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It’s Fat Oyster Season | Fall Farm Update

Sorry kids, vacation is over!

Just last month it seemed like summertime would never end. Daylight hours felt as long as the line at our Raw Bar Truck, leaves were still a perky green, and our dusty sweaters were buried deep in closets where they belonged. Now that it’s nearly November, we can no longer play pretend. We’ve crossed the threshold into autumn, and with every shiver that blows amber foliage across the bay, other lifeforms in our ecosystem can feel the shift too.

Ducks and geese fill Duxbury’s salt marshes with downy food. Juvenile bait fish – Herring and Peanut Bunker – gush from the Back River on every outgoing tide; a feast for the migrating striped bass and bluefish swimming south to warmer waters. Duxbury Bay – and the oysters who inhabit it – are churning with Nature’s desperate last attempts to fatten up before the switch is flipped from fall to winter.

So, what does all of this mean for us oyster farmers and our brood in the bay? How are the oysters we’ve enjoyed eating all summer any different than the ones being harvested this time of year?

OYSTERS + THE BAY

Water both warms and cools slower than air.

While the air in Duxbury is beginning to chill, the temperature of our Bay lags behind, staying warm long enough for one last BOOM in algae production. For those in the know, more algae means more oyster food. The next few weeks will be our tender crop’s last chance to gorge upon the soon diminishing algae supplies; stuffing their salty root cellars with fat and strengthening their shells to keep themselves ALIVE throughout the freezing winter.

All of these changes in climate and physiology lend New England oysters specific and near-perfect traits that as oyster professionals, we honestly wait for all year…

Denser shells that are easier to quickly shuck. Sigh.

Plump, opaque(-AF) meats as sweet and toothsome as razor clams snapped in half and eaten raw while standing on the flats at low tide. The bright and briny oysters that we savored all summer long have transformed into rich, buttery bellies already served on their own Saltine Cracker. It simply does not get better than an Island Creek oyster in November.

THE FARM

Mother nature’s hurricane season can throw a wrench in the somewhat predictable pattern of the seasons. Back on October 17th, Duxbury Bay saw winds as high as 80mph which blew our gangway off its hinges, and our river-secured OysterPlex onto land. We had to wait until an extra high tide two weeks later to wade the Plex back into the water to avoid any damage to the marshland. Needless to say, our farm crew has been operating without some key gear for the last several weeks. But these types of unpredictable storms aren’t surprising. When you sign on to be an oyster farmer you accept that part of the gig is conceding to nature. The show must go on.

As we move through fall, our farm crew has fewer daylight hours to harvest oysters despite customer demand being as high as ever. Farmers have to get as much work done as possible before winter brings Duxbury Bay to a standstill.

Aunt Dotty’s and Row 34’s which grow in cages stitched across the harbor, will be removed from the water and “pitted” in Skip’s basement (true story!) in a few months. The shellfish hatchery at our headquarters, normally thrumming with activity, will power down until early spring. At this point, all of the oyster seed that was born earlier this year (and that didn’t get the invite to Skip’s basement house party) will have been securely planted at the bottom of the bay.

And, the one task that never ceases for our hardy crew?

Harvesting Island Creek oysters.

By hand at arctic low tide or by dredge, in sun or snow, Island Creeks are harvested almost every day of the year. It’s what keeps this whole salty machine running. We harvest, you eat.. And we resow the bay with oyster seed born to thrive in Duxbury Bay, in all of her seasons.