25 September 2022

some final harvest

And small. Pulled all the beets- they were small, and didn't taste good. Cleaned up my pots of carrots, pulled some- they look okay, if on the small side! Probably because I didn't water often enough, and there was whitefly and swallowtail caterpillars (which I moved to the rue or lovage plant when I found them).
Well, there are still yellow summer squash to eat, and collard greens. The chard is getting hit pretty hard by leafhoppers again. I think I'm going to cut it all to the ground and eat what grows back (now that it's cooler weather, should taste better). Tomatoes are a loss. Stink bugs and something else have spread disease among them. Still eating a bit of amaranth greens, and herbs from the deck containers though!

I've picked almost enough cowpeas as small pods to eat like green beans (enough for one serving). There's quite a few pods matured and dried to collect for good black-eyed peas. But I feel the same about this plant that I did last year- love how lush it grows, mostly untroubled by bugs. Disappointed that I get tons of vines and foliage, and it seems very few pods for all that growth!

15 September 2022

golden sisters

I didn't write about this before, because it just made me too sad. A few weeks ago, my favorite angelfish Miss Beautiful died. I hadn't even noticed she was unwell but that morning she was hiding low in plants when I fed the tank, didn't come out. I saw her down there looking as if struggling to swim, but going nowhere. Crashed. Looked closer saw her fins were ragged too. I tested the water- nitrates between ten and twenty. Did a partial water change. But that night she died. It happened when we were watching television in the same room. I looked in during a break, and she was unmoving. Lifted her out into a paper towel and buried under a hydrangea. 

I don't think I could have saved her. She'd been unhealthy for so long, these last few weeks of neglect were just the end. Now only the two gold angels in there, and three kuhli loaches still. I'm feeling very despondent about the tank. Some of my plants are doing poorly too (but the hornwort is really thriving!)
I am undecided what to do about the other fishes. In the past three months, my maintenance has slid to water changes once every other week, or once every ten, twelve days at best. It's not enough. I do ask for help but the response is "do we have to do that today?" or "can't it wait until the weekend" and then it ends up being two weeks again. I just got re-evaluated by the doctor and have to take it easy, do physical therapy for the next six weeks, for my ankle. I want to keep up with tank care like my usual standard, but I have a feeling of dread that in spite of best intentions, I simply won't be able to.

The white clouds in my window tank seem to be much tougher- they're even still breeding and there's two half-grown fry, one much smaller a few weeks old now, and several more just little specks with tails in there. I am sure Tucker my paradise fish is suffering from the lack of steady water changes, too- his color is fading again and tail fin lost its filament.

But I feel worse to see the angelfishes suffer. My gold sisters both have missing filments now, too- Shirley has a small fungal patch on her caudal fin and maybe some white showing on the lips. One of them has ragged edges on the pectoral fins- and they both have that ominous flush of inflammation near the spine behind dorsal which makes me think they're ill the same way Miss Beautiful was. (Also makes me think now that Miss Beautiful's broken pectoral fins weren't from crashing into tank walls after all - I've never seen these golden angels dash across the tank in fright like she used to- but probably from bad condition)
I was thinking to just sell the tank and re-home the fishes, hoping someone else can give them better care- but I feel guilty to dump my problem on someone else. Now considering to transfer the two angels in my spare 20H, strip and disinfect the 55. The 20 is a lot smaller, but will be easier for me to keep up on the water changes, maybe I can get them back into good enough health to re-home confidently.
Crazy thing is that, even though they look ill to me, they've finally settled their differences (there was lots of angry rushes at each other lately) and are in breeding mood. Just yesterday Shirley was laying eggs (and Precious eating them immediately). So I tell myself- they can't be doing too badly?
Kuhlis look just fine. Fat and active as ever. And I still think some of the plants are beautiful.

13 September 2022

wildlife in the yard

I am pretty much abandoning the garden for rest of the year. My ankle is not better from accident three months ago, doctor said it shouldn't still be swelling and sent me to phyiscal therapy. Evaluation there said I did too much way too soon, have to "take it easy" again, avoid all heavy work- that includes squatting to pull weeds and more stairs than strictly neccessary- so now it's difficult to do the minimal to keep the yard looking decent, or tank water changes either for that matter. 

We've eaten the last few rutabagas, the remaining beets are pretty small and pathetic. Tomatoes all look iffy. I still have plenty of chard, collards and yellow squash. And the cowpeas are finally making pods! But I keep forgetting to go pick them tender, so probably will just harvest as dry seed later. I thought my cardinal climber vine was going to bloom way too late to feed any hummingbirds, but there's plenty of flowers now, and I see a hummingbird come by regularly, visit every bloom in methodical order. It's often here when I'm washing dishes, so lovely to see it out the window. Once I saw two hummningbirds, swerving and zooming at each other in the air- fighting over rights to my little flower patch? I'm pretty sure they've been feeding on the black and blue salvia on the sideyard too, but I haven't been over there in a while honestly. 

So here's some pictures of a few wildlife glimpses I had in the past week or so. Marbled orb-weaver spider
Preying mantis- I found it on the sliding glass door above my chocolate mint and basil plants-
and a few days later on the stored coldframe.
And a fox! passing through the neighbor's yard behind ours.

26 August 2022

stevia cuttings

My stevia plant has grown sprawling out of its pot, so I cut it back in preparation for bringing inside when temperatures drop. Decided to try a few as cuttings, to see what works. I've always heard this is difficult, but sources online say it works and are not in agreement about the medium. So I used six tiny pots, two each of sterile seed starting mix, regular potting soil, and plain sand. Three of each I dipped the cutting in rooting hormone. 
They're on my kitchen windowsill. These on the right had the rooting hormone, 
three on the left didn't. 
and two just stuck in a plain jar of water, for the heck of it.
Let's see if any survive to make new growth.

23 August 2022

natural pest control

Some kind of hawk, in my backyard. Eater of rabbits and squirrels!

20 August 2022

things got eaten

By the bugs! My favorite, amaranth 'calaloo', I have totally been unable to keep ahead of the beetles by hand-picking them every morning like I used too. Every morning far more are riddled with so many holes and spoiled by frass, not usable. I've finally sprayed with insecticidal soap (second dose today) but don't know if the plants will recover enough to be worth picking from again. Half them got pulled and tossed already.
Here's the beet and turnip-rutabaga bed in the foreground- not much better shape. Most of the beet foliage ruined- I think from whitefly or leaf hoppers. 
Turnip-rutabagas are definitely getting damaged by whitefly. I've sprayed them, too. The roots are all still quite edible, though- but I miss not being able to use the greens, and I'm sure I'd have bigger, healthier beets and rutabagas without the damage.
My collards have also been swarming with whitefly, and harlequin bugs (took me a while to find those culprits). And all are getting munched by slugs too, I think.
All the actual turnips rotted. I had to empty most of that bed and throw them away. 
But the cowpeas on the other end of the bed are doing grand, I just hope they actually give me some beans to eat (planted out kinda late this year)
And in the next bed over, the yellow summer squash is amazing! I took this picture several weeks ago, it's now sprawled large enough I can't walk through the aisle between the beds. Getting one or two nice-sized squash per week out of there. Very little sign of disease, no bug damage I can see!
Swiss chard
and leaf-beet chard are faring okay. Some leaf hoppers spreading disease, but when I start to notice symptoms, I cut out what I can eat and cut the rest down to the ground, bundling most of insects away with all the anemic foliage to the trash. The chard grows back quickly if watered heavy again, gets kind of a fresh start for another week or so.
Tomatoes- eh. They don't look great. The cherry and purple cherokee tomatoes are discolored, the larger varieties small sized and lots of leaves look unhealthy. It didn't seem like aphids, probably some kind of virus causing wilt- I cut out a lot of sickly foliage again and redid the mulch.
Kind of a blah year, aside from the squash, and the herbs which mostly seem unbothered. I'm wondering if next year I should grow more new varieties of things (as the yellow squash and cowpeas have done so much better than zucchini and green beans for me), or just scrap the garden altogether and do a solarization to kill pathogens in the soil . . . 

18 August 2022

climber vines

My cardinal climbers have finally gone all the way up the post (seedheads of clematis there with them) to the deck railings- but no flowers yet. So late in the year.
I've glimpsed the hummingbird a few times- in fact the other day I think I saw two darting at each other in the air- but I think they're coming to the black-and-blue salvia on the sideyard. They don't come near the deck because there's no flowers for them here.