Newcomb Hollow Beach
Cape Cod National Seashore
At a distance I could hear the surf pounding along the Cape Cod National Seashore on my walking pilgrimage to Newcomb Hollow Beach. I arrived in Wellfleet, MA in gale force northeasterly winds and driving rains. I hunkered down at the cozy Gull Pond cottage and read, wrote, and studied while white caps danced across the pond and the rain pounded the picture window in front of me. I reveled in my good fortune like Thoreau on Walden Pond. I put in a call to Jim to volunteer my services over the next couple of days on his oyster grant.
Nick (left) and Jim
Jim is a friend of a friend. Nick is Jim’s right hand man. The two work in harmony like meshed gears on Jim’s oyster grant. With minimal discussion, they appear to know each other’s next move. Wellfleet oysters are highly reputable in the oyster world and I wanted to see first-hand how they were grown. I got much more of an education than I had anticipated.
I liked Jim the moment I met him. He is a dynamo and all about getting the job done properly and efficiently. He is a man in seemingly constant motion, interspersing conversation, story telling, questions, philosophy, and creative ideas. Jim is dedicated to the process of growing his oysters and clams. He works 7 days a week.
When I arrived at Jim’s house to volunteer, the gear was already loaded in the truck. Just about everything about growing oysters and clams in Wellfleet is timed around the tide. We drove the trucks along the shoreline and loaded the canoes, which were used to transport the gear to the grant. “How do you like my office” Jim asked while he set up his “desk” and began culling oysters for market. Jim yelled over encouragement and pointers to Nick and I while we organized oyster bags (which we would cull later that afternoon) and loaded them into the canoes. Over time, the rising tide forced our retreat and we loaded the trucks with the oysters.
On the second day I assisted by harvesting clams. Using a bull rake to dig clams out of their planted beds is similar to operating as a human mule and pulling a plow backward. Nick gave me some helpful pointers like moving the large T-handled rake as a seesaw and leaning back into the harness, using my body weight to pull the large rake. Once again the rising tide limited the duration of our work and we loaded the bushel baskets of clams into the canoes and then into the trucks.
Nick at clam sorting
After a quick lunch, Nick and I ran the clams through the sorting and counting machine to process the morning harvest. I helped Nick feed the clams into the top of the machine. The clams passed through a series of rollers and digital counters. With this ingenious time-saving device, the clams were sorted, counted, and ready to go to the wholesaler.
I am grateful for this opportunity to work and learn alongside these two. Both are committed to growing high quality seafood. Aquaculture demands the unique capabilities of these rare farmer entrepreneurs. Their trade requires a tool bag of ingenuity, self-motivation, faith, and persistence. A can-do, hardworking ethic, along with some help from Mother Nature, produces the desired results. One oyster at a time, Jim and Nick are making the world a better epicurean place.