Tuesday, January 11, 2011

razor clamming

We have been home for three days and have already fallen into the hum-drum rhythm of a new year.  I love to travel, but it feels wonderful to be home.  Even our teeny, tiny hamster-smelling living room, single-sink-kitchen, and moldy bathroom feel homey.  Or maybe it's the freshness of a new year.  Or listening to NPR and the horrors of Tuscon, Arizona and then this: the only thing we can see in our almost-fifteen-month-old's eyes--hope.

:: We spread our holiday out like warm butter on homemade bread.  First, we had an unofficial Christmas back east with the family I married into: sledding, toasting homemade wine and the glory of far-flung family bunching back together.    

:: Our second Christmas was on the day itself, but you already know about that.

:: And, whew, lastly was our annual clamming extravaganza where we celebrate Festivus ("for the rest-of-us"; remember Sienfeld?) with my side of the family on the Pacific coast.
We rent a little house on the beach and are joined by two of my brothers, a sister-in-law, one of Juniper's cousins, my mom, my dad and my stepmom.  Now some might think the last three are a recipe for disaster, but they're not.  In fact, they are totally chill.  My mom and stepmom can often be found in the kitchen chitter-chattering away like a couple of songbirds in spring.  It's awesome.  I love my family.

I was about to write that I was spoiled by having so much family to help with Juniper (especially her older cousin Aspen who was a non-stop joy for J bug--I have never seen Juniper have so much fun), but I think it was more like I got a taste of what childrearing was like before we decided to move out on our own and be nuclear.  I was never harried, never stressed, never over-taxed, never hungry, never thirsty and even occasionally found myself standing around in a daze, not really sure where I was needed because my toddler was fully engrossed in a game of chase with her cousin, or reading with her grandpa, or gazing at Christmas lights with her grandmas.
 ^J bug's cousin Aspen showing her how to use her new balance bike.^    

:: My husband and I have a tendency to incorporate the hunting and gathering of local foods into our vacation plans and Christmas is no exception.  My family rocks, but we're also there to dig razor clams.
^J bugs: watching and laughing from her perch on her papa's back.^ 
^Although it's true that all good clam digs start with a good brew, my mom is not tipsy in the above photo.  In fact, she was a total trooper to be out there at all as she is scheduled for a knee replacement!^  

 Early in the dig, this ^ is what our group looks like: a couple of guys bent over and the women making tracks to see if anymore clam shows appear in the area.  We don't actually dig our clams, we use clam-guns which is a complete misnomer because they are really just siphon tubes made of PVC or steel.  My dad demonstrating the technique:
It is quite a hefty suction to pull back up and I obviously wasn't rolling my eyes like I should have because my back spasmed by the second day and is only now beginning to feel normal.  If you really want to know what life is like when my back spasms, click here.
So mostly we cruise the beach looking for "clam shows" which can be anything from a clam neck sticking out of the sand and worming around, to a doughnut-like volcano, to a tiny dry hole in the sand, to a delicate shifting of the sand in a little indentation--depending on the conditions.  They can be really easy to spot, or almost impossible--depending on the conditions.

But when you find one, you twist, plunge and push your gun overtop the show, put your thumb over the airhole on the handle, pull the gun out, and release your booty on the beach.
^Above, right: my dad pointing, exclaiming, "There he is!  There he is!"

Typically, the clams themselves are swooped up and dropped in a mesh clam bag.  It is fast-action, like they are going to runaway or something--but I managed to get one photo just as the hand (and the dog) were moving in:
The shells are generally 4-7" long (more or less), but the necks stick out a little further.  Last year, we dug some real doosies.  This year, they were a touch on the small side.

Razor clamming is super fun.  It's like an Easter egg hunt for the pros.  And, they're super tasty.  Since my man and I don't buy any meat, eating mainly what we catch and kill, razor clams are our sole saltwater representation in the deep freeze.  


After this bucolic scene of coastal beauty comes a couple of hours back at the homestead of cracking and gutting (the men's job), cleaning and rinsing sand off (the women's job--often resulting in comments like, This one must be male... 'cause he's full of shit!) and bagging clams.  A job best done under the influence of champagne, dark chocolate and Milwaukee's Beast.    

:: Once the clamming days were over, we went for mid-day walks and let Juniper have her way with the beach.
^That's J bug's super-excited face.^

Juniper loved doing her stiff-legged run on the beach, and Osa did too.  Still hanging in there, that old girl.

:: Geesh.  I'm so ready to be home again.  All these big, travel events are eclipsing the tiny miracles that happen everyday.  I want to write about the little things again.  Like how Juniper, at some point between Washington D.C. and the Pacific coast, made the switch from pulling everything out of a drawer, to putting everything into a drawer.  Tiny, silent changes that turn a baby into a person.  


  1. Love those pictures of J on the beach.
    Also, I KNOW what you mean about the ease of raising kids with extended fam. So much easier, and saner, and generally a win-win-win. I just wish all our family lived in Durango.


  2. Your photos in this post are stunning. They tell stories on their own. I love when that happens.

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