A post without pictures

Right, so my senior year of college, fall semester, I took an AmCiv course on American Bioregionalism. It was a literature-based foray into the ways that the geographical features of the United States shaped the religion, mindsets, and regional differences of the people who have lived here. We went from Puritans to Mormons, from Thoreau and the Transcendentalists to Edward Abbey. The professor was amazing, the course was extremely well put together, and it had a major impact on the way I think about ecology, identity, and activism. (The discussion about regional attitudes and the physical terrain are particularly interesting, by the way, now that I’ve left New England for the Pacific Northwest.) One of the most thought-provoking books was the Book of Yaak by Rick Bass. I recommend it highly. In addition to writing wonderful books, he also sends out a constant stream of letters to lawmakers, pleading for rational and sustainable environmental policies and for the preservation of corridors of wilderness. He is truly an advocate. It was after reading this book that I started regularly writing my lawmakers and papers about policies that matter to me.

I try not to veer into the political on this blog — I don’t have any relevant photos, and I feel like many others write well and effectively on the subject so there’s no need to add another voice to the debate. But, something comes along that’s easy to agree on, and it seems that this act is one of those. (See this and this if you want a bit of background, or this if you really enjoy reading Senate bills for yourself.) Take a look, and sign the petition, write your senator if you’re into that sort of thing, and then we can all go back to our fish and knitting. 🙂

Xenia status

Believe it or not, I planned to post knitting progress, but I woke up to dismal grey instead of the sunny brightness I’ve been becoming accustomed to, and decided that the photos wouldn’t turn out. (I’d also planned to post quilting progress, but didn’t make any, so that plan was also out the window.) That leaves only plants and the fishtank of the topics my posts seem to fall into, so, by process of elimination since I don’t have any interesting plant pictures, let’s see the fishtank Yay!

You may have seen this in the tang pictures from the weekend, but our xenia has been having issues. You may remember, from way back before we moved the tanks, that the xenia used to be a massively growing, medusa-like mess, to the point that we kept having to remove bits of it. Here’s a sample picture from September:

I loved our free spirited xenia. Well, we took the top glass off the tank (which dramatically increased the light), moved to the new tank, added some new corals, and changed our circulation, and since then the xenia’s been tiny and under control. It still pulses, but the seven inch arms have completely disappeared.

See what I mean? I have no idea which of the variables effected the change, but it’s hard not to miss the amazingness crawling off the rock and up the back wall.

And now, aside from its well-mannered smallness, it’s being pushed around by the bubble algae. As you can see in the far right, that thing started growing, then gradually separated the xenia from the rock until it reached this point, where it’s nearly two inches away. The xenia doesn’t seem to mind, but I always feel sort of precarious when I look at it.

Our other xenia is doing well. This picture has a blue cast from the lights, but it’s really a shell pink. I love how the feathered the hands look as they pulse.

We put the volunteer xenia (love that) and the last xenia frag down in the refugium. Apparently, they’re as talented at nutrient removal as all of our macroalgae. I’m hoping that with the lower light the xenia takes off like its wilder relatives. 🙂

And we have a presentable apartment again

Notice anything different?

The sump is set up, the sump/refugium circulation is flowing, the tang is in the main tank, and the green bin and the quarantine tank are broken down! There was one more trip to Lowe’s for a PVC piece to replace the soft pipe return from the sump to the refugium, since the soft pipe is very gurgly, but we’re actually in good shape tank-wise!

The tang, after an initial panic that lasted about fifteen minutes, and a shy period of a few hours, seems to be adjusting readily to the new home. He’s pretty freaked out by the shrimp, but seems to find the clowns captivating. They’re a bit less overt in their affections. (Kevin and I were thinking of ways to describe the relationship. Most apt seemed the krill in Finding Nemo: “Run away!”) The tang swims everywhere in the tank, which is new for us. The clowns are usually tied to the left third of the tank, venturing away every few months. The gramma also likes the rock on the left, and sleeps in a rock on the right side, but rarely visits the far right of the tank or lingers much while swimming between the two spots. The tang swims everywhere, even high above the rocks, but still seems a bit leery of the front glass.

Some pictures of his interactions with the clowns in the mid-afternoon (sorry about the daylight reflections off the glass):
Following them around and around the big rock…

… then around the back again…

… then a surprise visit from above after a quick food break for the tang.

By the evening, the tang was looking a lot calmer. He’s found his reflection in the glass on the far right side, so he spent a lot of the evening showing off for himself. The clowns also relaxed a bit and stopped swimming side by side.
The tang is showing a marked preference for Clack, though, and follows him about. Clack is letting him get a lot closer (an inch or two) before turning to flee, so they’re making progress. They’re both pretty amiable fish, so with luck they’ll be good company for each other and we won’t have a personality clash.

The clowns look even wrigglier than usual compared to the sleek and speedy tang.

The gramma, true to form, hasn’t made an appearance since the tang showed up… I’m hoping that they’re OK tomorrow while we’re at work. Fingers crossed.

The PVC progress

First of all, have you all seen the website of the people who decided to crochet a reef? How cool! It may even beat the endless procession of knitted food.

Since we’re already talking about reefs, perhaps you’d like a plumbing update? 🙂 The checkout woman at Lowe’s laughed and laughed when I showed up at her register and plunked down a single 78¢ piece of PVC. Clearly, she is not dealing with fishtank piping and still has her sense of humour.

After the last “fix” for the tank, which involved flexible tubing and dumped water all over the floor at an astounding rate until I could unplug the pump, I’ve been working on a rigid PVC solution. The problem, roughly, was that I had to find a way of moving water from a 1.125” hole in the bottom of our overflow box over 26” and down 5” to the 2”+ hole in the side of the sump I made, so that it could be skimmed and routed into the refugium. In theory, this really isn’t a hard problem except that PVC is the devil, and the options for elbows and bulkheads and slip versus threaded bushings mean that inevitably I got home with one missing piece and one unnecessary fitting. The most recent trip to Lowes was the (hopefully) final one in a series of nine. (PVC is cheap, and I’m reasonably smart, so the idea was that a DIY solution wouldn’t be too hard and would save a lot of money. Hard to say exactly where the logic went wrong, but this is the ultimate unending project.)

So the missing link, featured at left:

was incorporated into this tiny, simple PVC structure (both the part attached to the sump, and the part, partly obscured by the fan, sitting on the floor. These attach via a union, so that we can easily unhook the sump from the overflow if needed):

The whole thing is held together by the extremely noxious Purple Primer and PVC Cement. Hopefully they will live up to their rave reviews, and after having the rest of this week to dry the whole thing can have a trial run on the tank on Saturday. At this point, I’m feeling quite successful, because all of the parts fit together. Keep your fingers crossed that the measurements were spot-on and that all goes as hoped. It’s so close…

This picture may give you a sense of why I feel that this whole project is unending. The main tank and refugium are in the foreground (the sump will go on top of the cabinet at right when it’s hooked up), the huge green tub holding the temporary sump is on the floor in the midground, and our quarantine tank with the tang is on the kitchen counter.

It’s an awful lot of tanks and accessories and it’s looked like this for a good six months — time to condense it all a bit! (I also have hopes that the new system will cut down on noise a bit, but at this point I’m willing to settle for something that just does the job without leaking.)

A new season

Spring is *definitely* here. The weather isn’t much warmer, and we’ve had flowers up for ages, but the piece that finally tipped the balance in my mind is the lovely light. Sunset isn’t until after eight! On Monday night, after the first day of Kevin’s new job (yay!!), we went out for a walk/jog on the hills, then came home and grilled for the first time this year:

(Love that facial expression: “Ahh, lighter fluid. All is right with the world.”)

While we were waiting for the grill to heat and the flames to subside, I was delighted to find a bud on my chives!

This is the poor plant that was infested with aphids last summer, and got relegated to outdoors, then stayed there looking dead all winter. In the last few weeks, it’s been growing hard, and now it looks like it may flower! I know that chives sport purple flowers, but I’ve never seen them. Very cool.

We Caught One!

Last night, after checking with Fenner, Kevin set up a trap to try to catch our disaster crab. I’ve been holding onto a potentially useful small glass jar that originally held dill. Once the main lights went out, he leaned it up against the rock he thought the crab was in, along with a cube of Formula 1 (frozen fish food), and we settled in to watch.

It took the shrimp about one minute to get in the jar.

Once he started eating, a parade of hermit crabs was close behind. We watched for another half hour, with only brief glimpses of the hairy crab legs in the rock, then went to bed. I predicted that we would catch three hermit crabs and no big crab.

This morning, we came down to find a jar full of crabs. Three hermit crabs (as predicted) and one hairy crab. Wow. (I really wasn’t expecting it to work.) You can see him here, sitting in tupperware on top of our fish log (hence the sparkly fish sticker):

Lest you think counting isn’t my forte, we’d removed one of the hermit crabs already, since he was getting beat up by the hairy crab. Neither of us is even remotely sure that this crab is the one we’ve been seeing. He looks littler that expected (Measured against our college-ruled note paper, he looks to be about 1¼” long.), though that may be a result of overactive imaginations and rarely seeing the entire crab at once. Or, given that we’ve already pulled out three of these guys, he may just be a smaller crab and our big one is at large. Kevin will reset the trap tonight, and until we figure out what to do with the crab, he’ll be hanging out in our refugium.

Does anyone know anything about crab reproductive cycles? As long as he can’t breed without another crab physically in the same compartment, I don’t mind if he stays down there indefinitely. But since the refugium water will be shared with the tank water, if there’s any chance that the crab could breed over distance with a still-hidden crab in the main tank, then he’ll have to go. Does anyone have any opinions or facts to share on the matter? He’s incredibly creepy, but my basic instinct is to let him live.

A glimpse of the Clapotis

It’s been eons since I posted any knitting pictures. Proving yet again that my knitting will never set any land speed records, I’m just past the fourth dropped row of my clapotis. I really have been trying to post about it for the last two weeks, but I keep taking photos at night with a flash, and the yarn’s gorgeous colors just aren’t coming through. So I mean to take a picture in the morning, and one thing and another, and instead the tang or the plants get top billing that day. We had some serious sun coming in the windows this morning, though, so I finally got a good picture of the colors.

I’m about 75% sold on the colors used. I love the sky blue, medium blue and various greens. There’s a lavender/grey which I find lovely, even though I don’t think it entirely fits with the other colors. And then there’s a purple/brown which is striking, but I think the blend would be much prettier without. The name of the color mix is Green Mountain Madness, and when I keep the name in mind I love the shades because they remind me of New Hampshire, up at the lake. But without the words as a narrative, I’m not as enamored. (I also have a serious peeve. They missed a bunch of spots while they were dying the skein, so there are bright white undyed splotches in the yarn. I’m trying to pretend that they’re the “clouds”, but really, it’s just incompletely dyed. Grr. The yarn was expensive and 99% of it is so vibrant. I wish their attention to detail was a little stronger. You can see one of the bars at the top is that bright white.

It’s very aggravating.)

Dropping the stitches is definitely motivating, and I can see why people are so compelled by this pattern. It takes a long time to work the dropped stitch down, as the wool catches. I wonder if that’s exacerbated by having the purl stitch instead of using stitch markers? In any case, the colors really shine on those dropped stitches, and it breaks up the dark brown/purple color blocks nicely.

Love that silk – so shiny!

Disaster Crab

The tang is getting a “bonus week” in quarantine while we figure out how to remove our hitchhiker crab from the main tank. You may remember the hairy crab we pulled out a while ago? And how there was another still in the tank? Well, we finally saw the one that’s left out of the rocks last night, and he’s grown a lot. I’m completely creeped out by him, as he’s now a solid three inches wide (that’s bigger than our fish), and very fast. In a slip of the toungue the other day I called him a hijacker (instead of a hitchhiker) – Kevin laughed at me but we both decided the more ominous meaning was actually more accurate. So far he’s shy in daylight and scared of the fish, but he’s big enough to shift the (10 to 15 lb!) rocks as he feeds (I saw him do it when I was watching with a flashlight last night) and there’s no guarantee that his diet doesn’t include corals, so it’s definitely time for him to go. Unfortunately, he may be more difficult to convince, and so far we’re lacking a strategy for how to get rid of him. Until we have a plan, the tang is staying put.

Luckily, he seems pretty happy where he is. The quarantine tank has recently bloomed in florescent green algae, and there’s a good bit of bright red and purple coralline algae in front of the pumps.

(The color in this photo isn’t distorted. It’s amazing.) We can’t tell if the tang is nibbling on any of it, but he’s clearly well fed and fat with Nori. He’s grown a lot already, and is pretty rambunctious. We need to get that crab out so that we can let him in with the gramma and the clowns! I think he’d be a lot happier with the interaction.

The herbs keep growing

Since it continues to delight me, here’s another post on my office garden. I replanted all of the starter peat things in the pots, and the plants have been taking off. One of my co-workers unraveled a mystery to me. The first two leaves in the balm lemon, mint, and basil looked nearly identical, and none of them looked like the grown plants. It turns out the first two leaves are the seed leaves, or cotyledons, which provide energy until the real leaves grow in enough to start photosynthesizing on their own, at which point they wither away.

You can see them, along with the more-formed real leaves, on the dill and the basil:

and on the balm lemon:

and if the mint was not so miniscule, you’d be able to see them on that as well:

The mint is amazingly tiny, even though it’s been growing as long as the rest. I have to assume, having tried to remove it from pots before, that these pipsqueaks of plants are already accompanied by a huge and growing root structure. I’ve been tempted to go digging to try to find out, but so far I’m being good and letting them live rather than satisfying my curiosity.

No cotyledons on the chives, but they’re going strong, and when I planted a few more seeds they sprang up very quickly:

The first lavender seeds never took, but I planted a few after the first pictures, and those came up within the week. It then took a good five days for me to realize that I must have grabbed the wrong packet because this “lavender” actually looks suspiciously like chives. I kept waiting for it to just grow leaves.

It’s sort of odd — every new sprout has the seed held aloft. I have to assume that the roots are growing underneath the soil and the seed shell got shed and pushed above ground. It’s sort of tempting to pull them out and replant them the other way. (You can see the seedpod silhouetted against the style guide that I printed out and put under contact paper so that I would have it at hand instead of opening the website thirty times a day. I’m finally learning it, and there’s something about it and the contact paper that satisfies the Type A part of my brain.)

A quilting sky

The Olympics were amazing on the drive home on Friday, to the point that even though I had ice cream and milk in the trunk, I had to take a detour up to the nearest hill and stop for pictures (Which of course didn’t do the scene justice, but I tried.). It’s rare that you can see so much depth in the mountains. It didn’t completely come out in the picture, but there were about seven visible layers of hills in front. It looked like a watercolor, with a thick purple line at the top of the mountain, which bled down into a hazy violet that the next closest mountain contrasted against.

Between the purple mountains and the gold sky above them (the colors, incidentally, that I’m trying for in my quilt), it was worth a bit of melting.