23 September 2023

window tank stuff

I put coleus cuttings across the back of my fish tank. Hoping the roots will make Tucker feet more sheltered, as I took off the background panel. We have over a week of rain predicted, the overcast skies already here. His colors are definitely less bold when the tank is brighter lit. But I don't want it so dim the plants lack enough light.
I also took more cuttings for the windowsill of my two favorites, just because.
This one has been looking great in its new spot (for the summer) just in front of the porch under those shrubs I cut back. Even though when I brought some pieces in, found tiny leafhoppers on them. Hope I didn't miss one or it will be an issue for my indoor plants.
There is more melt, all across the tank. I tested water parameters- ammonia is zero, nitrates between five and ten. I'm not going to do a water change this week- after so many on disaster day- but will dose the leaf zone again.
There's this piece of plastic I've always had on the back corner of the tank, to keep water splash from the sponge filter from dripping out and down the back of the tank. And getting all over the lip of the rim under the glass lid. It's not perfect, but it helps. This is the old one- really gunky. Usually I wipe it off periodically and replace after a few months when it gets too gross.
Today I cut a new piece of plastic to shield the corner, and held it just under the rim lip, with plastic bread bag clips. Should have done this long ago- it works so much better! I checked after ten, fifteen minutes and there was hardly any water creep.
But it was still coming up droplets and condensation through the hole for the filter tubing- so I just stuck a bit of (dry) filter sponge over that. Perfect now- hours later and the corner is still dry.
It's dry on the opposite end of tank because I turned the second filter off. I'd been watching a film clip of someone else's paradise fishes, how gorgeous and healthy they looked, and his tank has no tech at all. More plants than mine, though. And went back to my readings about paradise fishes, remembered that really they like very still water. No flow at all is often recommended. After seeing how much better my fish fared without companions, I wondered if I ought to follow this as well. 

I'm not quite bold enough to turn off both sponge filters, yet. Maybe after there's more plants grown out, and the water stays good quality. Should, with just one fish in here now. I bought a new mini siphon too, one that's a better size fit for this tank.

And I have these crypt balansae (with maybe a few spiralis or retrospiralis among them, can't recall) saved from the last angelfish tank. I couldn't bear to throw them in the compost with the rest of the discarded plants. They're in my taller vase- but of course cramped for space.
Looks like they're surviving okay, though. I want to plant them in the 33L, but worried about giving Tucker whatever disease the angelfishes died of. I think if I'm going to move the plants in there at all, I should wait several months to do so, hoping the pathogen will die by then.

rock edge

This is what I've been working on. Straightened out the rock edge for the side bed in the backyard. Not going to dig the rocks in to make them level in the ground until I'm satisfied with the placement. And there's still grass behind them to pull. I've also been shifting a few of the stepping stones, and dug in to lie level some of long ones that go up the smaller sideyard, and clipped back some of the wild chrysanthemum to even it out, stuck the stems in the ground other side of that yellowish dwarf cypress, but I don't know if they'll take, Might be better to do that kind of thing in spring. The two paler gashes going out into the lawn, is where my husband helped me remove some of the old tree roots that were aboveground.
And then I started with the rest of the rocks. Been wanting to do this for a long time. My husband collects rocks and fossils, often going out to locations himself, so he brings home a lot that get broken open or chiseled apart and then discarded if the find isn't as great as he'd hoped. So, we've had piles of those rocks in crates all around under our deck. 

I was tired of looking at them. And of leaves gathering in those corners in the fall, hard to clean out. Decided to try and make a little mow strip out of the rocks, so I don't have to trim grass against the edging by hand after mowing the lawn. I actually got one side of the first bed done today. 
It needs a little filling in still. There's lots of much smaller rock bits in the gravel under our deck- some of those are on the edging in the above pic- which I wedge in between the larger ones, where they didn't meet flush as I'd like.
This might not be permanent. All the bigger rocks I dug into the ground so they're pretty stable - and holding the bed edge from slumping again perhaps. Some go several inches down. But the smaller ones on top, some are quite thin or fragile and will eventually get broken from being stepped on. Well, I'll just replace if that happens. It's like putting together a puzzle with nature- and one with no guide!

21 September 2023

in other areas-

Because even though the plants in back parts of the yard, where we have an easement so I'm reluctant to plant anything large or permanent- mostly shallow-rooted things that spread easy and if they have to get dug up by work crew someday for the storm drain pipes, well at least they're easily replaced. The pictures look pretty much the same year after year, but still I take note and try to put in new things, spread around the ones that are doing well, etc. Such as the 'chocolate' joe pye weed. This is the parent plant. There's well a dozen younger ones scattered around the easement now. I dug and moved a few to better locations. And cut off all the flowers, because much as I admire it, I don't need more 'chocolate' joe pye babies right now.
Still somewhat disappointed that my inkberry, bayberry, persimmon, and three of the redbuds, are dead and gone. This one hellebore in the rear perennial bed still looks yellowed. Either it's always sick, or there's soemthing off in the soil in that one spot. I'm going to dig it out and throw away. Let some of the babies grow in, see if they also turn yellow . . .
While all the regular hostas got eaten up completely by the deer (except the blue one in the corner by the garden, and the two buried in the perennial beds), and the sensitive ferns died back from the heat, I still have my stinkin' hellebore babies! In their second year now, not much bigger.
This one was smaller than the other two, I had planted it under the holly by the lady ferns (which also disappeared in the heat)- maybe it was too shaded so grew slower. I moved it closer to the front of that area, when transplanted the younger beautyberry into that spot.
Found quite a few of this plant along edges of the lawn down near the row of liriope. I thought it was strawberry begonia at first- and surprised if that plant had done well enough to produce and scatter itself, since I hardly notice it behind the joe pye 'chocolate' (plus don't they propagate by runners, not seed?)
So I went and cleared away leaf litter and stiltgrass in the area where the stawberry begonia is. Still there. Much smaller leaves than I recall, but seem to be more individual plants. No, it's not the same plant. I think the one pictured above is that weed I favor, that often has a blue-green look and then grows taller later in the season . . . 

20 September 2023

some stuff

I was going to call this post "all the squirmy wormies" but then started writing about more than just the worms, so. 

I realized that along with a bit of houseplant and fish tank neglect, I had been ignoring my worms lately, too. Had not fed them in a long while. Which actually made emptying the bin easier- they had been comsuming their bedding so really there was only a layer of carboard chips on the top to remove, the rest was mostly finished vermicompost. I didn't sort out the worms and unfinished bits by shaking through a handmade sifter like usual- the bottom two-thirds of the bin was too damp, and very compacted. 

Instead I loosened it up by hand and then picked out the bits of still-recognizable cardboard, and the individual worms that hadn't been in the first handfuls out of the feeding corner, or off the top layer. It was just a few hours, over two days, spent sitting by the bin carefully going through it. I didn't see any worm eggs. but there were plenty of tiny baby worms, so they've been breeding not so long ago. Worms in my hand.
Some are yellowish, but not too many. None of the worms felt tacky, they all had good moisture and most are healthy pink. I did notice lately it had been drier, so at that point I had sprinkled in some water, and started feeding them again hoping they'd all move to that corner. It never works completely, there's always more worms to pick out of the rest of the bin. I'm sure if I just kept the ones scooped out of the top layer and food area, that's plenty to keep the population going. But I still feel like "rescuing" as many as I can, knowing those that get thrown out with the vermicompost to fertilize the lawn and garden, will just die overwinter.
These tiny millipedes were in the bin. More than I've ever seen before, and I found a pile of dried-up ones off to one side behind the bin- has a spider been eating them there? They curl up in little silvery spirals. Picking worms individually out of the bin allowed me to leave behind most of the millipedes to get tossed out into the yard. I hope.
Then I started trying to get some plants in better shape. Groomed a bunch of houseplants, and those on the deck. Trimmed back some of the geraniums that had got leggy, and replanted the cut stems.
Sprayed with soapy water/oil the ones that seem to still have bug problems: chocolate mint, ginger mint, stevia, the cuban oregano- 
whose leaves are all so small right now I feel it must be suffering
I went to pick out this dead leaf that had drifted into my basil plant- and noticed somebody was on it
a little mantis!
This plant that's still new to me, the self-heal, is starting to bloom-
Another pic of my fish today- I think I should add to his name: Tucker Firetail

across the front

My front bed has needed a lot of cleaning up. So many weeds and young volunteer trees to pull, mulch to spread, things to trim back. My clumps of clary sage have lots of bug holes-
 But I was pleased to find, next to this baby cranesbill, a new clary sage as well! At least one of them self-seeded (even though I cut the flower stalks back to try and get a second bloom).
A few catmint have popped up here, too, next to the brunnera. Those traveled far!
Even though I only pinched back the mums once, they grew quite thick so I hope flower without flopping over too much this year.
In the other front corner by the driveway, I've weeded and mulched around the daylilies- and you can see that little pink lily is still here!
Some of the lyreleaf sage I planted under the lilac are finally looking okay.
And this one is grown really thick and lush. I think it might be one of those ajuga actually getting a foothold now- it looks very much like the lyreleaf, I won't really be sure until it blooms in spring. Feel silly not recognizing my own plant, but hey.
I'm dismayed my lilac is still apparently dying. The right half is still bare, in fact the barren branches seem to be spreading. And there's very little bug sign on the foliage this year. I'm stumped. Is it the encroachment of the black-and-blue salvia I put in the corner behind it? Did I really overdo it with leaf mulch those early winters, and it got rot down in the root crown? I just don't know.

19 September 2023

Tucker

I wasn't mistaken. Tucker looks great. He practically danced across the front of the tank in eagerness for breakfast this morning. I got the impression he really enjoyed being able to leisurely pick bites from the surface, not having the minnows darting and dashed all around in front of him nabbing food. I really do think they had stressed him out.
What's really lovely to see, is when Tucker spreads all his fins their widest, and takes on a triangular profile that reminds me of the angelfishes . . but of course I can't catch that on camera yet. Once he sees me approach, he's moving all over the place, ha.

Even my kid noticed the difference. Went over and looked in the tank when I remarked, "say hi to Tucker" and exclaimed "Oh wow, he's so vibrant!" He really is.
It feels a bit sad though, that now I only have one fish, and two little shrimps in a separate jar. Already I keep mulling over if I could try some other species with Tucker- peppered cories, platies, swordtails, mollies, black skirt tetras . . . but I think they would all become an issue in one way or another, and he really does look so much happier alone.

smaller sideyard

I've been working over here, too. Clearing weeds again, spreading leaf mulch- mainly because I have leaves to rake up, and the compost bin is full- need to turn and empty that soon- not because the plants actually need protection against the cold yet. I mulched around and behind the joe pye weeds, the black-and-blue salvia, the gladiolas. Had to tie a rope horizontal between the wood against the bank to a metal pole I drove into the ground further downslope, to prop up the glads. Made it easier to reach in there and mulch. 

And found that my soft gentle lambs ears are looking grand! I really feel that the effort I took a while back to pull out all the blackened old foliage from underneath the plants, paid off. It looked to me like had aphid leavings. And now the plants seem healthier. Or maybe the weather just agrees with them more!
The black-and-blue salvia I cut back is flowering again- 
though who knows how long it will last until cold hits. I trimmed back the one on the upper side of the bank, too.
Funny thing, this row of sedums did so poorly in this narrow strip between my driveway and the neighbor's lawn- that in previous years I dug some up and moved to the opposite end of the main front bed. And planted coleus here in between the smaller sedums. But this year they're doing fine!

18 September 2023

Losses

First I will say of a recovery. I thought my boston fern, which has been sitting ignored under the deck for months, had got fried in the heat. Walking past it the other day I just stopped and started pulling out dead fronds and stems, and then gave it a big drink of water. Now it's perking up again, but the center is all brown and the few fronds still green are pushing outside edge of the pot. I'm tempted to upend it, cut out and discard the dead center, repot the living sections. But all the times I've tried to divide a boston fern and repot in the past, I killed it. So I'm hesitant . . .
I had two parlor palms. One finally died, and I also gave up on the madagascar palm and tossed it out. So disappointing I couldn't keep that one happy.
But my other parlor palm is doing okay- though a bit dry and pale at close inspection.
And now the sad news. Which I'm feeling rather miserable about, as it must be my fault. I lost most of my fishes yesterday. I was doing a water change, larger than usual- thirty percent when usually I do fifteen to twenty percent. I think it had been two weeks, and I know that before that I had long neglected the tank, so I thought: more clean water is better! Except it wasn't. 

It started out fine- the fishes were acting perky, flitting around the siphon hose- one even got sucked into the bucket and bruised up, I put him back in the tank with regret, not sure if he'd survive that physical trauma. Last time I did a wc I had dosed some plant ferts, even though they're old and probably expired- and I was admiring how the plants look better- I hadn't noticed they were doing poorly, but now some of the crypts have redder stems, and stand up taller
-I tried to get a picture of a minnow by the crypt undulata-
Some anubias leaves had melted, and lots of vals, so I spent time cutting out the dead bits. But the green leaves still there on the vals looked healthier than before, so I think those plants were just ditching the old leaves and growing new in response to the changed conditions. Even my bolbitis fern looked greener and more upright.
Large anubias
Attempt at a quick full tank shot-
Then I noticed the water line wasn't quite up to the lower edge of the rim yet, so I went in the kitchen to fill another gallon. I poured it into the tank, and things went bad immediately. The minnows started looking super stressed, bending their heads and tails up, gaping at the surface, or crashed on the bottom not moving. Only one was swimming with normal posture. Their bellies bloated white (burst swim bladders?) and then some started spinning, randomly darting into corners and running their heads into the substrate. Disoriented? Starved of oxygen? I could only think that something was bad in the water, so my immediate reaction was to do another water change in hopes of diluting whatever it was. 

I changed another ten gallons. One fish died. Several of the others relaxed a bit, and the paradise fish- who'd been hiding under the bolbitis driftwood- came out to breathe at the surface. His fins clamped, but he wasn't writhing or swimming erratically like the others. I tried to figure out what went wrong. My first thought was the old ferts were gone toxic, but I'd put a bit in the shrimp bowl, and those guys were fine. And aren't shrimp more sensitive. Then I thought maybe something wrong with the tap water- the test showed very little nitrate (5ppm or less), zero nitrite but some ammonia (barely green in the tube). But again: the shrimps and snails in the bowls were fine.

Then I happened to smell my fingers. Strong sulfur odor. Realize if the prime had dripped on/from the cap, I got some on my hands. I thought I'd wiped or rinsed it off, but not good enough. And maybe I miscounted and that last gallon had an extra drop of prime in it, three instead of two. I didn't think one extra drop would matter in a thirty gallon tank. In fact I used to double dose prime in my first tank a long time ago- and while that wasn't the best thing to do, none of the fishes died suddenly like this. 

Because the minnows were dying, one after the other. While Tucker hid alternately in corners and under the driftwood. However much prime was on my skin could have been extra concentrated. (I know I didn't have any sunscreen, insect repellent or lotion on my hands). The other factor is that earlier in the week we had a power outage. It lasted hours. I was about to pull out the battery-operated air pump to run the filters overnight, when it kicked back on. So I thought the tank was fine. But maybe it was out long enough that some of the good bacteria colony died off, and it hadn't recovered all the way yet? Also, I hadn't vacuumed the substrate in a long time, and a few stems got disturbed, releasing some mulm into the water column. Any one of these factors don't seem like disaster on their own, but altogether I think it's what sent my little fishes into shock. Low bacteria strength, sudden release of ammonia from the substrate, accidental overdose of dechlor . . . 

The minnows all died by nightfall. 
Tucker was not looking good. Every time he went up to breathe, there was an odd raspy sound. Injury to his gills? I don't know. I thought this would be my last picture of him alive.
Surprised and relieved to find him still here in the morning. Even came to greet me at the glass, fins alert.
And his color looks good
And he's relaxed- more than I've seen in ages. I suddenly wonder if he found the minnows bothersome- all their quick activity. I'm inclined to think he's just happy to be alive, but it's probably that he finds the tank environment more calm now.
He even wanted to eat this morning. This past week I'd been giving him small crickets out of the garden- which I figured was safe- but he looked a bit overfull. So I gave him half a chopped up cooked pea. He snapped those bites up. I'm so glad.