31 January 2021

we have snow!

It's only about three inches so far, but still coming down. A few pics from the backyard- the turtlehead stems
and hydrangea, against the neighbor's red fence.
I like the fan of monarda and echinacea stems behind the main tree in the rear perennial bed, but it's hard to make out from the distance I took this photo (off the deck)
My bench, under snow. Just last night I was sitting on this, across from a fire! while my brother-in-law and niece visited with us in our backyard.
Lastly, here's a picture of that tree I found a freshly-cleared hole in. Still think it was a woodpecker, but if it's in residence, it hasn't emerged in half a day, as the hole is covered in snow. If it stays that way for days on end, I suppose that tells me nothing's living there. Or an animal that's hibernating. (In the righthand trunk, between the suckers)
I did not do a lot to protect plants against the cold this time. I heaped a bit of extra leaves over the lemon balm, cranesbills, 'autumn joy' sedums, joe pye weed, rue plant, black-and-blue salvia, st. john's wort and lovage. Also the front edge of ground under the lilac, where some of the ajuga got exposed. Probably they don't really need it, but I'd hate it if they died and I could have prevented that. Especially the newer ones.

For the first time I did not cover up the camellia, even though it has promising fat buds. At some point it has to just be able to survive the weather anyway. The hellebores have a few faintly purple buds that just showed up this week, all buried in snow now!

30 January 2021

in the window tank

This little shoot that came up against the front glass
looks like it must be off a runner of the crypt moehlmanii- it's got the same pale color and longitudinal veins. But it's so small compared to the size they usually come up as. Not sure why- because further from the light source? a less nutrient patch of substrate? 
Nearby for comparison- thickets of crypt becketti. Which I thought it also could be, but doesn't match.
Note: still have three white cloud fry in here! The biggest one I can now see red on the tail fin, and a bright blue streak horizontal in certain light. I tested the water last week to make sure the spot feedings of first bites wasn't affecting water quality and nope.

26 January 2021

in the basement window

down where it is cool, my overwintering plants feel spring coming. The figs have fat buds, the citrus geranium which has looked great all winter
has a few tiny new leaves
and the bay leaf plant also has a new shoot!
Going up very straight
I have not felt like doing any garden prep yet. Which is unlike me, usually so eager for spring. I need to make my garden map and plan for the year; the folder of notes and past years' maps is sitting there. I did receive my seed packets, and ordered soil-less seed starting mix online (because the garden centers and nurseries nearby are all out of stock). Today I started folding paper pots, just to have something to do. 
It was the first time I've been able to start folding pots for the season without looking back at the tutorial again. Finally remembered how.

22 January 2021

sculpit and nettles

Garden eats are pretty skimpy now. I picked this heaping lot of purple dead nettle from the yard- after washing and taking only the nicest leaves off the stems (without a lot of bug holes or slug evidence) it's only a fourth this amount. Also cut what little bit of swiss and leaf beet chard was still growing, and baby leaves of kale, made green tortillas with the combination.
Found that my kids like the nettles well enough cooked in a bit of olive oil until just starting to crisp, tossed over noodles as an extra among the other vegetables.

Earlier in the week I cut some sculpit to cook with onions and mix into cous cous. Found that some had made horizontal stems under the leaf mulch, with new shoots going up. I didn't know it would have this growth pattern. Nice to see that the plant will spread, so I won't need to sow more to expand my patch of it. Instead, I ought to remove the nepitella which I don't eat, and give this more room.

20 January 2021

round and square

Sold my bunches of subwassertang, so now I just have this little square jar next to the gallon and a half vase- It has all the little bits.  
Think I will try again, collecting the subwasser bits that inevitably get sucked into the bucket when I do water changes, grow them out instead of composting. The little jar also has ceramic media rings (in reserve to use for pegging down hornwort stems in the 55 when the rubber bands holding them onto stones finally break)
and baby ramshorn snails (when they get big enough to easily pluck out with tweezers, I drop them into one of the other tanks). Let's see how long I keep the small jar going this time.
Also, news from the 33L! There are still at least two white cloud minnow fry alive after all. I saw them yesterday, and today, very distinctly- one just large enough to start showing the blue streak. Attempting to spot-feed the first bites fry food powder again. Just a tad, sprinkled over where the fry are swimming, three or four times a day. Hard to see and find them among the hornwort, so no pics yet.

19 January 2021

violets and violets

Among the cups of violet leaf cuttings, I have been watching a wedge of dirt pushing up against an outer edge, for a whole week. Finally yesterday it emerged- tiny leaves of 'paprika'
Looks like it's starting off with two crowns!
Upstairs the mini one had a setback- its leaves withered. I think the adjustment was too rapid, so I covered it with plastic again. Trimmed off the dying leaves and a new one is sprouting again, so maybe it will be okay.
Next in the line of baby violets, my 'vintage lace' is getting a nice set of leaves, though pale.
Two older plants are budding- it will be nice to have flowers here again.

17 January 2021

55 better pics

The best I could do at a full tank shot right now- at an angle-
Looking down through the short end
The hornwort thicket
Looking down at the anubias on driftwood- can see the heater horizontal behind it
Java ferns. And behind them- I think that's the crypt retrospiralis
Buces in front of the giant val planter
Angel on the side that has the aquarium light
Miss Beautiful-

some things in the 33

I noticed a plant shoot coming up against the front glass- these pics three days apart. It looks like another crypt moehlmanii. I may soon have to actually thin out this plant for the first time.
The second-oldest crypt moehlmanii is sprouting a new leaf-
and the third, young one by the bolbitis driftwood is growing too, although its leaves remain a little smaller- probably because they get less light? I'm thinking of shifting the driftwood piece to give it a bit more room. Hard to see because still blends in with the anubias foliage.
I was pleased and surprised this week to notice a vallisneria that looked slightly different- growing off to the side of the small group, more towards the dwarf sag and the middle rear of the tank.
I do think it's the first of my jungle vals to grow off a runner since I planted this tank two and a half years ago.
This last thing is smallest- I found two tiny specks on the glass- 
It's an infant ramshorn snail
This other speck I thought was a limpet (maybe they came back since no paradise fish to eat them?)
but on closer focus I can just make out a spiral- another baby ramshorn!
No more minnow fry though. At the point of a week or two old when I can actually see them, they seem have a harder time finding enough food to eat even though I attempted giving them first bites. Or something else happened to them, but I haven't seen any in days now.

16 January 2021

55 setup

I bought an angle iron stand for my 55 and moved everything into it yesterday. (It's supposed to have slightly bent legs, that's so you can fit a second tank underneath which I am not going to do btw).
It was an all-day project. I started around 9am and was finally done moving the last fish after 3, but then there was a lot of cleanup and tidying to do afterwards. Phew! It was much easier than past tank moves I've done. Experience is finally paying off I suppose. I leveled the stand and filled the tank on thursday, but it was off by 1/8" so in the morning I drained it to about 12 gallons and adjusted the shims. Now only off by 1/16" in one direction, which is within tolerance. First thing to move in were the bunches of hornwort. And a few guppies which are not very wary, so I kept scooping them up with the gallon pitcher when taking water over! My goal was for most of the 55 to get refilled with water from the 45 tank, and I met that.

At half full, moved over the filters and heater. I had to cut the uplift tubes shorter. Sanded rough and sharp spots off the edges (from where I'd used the hacksaw) and dropped the removed pieces of tube in the background. Thought the kuhlis might like hiding in them. I have the heater low in the tank and horizontal this time, also bumped the temp up a degree and so far it seems to be keeping it very steady near 80 with more even distribution- the 45 often had cooler areas I'd notice when I put my hand in. (All the pics dim because no light on top yet, and excuse reflections)
Next the basket planter with the giant vals (thought it was 'rubra', although someone told me online that what I actually have is vallisneria americana, that the store mislabeled them)
Its leaves reach all the way across the four-foot tank
Then I moved over all the baskets with tall plants. Delighted to see that some of my other crypts and even the aponogeton are showing more growth (here's crypt balansae)
and the leopard vals have runners going off the basket edges (I clipped them and replanted into gaps)
Then the driftwood pieces with anubias
and smaller pieces with buces
I really thought the hardest part of everything would be catching the fishes- but it wasn't. I partly filled a large plastic bag, laid it on side in the bottom of the 45 (which at that point only had enough water to just clear the tip of Miss Beautiful's dorsal fin) and just coaxed her into a corner. Bagged, momentarily in a bucket:
I floated it for a bit to equalize temperature (had a small heater going in the 45 while I was rearranging plants, but still I think there was a temp difference). She was quite eager to get out.
Released! Hasn't acted stressed at all. Seems to feel quite at home.
I did have some misgivings she might startle from people appearing suddenly in the room from around the corner that goes to the front door- kind of a high-traffic area. But she hasn't. She startles sometimes but just moves easily away, no crashing into walls yet. I really think the extra foot of space is going to make a huge difference for her. I put all the hornwort stems thick on this short end to screen it for her
There she is- coming over to look at me- just left and behind the filter uplift tube.
A look down the short end to the vals
My light doesn't fit this tank- and I couldn't find the type I wanted at local store so I ordered one online. While I wait for it to arrive I have the LED over one half and a lamp by the other end just to keep the vals alive.
Full tank in dim ambient light. More pics tomorrow!
Oh, and the kuhlis came over last of all, when nothing was left in the 45 but some mulm. I just used two nets against the edges. All the extra bits of sponge, ceramic media in a mesh bag etc that I had lying hidden in the back of the tank, moved over too. I wanted this to be as low-stress an event for my angel as possible. And it worked- I didn't see any hint of ammonia or nitrite spike when tested water params this morning.