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the oysters of any bed be of absolutely uni- rested an abundance of spat where the form age. It would be a profitless task to unmixed stools have failed. try to take all the oysters from a field; and It is not enough that these needed lodgthere is generally an abundance left after a ing-places be scattered over the bottom in crop has been gathered to supply any de- readiness for the home-seeking spat; they sired amount of spawn, in case the ground must be in prop condition to welcome should be wanted for breeding-purposes. their expected tenant,—that is, entirely free
As the work of gathering for market from slime. And as this slime quickly slackens in May, the oysterman begins to covers every object under water it is clear " comb” the beds that contain his growing that hap-hazard work at such a time will stock, by means of coarse-meshed dredges.
Besides, the precise moment In this operation the oysters which have of spawning is determined not by the alsettled into the mud during the winter are manac, but by the general character of the lifted out, scoured of slime, and loosely season, the position and nature of the scattered upon the surface. At the same ground, the depth of the water, and so on, time the larger clusters are removed and
time between the first of broken up for transplanting to thinner beds; July and the last of August. Again it the predatory star-fish and whelks are sometimes happens that the spawning proccaught and killed, and the ground is left ess is aborted; the ova fail to be develin condition to receive kindly the young oped; in which case the most inviting of spat which will soon swarm in the water. stools would be offered in vain. Thus it
The propagating beds receive a very dif- requires no small degree of special intelferent treatment. On these there will be a ligence and practical skill to determine few old oysters left for seed, or selected oys- when the proper moment for stool-planting ters will be placed there as a brood-stock; occurs; for the lack of which many have and as spawning time approaches the oys- thrown away their stools and their labor, ter farmer will make ready the “stools”. and jumped to the conclusion that oyster which are to afford resting-places for the breeding is more a matter of luck than of coming crop. In assorting the oysters sold science. The infant oysters begin to be the previous season he has accumulated a plainly visible in about a fortnight after considerable pile of refuse shells, dead star- they strike; under specially favorable confish, whelks, gravel, etc., which by sunshine ditions they have been discernible in eight and shower has been freed from mud and days. For the first three or four months animal matter, and otherwise fitted for the their growth is slow, after that they increase reception of spat. If the promise of an in size very rapidly. abundant spawning is good he will supple- Would you like to see how an oyster farm ment this pile of stools with some hun looks? You may be sure of a pleasant sail, dreds, perhaps thousands of bushels of clean this fair October day, at any rate; for our
, shells of oysters, clams, scallops, and the host, the pioneer in successful oyster farming, like, and many sloop-loads of gravel. The has placed a tidy smack at our disposal, and depositing of these stools begins as soon as will see to it that the pursuit of knowledge the oysters show signs of spawning. Usu- does not spoil companionship or lessen the ally four or five hundred bushels of shells, enjoyment of sea and sky. Last summer a or from five to six tons of gravel, coarse broad tract lying between the islands and and fine, are required for each acre of yonder wooded shore was stocked with breeding-ground, the shells and gravel being breeding oysters and duly planted with cast upon the water by the shovelful as the shells and gravel; a half-hour's run down boat drifts with the tide. A marked ad- the harbor will bring us to it. It is a pretty vantage is gained by using stools of unequal bit of water, backed by low hills, bright with sizes ; apparently not so much for the autumnal colors. Only a few protruding greater range of choice presented to the poles give indication of the wealth that lies young spat, as for the mechanical action of below the surface; let us see what report the the unequal stuff upon the bottom currents. dredge will give. The floating spat doubtless take refuge in It takes but a moment to cast off the ironthe little eddies created by the irregular bot-jawed bag of netting; in another minute or tom, and remain until ready to strike, when two the boat comes about and the catch is otherwise they might be swept away and hauled in and emptied upon the deck. Mere lost. At any rate, it has been repeatedly rubbish, you are disposed to call the dirty observed that the mixed stools have ar- mess of empty shells and gravel, with only two or three fair-sized oysters to keep com- removed for making up deficiencies on other pany with a ragged, sprawling spider-crab grounds ; by the same operation the loose and a couple of star-fish. But look closer. “ seed" will be lifted out of the mud and the Here is half an oyster-shell specked with ground prepared for another falling of spat. little brown things scarcely larger than pin- The second year the combing and thinning heads. They are young oysters. Count them! will be repeated lest the crop become too Seventy-nine! Take another shell at ran- crowded; and if all goes well, a further thindom; you count a hundred such spots, and ning out will be required the year after, by there are more on the other side. Those which time the oysters of this year's birth golden spots are not oysters, but young will be ready for transference to the fatten“ gingles”: the majority are—oysters enough ing-grounds, where another year's developto fill a bushel-basket when fully grown. ment will fit them for market as fancy Saddle This pebble, no larger than a hickory-nut, Rocks. In the meantime the seed (last carries a score or more; and similarly every year's oysters), now being transplanted, will particle of this seeming rubbish is loaded have undergone the same course of treatwith promises of future profit and enjoyment. ment. There is no danger of over-combing, If no more than one in ten survives, the crop for the seed which slips through the meshes will be a good one. Drop the dredge any of the dredge will be all the ground can where on this well-stocked ground and the carry, and the more the bottom is disturbed same favorable report will be returned. A in this way the surer the new crop. The promising patch, the owner calls it; and, surplus seed removed in the process of comb
indeed, the acres inclosed by its corner | ing usually finds a ready market among the stakes do seem but a patch upon the broad oyster growers of adjacent waters, who now
a surface of this beautiful bay, itself a mere draw their supplies from the Sound rather patch compared with the square miles of than from the Chesapeake or other southern oyster fields along the Connecticut shore. waters; and latterly a considerable demand
Next summer the spawn of the season just has arisen for northern seed for transportapassed, grown by that time to the size of a tion to England and to the Pacific coast; nickel coin, will be combed and the clusters the beginning, no doubt, of a large and profitable trade likely to make seed raising on uncultivated ground as we proceed to a specific branch of oyster farming.
that portion of our host's domain devoted Up to this time, however, the foreign to oysters of maturer growth. Here in the demand for young oysters has not been of broad channel between the islands is a tract general advantage to the home trade. Unable of common ground,—that is to say, it has to compete with foreign buyers in point of always borne oysters, and consequently no
THE OYSTER'S ENEMIES AT WORK-(STAR-FISH, WHELKS AND DRILLS). price, many oyster growers particularly those one has ever been allowed to cultivate it. of Long Island who have not learned to The dredge passes freely over the clean raise their own seed, have resolved to plant gravelly bottom and comes up but scantily no more oysters until the price of seed is loaded, though it has been down much reduced ; a wise enough resolution, provided longer than any previous cast. What have they adopt the one legitimate and certain we in it? The first to attract attention are means for cheapening seed, namely, artificial three or four ungainly spider-crabs, ugly but
, propagation. Thus far, unfortunately, they harmless. Half a dozen oysters, mostly two have not taken kindly to this good work. or three years old, a number of half-grown Heretofore they and their fathers have been scallops, a multitude of drills, gingles, doublesatisfied with the unaided efforts of nature, deckers, a whelk or two, and perhaps half a trusting to chance-sown beds of seed for the peck of small stones and empty shells,replenishing of their grounds. When oyster- | these worthless commodities complete the men were few, the areas under cultivation catch.
look long without finding small, and the demand for oysters compara- a single oyster of this year's spawning. tively limited, such happy-go-lucky methods Observe, however, this shell with a large may have answered very well. But times round hole through one valve. A boring have changed, and men must yield to the whelk did that; and in killing one oyster, logic of events or retire from the contest. made opportunity for a dozen others to start The winners in this, as in every other com- on the hazardous road to maturity. See petition involving natural processes, must these brown scales on the clean white of the inevitably be those who leave nothing to inner surfaces; they are young oysters, accident, who know the conditions under which, thanks to the whelk, were able to which nature succeeds and skillfully supply find a timely resting-place. This clam-shell such conditions.
also is fairly well tenanted; it was opened To test the relative beneficence of aided for bait by some summer fisherman, most and unaided nature, let us cast the dredge likely, and thrown into the water just in
time to catch a few spat. But the rest of water in swarms as countless as Colorado the shells and all this gravel must have been grasshoppers, and ravage an oyster plantatoo foul to receive the spat, and consequently tion as relentlessly as the latter do the wheat the prospect is not encouraging for those fields of the border. Yonder sharpie is who may wish, four years hence, to reap the engaged in replanting a large tract which benefits of this common ground. Nature is the stars invaded last spring, when the only a careless mother at best; and of the count- oysters saved were those that were hastily less millions of embryo oysters that swarmed removed in advance of the destroying host. in these waters last summer, very few were By such attacks a man may lose his entire able to find a suitable resting-place. Nature fortune before his danger is suspected, and betrayed them at the critical moment, and at all times it is only by constant watchfulnow they are not. Had these grounds been ness and persistent dredging that these pests subject to individual ownership and personal are kept within tolerable limits. . care, they would not have been allowed to In course of time, when the number of remain in barrenness. Whether the general oyster farmers is largely increased, it may public would have lost or gained by a surren- be possible by united effort and the mainder of its profitless right to those who would tenance of a special police working steamhave made a thousand oysters grow where dredges to keep the stars under control, if scarcely one now appears may be left to the not to exterminate them from these waters; reader's judgment to decide.
but for many years they are likely to remain As we pass another line of stakes marking the chief source of annoyance and loss to the boundary of private property the dredge this important branch of industry. Now is cast again. Lay your hand on the rope: and then a boring whelk or a winkle will the water is three fathoms deep, yet you can kill an old oyster, or a boring sponge riddle feel the multitude of oysters rolling in be- a shell and divert its owner's strength to the tween the dredge's iron jaws. Haul in! A work of maintaining the integrity of its pearly cable's length away, a bottom quite as good coat; now and then a violent storin will as this would have yielded nothing of bury an oyster-bed under a smothering mass value. Here the dredge comes up loaded of weeds or mud; or, if in shallow water, with oysters, the most of them ranging in will roll the crop ashore, or crush it to death size from a silver quarter to a half-dollar with drifted ice; but these are occasional piece. They are now in their second year, and minor evils, compared with the ceaseless a few in clusters of two or three, but the depredations of the stars. majority single, and all showing the rounded While our host has been recounting the outline which delights the oyster-lover. troubles and risks of oyster farming, his tidy
craft has carried us to another ground from which the dredge brings up an attractive lot of round oysters, from two to four years old. Vast quantities of oysters of this size are annually opened at Fair Haven and the meats forwarded in tubs and barrels to the interior cities of New England for immediate use. And of late years a considerable demand has arisen for such oysters to be served on the half-shell as appetizers before a meala foreign fashion,which if kept within bounds is not a bad one, for young oysters thus
served are unspeakably dainty and delicious. Here and there in the pile is a gaping shell, The general use of such immature oysters, some with one valve shorter than the other, however, is not to be commended, since it has some with a pin-hole through the purple nearly ruined the French oyster growers and spot where the muscle was attached. The largely helped to destroy the valuable natformer have been killed by star-fish, the latural beds along the Scotch and English ter by drills,-innocent-looking creatures coasts. The oyster rarely spawns before the both of them, but dreadfully destructive to fourth year, and if the beds are stripped at oysters. Fortunately, the drills confine their an earlier age, as has been largely the case attacks to the young broods when thinning in Europe, the fall of spat necessarily fails. out is not so injurious. The stars kill at all As a recent English writer has said, speakages. Sometimes they come up from deep | ing of the oyster breeders of Arcachon,
Marennes, the Isle de Ré and other places, removal to a different bottom, all showing they “ have killed the goose for the sake of the susceptibility of the oyster to changes in its golden egg, and now we are beginning the external conditions of its life. A most to be told that artificial oyster culture is not remarkable illustration of the oyster's ability paying in France, and that the spat has to withstand rough usage was shown in a failed! The excuse is amusing: how can specimen, set aside for representation here, they have spat if there be no oysters left to but lost (probexude it?” Even if there were no serious ably stolen) risk of ultimate barrenness from the general before it reachdestruction of immature oysters, it would seem wasteful if not wicked to kill them at this stage (further than may be necessary for the thinning out of areas under cultivation), since they are now past the more serious cares and dangers of oyster farming, and in a year or two more will have doubled in size and greatly improved in quality.
Yonder is an oyster-sloop nearly loaded with marketable oysters; let us run alongside and look at them. Howed the artist's hands. The shell had been bright and clean they rise from this gravelly caught somehow by an oysterman's tongs bottom, swept almost constantly by a tide or dredge, unhinged, and the valves turned that runs like a mill-race. There can be no at right angles to their normal position. In better fattening-ground. Observe this hand-spite of this terrible wrench, the animal not some four-year-old, a typical Saddle Rock, only survived but constructed a new hinge, nearly as broad as long, and half as thick as it walled in the exposed angles, and re-arranged is broad. It was well formed when trans- its internal economy to conform to its new planted a year ago, but thin. You can see condition. When taken, it was alive and the lines of the old shell, and how great the hearty, its eccentric shape alone drawing increase in thickness has been. With scarcely attention to its strange experience. any change in area, the bulk of its meat has The changes wrought by cultivation in nearly doubled. This six-year-old is another the oyster's outside appearance are not more beauty, so regular in form, so healthy in ap- remarkable than the improvement of its pearance; and the rest are not unlike it. It is meat. The body grows deep and large and now at its best. It might live a dozen years solid; the mantle, naturally thin and skinny, longer without much enlargement save in the thickens to the very edge with firm white thickness of its shell. Notice the changes flesh; and the quality of the meat surpasses that have been wrought in these less regular that of the uncultivated oyster as signally as forms, in the effort to attain the typical oval high-bred, stall-fed beef does the product of form. When transplanted they were thin Texan pastures.
. and crooked; during the past year they As they come from the fattening-grounds, have added nothing to their length, but very the oysters are naturally charged with bitter much to their breadth and thickness. Here
sea water, more or less muddy, and the is one that had been left too long on a large stomach is filled with undigested food. muddy bottom and had developed into a To fit them for the table, they must be regular “ Shanghai.” In transplanting, fully “floated”—that is exposed for a tide to an inch of one valve was broken off at the sweeter water. The oyster grower's land end, and a new beginning was made at the station is usually at the mouth of a river, broken edge.
and when the oysters are brought in they Very curious are the alterations often are allowed to rest for a day or so in large made in ill-formed shells in consequence of I shallow floats open to the current. Here