Monday, March 29, 2010

Evolution of a Koi Pond

It started as a hole in the ground with water in it.  We wanted our Butterfly Peacock Bass, Jack, to live there since he was too big for his indoor aquarium.  He didn't make it, but two koi and a pleco have done well except for the time the big white koi decided to try his hand at air breathing and jumped out.  Luckily, Wayne was there to scoop him back into the water.  This was probably a sign that all was not quite right with the living environment.  Apparently, one should have proper filtration, maintain a certain PH, feed koi on a certain schedule depending on water temperature and make sure the pond water does not resemble pea soup.

Granted, these are not pedigree koi.  They're Petco koi, the kind of inbred scanky koi that are sneered at and made fun of by their expensive cousins at Pondscapes.  But, they deserve a life and to that end, we've undertaken a project to educate ourselves on how to keep them and the hole in the ground healthy.  It quickly became clear (not the water, that comes later) that we needed to get them out of the pea soup.  Wayne put them in the 30 gallon aquarium that didn't sell at the last yard sale and emptied the pond, cleaning out all of the algae and goop on the bottom.  The pond was refilled with water straight from our well (bypassing the softener system).  We ran the filter for a few days, then took a water sample and drove to South Tampa to visit Pondscapes.  Our little 20 dollar pump and homemade filter system (paint bucket, filter material and lid with holes punched in it) was replaced by a "real" pond pump (500 gal. per hour) and filter system.

We also repotted the water lily, according to instructions from Kevin at Pondscapes.  Lifting the winter burned, smelly mess of roots out of the pot, we cut off about 70% of the roots.  I put plain clay cat litter in the bottom, then a layer of top soil (no fertilizer!), nestled the water lily roots on that and filled in the top 1/3rd with pea gravel.  I found some larger rocks to set over the pea gravel to weight the pot and keep the koi from digging in it, then flushed it with well water and put it in the bottom of the pond.

Meanwhile, back at the aquarium, our koi were a bit listless, probably because we'd almost killed them by overfeeding all winter and the aquarium water was cloudy and tested too acidic.
From Koi out of pond for cleaning march 2010
 Testing the pond water now found it to be at PH 7, so we put the fish back in.  We've built a pergola over it as I mentioned recently, and improved on it by replacing the tarp over the top with shade cloth, putting struts at the top corners for strength and adding a kind of header on the front.  I had a nice sun face sculpture in another part of the garden that looks nice nailed to the top.  I hope our fish will be happy.  We'll try training them to eat from our hand.  The big koi at Pondscapes are so friendly, they come right up to you expecting a handout.   It was a challenge finding solid information in an internet search, much of it is contradictory.  I did register with a web site called Roark's Experimental Puddle finding a lot of information about koi I can use. I guess we'll think of names for our two fish, now that they've survived our ineptitude for the last year. Any suggestions?
From pond
From pond
From pond

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is here...or not

Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous, sunny, 70 degrees.  Today is cloudy and rainy with thunderstorms and cooler, with a high of 68.  Yesterday Wayne built a pergola over the pond.  The pond and all of the landscaping around it took a beating this winter.  It was unusually cold, with one memorable 10 day stretch of freezing temps at night.  The pond has turned an alarming shade of green.  The pergola is meant to keep the strongest rays of the sun off of the water.  I know we need a stronger filter, and to add some more underwater plants.  That will help.  At least the koi are still swimming and eating.  Not sure about the plecostomus.  He (she?) is pretty big, but we can’t see into the water and he tends to hide anyway.  What a difference from last summer, when we built the pond.  Apparently, we have much to learn.  
From Backyard Pond
The plan is to plant some kind of flowering vine at each of the four posts.  We haven’t decided what, yet.  I love wisteria, but haven’t had much luck with it.  It may be too hot here in the summer.  We’ll have shade cloth on the top (right now it’s a tarp, so not very pretty), until the vine we choose grows up to cover the roof.  Wayne had the brilliant idea to add a swing on one side.  The spring plant sale at the USF Botanical Gardens is coming up soon.  I’m sure we’ll find stuff to replace the plants that were frozen.  We learned that Paphiopedilums need to move into the house when it’s cold.  We may have lost 10 or so, but it remains to be seen if they’ll recover.  They’re in the “orchid hospital”, which is a corner of the garden where we put stuff we don’t want to look at.  Kind of like a garden junk drawer.  
Here's how the pond looked last summer.
From Backyard Pond
Wow.  I have a lot to learn about adding photos with this imac.  This took me way too much time.  I'm done for the night.  It's almost midnight and I do have a Star Party to pull off at the library tomorrow night, so off to bed after some not so kind words to my lovely new apple.  The fonts on the post are funky and I'm not sure how to make them all match.  Luckily, I have vacation starting after Thursday.  I'll be spending it taking imac classes!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting to know my iMac

It took me more than a week, but it's out of the box, and into the renovated home office. The new iMac was just so beautiful, I couldn't set it up in the dingy little room that once housed my utilitarian Dell (wheezing and stalling and acting generally slow and buggy). I still have a hell of a lot to learn. Everything I have learned so far has delighted me to the point of tears (what's that all about, hormones?) Just a few minutes ago, I clicked on a group of photos in iPhoto and then slideshow. It adds theme music (or any music I choose) and one can even pick from several slideshow formats like "Ken Burns" (which has jazz music and zooms in on faces and pans the pics), or "Shatter" which I liked a lot and would love to be able to add here, but I haven't learned how to do that just yet. The downside of all this is I haven't been knitting at all this week. On the upside, I learned that I can set up my own wireless network, and that now I can annoy my dear husband, Wayne, by checking out google earth from my ipod while we're having dinner together. I really need to do something nice for him. He picked the color for the office and did most of the painting (I did all of the edging and cleaned windows). It looks wonderful. Sam's coming over tomorrow to help me get my address book and email from my old pc to the mac. Here are some pictures of the new office. Before shots can be imagined if you think of yellowed 30 year old miniblinds and dingy white walls.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Soap and Apples

There it is.  It's in it's perfect box.  It arrived today all the way from Shanghai in just 8 days.  So quickly, that I don't even have my wireless network set up yet.  I will RTFM, then call my buddy, Sam, who is a pc specialist (but not a mac specialist) and we will get this big bad beautiful piece of ultra-modern technology working.  I feel like I have to paint my office and scrub the floors, and get new window treatments.  I am not worthy.  Wait...yes I am.  And I have next week off to polish my imac's new home.  As if this were not enough to make me giddy with happiness, I just heard from Jenny at Miss Jenny's Soaps that I won the February drawing and she's sending me 3 bars of her fabulous organic artisan soap for free!  I chose lemongrass and cinnamon and asked her to pick another for me since I already have lots of patchouli, my favorite.  I think I should buy lottery tickets.  I think I'll paint the office green, a nice sage or maybe more of a teal.  And bamboo blinds.