Back in March, I spent a long day working with organic vegetable and oyster farmer Rafe Rivers on his shellfish lease on the Mud River in McIntosh County, Ga. I first met Rafe two years ago when I wrote this story for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As I continued to work on "The High Low Tide," my book about oystering in Georgia, Rafe and I kept in touch. This day was the second time I visited Rafe's shellfish lease, and perhaps the third or four time I visited his farm, Canewater.
From bags floating on a trellis made of PVC and rebar, we culled dead oysters and cleaned off barnacles. Able to access the oysters only at low tide, and forced to work with our feet sucked deep into the river bottom by mud, nothing was easy about this work. Rather short myself, each time I walked from boat to oyster trellis and back to the boat, mud reached past my knee.
These oysters, bagged and hung, were given to Rafe to farm as part of University of Georgia-led project attempting to introduce modern oyster aquaculture and husbandry to the small industry. The project, its leaders, and the oystermen are central characters in my book.
Suffice it to say, Rafe and I were both sunburned and exhausted by the end of the day. Not that I need a reminder, but the physicality of tending and harvesting oysters in these Georgia marshlands is strenuous. Happy to only write about the trade, and lend a hand on a busy day now and then. To celebrate, we harvested a bucket of wild oysters from a trio of bivalve mounds known as the Three Sisters.