Welcome to the Menai Oysters blog.The latest news is now on my facebook page...
start of 2010 has been a little colder than normal and has
correspondingly given us a few challenges. The sub zero temperatures
have affected all the farm machinery. On a couple of days it was so cold
that the diesel in the tractors began to solidify and the stored
seawater became crusted with ice.
The cold is also affecting our purification systems in that we are now having to heat the water.
We normally have to chill the water
to maintain our target temeperature, yet for the first time in years we
have heaters in the water. It is still too cold to purify the oysters
and as soon as the mussel systems can maintain their temperature we will
move the heaters into the oyster tank. The oysters need a higher
temperature than mussels, so it was decided to keep the mussels going at
the expense of the oysters. Sorry.
Orders are a little lower than
normal, as people stay in rather than go out. On the negative side that
is less income, on the positive it is less hours working on the beach in
the cold. Although to be fair once togged up in the waterproof clothing
and getting stuck into the work you don't notice the cold. Its also a
hell of a way to lose that extra christmas poundage.
is turning out to be a busy month.We are at the moment gearing up to
supply Waitrose, who are opening a new store in Menai Bridge at the end
of the month. There is more paperwork as we move toward SALSA
accreditation in order to supply more customers.We also hope to return
to supplying oysters by mid March as the temperature finally allows us
to maintain our tanks at the correct operating temeperature.
is a month that heralds the start of the growing season for us. Also
with daylight lasting longer the work on the beach becomes a bit easier.
We will soon be thinning the stocks with the boat to allow room for the
expected growth as well as looking to acquire more oysters to replenish
packing area is now transformed, as well as our documentation, in
preparation for our SALSA accredition review taking place next week.
This means we should be one step closer to supplying Waitrose. All this
preparation has delayed the launching of the boat, but that to will be
on the water by the end of the second week. All the shellfish are now
growing rapidly and the amount of work is increasing in keeping on top
of the growth. Restocking with oysters is a couple of weeks away and the
juvenile mussels require a much needed thinning down to improve their
growth. At least the weather thus far has been pretty good.
the SALSA inspection (we are provisionally approved now) there are
still a number of modifications required to our packout area. These are
ongoing and should be complete within a couple of weeks. The boat is out
on the water and the seed beds are open , although there is not a great
deal out there. After the run of fantastic weather the wind speed has
increased a bit making the trips out for seed in the boat impossible.
The rough seas make it very difficult to keep the dredge on the bottom,
therefore it doesn't fill. We are still liasing with Waitrose to meet
their food technical requirements but we are moving forward. They are
inspecting next week so hopefully all will go well.
Had the Waitrose inspection, now we wait for the report....
problem has arisen overnight due to the severe weather, my dredger
broke its mooring and now sits pratically in a field at the top of a
beach! I am just going to try and dig it out, it is undamaged but the
keel is buried. A few hours later...needed pulling assistance in the
form of another tractor, we managed to point the boat in the direction
of the sea and waited for the tide. Fortunately it came up just high
enough to provide enough bouyancy so that it could be pushed into the
water. Thankfully she only needs 70cm of watewr to float.
waiting for the Waitrose report. I am happy to say that we have had a
successful summer which is nice. Unfortunately a new problem is brewing
on the horizon in the form of a shortage of oysters. This situation has
arisen due to a disease which is fatal to oysters when seawater
temperature rises above 16 degrees C. It has moved form France to
Ireland and now the south coast of England. The problem arises in the
form of a shortage of oysters from hatcheries. The demand form the
affected countries for stock is high, such that all oyster seed produced
at the moment is very small and most exported. The upshot is that we UK
farmers are going to have to buy smaller stock which takes longer to
grow, meaning that there is a real possibility of running out while
The mussel seed beds open again so will be taking a look at that next week.
been taking a look a trip advisor to see reviews of moules a go go a
mussel restaurant selling our mussels. Good advert I feel.
it is very cold just now. This presents some challenges not least is
keeping the tank water at the required temperature. For the second time
this year the oysters have had to be stopped due to the cold dropping
the tank temperature way below the rcommended. We have had to contend
with frozen machinery and it seems we are taking anywhere between 1-2
hours just to free them up. The only machine that seems unaffected by
the cold is my ancient Zetor tractor which just gets on with it as
though it is the middle of summer. This machine is the only machine I
know that can run with no water in the engine (2 months before I
realised), well there was water just mixed in with the oil!!! and can
run on waxed diesel.
I also have a new project on the go building
a trailer suitable to recover my boat. The usual haul out in bangor is
no longer available so I am going to have to do it myself. Should be
amusing the boat is 12.5m long.
building the trailer. The severe cold weather as well as the
festivities slowed me down somewhat on the build but I am now up and
running with it. I am building a variable width trailer so that I can
make use of it outside of recovering the boat. I suspect the recovery of
the boat will make a decent youtube video just in case it doesn't go to
I have asked visitors to the website to visit Hughs fish fight
and the shark trust. I find it hard to accept a management plan that
allows for the discarding of 1 million tonnes of perfectly edible fish
each year whilst at the same time reducing fishing effort on the grounds
of falling stocks. This thrown away fish is not taken into account in
any management strategy and is an act of wanton destruction of the
marine enviroment. This brings me onto the barbaric act of shark
finning, where live sharks have their fins removed before being
discarded back over the side to drown. Why are we doing it, just so some
person can have an expensive bowl of soup! Shark fin is tasteless and
anything can be added to the broth. The fact that sharks are one of the
most evolved creatures on earth being prevalent for the last 400million
years, makes them such an integral part of the marine ecosystem that
their loss would be catastrophic to the marine ecosystem, which would
eventually have consequences for terrestrial systems too. Sharks suffer
virtually no disease or cancer and it is thought that they may
ultimately hold a key to preventing cancers in humans. They deserve
better than soup.
If you have been reading the blog you will probably
be wondering about my supply into Waitrose, I can answer that by saying
me to! Although not ruled out it certainly doesn't seem to be getting
anywhere fast. Every time I think that it has all fallen through I am
contacted about a new start date so if it happens it happens if not then
that's that..if I am honest the number of stores I was to supply went
down, but the costs involved with supply went up hugely. As I am a bit
short on oysters at the moment due to the disease outbreak in France and
Ireland I couldn't guarantee a regular supply, but could on mussels.
Anyway I will wait and see.
been busy of late clearing old oyster trestles for the scrapyard. After
15 years the metal racks are now failing in droves. Fortunately I have a
lot of spare ones with which to replace these although I suspect that
they will soon need replacing. The oysters have finally grown enough to
begin harvesting again and my restocking will begin in earnest next
Earlier I did some filming with Adrian Edmundson. I had
arranged a little tour of the muddiest part of the beach with the
producer in order to get stuck. Unfortunately this was not needed as Ade
got stuck long before then. I don't think I have seen anyone get stuck
like that before. None of the crew could stop laughing, but then the
camera man ended up face down too so it should be an interesting watch.
Autumn apparently is when it is out.
Ade in Britain a few days ago and must say was happy with the
programme. Not just my bit but the rest of the show. If you listen
carefully you can hear the crew laughing when Ade gets stuck in the mud.
This time of year means that lack of light is very noticeable
especially as every other week at the moment the out tide is in the dark
(morning or night). Its not very enjoyable but something that has to be
I am in the process of transferring my website to new servers and as a result some of the copied images have not followed me. Earlier in the year I did another filming job, providing transport for a film crew to LLandwyn Island to film the visit Britain advert featuring the likes of Stephen Fry, Julie Walters and Rupert Grint. As Rupert was there I got him to sign my youngest sons Ron Weasley wand and as it was my sons birthday he was over the moon with it. Did me no harm either in the parenting stakes and Rupert was very kind to do it.
It appears that trading at the moment is not easy with 3 of my customers folding already this year. Fortunately 2 of them did settle their accounts before closing the other did not. It is only after receiving the administrators reports that it is possible to see the numbers of businesses that are affected by failing companies and the monies that will be lost. I will be surprised if some of these companies don't fold as a result!
The weather has not been up to much this year but the mussels have been particularly good as a result. Still plump and tasty even now. My new stock oysters are coming through. They have taken 14 months to go from 0.01g to 80-100g which is very fast and are now selling in the online shop. We are now Menai Oysters and Mussels Ltd having changed status last month. I am still scrapping old trestles as well as building new machines. So far this year I have built a new mussel dredge, new mussel grading machine and repaired everything else mechanical multiple times this year. I am finally catching up on the outstanding jobs that have been on hold in some cases for years which is nice.
We are toying with the idea of opening an oyster shack at the farm site. The idea would be to sell oysters and champagne as well as cook mussels and other food/seafood in a cafe bar set up. The other food would be as local as possible and given the location (the fantastic view) its something we would like to do provided we can get the relevant permissions. So watch this website for further updates.