30 November 2014

plant spa day

other participants not pictured include: boston fern, spider plant, avocado.

pink buds

My second-generation violet is going into its second bloom.

29 November 2014


I think I was right in taking arrowhead cuttings and growing in water- already the leaves look bigger, bolder, more pinkish veins.
I've never read that they particularly like to be kept damp though. The rooted pot is sending up some new shoots, too.


I was putting a new heater in my aquarium (the old one is failing- won't hold temperature steady when it drops in the apartment at night) and had the lid off. Liking the appearance of the plants from above, so took some photos.
I like the contrast in textures among them.
Especially pleased that the rotala is starting to look nice, almost as good as when I first brought it home.

28 November 2014

friday notes

Still looks good- watersprite and rotala growing, growing. A few dead java fern leaves, lots of new fiddleheads. Some brown algae on a few crypt and apono leaves (could rub it off) and I'm pretty sure why- I thought the plants needed something more (still don't look perfectly green yet) so I gave a second half-dose of micronutrients middle of the week. Guess that was too much. Today I pushed in three root tabs, between the aponos which are still the smallest for their possibility. Next week I'll add the rest of the packet (seven more). In the tenner, I cut out two anubias leaves that have black mottling, the rest are nice. This time I tried dissolving the potassium into some aquarium water before pouring into the tank. The barbs still twitch and glance a bit- skins irritated. Pinkie and Oliver never seem to notice. I think their scales (armored for battle?) are thicker than the other fishes'.

22 November 2014

roasted snack

I've had a can of chickpeas sitting in the cupboard for ages. Never think what to do with it. The other day came across a recipe for roasting them, using paprika, cinnamon or coriander for flavor. Rummaging through my spice cupboard for something else, I found I still have a little jar of cilantro seed from my old garden. So I ground up the seed
and roasted the chickpeas. It's simple- toss in olive oil and roast for forty minutes, toss again with salt and chosen spice. I think next time I'll try it with paprika. My youngest calls them "crunchy peas". She's not so enthusiastic about the flavor, but my older daughter likes them.

21 November 2014

underwater green

Still observing, still learning. I did not change anything this week- dosage of ferts, water change remains the same. Plants are continuing to improve- at least as far as growth rate and slowing down of decay indicates. I've also found that some stuff I read online is true- if the plants do better, the algae can't compete. In my ten-gallon tank, I worried that increasing the photoperiod would get hair algae on the plastic plants and anubias again, but it hasn't recurred at all. The lights are on nine hours a day now, in both tanks. Some general notes from this maintenance day.

I still worry about my aponos, but found something that made me hope. The smallest apono I thought was completely dead, I was thinking to take it out and throw away. But this time it had come free of the substrate (constantly comes loose and floats), and I saw there were a few tiny green leaves growing again, and white roots coming from the bulb! I planted it once more, and tugged the worst-looking, smallest ones up a bit to make sure they weren't buried too deep. Those must have good white roots growing finally as well- they hung on to the gravel! so I hope they do recover in time.
Looking down on the two biggest aponos:
Picture of the rotala, under low water level. Can see a nice apono leaf in the background.
Java ferns seem to be doing better in both aquariums. I only cut one dying leaf out in the bigger tank, didn't touch in the smaller one- when it gets depleted enough, the leaf will detach on its own. There are still new fiddleheads arising, and in the tenner, two of the plants have baby leaves.
When the water was low, for the first time ever I trimmed the java moss that grows in my twenty. It's a very small patch. I cut it back by half. Always thought it looked finer, smaller leaves than the java moss in the other tank, but I wasn't sure. I put this tiny clump in water jar with other moss trimmings, and yes- it is smaller. So either a different species of the moss? or different growth habit from slightly different conditions.
I tried to get a picture of the green threads of java moss clinging to the top of the skull, but that's hard to capture:
The anubias in my small tank seems better every week- some leaves are nice clean green, no mottled spots. Either they are healthier or the platies clean stuff off them- I see them picking at things. I also noticed when I gently squeezed out the sponge filter, not nearly as much mulm came out this time- and the tank water cleared quicker after refilling too. So either the debris from the driftwood is finally settled and filtered out, or the platies poop a lot less than the cherry barbs did!
Watersprite continues to grow-
side view for comparison to previous photo
I do want to get the rest of the recommended ferts to balance out the plant nutrients- they should probably receive potassium nitrate and phosphates too. And I think I should start dissolving the ferts before I put it in- I've noticed every maintenance day a few of the barbs will twitch and flash after I put the dry fert in. I think it irritates their skin.

I don't have much news on the fishes themselves- except that it's nice to see Sammy in the main tank. All three kuhlis were swimming wiggles up and down the tank during the water change (people call this "the kuhli happy dance"). Sammy still hangs out in the little rock cave a lot- it's cute to see his head poking out one side and his tail the other, or head and tail next to each other when he's curled into a loop. I'm not sure if this is because the other kuhlis don't let him share the driftwood space, or if he just feels more secure under the rock.

pepper plant

I brought this plant inside a few weeks ago, forgot to mention it. My youngest keeps pointing to the "baby pepper" on there, hoping we can eat it soon, but I doubt it will get much bigger! If this one makes it through the winter again, it will see a third spring!

20 November 2014


Nothing I grew went into this recipe, but its a new cooking attempt for me so I figured had a place here. Making noodles from scratch!
I wanted a real honest-to-goodness home-style chicken soup. Found a few recipes online, surprised at how simple it sounds. All it contains is eggs, flour and a pinch of salt. Mixed by hand like I do for pizza dough. The one tedious part was kneading the dough- I spent over twenty minutes at it, just until it was smooth and elastic feeling, no longer gritty, tacky texture under palms. Rolled out very very thin and cut into strips.
They went into the soup at the end, for three to five minutes- but I think it should have been two. I either over cooked, or over-kneaded the dough: it had a rather chewy texture. The kids loved it regardless!
I'm definitely going to try this again. Hopefully next time I'll even have some home-grown herbs to put in the soup.

19 November 2014

worm rescue

When I tipped the ginger pot to brush half-frozen mud off its base, found a handful of worms feebly crawling there. Dark purplish color, almost dead from the cold. I dropped them into my indoor bin.


Last night was a hard frost. All the long leaves of nicotiana plants drooping from the shock. I think they've probably all reseeded themselves, so don't care if they appear to die back. Not sure if the lemon balm will survive in its pot, I'll shelter that one when snows come. The only other plant outside was my ginger. I should have brought it in last week. It collapsed. I've brought it in to dry out and overwinter. Cutting the foliage for the compost, sharp scent arises.

18 November 2014


It took several days to catch my lone kuhli fish, Sammy.
The problem was, Oliver is too smart! He knew that trap had food in it, and I was fasting the fishes to tempt the kuhli in. I couldn't let Oliver stay in the trap too long- bettas can actually drown if prevented from surfacing. Once he actually lined his nose up to the cap hole and got out again- but five or six times in a row I had to release him, and when I replaced the trap he would go straight back in. All this in and out was too much disturbance; even though I was placing the trap in twilight hours, the kuhli wouldn't come out of hiding, and I couldn't leave the trap in overnight, for fear of drowning Oliver.

So I tried making the opening smaller. First I stretched tight a small piece of plastic wrap over the hole with a rubber band, leaving just a narrow horizontal gap at the bottom. It defeated the platies- they would bump their noses, give up. Oliver was determined. He figured out how to bang the plastic with his nose until it gave some, they lay his body sideways and squeeze through. I was surprised he made it in, and impressed at his problem-solving skills! The kuhli almost came in at one point; could definitely smell the bait and wiggled up searching for the opening, got his head and part of the body in, then backed out and wouldn't return. I wonder if he didn't like the feel of plastic edge on his back?

Then I put a new obstacle on it. I got a stiffer piece of clear plastic, cut it to fit the opening with a flap on the sides, used a hole punch to make a small oblong hole, fastened it on tight with rubber band again (over the folded flaps). It kept Oliver out. He couldn't force his head in. I watched him try a few times, then he left and didn't come back to the trap. Smart fish. I left too, stayed out of the room for over an hour, confident now that Oliver wouldn't get stuck in there and I could leave it as long as it took for the shy kuhli to get hungry.

Later in the morning I sent my three-year-old into the room: "go see if there's something new in my fish tank." She went, looked, yelled excitedly: "Mommy! Sammy is in the fish trap!" Ha ha. Gotcha.

Now he's in the big tank with the other kuhlis. I've seen him hanging out with them under the log already, but he also seems to like the little rock cave I once made, crams himself in there repeatedly. I hope he feels at home and likes having some buddies.

17 November 2014


The bigger jade plant also got cut back; its stems were getting top-heavy and flopping over. I tried to adjust the watering over a few weeks but still had issues, couldn't quite figure out if it needed more or less moisture- so I finally just cut it back. This at least will make it sturdier.
other side:

16 November 2014


I cut back my geranium.
This was a few days ago; just yesterday removed the older leaves so the small ones coming in all uniform size.
It kind of has an awkward shape now but I'm not sure which stems to take out to get a nicer balance. So I've left it alone while continue to consider.

15 November 2014


The shelf life is nearly done on all the dried herbs I had. Some were beginning to smell musty so I threw them out. Now I've only got a pinch of stevia left, and one live plant brought inside- the parsley.
I've been cutting so much of it to eat it hardly has time to recover and grow!

14 November 2014

fishie shuffle

Moved some fish today. After rearranging the crypts in the main aquarium, I set a simple fish trap in the small one. It's just a water bottle with the cap end cut off and inverted, to create a funnel. A bit of tempting food in the base- shrimp pellet- and just lay it on the substrate. I was surprised how easy it worked- I didn't want to catch Oliver, but he went in there first!
Three fishies in my hand- they seem so small, held like this.
I let Oliver go back in his home, and moved the cherry barb pair into the main tank. I was right- they are smaller still than their buddies- although the female has a very fat belly from gorging on shrimp pellet while I waited for her partner to enter the trap. Next time I'll put less bait!
It was easy to catch the platyfish and move them into the ten gallon- I didn't even have to set a trap- just lift the aquarium lid and scoop them out, they always come to the surface curious and eager for possible handouts. Oliver darted at them flaring his gills at first, then followed them closely all over the tank, now is acting more casual but I'll keep a close eye on them.
I still don't have a new home for these guys. But I wanted the barbs to all be together. It looks quite different in the little tank without the bright gold and red of the barbs. With Oliver dark as the wood and the platies a paler hue of the background, it looks like different pieces of the environment are animated and swimming around!
The fish I really wanted to catch was Sammy- so he can be with the other kuhlis- but he's still in hiding. He comes out and does the "happy kuhli dance" up and down the glass when I refresh the water and I thought I could catch him then, but I frightened him back into hiding. I'll replace the trap after dark and see if he'll enter.

underwater gardening

did a bit of that today. Cut out dying leaves- from a few apnogeton, a few java fern, a third of the leaves on the amazon sword, same for the crypts. I want to be able to see if the new leaves stay healthy, but it's hard to compare when my attention keeps going to the older ones still dying off from changes. So far it still looks promising- the younger leaves that looked nice last week are still holding their green.
I also spread apart the clumps of crypt wendtii- turns out I have more than eighteen individual plants, if separate the crowns. There are still two or three paired up, but the rest in their own space now. I was pleased to see they all have healthy, long white roots. The leaf color is nice, strong veins with pink and purple undersides. The newer leaves are still nice bold blue-green, without any algae encroaching yet.
Now I've got a kind of crypt thicket growing in the front corner of the tank.
I left the biggest one in front of the java/driftwood cave, but the kuhlis still feel exposed, are cramming themselves under the log.
The rotala is growing and growing, tallest stems in each grouping have reaching the surface!
In the smaller tank, I removed the thread that held java moss onto the fake skull, and put the loose bits in the water jar. There are still quite a few threads of moss clinging to the skull- just what I always wanted them to do. I have trimmed those stems very short, to encourage branching and more growth. No pics of it thought- it is so small and fine I can't get the camera to focus.

The anubias in there are looking great- the newer leaves have bold color and less brown mottling- new shoots still arising, and the java ferns, while poor in color, are sending up new fiddleheads so I'm hopeful for them, too (the plants never repair old damaged or deficient leaves, but grow new ones in response to better conditions/nutrients).