The lobster wrap

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Yesterday, we pulled the rest of our lobster pots out for the season.

Although there are still lobsters to be had, as days get colder and shorter and the wind is increasingly out of the north, opportunities to take our boat out into the bay are fewer and farther between. Yesterday was a good day, and although there will probably be more of them, we decided it was time to get the traps in and the boat winterized.

The last run of the season

Even though the harbor was glassy smooth, there was only one other boat trailer in the parking lot. Now that fishing season is over, it’s only the occasional duck hunter who ventures out.

I was surprised there weren’t more, given the flocks of ducks hanging around at the harbor’s mouth. My waterfowl identification skills aren’t what they should be, and I can’t tell you what kinds of ducks they were, but they were many and varied.

There was one lone hunter, in a camouflage boat, and we tried to give him a wide berth so as not to spook the ducks in his vicinity. But the channel is narrow, and there was only so far we could go. As we went by, a huge number of ducks took flight.

“I hope they come back,” Kevin said.

I looked over and saw that there were still quite a few left, right behind the guy’s boat.

“Why doesn’t he just shoot those?” I asked, pointing to the leftover ducks.

I’m very fortunate that my husband loves me despite having a clear-eyed understanding of my many shortcomings. “Those are decoys, honey,” he said, and patted my shoulder.

Well, they sure fooled me.

Turns out the ducks did come back, just in time for us to disturb them again on our way in.

In between, we pulled our remaining seven pots without incident. We had taken in three of them the previous trip, and we thought we’d lost one, but tide was low this trip and we found it. It had either drifted or been dragged, and it was well to the south of where it was supposed to be. We were glad to see it again.

Cross-species introduction

We got two keeper lobsters, one small male and another much larger, but clawless. (My friend Darren informs me that, in the vernacular, that’s a “bullet.”) That rounded out our catch for the year, so we did the end-of-season tally.

We made sixteen trips to pull the pots, and we brought home lobsters on every trip but two. (Those were the two trips where we were accompanied by my family members, but correlation is not causation.). Our total haul was 68 pounds of lobster.

For most of the summer, lobster was going for about $7. a pound, so that’s almost $500. worth.

If you figure each trip uses something north of three gallons of gas (between the truck and the boat), that’s about $10. Half the time, we had to pay $5. to park. Bait was fish leftovers, from fish caught by us our or friends, so it cost us nothing. Our total outlay was just around $200.

The equipment – traps, buoys, rope, bait bags – was a total of about $350, and we expect it’ll last at least five years. If we amortize that at $70. a year, our lobster catch is still a win by well over $200.

That’s not counting the boat, of course. But if you start counting the boat, nothing’s a win. It’s like asking your home-grown tomatoes to pay for the real estate they take up.

Not everything we do nets us more in food than we lay out in expenses. The garden is a win, as are the mushrooms and the chickens. Jury’s out on the hoophouse. Shellfishing (recreational, not the oyster farm) is a huge win. The turkeys are close, and so is fishing (not counting the boat). Hunting, so far, has been a loss, and we have to bag some serious game to make up the deficit. Between guns, ammunition, range fees, licenses, clothing, and our brand new deer blind (more on that soon), we’re deep in the hole.

Luckily, it’s not about the money. Or at least it’s not just about the money. If getting our food first-hand turned out to cost much more than getting it at Stop & Shop, we’d have to seriously reconsider what we’re doing. Exercise, fun, satisfaction, and general edification are all of value, but there’s only so much I’m willing to pay for them.

It’s nearly impossible to account for everything that goes into what we do. How many nails from the huge box did we use to make the hoophouse? How do we factor in the clam net we used for the turkey pen? How many Home Depot receipts did we lose? I have a gut sense that we’re not saving money, but it’s pretty close. Over the course of a decade, if we maximize the use of all the equipment we’ve bought, structures we’ve built, and skills we’ve acquired, we’ll probably end up ahead.

Not counting the boat.

But over the course of the summer, I probably ate 25 pounds of lobster. On paper, that’s worth $175. But I never would have spent $175. on lobster; those meals are a luxury I simply wouldn’t have had. That’s worth a lot.

I also spent many days out on the water with my husband, and with our friends. I burned calories and exercised muscles. I felt the excitement of pulling a pot up over the gunwale 160 times.

It was a win.

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Comments

  1. And then there’s the healthcare costs you will very likely save down the line, getting all this exercise and eating so much more natural rather than industrial processed food. It’s not easy and obvious to account for, but that shouldn’t diminish its truth. Life is far richer and more complex than a cookie cutter P&L and balance sheet.

    I hope you keep on keeping on!

    Wen

  2. Don’t forget to account that it’s the absolute freshest, local, best tasting, pesticide/hormone/antibiotic free, organic, hand-caught, highest quality food you can buy. It can’t be compared to supermarket food because, well … because items from the supermarket rarely tick any of the aforementioned categories (where the #1 priority is shelf-life.)

    How can you measure the satisfaction you get from procuring your own food? And I don’t just mean the first-thoughts about it. There’s also your ancient inner cave-woman that is heartily contented by the hunter-gatherer aspects of your lifestyle. If it came down to simple brass-tacks accounting, we’d all eat soylent yellow (now with added vitamins!) because ratified only by numbers – food is fuel.

    For a few of us at least, food is so much more than this. Foremost it’s culture, your own family culture. It is also tradition, but with exploration, merging the new with the current, producing a feast where the final outcome cannot just be considered the sum of its parts.

  3. Yeah, hunting isn’t economical, unless you live way out in the boonies and can walk to all variety of hunts. It is about the quality of food, and the experience, and our forgotten role as members of nature, not manipulators or spectators.

  4. Fear not the scaring of the ducks. What you actually did was stir them up a bit and gave that waterfowler a better chance at having a few come in to his decoys. Many is the day on the river that we can see rafts of ducks sitting in the distance, but not one of them inclined to come over and inspect our ruse. On those days, we pray for some commercial fisherman or recreational boater to drive right through those ducks to get them up in the air. Trust me, he didn’t mind your passage. (And besides, if he set up in the channel, he knows the consequence is boat traffic).
    Congrats on what sounds like a great season of harvest out on the Cape.