Pond maintenance

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See my goldfish? Six for a dollar. Comets, man. You can’t beat ’em.

Today was warm enough that I finally had a chance to clean out the pond. It desperately needed it; that cold snap we had a few weeks ago came on so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to rescue the floating plants, so I ended up with a thick layer of decaying vegetation floating on top of the pond. Yecch.

I’d been planning to wait until spring to change the water, but once I’d scooped out most of the dead plants, I could see how nasty it was, and I was a little concerned the decaying organic material would compromise the oxygen level in the water — endangering the goldfish — if I left it all winter, especially when it gets cold enough to warrant shutting off the pump, so I went ahead and swapped out about 30 gallons of water, which Ron poured onto the garden.

I also hosed off the top of my homemade filter, which had gotten clogged with roots from the dead plants, and used a quarter-inch drill bit to enlarge the holes, which instantly improved the flow rate on the pump.

Water lettuce and water hyacinths are pretty, and they definitely kept the algae down this year, but those long roots kept clogging the fountain this summer, and I suspect they were responsible for its premature demise. I’ll swap them for duckweed next spring. It’s just as good at preventing algae bloom, but its roots are shorter and less likely to clog up the equipment.

I am pleased to report that my goldfish are thriving. I found the body of one very small fish caught in the roots of a rotting hyacinth, but I couldn’t determine the cause of death; it might have frozen, but given its size in relation to the other fish, I suspect it simply succumbed to the law of natural selection. The dead fish was only two inches long, and the three survivors are all four or five inches long, so I’m guessing they just out-competed the little one.

BTW, there is no need to spend ridiculous money on fancy goldfish for your pond unless you just have your heart set on a particular breed. Koi are fine as far as they go, but they’re expensive ($12 to $150 or more) and require more space and better water conditions than plain old feeder goldfish — a.k.a. comets — which are cheaper (25 cents or less), tougher (I’m pretty sure these guys could thrive in a mud puddle), and IMHO, just as pretty as their fancier counterparts. They’re just as smart, too; I’ve heard koi owners brag about how their fish come right up to the edge of the pond to greet them when they come outside, as if that’s some amazing feat of intelligence. I’ve kept comets on and off for years, and I’ve yet to see one that wouldn’t swim to the surface and beg when it saw me walk outside. These guys know a gravy train when they see one.

Bonus: Because comet goldfish are marketed as food for larger species, when you buy one to live in your pond, you’re saving a life.

Yeah. Comets. Getchu some.

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I love it when the water is clear. The pump is aerating the pond nicely, as you can see from the bubbles.

One happy side effect of getting the flow rate up on the pump is that it’s aerating the water better. The fish spent a lot of time playing in the ripples near the surface this afternoon, so I’m assuming they liked it, too.

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Don’t forget to install artificial landing strips for pollinators when vegetation is scarce. Wine corks are ideal for this purpose.

The bees — who were very active today, thanks to the warm weather — were none too pleased with me for messing with their water source and taking away their landing strips, but I’ve been saving wine corks to serve as replacement perches, and I threw a few out there today.

In other news, the quail have quit laying. I could use artificial lights to get them going again, but the whole point of raising my own birds was to ensure they weren’t subjected to the kind of evil crap that goes on in factory farms, so I’ll just trust Mother Nature and let them set their own schedule. If they need the winter off, they can have it.

Hope you had a productive Sunday, wherever you are. I think I’m going to wind mine down by bottling some pinon-infused beer we started a couple of weeks ago and racking a batch of cider. (Homemade hard cider will be an Eco-Saturday one of these days if I ever remember to take pictures of all the steps. It’s a little time-consuming but very easy to make, and the end product is magnificent.)

Emily

Eco-Saturday: DIY pond filter

The motor in my pond’s all-in-one pump and filter burned up a few weeks ago, as motors are wont to do. Rather than spend $120 to replace the whole unit, I decided to install separate components this time around so I’ll be able to replace individual parts as they wear out.

After some online research, I decided I could make a biofilter a lot cheaper than I could buy one. Here’s what I came up with for our pond, which has a capacity somewhere around 50 gallons. A bigger pond obviously will require a bigger bucket and more pot scratchers and Scotch-Brite pads.

Materials:
1-gallon tub with a lid (I used an empty ice-cream bucket)
10″ long PVC pipe, threaded at both ends (in plumber parlance, these are called “nipples”; you’ll want to take your pump along to the hardware store to make sure the nipple you buy is the correct diameter to fit)
Teflon tape
12 plastic pot scratchers
6 Scotch-Brite pads
Pond or fountain pump

Tools:
Drill
Hole-saw bit the same diameter as your PVC pipe
Good-sized drill bit (at least 1/4 inch)
Utility knife and/or sharp, heavy scissors

step2

Start by preparing the bucket lid. Cut a hole in the center of the lid to accommodate the pipe, drill holes all over the lid, and cut a notch at the edge of the lid to accommodate the cord on the pump. (Note: The holes you see above are much too small. I used a 1/8-inch drill bit, thinking it would be sufficient, but the holes clogged quickly, dragging down the flow and putting unnecessary strain on the motor. The pump and filter functioned much better when I enlarged the holes to about 1/4 inch.)

step3

Wrap one end of the nipple with Teflon tape and screw it into the pump.

step4

Slide the free end of the nipple through the hole in the lid.

step5

Set the pump in the center of the bucket and tuck the pot scratchers and Scotch-Brite pads around it. These materials will serve as a medium for growing the good bacteria your pond needs to break down organic material and keep the water clear.

step7

Snap the lid onto the bucket, running the cord out through the notch you cut.

step8

Set the pump in the bottom of your pond, holding it down if necessary for a minute or two to let it fill with water so it doesn’t float back up to the top. Plug in the pump and watch the clear water come out the top. (Note: You may need to adjust the flow rate on the pump to control the height of the spray.)

If you have a yard, and you don’t have a pond yet, I highly recommend building one next spring. Our bees love ours, as do the local toads, who bred out there all summer.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Sushi

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to make vegetarian sushi. That’s because — also contrary to popular belief — the word sushi refers to the rice preparation technique, not the other ingredients. Pieces of raw tuna or salmon artfully arranged on a plate are delicious, but they are not sushi. They are sashimi. If you don’t have rice flavored with rice vinegar, you don’t have sushi.

With that in mind, here’s how to make a fantastic lunch.

Ingredients
1 1/2 c. sushi rice, cooked
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
3 nori sheets, toasted (available from the health-food store; do yourself a favor and buy the pre-toasted kind so you don’t have to toast it yourself)
Mild-flavored vegetables such as avocado, cucumber or carrots
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger
Wasabi

You’ll also need a sushi mat, available for about $5 at most health-food stores and Asian groceries. (Aluminum foil will work in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it, especially if you’re not used to working with sushi.)

Stir the sugar and vinegar into the rice and refrigerate it for an hour or so.  If you’re not great at making rice, get yourself an automatic rice cooker; they cost about $20 at most big retailers and will save you a lot of time and effort.

After the rice cools, cut your vegetables into thin strips.

Lay a toasted nori sheet on the sushi mat. Place about a third of the rice on the end of the sheet closest to you and use the back of a spoon to spread it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.
Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.

Make an indentation in the middle of the rice and lay vegetable strips in the indentation.

Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.
Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the nori sheet up around the filling as tightly as possible, rolling the mat with it as needed to keep everything together.

The roll should look something like this.
The roll should look something like this.

Unroll the mat. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and use them to moisten the loose edge of the nori, smoothing it down against the roll.

Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.
Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into slices.

Arrange the slices on a plate. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. (Pickled ginger and wasabi both should be available from most grocery stores.)

Makes three rolls.

Munchkin Tuesday: Dancing Raisins

Anybody else remember these? I had completely forgotten why Hardee’s had the Dancing Raisins, but I definitely remember stopping on my way home from school to spend part of my allowance on one in junior high.

I have no idea what happened to that thing. Which is a shame, because it would look awesome glued to my dashboard.

Also: Claymation > all other animation.

Emily

What a drunk-dialer revealed

A few years ago, I got an unexpected phone call from a stranger who used such a familiar tone and had such a common name that it took me a minute to realize he wasn’t any of a dozen casual acquaintances who might have my number.

The conversation went like this:

ME: Hello?
DRUNK DIALER: Happy Memorial Day!
ME: Um … happy Memorial Day?
DD: Huh-huh. Do you know who this is?
ME: No, can’t say as I do.
DD: Huh-huh. This is John. Huh-huh.
ME: John who?
DD: Huh-huh. You don’t know who this is?
ME: No, I really don’t. John who?
DD: Huh-huh. You mean, you talk to ALL these guys, that you’d know all these guys named John?
ME: I know a lot of people named John, but I’m pretty sure you’re not one of them. I think you have the wrong number.
DD: Oh, you know me.
ME: Really. Well, if I know you, then how did we meet?
DD: It was the other night. I think it was at a bar.
ME: I haven’t set foot in a bar in six years. You have the wrong number.

I hang up. Not five minutes later, Drunk Dialer calls back.

DD: So you really don’t know me?
ME: No, and I don’t want to.
DD: I know you know me. We were drinking, and —
ME: No. We were not drinking, because I don’t drink. I’m sorry, but you have the wrong number.
DD: Huh-huh. Are you bisexual?
ME: No. I am happily married, my husband is bigger than you, and if you call this number again, he’s going to kick your ass. *Click*

At the time, the conversation struck me as being a harmless annoyance. But in thinking about it now — in the context of national discussions about serial rapists, street harassers and mass shooters — I find it unsettling, because it’s full of red flags that reveal the same kind of self-entitled, women-owe-me-attention mindset that motivates the Elliot Rodgers of the world.

Let’s look at those red flags:

1. “You mean, you talk to ALL these guys?” How sexist do you have to be to expect me to justify my relationships to you, random caller?

2. “Oh, you know me.” If you’re so certain I know you but am pretending I don’t, that should be a pretty good clue that I don’t want to talk to you — so back off.

3. The second call. If a woman hangs up after repeatedly explaining you have the wrong number, there is absolutely no legitimate reason to call again.

4. “Are you bisexual?” Based on this question, I’m guessing a woman told him she was a lesbian so he’d go away, and when that didn’t work, she gave him a fake number. “I’m a lesbian” means “Leave me alone,” not “Keep trying.”

5. Stopping only after I mentioned my husband. Drunk Dialer didn’t respect a woman in a bar who did not want to talk to him. He didn’t respect a woman on the telephone who did not want to talk to him. The only thing he respected was the threat of a physical confrontation with another man.

Women should not have to justify our friendships, argue, lie about our sexual orientation, give out fake telephone numbers, or issue threats to deflect unwanted attention. We shouldn’t even have to say “No, thank you.”

If I’m busy or you seem weird, I’m probably not going to acknowledge you at all. And that’s OK. You are not entitled to a woman’s attention simply because you want it. Please keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

Emily