Snails

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Wadly’s got at least one snail in his tank.  I was thrilled to be able to take a pic.  Between the new biofilter and keeping the algae in control, we can see to the bottom easily.

Last time we drained and cleaned there was a big and a little but we didn’t do a complete clean, so there’s no saying how many there really are.  I can see an empty and broken shell on the bottom of the tank.

The population growth for these guys is blessedly slow (I think the fish snack on ’em) so my greenery is safe.   I see an occasional path through the algae on the sides of the tank, so I know they’re around.  It’s rare to get a glimpse of one.

Happy hoya bumble

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I have a hoya that blooms prolifically every summer.  Wadly’s pretty sensitive to the perfume the hoya releases as an attractant.  It’s a moth pollinator so it’s a “smell good at night” plant.  I’ve got to admit, the volume of scent it produces is significant and when there are more than a one or two blossoms going at once, it can run us right out of the house.  The plant easily puts out a dozen or more blossoms at a time.

Rather than trim the blossoms off when they get to the strongly scented point, we moved the plant out for the summer.

I have an awning with translucent fiberglass wiggle board roof over one of our outside doors.  Wadly mounted old refrigerator grates high up in the awning and we spread the hoya out there for the summer.  The bumble bees are VERY happy, especially when they can get to the hoya before it sucks in all its droplets of sweetly scented nectar for the day.

This particular bumble is really big, twice the size of the biggest bumbles I’ve seen so far.  The hoya is on its second run of blossoms for the summer and the count is an even dozen.  The bumbles have a nest inside the front of the Airstream.  We can see them come and go.  My grapes were almost exclusively pollinated by bumbles this year so I know I’ve got a good hive in there.

Vertical garden update

Plant wall August 24, 2009
Plant wall August 24, 2009 - seeded vining black eyed susan and coleus both visible.

In my rushing to and fro I’ve stopped for a few seconds to take a picture of my grow wall.  I didn’t take the time to move the other plants away, just snapped the pic as it was, with a bit of the left side blocked by other stuff.  I’ve tried to frame the shot so you can see the stuff at the top and the stuff trailing off the bottom.  There isn’t much of the backing felt visible anymore.  It won’t be much longer and you won’t be able to see it at all.

I can see it’s time to add more water to the fish bucket.  There are five small goldfish in the green catch-and-feed bucket.  I need to top it up with water about once a week.  I try and catch it when I’m watering the garden.  I pop the hose through the sliding glass door and top up the bucket.  I feed the fish small pellet koi food twice a day.

Plant wall on April 16, 2009
Plant wall on April 16, 2009

Just so you have good comparison without hopping around looking, here’s where we started in April.  Look at the weeny plants and all the backing felt showing!

Progress 5

I'm still short some blue and orange blocks.
I’m still short some blue and orange blocks to finish the connection between the orange to the blue.  I need a whole row of blue plus three blocks and most of a whole row of orange.

Sadly, I’ve been making progress slowly.  It seems that every time I turn around I have something else I have to do.  I want to have this done (including quilted and bound) by October so I have to keep pushing.

Yesterday I sewed the pink stripe in and I have the red stripe ready to sew.   I want to take a second and share the technique.  It’s way faster than hand sewing and as accurate.

Here are the easy steps to this technique.

Wadly’s Biofilter

Wadly's fish (click to enlarge)
Some of Wadly's fish (click to enlarge)

Terry (aka Wadly) has a beautiful tank of fish (too many fish for the tank, but I won’t say anything if you don’t say anything) which needed a better filter. The filter I was replacing was a cobbled together job of  filter material wrapped around the pump and held in place by a piece of support hose. This assembly needed hosed off a couple times a day to keep the pump pumping and the algae in control.  Having to hose it off a couple times a day, more when it was really sunny, sucked.  I always managed to get my feet damp.  Ugh.  This filter was SO not working for me, the one who stayed home and hosed it off.  Ugh.

By now you should know me well enough to know I like to plan smarter, not work harder.  I like to automate everything I can. So, biofilter here we come.

My friend Mindy has a biofilter which consists of two sizes of rock (small drain and pea gravel) layered in a vessel under a layer of filter medium.  The tank water is pumped into the bottom and rises through the drain rock and pea gravel.  Anything needing filtered is trapped in the gravel below the filter medium and the filtered water is returned to the tank via two frog fountains.  Cute.  She has a spigot plumbed into the bottom of the vessel to drain the sludge when the filter becomes plugged.  Cute AND functional.

Biofilter (click to enlarge).
Biofilter (click to enlarge).

But my problem is a bit different.  I have to filter AND I need to moderate some of the tank’s nitrates.  I have enough nitrifying bacteria to do the conversion from ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, I just need more plants to consume the nitrate.  Wadly doesn’t want more plants in his tank.  He wants to be able to see his fish.  And he won’t let me add a grow bed (what a Scrooge), so an open topped biofilter was the next best answer.

If you enlarge the photo, you’ll see how I handled the problem of roots plugging the overflow.  I cut the top and bottom off an Aquafina bottle, drilled a hole in the side to attach it to the bulkhead fitting using an additional rubber washer.  This works really well.  The roots can get into the outflow screen but aren’t long enough to get into the bulkhead fitting and plug it . . . yet.  I should have left the bottom on the bottle and drilled big holes in the bottom or used a larger bottle or both. I’ll keep playing with this until I get it just right.

My test biofilter  isn’t very pretty, but that will come.

I got two foam half-barrels from Rite Aid for $10 each at an end of season sale.  I think that’s a heck of a buy as they are regularly $39.95 each. I will use one for the *pretty* biofilter container.  The foam is too thick to use one of the neat rubber bulkhead fittings for attaching the pump.  I either have to buy a different kind of bulkhead fitting for that bit or glue the fitting into the drilled hole using eaquarium sealer.  I’m voting on the aquarium sealer.

So here’s the interesting bit.  I don’t have any gravel or filter medium in this biofilter yet.  The plants roots are trapping the particulate matter as the water is pumped through.  I don’t know if this is a sound long term solution but for now it’s working and working well.  I’ve already had two plants in the biofilter bloom, so they’re liking the nutrient flow.  One of the water hyacinths put on a showy display and one of the duck weeds blooms a tiny little white spiky flower.  I didn’t know those suckers bloomed!

Mommy! Mommy!

Can we eat it?  (click to enlarge)
Can we eat it? (click to enlarge)

This spring we had a hen who hatched out one chick and left the nest with said chick leaving the rest of the as yet unhatched chicks to fend for themselves.  Around here we call this the not-a-great-new-mom thing.  When we found the nest, five more of the chicks had hatched.  We collected up the chicks and proceeded to hand-raise them.  We ended with three of the five surviving.

Now, any time we go out in the yard, we are Mommy! Mommy!ed.  They follow me around when I water the garden.  They show up when I go out to do laundry, feed fish, walk to the car . . . if we’re out there, they’re pretty much super-glued to us.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s even amusing, but trying to take a picture of something in the sunshine can be a bit problematic.

Shoe pattern

Inside of foot
Inside of foot (click to enlarge)

I’ve settled on a shoe design for my first solo attempt at shoe making.  I’ve got the lace-up bit set to the inside of my foot as my instep is so high lacing over it is uncomfortable.  I don’t want the lacing to the outside because they invariable provide an opening for moisture and they’re more difficult to lace.

Outside of foot
Outside of foot (click to enlarge)

I’m still short some barge cement and some buckram.  I also need a skiving knife, though I can use what I’ve got for skiving for now.  I need a good honing stone.  I can pick one of those up in town.  I’d like some thermoplastic for the toe box . . . don’t know if that’s possible.

I have three pair of wooden lasts on the way I’m hoping to be able to alter to fit me.

The pattern mockup
The pattern mockup (click to enlarge) I like this pattern really well. You can see I've already made one adjustment to the pattern (pin). And I've got the lace opening moved to least sensitive the spot on my instep.

I’ve got enough leather for all the pattern pieces.  I got a box of heavy chrome tanned leather remnants for soling from a place back east that makes motorcycle bags.  All the pieces are big enough to be usable for soles or heel counters, which is great and the price was excellent.  I’ve got a mess of different types of softer leather from our local glove factory for the upper pattern pieces.  I have a good selection of undyed and dyed.

We’ll see how it goes.

Progress 4

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I’ve got the orange blocks together and up on the wall in roughly the arrangement they belong in.  Next step is to sew the blocks together in the correct relationship, then cut and piece the adjoining colors.

LouAnn stopped by last week and got to see the work in progress for the first time.  She is loving it, so I know I’m on the right track.

I’ve got two more rows of blue/purple blocks to make one for the very top and one for just above the top orange stripe.  Once I get the orange blocks sewn together I’ll get the blue/purple blocks done.

New feathers for my chimes

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

I’ve been trying to remember to look at Goodwill for something copper I could beat the heck out of to make a good feather for my wind chimes.  I wasn’t happy with the performance of the wood feathers I’d made.  They were too light to give the chime a loud enough sound unless I weighted them down with something metal.  Because the chimes are copper pipe, it seemed only fitting to try and find something in the same metal to get the right weight for the size of the chime.

Yesterday LouAnn and I made a Goodwill run.  LouAnn spotted two sizes of pressed copper saucer (made in Italy) that are perfect!  They are a matching set, exactly what I needed.  Now my chimes are making noise with an Italian flare.

I’m still looking for a new feather for my bell chimes.  I haven’t found the right thing yet.  I need something as big as the large saucer but a bit lighter, and hopefully as unique as the Italian copper saucers.

In the same trip we found a pewter candle holder for LouAnn’s chimes.    I’m closer to getting LouAnn’s chimes put back together.  I’ve got the hanger cut out, I just need to unbury the router table and get her new hanger bullnosed.  I also need to cut a bigger hammer for my short chimes.

All things in good time.