It’s been hot here.
The average highs on Cape Cod through most of July and August are in the seventies. The high seventies, mostly, but even the high seventies are pretty moderate, by summer standards. This year, though, we’re seeing way too many nineties. Kevin, who doesn’t tolerate heat well, has tried to get it to break by letting his hair grow into a style that screams, “Seventies!”
It hasn’t worked, but it better cool down here soon – he’s threatening the mustache.
Our oysters aren’t liking this any more than Kevin is. Up to a certain point, they thrive on warming temperatures. In June, we had a nice stretch of the grow-grow eighties, and commensurate increases in water temperature. Our seed – 150,000 pinhead-size oysters – has thrived, and the largest are now almost an inch.
We left last year’s seed in the onion bags in which they overwintered until about a month ago, when we started opening the bags that seemed to be growing fastest. This week, we opened the last of those bags, and also sold the very first of that crop.
And that crop is very promising. They’re very uniform and well-shaped. They look like lightbulbs, with pointy ends that make them easy to shuck, and deep cups that indicate plump, meaty oysters within. There are almost no barnacles, and very little spat, so the shells are unsullied.
But the nineties are not being kind to them. If a warm spell coincides with midday tides, so the oysters are out of the water during the hottest part of the day, we always get some death. Every time we go out to the farm, we worry about what we’ll find. So far, it’s a been a few here, a few there – maybe two or three percent, total. But a percent here, a percent there, and pretty soon you’re talking about a sizeable loss.
This week is a bad one, with temperatures in the low nineties, cloudless skies, and low tides in the early afternoons. So, yesterday, we went out armed with a pump and a couple hundred feet of hose. We put the pump intake in the river (the channel, which doesn’t go dry at low tide) and ran the hose up to the farm. Every tray got a shower.
We have no idea whether this is going to help. The idea is that the oysters will cool as the water evaporates. That’s the principle behind swamp coolers, and we’re hoping to make it work for us, but it may or may not be enough to save a few oyster lives. We thought about leaving one row unshowered, so we’d have a control group, but we figured we’d rather save the oysters than know we saved the oysters.
Both the short- and long-term forecasts are for the heat to continue. NOAA has us scheduled for above-normal temperatures for the foreseeable future – and NOAA foresees for over a year. So it looks like we’ll have to bear with it for a couple of months, and then we’ll have a race to the sixties. I hope temperatures get there before Kevin’s hair.