ever since i came back from china in 2014, i've kept an empty aquarium. that one
methuselah cherry barb remaining cardinal tetra died while i was still in chongqing after my father overfed it. i kept the aquarium running because i had a driftwood log covered in java fern that i didn't want to get rid of. and i figured if i ever wanted to get back into the aquarium hobby, the tank would be ready. but people would visit my house and try looking for fish in the tank until i tell them its empty. and as the years wore on, the java ferns began to fade away, partly from tank maintenance neglect (i'd go months without a water change, and cleaned the tank only after particular nasty algae bloom), partly because with no fish in the aquarium the plants weren't getting enough nutrients, despite upgrading to a brighter LED light system. finally, 3 years later, i'm getting some fish. i wanted to get neon tetras because they're pretty and small, and when i saw the $1 sale at petsmart, i knew i had to get a whole school of tetras. at that price, i could get 10 for the price of 3-4.
but first i had errands to take care of this morning, specifically to trim back some overgrown plants in my community garden plot. AM send me an e-mail over the weekend with a gentle complaint. the last time i was in the garden was a week ago, when i had dinner with julie, and that was just a show-and-tell, no actual gardening. my actual last visit was more than 2 weeks ago, when i also picked up bruce's monarch chrysalis. i got a pair of extra large clippers and went to town on the ornamental grass. i also pulled up any plants escaping from my plot in the paths. inside the garden itself, i tossed out a few dead tomatoes. i'm keeping the eggplants and peppers for now, but i'll probably uproot them within in the next few weeks once the weather gets cold. i'd forgotten about my monkshood and surprised to find their distinctive flower buds forming on the top of some plants. a few of the leaves looked a little tattered, maybe from pests/disease/lack of watering. the monkshood are one of the few things left in the garden that keep me visiting instead of completely abandoning my plot. i left with a harvest of green tomatoes, old leathery japanese eggplants, some hungarian wax peppers, and a few habaneros.
the predominant flower in the garden this late in the growing season seems to be asters, in various shades of purple and pink. if only they could be combined with some late season yellow goldenrods, that would be a real color show.
i was in the garden around 10:20am and didn't get back home about an hour later. i watered the front yard as it was looking dry and i have some larkspur and foxglove seedlings growing there. just as i finished, my father called, said they just closed on the mass solar loan at the naveo credit union, got a $9000 check for united solar, and asked me to set up a time for lucas to come by and pick it up.
it was getting close to noon which was the time one of the petsmart employees told me to come on tuesday when i asked him when was the best time to show up once they've restocked their fish. i rode to fresh pond via motorcycle with an empty camera bag.
i was worried at first, because i didn't see any neon tetras. but then i saw them, and there were a lot, and still at a buck a piece. if i had the space (like a 20-30 gallon tank), i'd buy up all the neon tetras so i could have a huge school of them. i looked for somebody to help me get my fish. a woman helped me, but in hindsight i wish i found somebody else, as she knew nothing about fish. the tetras were hard to scoop with the net, until she managed to corner a bunch of them. she scooped them out of the water, and then inverted the net so they'd plop into her plastic container. she wasn't very careful, and there were a few tetras suffocating in the net that i politely pointed out to her. she got more than 10 and scooped out the extras, the whole time the tetras are frantically darting around the container trying to escape the net. she then poured the tetras from the container into a plastic bag; not a careful pour, but a sudden pour that slammed the fish into the bag. she noticed i was wincing, and said this doesn't hurt the fish. i kept my eyes on the fish, looking for any dead ones. finally she inflated the bag with air, but she didn't fill it enough so the bag was still droopy and a few tetras seemed to be stuck in the corners. it was a pretty traumatic experience, and i'll definitely remember to ask someone else should i ever buy fish from the fresh pond petsmart again. still in a daze, i almost forgot to pay, until i finally snapped out of my trance and put my card in credit machine.
i carefully put the bag of fish in my bag and slowly zipped it up. i went straight home, trying to go slow enough that i didn't hit too many bumps. any aquarium person knows that you're not supposed to add the fish immediately to the fish tank; you first have to match the water temperature of the fish water with the tank water. so i left the bag of tetras floating in the aquarium. but i was impatient, and after 20 minutes, i finally cut the bag open to let the tetras out into the fish tank.
once released into the tank, the tetras frantically swam around the aquarium, bumping into the glass as if trying to get out. they seemed scared, and soon formed a school, hiding behind the driftwood log. a few of the larger tetras were still bumping into the glass, looking to get out. i sprinkled some food fish but they didn't seem to be interested. tetras like places to hide and i'm afraid i don't have enough plants. one of the reasons why i got some fish in the first place is so their waste products will serve as fertilizer to help what little plants i have to grow better. but that's not a guarantee, and even successful, it will take some time before the java ferns can be big enough for the tetras to hide in. i have 10 tetras but i'm realistic about the possibility that not all of them will make it. despite being in a safe environment without predators, the tetras will still compete with one another for food, and usually the bigger fish get bigger while the smaller fish struggle to find food and eventually die. but i hope that doesn't happen and that all 10 neon tetras will do well in their new home.
i made a delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, buttered bread with pepper jack cheese and spiral cut ham. around 2pm i left for my parents' place to water the lawn. i didn't notice it 2 days ago, but there seems to be a good number of orange habanero peppers, enough to possibly make some hot sauce. i'll pick them this weekend. returning home, i stopped by the cafe to ask my parents for more details about the mass solar loan, and also to pick up a few things i ordered on amazon: sawyer 20% picaridin 6 oz. spray ($4.81), marineland 22 oz. black diamond activated carbon ($6.71), and a samsung EVO select 32GB microSHDC ($12.99) for my raspberry pi zero w.
for dinner i made some paremesan baked potato wedges, from a gif recipe i saw on reddit. it helps also to read the comments, and i modified the recipe accordingly. for one thing, i increased the portions for the spice blend: 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp ground pepper, 1 tbsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tbsp paprika. these were all spices i already had in my cupboard, didn't have to buy anything. the potatoes i got from aldi, not sure what kind, they were just called baking potatoes (my guess: russets). i ended up using 3 very large spuds. i soaked the wedges in an ice bath as instructed for 30 minutes, not sure the reason, some posts were arguing it helps to make the wedges crispier once in the oven. after patting them dry with paper towels, i hand-tossed them with the spice blend, after which i hand-tossed them again with some olive oil. into the oven they went (2 trays worth of potato slices), 450° for 45 minutes, alternating the trays on the racks and flipping the wedges at the midway point. once finished, i tossed them with some powdered parmesan. the parmesan didn't really stick, and i wonder if they should be combined with the spices early on, so they can stick to the potatoes and melt a little bit on the oven.
the final result tasted pretty good, restaurant quality potato wedges, with a good crispy outer texture but soft potato on the inside. the thinner slices taste better, but the thick ones had more "meat" to them. the spice blend was good too, actually kind of spicy, which i thought was the paprika (i equate red with hot), but it was actually the ground pepper. i ate about a third dipped in ketchup, then after some rest, ate another third.
li came home around 10:30pm. he was excited to see the new fish but the timer lights already turned off and i didn't want to manually turn them back on. once the tank went dark, the tetras came out of hiding to explore the fish tank.