18 February 2017

spring....

In late fall I planted some bulbs in the front, that were a gift. A few are starting to show up. Daffodils are growing in the neighbor's yards and I expect to see forsythia blooming soon.

I don't know why I haven't felt very motivated to start the garden this year, dragging my feet on that. My coldhouse is only partly done getting refurbished- I need to redo the peaked roof, scrub it all, repaint and wrap in plastic. I did get a nicer, stronger doorframe rehung though. I haven't yet bought seed-starting mix or potting soil that I will need, haven't gone through my saved seed or ordered any new. I did want to try leeks this year (my kids like them better than onions in cooked dishes). I should have already sown tomatoes, broccoli in trays and lettuce in outside jugs a week or two ago...

11 February 2017

tiny heads

A little handful of broccoli out of the garden! I cut it just before some predicted colder weather- in case the plants actually die. So far only the two smallest have been killed by freeze- the others still alive. This little bit I just steamed lightly and used as a garnish on top of a pasta dish. It was small but yum.

bonus pics

More photos I took yesterday, while observing the aquarium.
There's a gap in the hygro thicket from a recent trim- hygro compacta on the left, the few rotala stems on the right. Anubias nana 'petite' in the background, taller anubias congensis to the right. Aponogeton crispus graceful over them all.
Bolbitis heudelotii. Sure is a slow grower. In the new position I can better watch its gradual progress...
Bucephalandra 'emerald green' still has nice, gleaming color but some of its leaves are starting to get black algae so I'm afraid I might need to move this one out, as well.
Baby green crypt has grown a few more leaves- I looked back and can't believe the last image I took of it was six months ago- and it really hasn't got that much bigger. Maybe because it's against the front edge of the glass where there is less light?
Here it is in front of the parent plant.
Closeup of eloda stems- they really are kind of delicate and pretty- semi translucent with very pale midline vein. Oops- after taking this photo notice there's a piece of dead stem stuck in there horizontally- must go in and clean out a few bits tomorrow when the light is on (hard to see in that corner without the tank lights running, when I'm doing usual trim and work).
I think my olive-colored nerite snail Dimple is dying. Found it upside down in the back of the tank, operculum seems a bit loose. But it doesn't stink yet... I put it in the front. Hasn't moved in hours.

10 February 2017

maintenance notes

Today was the first time I cleaned my new filter. The fine filter pad (last stop before the tank) was very dirty. I rinsed that one out thoroughly, gently rinsed the coarse blue pad, left the rest alone. It was easier to do than I'd expected, and I managed to bend that one clip more or less back into shape. A big plus of this new filter setup: I'm loosing hardly any water to evaporation anymore. Used to have to top off a half gallon or so midweek, but now there's no need. Still a large gap cut out of the plastic skirt of the lid, but I've covered it with a piece of clear plastic and it's doing the job. Small downside is that it's no longer easy to lift out the intake tube for rinsing. I don't want to undo the snug fit the intake hose has onto the elbow of the intake pipe, and the way I've sewn the coarse sponge onto the slotted prefilter it might be tricky to get that off/on the pipe. This week I just picked the largest bits of plant debris off the sponge with tweezers, when cleaning. The shrimps do feed off that area constantly, but I don't want a lot of plant debris building up.
Plants are doing great. Last week I cut and replanted some stems of hygro, extending that thicket even further to the left behind the mother crypt.
This week I had to trim and replant the tallest bacopa stems- they hit the ceiling again.
Not sure if apono capuroni got the message when I cut back all its tallest leaves- I took out three today that had enough height to hit the water surface and curl back down.

I'm really pleased with the new arrangement I have for tethering hornwort stems in place. Clipped onto the braided fishing line, it's easy to slide the individual stems back and forth when I'm working up there. Getting the clips on/off the line is a bit tricky, I just have to do it carefully and maybe with a little practice it will become easier. There's a lot more space for stems now. Last week with trimming I added four more clips to the row, this week I added another six. I think that might be the max- there's now over twenty individual stems on the line.
Not doing so great is my 'grassy corner'. I had been using it as a feeding spot for so long- the kuhlis always zip over there right away when they smell food. But all the little bits of rhizome I'm hoping will grow out kept getting disturbed by kuhlis and snails uprooting.
I've started feeding sinking foods in the opposite corner instead, where the elodea thicket is.
It's getting denser as I cut and replant stems fairly often. You can see the barbs above hesitant to force their way in, kuhlis down below at ease winding in and out of the stems.
Today I lifted the log out so I could get the tweezers into the 'grassy corner' area and replant some of the crypts, also wiggled the rhizome pieces a good half inch down into the substrate, so hopefully they will stay put now. I'm going to avoid feeding in that spot until those plants are well rooted again.

I found out what a tough, undemanding plant subwassertang is. Last week one bit got siphoned up when I was cleaning the tenner upstairs. Not having a free container to put the piece in, I dropped it into the fish pitcher which held some newly conditioned tapwater I hadn't used. Meant to add it to my growout subwassertang jar but I forgot about it completely when putting stuff away. For storage during the week I have that fish pitcher inside the clean white fish bucket, under a table. With a lid on it. So I doubt much light got in there, through two opaque sides. I was surprised when I got out the pitcher for use today, to find a nice green bit of subwassertang floating in there. No algae, no melting, it looked perfectly healthy. And it had absolutely no nutrients all week! Just plain (conditioned) tapwater.
Those subwasser bushes I made on sponges are not working out. The bits are too thin where they were glued on, or for some other reason coming loose. The small one I made two weeks ago has lost over half its greenery,
and the 'bridge' piece is only doing slightly better. I might have to give up on that idea
and just stick to using baskets (or tie netting over a different object to anchor down, hm).

Another female cherry barb has a piece missing from her tail this morning. Not as tidy as the other one, but right from the center of it again. I am really suspicious the amano shrimps are attacking them at night when the fishes sleep?

09 February 2017

sparring injuries

Once again I feel bad I hadn't upgraded my filter sooner. Tank looks so much cleaner- the water very clear. Fish seem happier- there has been lots of spawning going on and my kuhlis are very active. Even more significant, this persistent what-looks-like-fungus that some of my cherry barbs always seemed to have, disappeared now. It was never enough I felt motivated to treat the tank with meds- just a few pale patches on some of the fish- but very noticeable that suddenly its all gone. They look great.

There are a few minor injuries from all the sparring going on.
The smallest male barb has lost pieces of his tail and dorsal fins again. However I think it will heal quickly- if you look close can see already new clear tissue is filling in.
It hasn't all all damped his interest in flirting (wisely he keeps to the back of the tank- probably to avoid the bigger males).
And this female has a very tidy piece missing from the center of her tail. It's such a clean piece, right from the center of the tail, I wonder if another fish caused the injury.
Was it possibly a shrimp? They are the same size as the barbs, now.
Best closeup yet.

08 February 2017

mistakes

I accidentally damaged some of my aquarium equipment. When swapping out the old filter for the new last week. Getting all the parts of the HOB ready to put away for storage, I wanted to clean it well of water deposits and crud. Scrubbed most stuff under hot running water with a toothbrush, and I set the sponges in scalding hot water for five minutes. Then I also put all the plastic parts in a pan of boiling water, for five minutes. Except I had my hands occupied when the time went off, and thought "Oh, it will be okay for another few seconds."
Nope. I went over there to take the pan off the heat too late. Several of the pieces got warped by the heat.
I can't use these again (those ends are supposed to be round). Which is really annoying, because I had already bought a second set of this adapter to replace one part that was cracked (my patch job with aquarium sealant wasn't sufficient). Well, between the two sets I probably have enough usable parts to fit one prefilter sponge back on the HOB if I have to, someday.

More aggravating is what happened with my new canister filter! Everyone told me this thing would be dead silent, I wouldn't even know it's running. Not so- mine has a persistent gentle hum. Which I easily ignore most of the time, it's really only noticeable in the late evenings when the house is really quiet. But it's my own fault it makes a sound at all, I found out.

The instructions in the packaging weren't so easy to understand. I watched a few instructional videos online but somehow missed the important point that when you are servicing the filter, ought to drain the water before opening the lid. I didn't, the first time. And couldn't figure out why it wouldn't come open. I tried a bit too hard, before stopping and thinking about it and opening the valve to let water out into the sink. Suction released, lid comes open okay. But I'd bent one of those clips that snaps the lid tight onto the canister body. Now it doesn't make a tight perfect seal- so I think a bit of air leaks in and that makes the hum. Because if I press down on the lid while it's running to make it very tight- the sound stops. Kinda mad at myself now. 

I'm tempted to try and bend that clip back into shape, but the metal they're made out of seems flimsy, and I'm worried I will snap it in half.

07 February 2017

signs of life

What's green in the yard now- yes I have some greenery from the rhodies, nandina, hellebores and such. These are plants emerging just since the new year turned over, or new-to-me so I still feel really happy seeing them grow:
Sweet pea planting has stayed green all winter. I can't wait to see how they bloom come spring.
Daylilies are emerging for their second year. These ones have much smaller foliage than the old standard wild orange daylilies I used to grow.
The mums are a row of dry stem bunches in my front yard, but a few of them have some greenery down in there- sheltered by mulch.
Rosebush is already growing new shoots.
Biggest surprise was to find arum coming up in half a dozen places. I thought this plant was dead. I guess it just didn't like the end-of-summer heat.
I had moved the rhubarb in next to it, to take advantage of what is now pretty much a full-sun spot. In fact, I probably planted the rhubarb too close- because I thought the arum had all died. But maybe the large rhubarb leaves will shade the arum enough to keep it going longer in the growing season- so I will wait and see before moving this plant.
I find the way the emerging leaves uncurl (like hosta) quite appealing.

06 February 2017

some flowers, dead and alive

Neither of which I grew, but they are in my house and I have enjoyed looking at them, so here are some pictures.
My husband bought me this bouquet of flowers two weeks ago. Most of them are still alive and very pretty.
I love the speckles.
The trumpet shape reminds me of daylilies.
I used google image search to identify them- Alstroemeria. It's a perennial bulb, and can grow in my hardiness zone- hm...
The other day my daughter dragged home a fallen branch out of the woods. I broke up some of it for the fireplace and it had a lovely scent. Ends had some of these dried flowers.
You can see the stigma is very long- it extends past the petals. I do think it's from a tulip tree.