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Assateague Island Ponies

June 29th, 2012

Last weekend, my family and I spent some time at the beach on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. While we were there, we visited Assateague Island where we caught a group of wild ponies enjoying a beautiful evening on the beach. With the group was an older foal, which was kept nearby the adults.

Ponies at Assateague Island

The ponies leisurely walked down the shoreline, giving me plenty of time pull out my camera and snap a few photos. The beach at Assateague is much nicer than in Ocean City, MD, as it’s more natural, has fewer people, and the sand itself is easier on your feet.

Ponies at Assateague Island

After the ponies passed, a few of us spent time hopping waves and collecting seashells. As I mentioned above, the sand is very fine, so it feels wonderful underfoot. Where the waves break, however, there are a lot of shells and rocks, but that makes it ideal for finding some nice ones. Out past the surf, the fine sand continues for a long ways before dropping off.

Pony at Assateague Island

You may notice that the ponies have a bulging belly that normal horses do not exhibit. We read that this is due to drinking salt water. Some literature that they handed us when we entered the park said that the horses adapted and can now sustain themselves largely on salty water.

Pony at Assateague Island

The park limits the number of ponies that live on the island to only what the vegetation on the island can sustain. Nevertheless, in all of the years I’ve visited Assateague, we have never left without seeing at least one pony. Most times, you see several herds from your car just by driving the short loop that goes throughout the island. Have you been to Assateague? Comments welcome!




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33G and 50G Aquascape Updates

June 12th, 2012

The two recent aquascapes are coming together. The 33G cube is finally starting to grow in. I had a couple bulbs die on me that went unnoticed for several weeks. I couldn’t figure out why the foreground was growing in so slowly until I looked up and sure enough the front two HOT5s were dark. Once I replaced them, the Elatine triandra and HC started to take off. The rest of the plants are growing really well too.

33G Aquascape

I’ve started to get a little bit of BBA, so I’ve been spot treating and have adjusted me dosing scheme slightly. The 50G aquarium (below) is also growing pretty well. I removed the Blyxa aubertii because it was too overpowering. In it’s place, I’ve planted a row of Syngonanthus sp. ‘Madiera’, which I hope will fill in nicely. I need a little bit more color in this scape, as well, but the Rotala macrandra variant I have in there isn’t really thrilling me.

50G Aquascape

At this point, it’s still a little bit of a work in progress. The bristlenosed plecos are making it difficult for me to establish a foreground as well. All in good time I suppose!

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2012: Pond and Garden

June 10th, 2012

The garden is in full swing right now, doing wonderfully thanks to the well-balanced weather of rain and sun that we’ve had in the mid-atlantic region. My raised brick pond is taking on a more natural look. Pogostemon yatabeanus has reseeded itself all throughout the pond from last year, which was a definite surprise.

Pogostemon yatabeanus

I also repotted my Crinum americana, which had become so root-bound that I had a terrible time removing the previous pot and separating the plant. I hope they’ll survive the process, as they are no where near as prolific as they have been in previous years.

Crinum americanum

Otherwise, the only other plant in the pond are some Mesanthemum sp. Africa that I’m hoping will eventually flower so my friend can try to properly ID it.

Sweet Potatoes

Elsewhere in the garden, my vegetable plants are all going strong. I got my sweet potato slips (Georgia Jet variety) in our boxes a few weeks ago, and they’re starting to take off.

Husk/Ground Cherry Plants

Our ground/husk cherries have already provided several handfuls of sweet yellow cherries that my wife and I have snacked on while watering.

Pepper

Some of our heirloom pepper plants from Seed Savers (highly recommended source for transplants and seeds) have peppers forming, but it’ll still be awhile before we harvest anything.

Neon Eggplant Plant

We’re growing three varieties of eggplant this year: regular, neon purple, and white globe. I been manually picking off the flea beetles to prevent the leaves from getting too much damage, and in return all three plants have begun to set flower so it’s a matter of time before fruit appear.

Tomatoes!

We have about a dozen different varieties of tomatoes growing this year throughout the garden. My most anticipated variety is Kellogg which was an absolutely phenomenal beef-steak style tomato that we grew last year. It stays bright orange, is pretty firm for a large tomato, and is sweet as can be!

Collards

What started as an impulsive buy of a market-pack outside of our organic market has turned in a really nice harvest of collards. Our favorite use has been to use the leaves as a wrap, in place of a soft tortilla. I’ve had to begin manually picking off the hungry green caterpillars that had been deposited on the leaves by white moths that regularly visit, but it hasn’t gotten too bad yet.

Okra

We did have an excellent harvest of white icicle and red radishes, where we ate more of the radish greens than we did the tuber. In their place, I’ve planted two varieties of okra that are beginning to pop up in the warmer weather. I still need to thin out the rows a little bit this week.

Grapes Forming

Our grape vine is going strong with lots of grape clusters formed. I’m debating whether this will be the year that I put up some bird netting to save the grapes for us. The bird netting worked fabulously for our strawberries this year, but I do worry about having birds and other critters getting trapped in the fabric.

Strawberry Spinach

We eat a lot of greens, and this year, we’re trying a new one in our garden: Strawberry Spinach (above). This plant should eventually produce stalks of red little berry clusters, but the leaves are suitable replacements for spinach, and tolerate the heat a bit better.

Peas

The peas are trellising and starting to produce pods. I doubt we’ll have enough to make any substantial pea dish, but they’re another nice treat in the garden. Malabar spinach is planted beneath the peas, so as the hot weather approaches, that red vine will overtake the peas on the support lines, and we’ll have lots and lots of greens for cooking dishes.

Kohlrabi

We’ve also planted kohlrabi for the first time ever. It looks a little leggy to me where it’s planted, but hopefully it’ll form that alien shaped base as the summer moves along.

Rainbow Chard

Did I mention that we love greens? Our rainbow chard has been prolific, producing seemingly new big leaves every day for harvest. There’s nothing quite like walking out back to harvest dinner!

Plant Nanny

Finally, we’ve been experimenting with these terra-cotta “Plant Nanny” spikes in several of our containers. I try to water regularly, but containers often seem to dry out on our patio unless they’re watered twice a day. With these spikes, water is absorbed through the terra cotta into the soil as the soil dries out. For medium pots that only have a single plant in them, they seem to work pretty well. Larger areas, like shown above, would probably need several spikes to make any kind of a noticeable impact.

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75G Update

June 9th, 2012

My 75G aquarium continues to take care of itself with very little maintenance needed. I dose in the mornings, and do my regular water changes, but otherwise, I don’t really have any algae problems, the plants continue to grow, and the dense overgrown jungle look doesn’t tangle itself into a mess too quickly.

75G Aquascape

My school of seven Peruvian angelfish gracefully occupy the shadows cast by the tall Blyxa aubertii plants unless it’s feeding time when they beg like no other fish in my fishroom. I regularly pull Staurogyne repens and S. sp. ‘Porto Vehlo’ from the foreground without really noticing any plants gone missing.

Runt Angelfish

While I got all seven angelfish with the same quarter size bodies, they have quadrupedaled (or more) in size save the one runt seen above. This fish feeds with the rest, and otherwise appears healthy, but hasn’t grown like the others.  Overall, this tank is a wonderful demonstration of what a mature aquascape can be, providing enjoyment without requiring much in return.

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