I’ve worked at Island Creek for about 2 years now. When people ask me what I do for a living I say “I work for an oyster farm!” People sort of give me the “up down” and are probably thinking “You work for an oyster farm? What does that even mean?” I then always follow up with “Well, I work in the office” and people nod their head as though they are thinking “Yeah, that makes a lot more sense…”
I helped out on the farm for the first two weeks I worked here grading seed on the docks. Everyone does – part of the training at ICO – which is pretty cool. I’ve only hit the tide once last year during a cold February day, so when Skip mentioned he would love to have some “Office Folk” helping out with the drainer this week, I was thrilled! Sign me up! I wouldn’t say writing is my “forte” but I had a lot of thoughts out on the lease so here goes…
We all met at the office at 6am. Low tide was at 7:40. There weren’t enough waders for everyone, so I jumped in with shorts and my old running sneaks. I felt like one tough cookie! There was about a foot and a half of water, so I grabbed my gloves. Everyone started putting their hands in and reaching into the “deep abyss” so I did too, of course! Mark, who helps manage the farm, recently found a sand tiger shark in the same area of the bay, which everyone was joking around about, but that didn’t faze Shellfish Anne one bit! I had my bucket and was ready to start pickin’ oysters right off the bottom of Duxbury Bay!
Now, I would say I’m a pretty tough gal (not sure if my boyfriend would agree…) but there are very few things in life that make me squeal like a girl. One of those things being foul balls at baseball games. Anyway, I kept feeling around at the bottom, and didn’t really find any oysters. Am I doing this wrong? This is hard. I continued to feel around the mud and found one! Gotcha. Clunk. Into the bucket. I kept reaching in and all of a sudden something started moving. I yelped! Everyone in my “area” of the lease looked over at me. “Ever seen a crab before, Anne?” Forget sharks! I was now officially squeamish every time I put my hand in. How can you tell which one is a crab and which one is an oyster? I continued to grab and continued to pull out (and then hysterically throw) crawling (and biting…) crabs. How can you tell which one’s which? Am I the only one only grabbing crabs and not getting any oysters in my bucket? You would think after the 5th spider crab I would have figured it out. If a dog bites you, you probably don’t pet that dog anymore but I couldn’t see a thing!
I finally started to realize “Oh! The tide is still going out.” If I wait around a little while, I’ll be able to see more on the mud! No more crab vs oyster mix-ups for Anne! So I started wandering out on the mud flats looking for distinct oysters. A lot of them had seaweed attached to the shells, so that was my new safe sign. The initial “kick the mud and see what moves” method also worked well. Run away crab! The tide started to go out more and more and I could see tons of oysters on the flats! Most people (about 15 of us total out there) were crouched in one spot and kept throwing oysters in their buckets. How do you find so many in one spot?? I was the wanderer but was hoping I would find a cluster soon so I could really add some value to the team….
As the tide went out more, there were more oysters to pick but I came across something even worse. There was now about 3-4 inches of seawater that we were trudging through. All of a sudden I saw a horseshoe crab. If you don’t know what that is: see below. Also, words of wisdom: start utilizing your shuffle dance move at the beach from now on. They are these crazy lookin’ things with a big barb on the back. If you step on one, I assume they fling the barb into your foot or leg. Just a guess. Anyway, all of a sudden I see one floating along next to my new-found cluster. Well, back to wandering….thanks horseshoe crab.
Luckily, as the tide kept going out, the horseshoe crabs went with it and all the spider crabs were pretty much visible! I was in the clear. I filled a few (as in 2) buckets and felt like I was a part of the team. It was such a beautiful morning with a nice breeze coming over the water. It was really cool to be out there. I usually see the final product at raw bars, and hang out with the farm crew during their lunch break in the office, but to be out with the crew on a huge drainer tide and pick the oysters right off the mud flats on a summer morning in Duxbury Bay was pretty sweet. I definitely didn’t pick the most oysters out there, but hey, I had a great time and I hope I get invited back to the farm in the near future! We’ll see…
★ Annie McNamara holds everything together at ICO. She is know as the nicest person in the office, but she can be a little selfish at times. ★