30 November 2020

pretty pinks

'Frosted Brandy' african violet bloomed: 
It does have the darker edging- with glittery speckles if you look close-
Still enjoying the flowers of 'Bob Serbin' too.
And my tradescantia zebrina nearby must like its new location- I found a new pair of leaves growing where one of the stems had been trimmed.

not so great

It hasn't been the best week for my fishes. I lost another guppy- yesterday, after tank maintenance. When I dose liquid vitamins, the small fishes always dart around gobbling up the granules. I never thought this would harm them, but later in the day found one blue guppy expired on the substrate, looking bloated. I will start stirring that into a cup of tank water to dissolve first, from now on. Six guppies now. 

Last week one white cloud got caught by the siphon hose. I netted it and returned to the tank. I think it's the one that's been looking paler and thinner than the others- can't do anything but wait to see if it recovers. But they seemed fewer when they were feeding, past few days. I made an effort to count closely, and there's only ten. I don't know if one is unwell and hiding, or if it's died. There is a minnow that seems to stay apart from the rest- on one side of the tank by himself, but it's hard to tell if it's sick or just been ousted. Earlier in the week lots of displaying and chasing again. It was really amusing to see three males rising through the water column, furiously vibrating their fins at each other in parallel. Most of them look bold, and bright fins.

My angelfish has startled again. A few times mildly this week, then once very badly yesterday. I don't know what caused it as I approached the tank not holding anything or moving suddenly (which often seems to trigger her fear). She bolted away into the corner, crashed into the wall behind the heater and was there head down absolutely still for a minute or so, stunned. I really thought she'd died this time. Then she jolted out of the corner- has scraped off some scales on her head, and one pectoral fin is injured- held clamped tight to her side. When she started moving it a bit hours later (very stiffly and only partly extended) I saw it's torn and there's a bloody streak. I feel so bad for her. I don't know why she keeps getting scared. Maybe too alone now, without the tetras. I don't know how to solve this. Maybe a different fish as dithers? 

I think I did figure out why she startles so much, though. From when she was very small, and the tank used to be down in the dark hallway. My husband would go through there to his office, often holding his silver laptop and one day he wondered if light reflecting off the laptop frightened the young angelfishes- maybe it looked like a much bigger fish to them. So he stood there in the dark hallway and tipped the laptop to bounce the light off it- and the baby angels bolted into the corner. After that he tried to be more careful and hold it differently so it didn't flash at them, but I don't know how long this was going on. He told me about it much later. My best guess is that Miss Beautiful was simply traumatized by that, and I don't know if she will ever get over it.

She didn't want her picture taken (understandably)
Meanwhile, I still have nine black skirt tetras living in the 20H. Most of them they look perfectly fine and they eat eagerly, though one is usually pale. 
Probably stressed. I do a large water change every week, rinsing one or the other of the filter sponges, and have been testing the parameters to make sure nitrates don't get too high. Also dropping in every hornwort trimming from the other tank, so they have plenty of plant mass to give some natural filtration. They like it dim- I noticed when I put a row of coleus pots on the table in front of their tank, they started coming out of the corner and hanging around in the open space more. But I know it's too crowded in there. It's been a month and nobody has even asked, where I posted to re-home them. 
The only ones doing great? My little bowl of shrimps. Nothing bothers those guys! Well, and the kuhli loaches in my angelfish tank. The few glimpses I catch of them, all four look fat and content.

28 November 2020

some houseplant notes

Potted up one of my smaller african violets- from its small paper cup 
 into a regular pot
Took a cutting from the pothos in a sub-irrigated planter, added it to the pot with the one that came from the angelfish tank, and braided cord around the pot to hang it. Thicker on the line from the pole hook to where it divides to go around the pot, idea is maybe the vine will climb the braid and then I can train it to grow along the pole. Always wanted to have a pothos vine climbing around near the ceiling, never had it work before.
It's immediate neighbor is the tradescantia zebrina- I stuck all the rooted cuttings into the pot so it looks a lot fuller now-
and the new stems grew upright this much in just a week
Also removed two small bits of creeping charlie from a regular pot and added them to the hanging one
which got a new string as it was crooked before
It looks better now. Seems to prefer hanging. Stays a lot drier I've noticed.
Aglaonema has gotten leggy. I moved it to a different spot, guessing it needs more light.
Finally, my two parlor palms weren't doing so great again. I suspected spider mites and sprayed them twice for that over the past month. Older leaves have drying tips but the younger ones appear fresh green entirely, so I hope they're doing better. 

25 November 2020

seeds to save- and bake!

I saved hyssop seed. Fall from the little throats of the dried flowers-
Mixed with the chaff-
Cleaned up ready to store. Don't have a good reason for this- I still have plenty of hyssop seed in the original packet I bought, and I now have seven two-year-old plants in the yard that will grow back every spring. I'm not picturing planting more hyssop, but as it so generously seed, I thought I'd save it. Can always take to the local seed/plant exchange which I skipped this year due to covid (they held it as an outdoor event but I didn't go). Looking forward to spring!
On another note, I did something I never thought I would- I took some of my saved seeds out of the fridge and baked them to use as pie weights. My usual collection of dried beans for pie weights- which I've been using over and over for many years- isn't quite enough when I make two pies. So as I have far more purple-podded pole bean seed than I actually need next year, I picked out fifteen of the fattest smoothest ones to save (planning for ten to twelve good plants) and poured the majority into the uncooked pie crust shells with the old dried beans.
Then they went in the oven. But the center bubbled up under the new beans- I don't know if because there simply wasn't enough to weigh it down, or if the beans weren't dry enough, and the moisture did something.
Well, it still made a fine pie (the beans get removed and filling poured in, which was cooked separate).

a bit outside

Not much to do now, except rake up leaves that get scattered and tuck them under the rue, or dump into the large leaf pile bin. So I fiddle with a few things. A yogurt carton got emptied in the kitchen so I made another slug trap (here beside the old one- not filled yet in these pics)
Protecting my lettuces, tokyo bekana and the two tatsoi-
It doesn't deter the slugs entirely, but reduces the damage that I can ignore a few holes-
I still can't believe how long the sweet alyssum has lasted- it's nice to be close while cutting a few greens, and catch the pretty scent.
Nearby off corner of the garden, heucherella is looking nice-
I cut back my hyssop in the container planter somewhat- to tidy up the dry stem ends.
There's still plenty of bold blue flowers-
which fade pinkish-
Since it was making seed I gathered those- see next post.
and kept a bit of the dried flower heads as a little arrangement

24 November 2020

some recent eats

I was pleased the other day to use several garden ingredients for our dinner- tokyo bekana lightly sautéed in butter (here shown just-washed)
little garden carrots treated the same
chopped leeks tossed into sliced portabellas (my leeks were few and skinny this year but we're still eating 'em)-
all served over mashed potatoes (no I didn't grow the potatoes but I wish I had!)
Last night I did just as well, making a basic meat pie adding five things I grew: leeks again, a bit of baby kale, carrots, fresh sage and dried bay leaf. Wish I had a nice image of that, but we ate it all too quickly!

And in the morning, what might be a final mug of tea, made from this sprig of chocolate mint
It's still alive out there, but probably soon will succumb to the cold. The small pot of wild mint next to it looked dried and dormant last week, but sprouted a new leaf during the warm days after (camera refused to focus on the green, instead sharp on the leaf litter ha)

21 November 2020

flanking stone

below the outer edge of my garden bed walls, I like to see the cuban oregano or mock strawberry growing. That night of 26° killed the cuban oregano, but nice to see the mock strawberry still. On this edge it was near nothing in spring- I had stuck a few crown pieces in the ground spaced out hoping it would grow and look how well it's taken- filled in almost the entire length nicely.

20 November 2020

leaves and dirt

I ordered some more 'garden fencing' and had it delivered- it's four feet high 14-guage wire with dark green plastic coating. Used it to contain my leaf mulch pile which looks very imposing next to the bayberry shrub. I hope the neighbors don't find it an eyesore. It feels like garden riches, to me. 
Meanwhile the beds are even emptier- 
I took out the last wilted marigold plant today, spread the final portion of compost over the beds, and then layered with leaf mulch. Lettuces are the brightest green now 
Chard to the left of them- which look very few as we ate some recently in handmade tortillas
Using the compost I'd stored in the metal bin under the deck frees it up for making more- which I'm glad of when the weather is colder, wet or snowy in winter so I don't have to walk all the way across the yard. Plus my regular bin in the rear area is full up top now after all the cleanup I did this week. I layered the bottom of the newly-emptied metal bin with dry leaves and the marigold trimmings. It always amuses me to see little weeds sprouted and emerging from the air holes in the bin sides:
I smirk at them for a few days and then pull them out.

shifted salvia

Well today I dug and moved the black and blue salvia. Doesn't look like much, just some upright bare stems mostly- 
to the left of the steps (on the right is the cut back milkweed)
Now the lilac has its spot pretty much to itself- aside from two smaller salvias behind it still
I hope I judged its mature size accurately- it's nearly overlapping the stepping stone now
Nearby in that little strip alongside the driveway, one of the blanket flower seems to have died. The others have poufballs of seedheads.