Category Archives: oysters

Quarantine

With the world in pandemic mode, things are mostly shut down here, including entry of visitors into Dare County where I live. Residents are generally shuttered in their homes and avoiding close proximity to others. Our neighborhoods look like they do in storm evacuations. Streets and beaches are nearly empty. I spend my days going for walks, reading, doing some yoga or shooting a few photographs.

Beach walks are idyllic for some alone-time. Looking north from the oceanfront in Salvo, you’d never know it was Spring pushing into the tourism of Summer.

I’ve always loved the introspectiveness of macro photography, so I’ve been paying particular attention to the little details of our natural world.

The texture of sand and shells continues to captivate me.

This young snapping turtle had just awakened from its winter hide-a-way.

It would have enjoyed dining on my new garden greens of lettuce, spinach, and kale.

The fig tree I planted 30 years ago is producing once again. I get some and so do the birds.

My property goes back to the Pamlico Sound, much of it pristine coastal wetlands. Every time I explore it, I’m amazed at the transition and variety of flora and fauna.

The appearance of fiddler crabs is a sure sign that Spring has arrived. This individual shows a defensive posture with a broken claw.

Spartina and Juncus grasses dominate the landscape, and act as a natural buffer protecting more upland property especially during storms.

Juncus is also called black needle rush. What appears to be a stem is actually the leaves rolled into a cylindrical shape ending with a very sharp tip.

The new Juncus flowers began popping out about a month ago

The shoreline marsh is adapted to be wet at times and dry at other times. The tides lately have been mostly higher than normal. So much so that new oyster spat are setting 20 feet inland.

The periwinkle is an intertidal snail that climbs up grasses to get above water.

In its larval stage this oyster spat settled on a clam shell fragment on the flooded shoreline during last year’s spawning. It measures an inch and is still growing.

Now when I’m around others in public spaces, I’ll be wearing a new fashion statement. My talented sister-in-law, Peggy, made masks for Denise and me. I have a feeling it’ll be getting a lot of use in the coming days.

 

Stumpy Point Oyster Feast

The town of Stumpy Point is the southernmost village on the Dare County mainland. It borders Pamlico Sound and it’s earliest inhabitants may have been Native Americans involved in fishing. Even today, well off the beaten path, Stumpy Point has deep roots in commercial fishing. For 35 years, the town has become known for hosting what has become one of the most popular oyster celebrations in the area.

Last Saturday, the Stumpy Point Oyster Feast began at noon, while visitors from near and far lined up outside the community building.

The line was long, but moved quickly.

Inside volunteers dished out a traditional dinner of fried fish and oysters.

An adjacent building was set up with long tables, paper towels and condiments to cater to the most enthusiastic connoisseurs.

The star of the show was bushels of oysters going into a highly efficient steamer.

Each steamer box held two bushel baskets.

After a mere seven minutes they were perfectly cooked.

The hot oysters were dumped onto trays ready to serve the masses.

It was an “all you can eat” affair.

People could’t get enough and the steamers kept coming.

In the end, all the spent shells are recycled back to the sea where new ones will hopefully attach and grow. Providing substrate for new oysters is crucial to their survival and to our enjoyment.

 

 

Old Christmas 2020

For most, the holiday season ends with a celebration of New Year’s Day. But in the villages where I live, many of us extend the festivity to  another lesser known holiday. Old Christmas is a remnant of the Julian carried over to the Gregorian calendar. In Rodanthe it occurs the first Saturday after New Year’s Day, has a local history dating back a couple hundred years, and is celebrated at our community building.

Originally an early 1900’s schoolhouse, the building has been renovated and expanded to serve the community.

Festivities start with the oyster shoot where participants fire shotguns at paper targets. Whoever has a pellet closest to the bullseye wins a bag of oysters.

Folks mill around and wait for their turn to shoot.

Young Owen O’Neal tries his luck at a bag of oysters. Old Christmas has long been part of his family heritage.

                                        Santa wants a bag of oysters too.

Skating is an activity recently added to the events.

 Joey O’Neal shovels oysters roasting on his homemade grills.

  Eddie O’Neal and Eric Anglin are some of the first to shuck a few.

Empty shells begin to pile up under the table.

                                      Phillip Beck shucks one out for a youngster.

Cooks in the kitchen prepare a traditional meal of stewed chicken and pie bread.

The deserts are to die for!

   By the time night falls, the shells continue to fall.

Joey has gotten his groove on the grills. I’d give him an A+.

Back inside, the band Chicamacomico plays on in anticipation of Old Buck.

Justin O’Neal prepares the legendary bull before entering. Like ancestors before him, Justin has become Old Buck’s latest caretaker.

The appearance of Old Buck is an evening highlight.

Kids love meeting him.

Briggs McEwen sets his son on Old Buck’s back for a fun ride. But as soon as he came, he’s quickly gone for another year.

    In the end, I asked if Old Buck needed a ride home, so we loaded him into the back of my Toyota. It was another Merry Old Christmas!

 

 

The Big Freeze

The 2018 new year came in with a cyclone. It had been nice and peaceful with the holiday season coming to a close, and everyone began bracing for a well-forecast storm.

On the evening of the 2nd it started with about 2 inches of rain, then turned to snow by 4 in the morning. By that time the barometer had plunged to 976 millibars. I don’t think I had seen that since hurricane Emily grazed by in 1993. Gusts were measured in the mid-70’s from the northwest. My house shook. We were in the middle of one of our rare blizzards. Temperatures dropped into the low 20’s then high teens at night.

The warm up before the storm came at Eric and Val Stump’s New Years Eve party. A few snowflakes dropped as did the temperature.

Eric did a great job roasting some crab slough oysters.

Then on the morning of the 3rd, I saw my truck sprayed with icy snow.

The yard became a frozen winter wonderland.

My business banner had been blown away and it’s mast bent.

After snowing 3 inches, it was 25° and blowing a gale.

Oyster gloves were frozen to the clothes line.

My bathroom window had some interesting ice patterns on it.

Bundled up for the coldest conditions, I explored the Salvo Day Use Area.

The Rodanthe Pier pilings were plastered on the northwest sides.

Meanwhile the oyster shoot for Old Christmas had begun. It was low 20’s with a stiff northerly wind.

Everyone was gathering on the lee side of the Community Building, unless they were shooting.

A festive reunion for family and friends, Joey Jr. (left) celebrates with Tom Wiley and Joey O’Neal Sr.

I couldn’t resist shooting my long-time friends Brent Midgett, Willy Smith, and Larry Midgett.

To the victor of the oyster shoot go the spoils. Better eat ’em quick before they freeze.

Emily prepares to shoot as her dad Tom Wiley looks on. As is a proud family tradition here, she serves in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Larry Midgett was helping his daughter Tanya, get ready for her turn to shoot. Tanya is also following in the U.S. Coast Guard tradition, and currently stationed at Hatteras Inlet.

There was always someone waiting to shoot.

Even the young ones got in on the act. Camouflage was everywhere.

The next day frigid temperatures continued. It was 17° at night, and the sound froze out even further, as far as I could see.

From a second story deck, I couldn’t see any open water, only a duck blind on the horizon.

Behind my house the sound was solid. I heard some kids in Salvo rode their bikes on it.

Jon Brown and I marveled at the spectacle. It happens, but not often.

 

Catch of the Day

This time of year, as chilly weather sets in, my mind always wanders to a pastime I’ve enjoyed for decades. That is the craving for and the collection of oysters. In my  opinion, the Pamlico Sound produces the best tasting oysters found just about anywhere.

Commercially they are harvested either by using a dredge or tongs. Since I’m a recreational user, I hand pick mine from the inshore shallows.

At times I’d collect and carry them in a burlap bag. Other times I’d shuck to a container as I collected, leaving the shells where I found them. When I bought a kayak, my method of “fishing” became paddling and collecting. It was much easier and I still return the spent shells back from where they came.

My 12 foot kayak can haul a bushel or so.

The other day I found a half bushel of nice ones. At 6 and 8 inches long, the two biggest ones on top are genetically strong. My catch and release philosophy is to plant them in my oyster garden for spawning next Summer.

The 8 inch oyster was impressive and I found it stuck in a muddy creek bottom with the top 2 inches sticking out.

I shucked this fat one for an old friend.

Ready to satisfy, these are beauties. The one on the right has a resident pea crab. They live as a parasite in the shell with the oyster yet are considered a local delicacy. The colder the water gets, the better the quality and flavor!

Have a Merry Christmas.