Welcome August!

On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us.

Just like last August, we’re fighting the melancholy feeling we get knowing that summer is more than half over. Although, we’ve planned accordingly this year and are ending summer with a bang. Sarah’s getting ready for a photo exhibit, followed immediately by the annual Schufest that she and our other siblings put on at the farm in PA. All of that comes after she flies out to Colorado for a quick visit and to help me wrangle these two boys on our trip east where we’ll spend a month at the beach (hoping to avoid Mary Lee!). It’s going to be a fun month!

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In anticipation of our beach trip, this post is filled with photos from past visits. If these photos having you craving more, you can check out the posts from last summer. There are some photos from life on the island. Many of the men on the island work in the seafood industry, either hauling in oysters or hatching softshell crabs. The island itself is surrounded by miles (and miles!) of tidal saltwater marsh, we love it so much that we put together a little profile of our favorite ecosystem. This year we’re so excited to see the island, the beaches, and the water through the eyes of two-year-old Alex!

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Animal Activity in the Bay

Going to the shore every summer, we have such a love for the beach and bay ecosystems. Granted we spend the majority of our time lounging around, doing as much summer reading as we can, but when our pop is in town, he gives us the nudge we need to get out on the boat and do a bit of crabbing and clamming too. So, in anticipation of the hunt, we thought we would talk about our favorite shellfish to catch and eat.

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Blue Crabs

Our methods for catching crabs have evolved over the years. We started with long-handled nets, and we would walk through the shallow bay water, sneak up on a crab, and try to net him. Then we crab over the side of the boat with chicken necks, string, and the same trusty nets. Now, we’re lazy bums, and we catch most of our crabs in pots (when we’re lucky!). The crabs mate from May through October, so whenever we’re crabbing, we’re likely to pull up a female with a spongey egg mass still attached to her. The female crab only mates once in its lifetime, and it occurs during the 2-7 day period when she’s going through her “terminal molt”. During that mating, she receives enough sperm to spawn a number of times, producing an egg mass or “sponge” each time, which will eventually be released into the water as the eggs mature.

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Hard Clams

Another favorite past time while at the shore is to go out hunting the “wily bivalve”, as our Pop likes to refer to hardshell clams. If you’ve never gone clamming, it’s as simple as dragging a rake through the sand and feeling for the vibration of your rake hitting the clam’s hard shell. Then you dig up your treasure, throw it in the bucket, and move on. Just like the crabs, clams are also mating when the waters are warm from May through October. Unlike the crabs, the clams don’t have a fancy little mating dance, rather the sperm and eggs are released into the water column where they combine to form larvae that will remain free-swimming for one to two weeks as they develop a foot.

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Environmental Holidays

Ehh, there aren’t a lot of environmental holidays this month. Everyone’s at the beach! But, as we mentioned last year, since August is still prime harvest time, there are plenty of food festivals to be found. Do a little Google search and find a watermelon eating contest near you.

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 Image Credit : blue crab illustration from NC Division of Marine Fisheries via this site
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