oysters, don't we. Actually, the past two weeks have been oysterless for Skip's crew (we're waiting to dip into the 2009 crop...a few more weeks!) So instead of harvesting, our daily work has been focused on one thing: The back river. For the first time since he started growing oysters, Skip had a barnacle set on his back river bags this summer. We went out to clean them last week and found a few of the outside rows covered in the little buggers.

barnacle-covered pipe

Once they set to the bags, they can reduce food and water flow, taking those two precious resources away from the seed. Skip and Berg reacted immediately: We needed to switch all of the seed over to new, larger-weave bags (the barnacles will most likely not grow back now that we're this far into the summer). The process takes time, even with the crew working in teams (pulling bags out, unpiping, pouring oysters into a basket, filling the new bag, repiping and setting back on the line), but over the course of two weeks, we've gotten almost every bag transferred over. There's something so satisfying about watching the clean bags line up behind you. You can practically see the oysters smiling.

This is also the time of year we start to see our crew disperse. Eva's last day was yesterday; others like Michelle and Maggie will be gone in a few weeks. And just like that, the seed crew will disband. We had our last grade this week, resulting in a tote full of tiny quarters and the very last of the runt seed.

Our upwellers are still full of seed which we'll keep clean for another week or so before the planting begins. Once we plant what's in the river, we can refill those bags with the seed from our upwellers. Personally, I just want to see the pumps get shut down... all in good time.

For now, we have bags to clean and plenty of events to keep us busy. In fact, later today, we're participating in the First Annual Island Creek Oyster Olympics! Five oyster-farm related competitions; 3 cutthroat teams; 1 peachy summer day. A recap post is soon to follow!