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Seaweed Landing

This week there’s been a lot of seaweed and red tide to contend with up and down Green Hill Beach. For those that can wade through the red tide, there’s still awesome swimming to be had. Seaweed may be the bane of our daily dip, but back in the day, seaweed that washed along Rhode Island shores was agricultural gold for South County Farmers.

Howard D. Browning’s Poem on a Seaweed Landing

My neighbor and friend shared with me a book this spring that featured this poem by Howard D. Browning. His boyhood recollections and writing offers a glimpse of how seaweed was farmed and used by Rhode Island farmers to yield bigger and more robust crops.

Next time you’re cursing the red tide, think about the Browning Family and how they farmed these lands. To everything there is a silver lining. Consider the adventuresome aspect of the Browning family’s midnight Seaweed Landings. Talk about a family memory!

Midnight Quest for a Seaweed Landing

When winter storms were blowing cold

And made the ocean rough

That’s when father shook his head

And said, “Boys the weather’s tough,

And to that we’ll have to go,

For there’ll be seaweed landing tonight

 

We’d dress up in warm coats and boots

Hitch the horses to the old tip cart

Put the five-time pitchforks aboard

And that was just the start

Then came the cold two mile ride

That took us to the shore

Where we’d see the beacon light

And hear the breakers roar

 

Loading seaweed was our midnight quest

Sometimes it was on the sand

And sometimes in the surf and wouldn’t land

Then in we’d wade right after it

With water up to our knees!

And when we pitched it into the cart

Sometimes the water would freeze

 

The loads we carted were not large

For the sand dunes were steep

And when we got it to the road

We tipped it in a heap

Some nights we’d bank forty loads or more

Then go home and rest awhile

And go right back for more

 

Every load spread on the fields

Meant fertilizer to raise larger crops

Of oats and corn and hay

The corn ground into meal

Made Jonnycakes

That kept the wolf away

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