Saturday, June 20, 2009

I so enjoy my aquarium. There's always something to watch. The veritable feeding frenzy when I drop in an algae wafer always amuses me.

All those panda cories are ones that I raised from eggs spawned in my tank. The littlest one is the baby I found in my filter in January. As you can see, he is thriving.

The other catfish are Otocinclus vittatus (I think, or possibly O. mariae. Or possibly both!). They're very peaceful and unobtrusive, and VERY good at hiding. I had one originally, then got four more in January to keep him company. A few weeks later, I thought I had lost two of those, since I only ever saw three at a time. A month ago I dropped in an algae wafer and was shocked to see all five otos in view at once! They get in among the dense plants and under the driftwood and just disappear.

They must have recently developed a taste for the algae wafers, though. In the past couple months I've noticed them eating flake food and wafers in addition to cleaning algae off the glass, plants, and driftwood. I purposely don't clean the glass at all on two sides of the tank, to let the algae grow for them, and they keep it pretty clean. I was glad to see that they have adapted to other foods besides the soft algae. I drop in a slice of zucchini or some peas every so often, and they go to town on those as well (as do the rest of their tankmates.) Anyway, otos have a reputation of being sensitive fish, but mine seem to be thriving. They always have nice round bellies and are quite active.

They get so excited about the algae wafers that they try to suck onto everything, including the other fish... Normally they are very calm, but the wafers drive them into a hyperactive fit!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I have been spinning, but mostly several pounds of cashmere/silk singles for contract work. I did ply a couple more skeins of the green sweater yarn (I think I have seven plied now), but haven't taken a picture. Therefore, in an effort to distract you from the fact that I have nothing at all fibery to talk about, I'm going to show some more pretty pictures.

We drove down to southern California this past weekend, for my niece's graduation from high school. Yes, you read that correctly, we drove to the LA area for the weekend. I took a half day off Friday, and a full day off Monday. We traveled 36 hours for a 27 hour visit, and it was totally worth it.

We left La Grande about 3:00 pm on Friday, and drove until 1:00 am Saturday. Most of this leg of the journey was through the wide open sagebrush flats of eastern Oregon.

It was raining off and on, and there is nothing like the sweetly resinous-fragrant scent of sagebrush in the rain. It's sharp and almost eucalyptus-like. Delightful.

We stayed the night at Topaz Lake, right on the Nevada/California border. We were going to camp, but there was a hotel right there, and we were so tired, and well... anyway. It was a very comfy bed.

The next morning, we traveled down through California. I think this was taken in the vicinity of the road to Yosemite. Aspen groves on the hillsides, with snowcapped mountains in the background. Someday we'll come back here with time to properly appreciate it.

Traveling, traveling. We passed Mono Lake and stopped at a scenic overlook to check it out and wiggle a bit.

It was chilly up there at 6000 feet! If you click the panorama, hopefully it will enlarge enough to be able to see.

Traveling, traveling. Past Mammoth Lake, and down alongside the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Impressive rocky mountains rising up out of the plain.

Traveling, traveling. Along the edge of the Mojave Desert, past the Joshua trees. Past Red Rock Canyon State Park. Amazing rock formations visible from the highway. I can only imagine what the rest of the park looks like.

Traveling, traveling. Finally, we arrived at Shaun's brother's home. We got to see Shaun's dad and stepmom, which was great, and Emma got to meet her six California cousins and one of her two east-coast cousins. She had a blast playing with them, especially the 3-year-old girl. She was in tears when it came time to go home. It was a way-too-short visit.

We left about 7:00 pm on Sunday night, after the graduation party, and made it all the way up to the edge of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, by about 1:30 am. We camped this time, at the Chris Flat Campground. It's a lovely spot, right beside the Walker River.

Despite the late night, I woke up early eary early on Monday morning, in a very odd way. I was having a dream about flying, complete with that swoopy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I kept hearing this noise as part of my dream. It was a bird song, and I remember thinking, "That sounds almost like a towhee. But it's not quite normal. I think it's a Green-tailed Towhee." I swooped around my dream for a while longer, but I kept hearing the noise, and decided to wake up. It was very strange, aware, half-awake dream.

So I got up. Now, I have never seen or heard a Green-tailed Towhee before in my entire life. I have seen the pictures in my field guides, and doubtless have heard them on my birdsong CDs, but I could have not have described what they sound like. It's not a song that is consciously part of my mental library. Apparently, it is a part of my subconscious. When I got up, I was still hearing the song that was part of my dream. It sounded like a towhee, but not quite right. And there it was, a Green-tailed Towhee. Perched right there on a dead branch above the tent. So cool.

I had a lovely walk around the campground. Turns out that I got up about 5:45. Needless to say, I had a couple hours to myself. It was pretty cold when I first got up, but once the sun came up over the ridge, it warmed up nicely.

I spent quite a while sitting on the riverbank just listening and watching, and enjoying the penstemon plants blooming on the sandy bank. I have no idea which species, since there are a LOT of species of penstemon, and I haven't had time to look it up yet. It was lovely, though.

As I was sitting there, watching the sun rise, this big (1" long) bumblebee was waking up, too. She was sleeping on the west side of the penstemon flowers, probably because that was the warmest side as the sun went down the night before. As the sun rose and started to light the flowers, she slowly and ponderously crawled through the flowers onto the east side of the plant. She basked for probably 20 minutes, then crawled into a flower, bumbled around for a while, came out covered with pollen, and flew to a plant about 10 feet away. She investigated 4 flowers on that plant, then flew off across the river.

I just love watching things closely. You see so much.

Another neat thing I saw on my walk was a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers, another new species for me. They were flying back and forth between the tops of the pine trees. Delicious, delicious pine seeds.

As I wandered back toward the tent, amid the squeaking ground squirrels, one hopped up on a rock to keep an eye on me.

All too soon, we were back on the road. Traveling, traveling. Back through the sagebrush. Twelve more hours of driving, and we were home.