Hunting the Wild Bivalves

I’m a little behind on my posting schedule. I abandoned the farm last weekend and answered the siren call of “Clamming Weekend!” at the coast. On Friday evening after work, my friend Barbara and I piled our stuff in my car and drove off to the Long Beach Peninsula of Washington State. We arrived at something like 10:30 in the evening, and barged into our other friend Linda’s warm log home, expecting chocolate (provided) and beds (also at hand). “If you want to,” said Linda, “it’s a good oyster tide tomorrow morning, too.” At that hour, post-chocolate and pre-pillows, I wasn’t sure oystering was the first thing I was going to want to do in the morning. But one rises to the moment. I woke fresh and in time for the a.m. tide on the bay. A cup of coffee, a brownie for the road, and another girlfriend, Gretchen and I headed out to the flats with a pair of empty buckets. It’s hard to dismiss the urge to forage.

Oyster catch

Here is a look at what comes back from the bay. We remembered that a 5-gallon bucket full of oysters in the shell is like a 5-gallon bucket of rocks, and forced ourselves to stop at something like half to two-thirds full. I have learned from experience how far it is from the bay to the house: about 3 times the distance from the house to the bay with empty buckets. You’ll notice the heavy gloves. The oyster shells are rough and sharp, intended, I suppose, to keep predators out. They are covered with bay bottom, barnacles, little worms and assorted algae when you pick them up, and are often clumped together in a rough nosegay of three or five oysters firmly welded to one another. The task is to hose them off and force them apart into singles, then mete them out among the number of oyster eaters on hand.Gretchen sorting oysters, and Rose as weighmaster

That done, we peeled off our hunting clothes and went inside for breakfast. Very nice it was, with a pan of oven-made French toast with cranberries, sausages, orange juice, and good coffee. Then Barbara and I drove into town to buy our clamming licenses, so to be ready for the evening tide and its promise of wild bivalves.

All this travel, hunting and feeding was exhausting. Here is Barbara in the afternoon, productive even in the glow of relaxation: Barbara knitting a sock And here she is a few minutes later:Barbara socked

That’s Buddy taking up most of the space on her chair. One of the great pleasures of a weekend away is, you do the thing you can never make time for at home: you simply nap.

And you enjoy the wildlife:07oct_chip2_cr_sm.jpg

I think this may be a Townsend’s chipmunk (Tamias townsendi), but since I’m told I’d have to look at its genital bones to be sure, I’ll settle for imprecision.

And this is Tamiasciurus douglasii, the chickaree or Douglas squirrel.Tamiasciurus douglasii

Wildlife is almost a euphemism in this case, as the woods creatures who come to the deck are so accustomed to room service they become quite quarrelsome when the supply runs low.

At last the evening tidetime arrived, and the bunch of us piled into a car and drove to the western shore of the Peninsula, where the ocean comes onto the sand. Linda’s husband Harry, who was banned from the house for the weekend (and would probably have accumulated toxic levels of estrogen exposure if he had stayed) was kind enough to come get us for the drive to the shore where we joined the numberless horde seeking a limit of razor clams.


It may look like the clams don’t stand a chance. But remember that they are down in the sand, and we are on top. Also, the State of Washington is efficiently vigilant about the harvest of razor clams. Clam weekends are few in the year, the number of licenses is jealously controlled, enforcement officers are on duty on the beaches, and the bag limit is 15 clams.

Here is the technique for capture:

Clam stalking

That’s Gretchen in the foreground, Harry (profile reversed) and Linda in the back. And here is the prize:

The Pacific razor clam, _Siliqua patula_

And here is what you do with them when you get back to the kitchen! That was the makings of Sunday’s breakfast.

Razor clams on the fry

So, well-fed, well-rested, and with our predatory instincts satisfied, we all gathered for a last photo of ourselves before heading home on a splendid Sunday afternoon in autumn. One last shot. The chocolate held out for lunch provisions.

Eaters assembled

Back row: Barbara, me, Linda, Rose. Middle: Gretchen. Front: Buddy.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 4, 2007 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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