Water Closet for February 5, 2016
[pullquote]”She caught the special summer glow in the air above thousands of acres of young grass blades and the glisten from wet mud where animals are awaiting ocean water rich in plankton”[/pullquote].Just a half hour’s drive northeast down the Ipswich River the Earth’s great tidal waves meet the land twice a day. The crests of each, half a world apart, range here from 6 to 12 vertical feet above their troughs depending on the positions of Moon, Earth, and Sun. Five Middleton Stream Teamers with Town of Ipswich clamming licenses visit when the wave troughs are passing by, thus giving access to the low tide flats. We old timers, slow diggers without boats, are limited to flats near roads. On some lows we don’t even get our allowed ten quarts. “Mess diggers” (to some pros other names we can’t repeat) are allowed two daily visits per week for 10 quarts of soft shelled clams (“steamers”), 30 oysters, and/or 30 sea clams each visit. No matter. It is the wondrous place, so different from all others that pull us there. Maybe the moon’s and sun’s gravitation producing tides also affects ancient parts of our brains formed when our ancestors were serious hunters-gatherers. The Agawam, Naumkeag, and other tribes thrived along our coasts. A hardy group of commercial clammers in New England still earn parts of their livings in our estuaries.
Stream Team photographer and vice president, Judy Schneider, retired from her day job a couple years ago. Last year she joined our small group of Stream Team clammers led by lifelong outdoorsman Francis Masse. “Fran” has taken friends monthly or more to the flats and beaches for over 30 years. On our trips a few oysters, clams, and fond memories are bought home and shared with family and friends.
On a last June visit to the Ipswich flats in Pine Creek on the south end of Plum Island Judy took a photo of Fran and Stream Team president Sandy Rubchinuk hard at work, bottoms to the sky. Our leader often over the years would instruct us. “Put your asses to the wind and dig.” Fran meant get serious, quit complaining and hunker down as he did. This was especially good advice in the winter with temperatures in their teens. The rewards were great, more clams were found when so focused, and the blood warmed up and eventually got down to freezing fingers. There is no better exercise than digging done in the best of airs perfumed by mud, marsh grasses, and cold sea water. When the wind is right the sounds of surf from the seaward side of Plum Island provide background music. Gulls visit and stand nearby waiting for an accidentally broken clam to be tossed their way. One old Stream Teamer talks with them if no human companion is close. He is not interrupted so can speak nonsense with his ancient kin.
Judy, brought up on a Vermont farm and a relative stranger to such low tide scenes, recognized the hard work below the salt marshes that June afternoon. Click. She caught the special summer glow in the air above thousands of acres of young grass blades and the glisten from wet mud where animals are awaiting ocean water rich in plankton. Six hours later, if she had stayed, her head would have been under three feet of water. She left with the clammers, camera dry, and entered her shot in the Essex National Heritage Commission’s 2015 photo contest. Hers of 150 other photos all taken in the county was judged the best. Three experienced judges, one a twenty year Boston Herald photographer Mark Garfinkel, chose well and 13 diverse-crackerjack photos are now being exhibited at the Hunt’s Photo & Video store in Melrose. The show will be moved around and also shown on line. Judy, family members, and five stream teamer friends enjoyed the show and awards ceremony the other evening. Judging must have been difficult. We think our Judy came out on top because two people are in the scene, “asses to the breeze,” doing what Indian women and girls had done with sticks on the same flats 400 years ago.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Nov||Dec||Jan||Feb|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.55||4.12||3.40||3.25|
|2015/2016 Central Watershed Actual||2.49||4.72||2.7**||0.**as of Feb 1|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Feb 1, 2016 Normal . . . 60 CFS Current Rate . . . 17 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Dec..
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Jan and Feb.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584