29 June 2016

critters

I've been thinking of making a list of all the wildlife I've seen in my yard- as complete as I can get it, at least. It would be interesting to see what kind of numbers I came up with... Here's a few pics of some creatures we've noticed lately.
Our yard has a population of small bright lime-green spiders with yellow markings on the abdomen. I've found a website that lists over three hundred insects found in Virginia, with good pictures. Already I recognize over thirty-five of them... This is the Venusta Orchard Spider, one of the orbweavers.
It's hard to get it in the photograph, but when backlit, their legs have the most beautiful blue-green color.
I also saw this tiny green bug on the nasturtiums the other day- no idea what it is.
I am sorry to show you a picture of a dead chipmunk. This is the critter that has been leaving tiny piles of poo on top of one corner of our outside a/c unit fan- which I often sweep into the compost, ha. Also the one who has been digging in the garden. Or its mate was. My cat got this one. We buried it. Kids were really sad. (Strange, my cat eats voles, mice, rats, squirrels and birds he catches. He did not eat this chipmunk).
This year I have seen more skinks. I think they are just common five-lined skinks. I love the blue tails. We found a young one hiding among rocks by the front porch- my five-year-old now constantly wants to lift the largest rocks and find the lizard every time we go outside. I tell her if we always take the roof off his house, the skink will think this is not a good place to live and go away. We have to just wait and be lucky to see him. I wish I had got a picture when he was all the way exposed- the blue color goes all the way up to his back feet! But he moved so quick.
In the back planted bed I startled an older skink the other day. It is all over brown, with just a faint stripe on the side and the head and throat reddish color. So I think this one is an older male. It ran up a tree, and just like a squirrel took evasive moves going to the other side of the tree when I tried to walk around to see it. So I could not get a good picture. But I am glad he is living in the yard bed, and take care not to follow when I startle him again, if I hear a quick skitter in the leaf mulch I let him run away.

28 June 2016

a few things

from the back bed.
That funny plant arum that all died back, leaving no foliage? The shoots of berries are still there, two of them, and now they're turning orange on the top. I wonder if it will grow new plants next spring, from where the berries drop.
I'm glad to see that most of my echinacea are still there- I've given them very little attention. Lost one early on, when a squirrel dug around right after I planted them out. There's seven now. Hopeful next year they'll be big enough to notice, and maybe some flowers the year after.
I don't usually make a note when hosta blooms. But this year got a close look while weeding, at the pale flowers on one of our biggest, yellow-green hosta. They have delicate lavendar streaks. If more of them flower, I might cut a small bouquet to bring in the house...

mantelpiece

The mantelpiece on our fireplace is very tall. It's a lot of empty space, just brickwork to look at.
My husband asked if I had any plant that could trail down over some of that. It is getting too hot outside for the potted mock strawberry anyways, so I brought two of those inside. So far they're doing great here (but crappy pictures of them)
To my surprise this one off the front porch is actually looking something like the first sample I saw of a hanging mock strawberry as houseplant, in an old book (from the seventies). I took this picture a few weeks ago when first brought the plants in- the trailing tendrils are twice as long now. Soon I will have to trim some so they don't hang over the fireplace doors!

27 June 2016

tenner update

Oliver hides. He seems more nervous than he used to be. The moment I start lifting handfuls of duckweed out for maintenance, he glides down to hide among the stems or more often, in the skull cave. He doesn't come out again until I'm done adding back in the new water and replacing the floaters. I've been wanting to lift the skull out and trim back the threadlike java fern roots- they're becoming quite a tangle under there. But every time I think to do it, the betta is hiding in the cave and I don't want to oust him. Part of his face is loosing color. There's no fuzziness so I don't think it's a fungus, and it doesn't quite look like a scrape or injury- I wonder if he is just getting old? (A few days now after water change, the pale mark looks smaller, so I hope it's healing, whatever it was).
I didn't trim anything in his tank this week. Added that cutting of buce 'emerald green'. I learned recently that buces can be grown in the substrate- I always thought they did better rooted to a rock or wood, but some say otherwise so I'm going to try it and see. I wedged the buce gently down, and when it didn't stay laid a piece of lead plant strip over it to hold. It looks very much like the buce 'selena', colorwise.

Only real thing of note for Oliver's tank is that I've seen these tiny things on the glass. They don't have the right shape for MTS and look like very tiny clear blobs with a dark center- which is a hard bit when I scrape them off w/my finger. I thought maybe just-hatched pond/bladder snails? A few weeks ago I did find another pond snail in here (thought I'd got them all, guess not). I squished it, but maybe it managed to lay eggs first, or I missed another one. I wanted to clean the front glass this week, so picked all these tiny things off with fingernails (tedious job) and put some under the microscope. But I must have crushed them when removing, it's a mess of tissue and a bit of blood and I have no idea what they are. There is a hard, shell part or carapace- I can see bits of it, so must be a snail I think.

(I just looked it up. Most snails' blood is blue. Ramshorns have red hemoglobin. So these could be tiny ramshorns...? or something else).

A few plant pics:
Subwassertang has doubled in size already- I think it likes this corner
I tried taking some low-angle shots of the windelov fern in here. It kind of flattens itself out, holding the widest part of the fronds horizontal. So it's hard to get a good view of it.
I like this pic with the horned nerite framed between the stems of little blue buce. Excuse the awful photoshop job upper corner where I tried to obscure the reflection of an overhead lamp I forgot was on.

tank update

Tested the tank water on friday- no ammonia. Nitrates a bit high, so I did not dose KN03, just K2S04 and KH2P04. The small tank is doing very well now with a low dose of micros- I only give it four or five ml. I'd been giving the 38gal 40ml, then dropped it to 30. Thinking to get the ratio the same, this week I only dosed it 15ml of micros. Looks fine with that.
Hornwort grew like crazy this week- usually I only have to trim half of the stems but this time I trimmed them all. Seen here the short ends, floating.
I think in a week or two I may need to start trimming aponogeton- it's getting close to the surface!
Side view of that.
Oto resting in the aponogeton.
Took out two stems of watersprite that had browned- they were so far gone didn't even have any nubbins to grow new 'sprites. But I have plenty of babies floating, and one had gotten big enough I pegged it down with the other rooted stems.
Trimmed and replanted a bit of elodea- I've taken out all the stems with poor-looking growth, and now I rather like the look of this plant.
Biggest crypt is nearly hiding the prefilter now. Got the filter replacement so I put new parts on in place of the cracked pieces, and reassembled it going vertical again. Move a few rotala stems, too.
Took out one dead crypt leaf from a smaller of the green plants. Aponos and crypt wendtii didn't need any attention this week.
Found some tufts of BBA on the bottom of a few bacopa stems, where they had gotten bare of leaves (not as many lower leaves die off in here as in the tenner). I pulled up the first one, trimmed it and replanted. Then noticed it kicked quite a bit of mulm up (although I pulled gentle and slow) so for the others I cut the stems just below the substrate, cut off the lower portions and replanted. Maybe the rooted bits will grow back?
Gave my two subwassertang 'bushes' a severe trim, too. I cut them back to remove a lot of portions that had very fine, short algae growing on them. It almost looks like BBA- grows in little clusters of short tufts- but it is very pale, almost clear. Hard to see so I lifted the fastened subwasser out and put it in a clear container in front of light source, to do the trimming. There's a bit of that algae growing on the driftwood subwasser, too- I'll trim that one next week. One good-sized, clean piece of subwasser I found among the windelov fern I tied down to a stone and put on the opposite front corner of the tank.
I pulled out one vallisneria in the front so can see the buce 'emerald green' better. It's gotten big enough I felt okay to take a cutting for Oliver's tank. I removed and threw away the 'dark godzilla' entirely. It looks dead.
Fissidens in this tank is getting big enough to notice! I cut and removed some rubber bands from the driftwood log, the buces are holding on now.
I also moved my bigger piece of java fern windelov to a different spot- behind the aponos in front of the crypt wendtii baskets. While I had it in hand I took off a few older leaves that were dying, and refastened one rhizome that had come loose. A tiny baby windelov broke off- far too small to fasten to anything. I let it float among the watersprite babies; hopefully it will grow big enough to tie down somewhere.
This plant I thought was beyond notice, maybe not even going to ever thrive for me- it was sent to me as a ludwigia but I still think it might be alternanthera reineckii? But it's doing well now, growing a lot. Lowest part of the stems bare; when it gets taller I will trim and replant.
The fishes in here are always curious when I work in the tank- at least, the barbs are. Lone (but apparently content!) oto darts away from my hand or tools, but the barbs come up and nibble on the freckles on my arm. Kuhlis ignore intrusions, but if I uproot a plant or move a stone, they come scurrying over to sift through the exposed mulm or debris.

The smallest red male -only one looking at me in the picture- seems to always get the worst of it when the males compete. He's plenty eager to flirt with females, but I keep finding new notches missing from his tail or dorsal fin. Just a month or two ago I noticed a missing part of his tail had healed and grown in with clear tissue. Now it seems that was all colored up again- but he's got another bite. I am pretty sure it is the bigger males going after him.

greenery

Better pictures of the green beans
and carrot foliage!

Oddly (in a good way) I haven't found very many japanese beetles on the beans this year, although I do see some insect/disease damage. Maybe they just aren't out in full force yet- I caught one on the sweet potoato vine, and found a small one under a bean plant. Squished.

26 June 2016

african violets

The pink one in my house has been blooming non-stop for months now.
But the other one, that made purple flowers, still doesn't even have a single bud. I don't know why- the difference in light? Maybe I should switch their positions- I think the pink one gets more light.

pepper and herbs

Since I've potted them up,
and up again into yet bigger containers
this pepper plant on the porch has doubled in size.
The sage isn't growing as quickly.
I think the rosemary cutting I put in the garden might actually make it.
Borage is in full bloom!
All covered in fine hairs. I'm not sure, but maybe it's keeping the chipmunk out of this part of the garden? It's still digging in my other two beds, but not this one (I know its the main culprit, not squirrels- I saw it running away from me under the carrot foliage the day before).
I've saved the best for last- I have a new stevia plant! Bought it at a farmer's market yesterday.
I sowed a bit more seed of summer savory and dill in the planter box a week ago. I think this tiny seedling is a summery savory coming up.

baby tomato

First cherry tomatoes are forming.