A few months ago I mentioned Pink Lady’s Slippers in a post and I have been waiting for them to show up in the woods next to the house. We have had so much rain lately and very little sun, so I wasn’t sure if we would have a good showing. Each year they seem to spread a bit wider and this year is no exception. There are at least fifty within a hundred feet of our deck. / The US Forest Service has a good description here.
They will be around for another week or so and then disappear back into the forest floor.
The sun has not made an appearance here since last Saturday. In the winter time, it would most likely bum me out to have everything so gray, but this spring has been amazing. So many shades of green and the sky so subtle. It won’t last long, but it is just beautiful. / This shot is made up of 4 different images that I stitched together. They were taken on the levee in Hadley that overlooks the Connecticut.
The Pearl and I went for a walk in the mist this afternoon. She as usual found some water to meander through and we had a nice time looking at ducks on the little pond and all the redwing blackbirds hanging out on the cat-tails. She is 10 now and the gray is starting to show up on her face and under her chin. She’s still the sweetest dog in the world, though.
This is going to be a fairly picture heavy post. On a technical note, all of the pre dawn images, and most of the early morning ones were shot at an amazingly high ISO of 12,800. No flash, just the boat’s work lights.
Peter and I got to the dock at 4.00 AM to meet Robby Wilson who runs a pound net operation not far from Tilghman’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay.
We were on a scow that had been converted from an old houseboat, and his 2 crew were on a smaller skiff. We motored out of Tilghman for about 40 minutes and got to the first of 4 of his nets before 5.00 AM.
The two guys in the skiff had arrived some minutes before us, and were already hauling up the “pound”.
I asked several people where the term pound net comes from and there seems to be no consensus. It might come from the early American idea of a collection point for animals. The FAO has a pretty good description here.
The two boats work together to roll up the pound and then scoop the fish into the scow with the help of a winch.
The primary species Robby is fishing for is alewife. Many different fishes are caught in the nets, so the crew’s job is to cull most of the others, of which rockfish (striped bass) are the commonest. Some catfish and flounder are kept to sell as food fish. The alewife are sold mainly as bait for crabbers. After the first of June, the season for rockfish opens, and he is allowed to sell those.
It is wet, strenuous, and demanding work. It was unusually calm and clear yesterday, but the boat was still rocking, and water and fish scales were flying everywhere. After the cull, the crew would hop in the skiff and motor to the next set of nets.
The culling goes on until the pound is empty and then the crew moves on to the next location.
The process is repeated for each of the four sites. Travel time between them us usually less than a half hour.
Below is a good shot of system. Robby and the crew usually are out putting the stakes into the bottom around the first of March. They fell the trees and sharpen them in the off season. The depth of the water is anywhere between 7 and 15 feet.
Robby’s dad Clifford “Big Daddy” Wilson came out to help out. He is also a waterman; a few years ago Peter and I went out on his crab boat.
On the way back to the dock, the fish are shoveled into plastic baskets so they can be off-loaded into one of Robby’s trucks to be taken to Cambridge, MD to be sold.
They were nice enough to stop for a minute for a photo, but other wise they are constantly in motion.
The boats were back at the dock around 8.00 AM.
It’s about an hour to unload into the truck, and then the scow is cleaned up and made ready for the next day. It is pretty much a seven day a week job as the nets fill up pretty fast.
An amazing day. We are very fortunate to hang around with these guys and document their work. They couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.
Yesterday we were out on a crab boat with Roy and Colleen Sadler. We were on the dock by 4.30 AM, and on the Bay putting out lines by 5.oo. It is still early in the season, and when Roy started pulling up the lines, there wasn’t much action.
The sun was just coming up over the horizon, so the boat was still using the onboard lights. The technique is to attach small packets of razor clams to a line about every 10 or 15 feet. Roy and Colleen would drop the line, circle around and hope the crabs would chow down. The line would be strung over a roller, and any attached crabs would drop into the net Roy is holding above.
The crabs have to be over a certain size to be kept (I think it’s between 4 and 5 inches), or they get tossed back into the bay. Since the sun hadn’t come up, they were mostly inactive. But as the sun rose higher, more and more took the bait.
You can see the little orange packets of razor clams coming up over the roller.
Roy and Colleen are amazing people. Roy has been working on the water his whole life, and Colleen works in a bank on the island during the week. She is usually on the boat at weekends helping out. The economics of making a living off the bay have changed so much over the years; Roy has said it would be very difficult to keep his business going without her income. A lot of what we are learning on this leg of the project has to do with the stifling regulations that the State of Maryland is forcing on the watermen (and women), and the ongoing change to the bay’s ecosystem which makes harvesting seafood such a challenge.
Before it started raining heavily yesterday, Cris and I got the chance to go to the Botanical Gardens out near the Olympic site. Since it was so early in the season, there was no charge to enter. The daffodils and some of the tulips were out, and the Alpine garden was especially nice. / Back to the States in an hour or so. It’s been fun.