Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The oldest four panda cory fry are eight days old now, and they are really starting to act "cory-like." They scoot across the bottom and up the sides, nose around on the bottom of the tank and investigate the rock and plant with their barbels, and best of all- I actually saw them eating the microworms this morning!

This batch (in the 1-gallon tank) look much happier than the last batch (in the little tub floating in the main tank). They have darker pigment, are bigger, and are much more active.

Go fry go!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Panda cory fry, seven days old.

I couldn't decide which picture to put in, so you get both. As always, click to get the full effect. The first one shows the shape of the tail end of the finfold really well. The oldest four are starting to get some pigment in the tail region, and what looks like the beginnings of rays.

And the second shows his cute little forked barbels really well.

We went camping this weekend, and were gone two nights. I thought about these little guys the whole time, though I tried not to worry about it too much. I did a water change before we left, and gave them a good feeding of microworms (though not too much, so the water wouldn't foul).

I was also worried they would get too hot or cold, because the weather has been so changeable this week. I've been leaving the light on during the day, then turning it out at 9:00 or so at night and covering the tank with a blanket for insulation. This has been keeping it right around 68-70F, but I didn't want to leave the blanket on all the time, in case it got up in the 80's again during the day. But it's also been getting down into the 50's at night, so they probably needed some sort of insulation. I compromised by leaving the light off while we were gone, putting the blanket just around the back of the tank, and leaving a back bedroom window slightly open (the tank is in the dining room) and all the shades closed.

As it turned out, we had a cold night last night, down to 38F (31 where we were camping in the mountains) . The indoor temp of our house went down to 55F! And the tank was at 56F when we got home at noon today! Yikes! Luckily, these guys seem to be fairly tolerant of low temperatures, and they were all still swimming. I immediately did a 30% water change with ~62F water (so as not to shock them too much), and turned the light on. Now, six hours later, they're back up to 68F, and still swimming, and don't seem any worse for the wear. All in all, I'm glad the temp went too low, rather than too high.

All the eggs in this batch have now hatched, six in total. (The sixth hatched sometime this weekend.) I'm not sure what happened to the seventh egg- it disappeared during the transfer from the little tub to the new tank.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Panda cory fry, four days old.

Definitely click and enlarge this picture- they're so cute. They have itty-bitty little barbels! The pectoral fins are visible, but their other fins won't differentiate for a month yet. They still just have a single continuous "fin" (actually called the finfold) across the top, around the tail, and back across the bottom. It looks like a hazy halo around the tail.

I started feeding them microworms yesterday, three days post hatching, because the yolk sacs seemed mostly absorbed. I think they may still have a bit of yolk left, the greeny-brown mottled bump at the base of the tail, though that's also the position of the stomach and it's possible that they are already eating the microworms.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I got an email yesterday from Cathy, asking for my feelings on plying with a Schacht wheel. I haven't spun in a while, not since the red Romney, so I was inspired to pull out the wheel. After all, if I'm going to give my thoughts on plying, I really should do some plying so my thoughts are current, right?!

I browsed my fiber closet, and ended up going with the newest addition:

This is a lovely little bundle of fiber that I won for being the 2000th page viewer over at Panda Bonzai. Not sure how I managed to be there at exactly the right moment, but the prize is lovely! I'm pretty sure it's merino (mmmm, soft), and is dyed a beautiful mottled sapphire blue.

I spun the first half before lunch:

and the second after lunch. I plied it after dinner, washed it, and it dried overnight. Voila!

This is 3.0 oz, 365 yards, and it poofed out to 10 wpi after washing. Super soft, squishy, and lovely. It was a joy to spin. Now I just need to figure out something to make with it. The yarn will stripe, so I'm thinking a triangular shawl, knit from the center neck out so the stripes will make chevrons (or partial chevrons).

As for my thoughts on plying with the Schacht, Cathy was specifically asking about the soft takeup when plying. Here are the paraphrased questions and my responses, for my own reference in the future and for anyone else who cares to read them:

Double drive or Scotch tension? Single treadle or double?
I leave my Schacht set up for scotch tension all the time because I feel like I have much more control that way. I have a single-treadle wheel.

What whorl/ratio do you use to ply? Favorite whorl?
As far as what whorl I use to ply, it's nearly always the same one I used to spin the singles. I get a balanced ply by drafting farther than I drafted when I spun the singles. Does that make sense? Like if I drafted 1"/treadle for the singles, I'd draft (or whatever it's called when you're plying) out 3"/2 treadles when I ply. That way the ply gets slightly less twist than the single. I'm not rigid about the measurements, though I do count treadles. I just get into a rhythm and the counting becomes pretty much unconscious. Of course, it all depends on the yarn. Some yarn gets less singles twist and more ply twist, some gets low twist in both, etc. I don't have one favorite whorl, though I tend to like the smaller ones because I like to spin fine. It just depends on what yarn I want to spin. I rarely use the whorls larger than 11:1, for singles or plying.

Are you happy with your plying, or do you ever have to re-ply?
I'm usually happy without re-plying. The exception is super-fine laceweight (40+ wpi), just because it takes SO MUCH TWIST. Those I sometimes underply the first time through. I've found it helps to put in slightly more twist than your self-plied-singles-sample says you need, because the act of winding onto the bobbin removes a bit of twist. If it looks very slightly overplied right before the orifice, it's likely that it will look just right when it gets to the bobbin.

Do you have a problem with soft takeup?
The soft takeup. It's a problem, but I have noticed that it's much more of a problem for thicker yarn. Plying thinner than about 15 wpi, I usually have no problem. It also helps a lot to put the brake band around the larger end of the bobbin. I sometimes use the smaller end when I'm spinning fine singles, for the specific reason that it gives a softer takeup (less friction). By using the larger end, and a grabby brake band, the soft takeup is greatly alleviated. I do change brake bands depending on what I'm spinning. Various weights of crochet threads make good brakes, and the right brake can make a world of difference, both for increasing and decreasing the takeup.

I love my Schacht, but I've not tried a huge variety of wheels. I think it's a very versatile machine, but it does have that takeup problem with thicker yarns.

This yarn, though had absolutely no problems.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

With all the excitement over the panda cory babies around here lately, the grownups have been feeling left out. Well, obviously not too left out, since they keep making eggs....

Anyway, here's a shot of one of the males. He finally sat still enough to get a good picture. These little guys move fast, and hardly ever stop!

Corydoras panda

Aren't they just the cutest? They're so fun to watch. I'd love to get a bigger tank so I could have a large school of them.

I have three right now (one female/two males), which is the minimum size group they should be kept in. They are sociable little critters, and like the company of their own species. When they are in larger groups, they are hilarious. I love watching even my little group trundling around all together, sifting through the gravel, checking out what their buddies are looking at (though they seem to use their barbels more than their eyes), making sure nothing is overlooked. So fun.

I've been researching them online, and have compiled a wishlist of cories to have someday. Corydoras sterbai, Corydoras trilineatus, Corydoras axelrodi, and Corydoras duplicareus are pretty commonly available..... Don't know if it'll ever happen, certainly no time soon, but it's fun to plan dream tanks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Four of the panda cory eggs hatched last night, and one this afternoon! In an attempt to keep this latest batch alive, I got a mini tank.

It's a 1-gallon (tiny!) acrylic tank, not useful for much except raising fry. It came as one of those tank-in-a-box package dealies, with the tank, hood, one incandescent bulb, undergravel filter plate, an air pump, tubing, and air stone. Not expensive ($5.99) and also cheap (-quality). This is not the thing to get if you want a real tank. For the fry, though, I think it will work fine.

I didn't put in the undergravel filter, since I didn't want the fry to get lost in the gravel or under the plate. I just put the air stone in the riser tube and plugged the lower end with a bit of fiberfill so the babies wouldn't get sucked up and bashed around. The air stone creates an upward current, agitates the surface for gas exchange, and keeps the water in the tank moving gently. Just what I needed. I don't plan on keeping this tank running on a permanent basis anyway, just until the fry are big enough to go in the main tank (cross your fingers), so I didn't want to deal with gravel.

I put a rock and plant from the main tank in there, for two reasons. First, it gives the babies someplace to hide.

Two babies visible in this picture. Although it wasn't planned, I like how the cable-tie I used to attach the java fern to the rock holds it up off the bottom. Much less danger of the babies getting crushed, and it makes a sort of "cave" for them.

The second reason for putting the rock and plant in there is for nitrogen conversion. This tank was obviously just set up today, so is not cycled. The rock and plant came from my existing tank, and should be coated with the beneficial bacteria. This will hopefully work to process the small amount of waste from the tiny fry immediately, and seed the tank surfaces and fiberfill in the bubble tube so that as the bioload increases as the fry grow, all will be well. I was going to use gravel from the existing tank for this, but decided to go with a bare floor for now so I can see the fry. Hopefully the rock and plant have enough bacteria to start the process.

There's no heater, since I couldn't find one small enough, but I think the incandescent bulb (a large nightlight bulb) will throw off enough heat to keep it warm. Our house is at about 65 right now, and the tank has been holding steady at ~70 for the past four hours, so it should be OK. My main tank has a fluorescent light, which is much better, but definitely would not maintain the temperature by itself. Yet another lesson on why fluorescent is better than incandescent.

I feel so much better, now, having the fry in this set up rather than in the little tub. There was no circulation in the little tub, and I think even twice-daily water changes weren't enough. Plus, all that water-changing was probably pretty stressful.

We shall see.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I am woman, hear me roar!!! Today I fixed my garbage disposal, all by myself.

Google is my friend. I had a jammed impeller (the scary spinny-around thing that you can see from above). Did you know that there's a hole in the bottom of most garbage disposals that fits a hex wrench, and if you turn the hex wrench back and forth, it turns the disposal innards back and forth and clears the jam? I didn't either. But it works!

Yes, I know I should be composting and not using the disposal.

Anyway. Time to update you on The Panda Cory Show. Sadly, Season One ended on a low note. The last lonely brave baby didn't make it either. I'm not sure why none made it past 11 days old. The last one appeared to be eating, and was perky the night before the morning when he was floating. Perhaps he was too stressed by the high temperatures that one day. Perhaps the water quality in his little tub wasn't good enough, despite twice-daily water changes using water from the big tank. I just don't know.

Happily, Season Two starts today! I found 7 more eggs! Four of them are older eggs, with the larva visible inside, three are still very young, with nothing visible. I have removed them from the big tank, and they are in the small tub, but I'm seriously considering getting a small tank and a sponge filter for them. Maybe being in a larger volume of water will work better for them. It will at least be easier regulate the temperature, that's for sure.

Finally, just because I can after our walk today, I'd like to show you this:

and also:

as well as:

not to mention:

I love orchids.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Continuing our weekend of beauty, Emma and I went to a wildflower preserve for their annual tour today. The preserve is GROWISER (Grande Ronde Overlook Wildflower Institute Serving Ecological Restoration), located about 15 miles north of La Grande, on the flanks of the Blue Mountains. It's a 182-acre native plant sanctuary that has been reclaimed from pasturage and farm land.


The tour was led by the owner/manager, who has been loving and nurturing this land since the early 1990's. He's a wealth of information. He knows nearly every plant on the property, what they need to grow, and how to get rid of the invasive exotic species. He does use chemical herbicides sometimes, but only when necessary, spot-treating ONLY, and none of the really nasty wide-spectrum persistant kinds.

A lot of the wildflowers in the open meadows were the same as those Emma and I saw yesterday (pictures in my previous post), but there were also lots of different ones, since the preserve has a large wooded area.

western columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Largeleaf lupine (Lupinus burkei)

Elegant mariposa lily (Calochortus elegans)

And my favorite (of course)- orchids!!!

Mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum)

I have wanted to see this species since I was a little girl, and I was so thrilled that it was in bloom. Unfortunately, my camera batteries conked out, and I was unable to take the thousands of pictures I wanted to. I'm going back tomorrow.
We went camping Friday night/Saturday, to Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area. This was an important stopping point on one of the branches of the Oregon Trail because, as you might guess, there is a spring there. We took the camper, and had a nice relaxing afternoon and evening, and I got to go birding the next morning. Emma was having a grumpy morning, and didn't go on the morning walk. She bugged Shaun instead, and I got to bird by myself!

Didn't see any new birds, but got great close looks at Townsend's warblers and western tanagers, to name the most spectacular ones. I also saw tons of new wildflowers, like

smooth yellow violet (Viola glabella)

Mountain false lupine (Thermopsis montana)

Blue anemone (Anemone oregana)

And orchids!

striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata)

Calypso (Calypso bulbosa)

I was excited about the Corallorhiza striata, because it was new for my Life List. I've seen lots of calypso before, but they never fail to enchant.

We left the campground around 11:15, in two contingents. Shaun rode his bike to Pendleton, about 25 miles, and Emma and I drove the car and met him there for lunch. Then we all went back to La Grande together.

Emma and I stopped off at a Scenic Overlook on the way, and great googly, was it scenic!

This is roughly midway between the campground and Pendleton, in the Blue Mountains, at the top of a ridge. It's sagebrush shrub-steppe, and stuffed full of wildflowers. Sagebrush ecosystems are stunning in spring.

Arrow-leaved balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

Sulphur lupine (Lupinus sulphureus)

Large-flowered triteleia (Triteleia grandiflora)

Hairy balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri)

Larkspur (Delphinium sp.)

Mule-ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis)

onion (Allium sp.)- a very cool one with flat leaves, so numerous it turned the hillside scree areas pink

Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum)

It was so incredibly beautiful. The silvery gray sagebrush sets off the dark firs and bright wildflowers perfectly.

Emma and I were talking about how the pioneers traveling in wagons came through this area a long time ago, and how it took a really long time to travel then because they couldn't just drive in cars. She wanted to know if they had any little girls then, and what they looked like. I said that they did have little girls, and some of them probably looked a lot like her, but they didn't wear jeans and t-shirts. They had to wear dresses and sunbonnets, and went barefoot a lot because shoes were expensive. She looked around and told me she didn't want to go barefoot because "the rocks and prickers are pokey, and I'm glad I have shoes" but she did take off her sweatshirt and, by herself, made herself a "sunbonnet."

"Now I'm a pioneer girl," she said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Panda Cory Show had an unexpected and tragic plot twist this past week. Panda cory fry do not like to be too warm. Last Thursday, the temperature hit ~85F here. Though my tank is not in direct sun, and I had the windows open and the curtains closed, the house still got hot. Emma and I were out and about, doing errands, and when we got home I noticed that the temperature of the aquarium was 80F. Eek! I have the heater set so it doesn't go below about 71F. I immediately turned off the light and removed the hood, but it wasn't enough. The adult fish were fine, in fact they probably prefer it warmer than I normally keep it. I'm just trying to save a bit of electricity, and the fish seem fine. However, 80F was just too hot for the fry.

One brave and lonely baby left. I took his little tub out of the main tank, and he's now living on the counter next to the tank, and seems to be doing OK. Still looking active and swimming. I think this was the last one to hatch, since he still had a tiny bit of yolk sac left on Thursday, so maybe that worked in his favor. So sad. I hope this little guy makes it.

On a happier note, the microworms seem to be working out well. The cultures are well established now, and I've been feeding them to the baby. I think he's eating them- at least he's very active and has grown. He's nearly 3/8" long- the end of his tail is so transparent that it didn't show up very well in the picture. He actually looks better than any of the others that got to this age (10 days old now). I think the others just weren't eating enough. I should have gotten the worms sooner. Racked with guilt now, yes I am.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Have I or have I not been a total blog slacker recently? Don't answer that. I've been doing a lot of birding. Anyway, I've got some pictures to show today.

Emma and I went to Ladd Marsh twice in the past week, and walked the trails for 2 1/2 hours each time. I also participated in a Bird-a-thon this past Saturday, as part of International Migratory Bird Day. Our local event was held at the marsh, of course. I was one of the "experienced birders" and staffed one of the stations in the morning. It was great to see all the kids who came out.

These pics were all taken on Friday, a lovely morning in the marsh with Emma. The list is also the one I wrote on Friday, though we saw most of the same species on Saturday.

Birds seen included yellow-headed blackbirds:

black-necked stilts:

Wilson's snipe:

and also:
  • mallard
  • ruddy duck
  • cinnamon teal
  • green-winged teal
  • blue-winged teal
  • coot
  • gadwall
  • northern shoveler
  • redhead
  • canvasback
  • Canada goose
  • greater white-fronted goose
  • great egret
  • great blue heron
  • northern harrier
  • red-tailed hawk
  • kestrel
  • redwinged blackbird
  • Brewer's blackbird
  • song sparrow
  • brown-headed cowbird (grrrr)
  • starling (grrrr)
  • common yellowthroat
  • McGillivray's warbler
  • western kingbird
  • western meadowlark
  • avocet
  • Wilson's phalarope
  • marsh wren
  • ring-necked pheasant
  • Virginia rail
  • sora
  • pied-billed grebe
  • tree swallow
  • barn swallow
  • bank swallow
  • cliff swallow
  • northern rough-winged swallow
  • crow
  • black-billed magpie
  • killdeer
  • greater yellowlegs
  • spotted sandpiper
  • savannah sparrow
  • vesper sparrow
  • sandhill crane
  • white-faced ibis (rare in this area!)
  • black-capped chickadee
See why I like Ladd Marsh? That's 51 species in 2 1/2 hours! The white-faced ibis and Wilson's snipe were new species for my Life List, too. A nice bonus.

I think Emma has a good time in the marsh. She looks at the plants and bugs and birds, and sings her little bird songs, and runs on the paths. This time, she was enthralled by the anthills that were all over the paths.

It was great, because she would sit there for minutes at a time, watching the ants trundling in and out, while I got some quiet time to scan the ponds for birds.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Panda cory fry, various ages, ranging from 9 days to 1 day.

As Liz so aptly named it, The Panda Cory Show continues. All my cory eggs have now hatched, with a loss of five along the way. I have 10 fry, out of 15 eggs. The first three fry to hatch succumbed to something on Friday night- I was very sad to find them floating when I checked the tank first thing Saturday morning- and two more eggs molded. There is one baby left from the initial batch of four eggs; it's the largest one in the video, though it's a bit hard to tell which is which. All of the second batch of eggs hatched out noticeably larger than the first four.

Just to be safe, I ordered a starter culture of microworms so I can feed them tiny live food. I think they may not have been eating the powdered flakes and/or the egg yolk was making the water in their little tub icky. In any case, I have discontinued the egg yolk and smooshed the flakes more to make the powder finer. The culture should get here tomorrow or Wednesday, so hopefully they can hold on that long. Microworms (Panagrellus sp.) are tiny 1/16" nematodes, easy to culture, and excellent fish fry food. Hopefully if the losses on Friday were due to unacceptable food, the microworms will work out better.

I also have fibery activity to report. I finally, FINALLY finished twisting the fringe on the last two huck lace stoles. They are washing as I type this, and will be pressed tomorrow, then they will finally be done. I need to get something back on the loom. I haven't woven in forever. Or knit. Or crochet. Or anything.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Panda cory fry, 5 days old and <1 day old.

The one on the left is 5 days old, the one on the right is about 12 hours old. Ah, they grow up so fast...... The new little guy hatched out sometime early this morning, and is freakishly big. He's almost as long as the older ones! Look at that cute little (big) yolk sac, though.

The egg on the far right (and several others) will hatch in the next day or so, I think. You can really clearly see the developing larva inside, and every once in a while it twitches and wiggles. I got all geeky and made a labeled picture:

It may be easier to see if you click to enlarge. The eyes, tail, and "dorsal saddle" of pigmentation and internal organs are pretty clear. Most of the space inside the egg is taken up by the yolk sac.

Just amazing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Panda cory fry, four days old.

The four cories that hatched on Saturday are now a smidge over 1/4" long. Their yolk sacs are completely absorbed, and so far so good on the diet of mashed egg yolk and powdered flakes. (Sorry about the cloudy water in that picture- I forgot I had planned to take a picture until after I had already fed them, so there's a bit of egg yolk floating around.)

I promise I'll eventually get back to fibery things. It's been all fish, all the time with me, lately. Though my computer died on Sunday, so I did do a bit more knitting on Kiri. I'm trying to decide when to stop knitting the body and start the edging.

The computer's problem was the motherboard. Fried. The screen went blank in the middle of doing something, the computer turned off, and wouldn't turn back on. Shaun called tech support (this used to be his computer, so it's registered in his name), and wonder of wonders, it was still under warranty. They sent a new motherboard to the nearest repair guy, and he came to fix it today. An actual real person! To fix my computer! In my house! Without mailing it to the factory or waiting a month! He came from BOISE, IDAHO! Three hour drive! To fix my computer!

I was impressed. Thanks, Dell. And the "still under warranty" part? Nice. Free. Free is good.