Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We have nitrites!

Well, the day I've been anxiously awaiting has come to pass.  We finally have nitrites in the freshwater tank!  It's a low amount, but this is the first day they've even been detectable, so I'll take  it!

For those who might not know, when you go through a fishless cycle you  have to keep adding ammonia (or something that produces ammonia) to the tank, along with some sort of bacterial material to create what would naturally occur in time with fish in the water.  Ammonia + ammonia eating bacteria = nitrites + nitrite eating bacteria = nitrates.  Once you hit the nitrate phase and the ammonia and nitrite eating bacteria are clearing the tanks of the toxins in about 12-24 hours, then you're safe (more or less) to start adding fish. 

Unfortunately this can take many, many weeks.  We started the cycle on Feb 14th (don't worry, we romantically added ammonia and Biozyme to our fish tank :) ) and only today did we finally see traces of nitrites.  We're still probably three weeks away from having fish in the tank, but it's one step closer.  Besides, it's been kind of fun to do my little science experiments every afternoon to check and maintain the ammonia and bacteria levels.

Tonight I start cleaning and setting up the brackish water tank and we'll start the cycle all over again.   I've decided to put both fish in the freshwater tank as soon as it's ready so that they can finally be free of the hospital tank (all three of us are tired of this situation and we still have a long way to go) and then I'll slowly acclimate Mr. Black to the brackish tank once it's ready.

Photos of the freshwater tank soon.

I know I'm being nerdy giddy...I've never done this before and I'm just so excited that it's working. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Ribbon loop" blanket

Here's a pic of the "ribbon loop" blanket I just made for friends of ours who are expecting a baby boy. I always use at least one layer of minky fabric for these, with the other side being satin, flannel or just a cotton panel...something eye caching.  I also make them in a rectangle, usually about 18" long as I'm not so much looking to make a blanket as something they can hold onto and play with.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fishless cycling has begun

Today we finally set up the first fish tank, a 20g freshwater tank for Clark's room. This will eventually be the home for Mr. Cat (the emerald catfish) and a couple more of his kind, as well as...well, I haven't 100% decided who they will share a tank with: a betta, some glofish, fancy guppies...etc.  I think that decision will come at a much later date.  We have plenty of time as we started the fishless cycle today and that can last 4 weeks or more.

It's a time consuming way to cycle your tank, but I just can't bring myself to throw some fish in there to do it.  It's hard on the fish, assuming they survive, and I don't want to get stuck with fish I don't want but got because they were hardy.

I'm still waiting to get the sand for the tank and it will have to be added later, but right now it has a nice array of plants and river rocks.

Mr. Cat and Mr. Black (they deserve names) are hanging in there as best they can.  I change out 10 cups of their 1.5 gallons a day but the ammonia levels remain higher than they should.  I'm not sure how to help them any more than I already am.  I really hope they make it, but 4 more weeks of this might be more than they can handle.  We'll have to see.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Overwhelmed by fish!

So I proceeded down the path of "doing right by my fish" by choosing to research as much as I could about how to take care of fish in a freshwater and brackish environment.  Since I knew very, very little about it there was a lot to find out.  I went to the library and took out a stack of books, I joined 5+ forums, read countless websites and even contacted the gal at All Experts who helped me with my sick fish.

This resulted in me becoming a little obsessive.  Not because I wanted to but because there is SO much information out there and pretty much all of it is contradictory:
My molly is a sailfin. My molly is not a sailfin.  My molly is a sailfin/regular molly hybrid.
Mollies should be in freshwater.  Mollies should be in brackish water.  Mollies should be full marine.
You can use table salt in your aquarium (btw, you absolutely should NOT).
Thinking about substrate?  Well, here are 2,000 options!
Cycling your fish tank?  It'll take 24 hours.  It'll take 2 weeks.  It'll take 6-8 weeks.

This is just a sample.

So, I had to have a little talk with my husband to help me reorganize my mind.  I'm normally a really organized person.  I'm a list maker and a researcher.  I help my friends and family all the time with research because normally I'm really good at it.  But something about this...maybe because I'm dealing with living things (and many of you know I can't even kill a bug...unless it's an earwig.  Oh, and I can now smoosh the hell out of pond snails without remorse) and I don't want to make bad decisions.  I don't know.
Anyway, I am in the process of rethinking how I think about all this so that I can finally get moving on this process.  And start living a normal life again. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

My fish adventure (the sorta short version)

My second big project is, well, fish.

My sister bought my son a 10 gallon fish tank for his birthday in August last year. Since she had once worked at a pet store, she set it all up and stocked it with a black molly, 2 platys a dwarf frog and a green cory cat.  Though at one point my dad had fish, I was too young to do anything but enjoy looking at them and learned nothing about caring for them.

What followed was a lot of uneducated mistakes and stress on my part and a lot of fish deaths on their part.  Somewhere in the middle a few more fish were purchased but all that I have left at this point is the black molly and the cory cat. In the past month we were hit badly with Ich, fin rot and ammonia poisoning.  The molly survived because he was in a hospital tank getting treated for the Ich and the cory cat survived because he is a bad mofo who has earned my undying love.

What I have learned since is that having fish is harder and more expensive than you realize.  Sorta.

One one particularly bad evening of crisis I contacted someone on All Experts, a service I didn't know existed but have since successfully used twice! I needed help immediately and the pet stores (who I had been frequenting OFTEN during all of this) were closed and we had a blizzard on the way.  The expert I chose for help contacted me immediately which led to me saving the cory cat from certain death (two other fish had died that day).  She gave me a ton of helpful, more natural remedies for what they were experiencing and introduced me to the existence of brackish fish tanks, which is what the molly should be in.  She emailed me throughout the evening as I worked with the tools I had in my home.  She was great.

So there I was, reeling from the sudden fish loss with my last two survivors stuck together in a 1.5 gallon hospital tank that requires daily water changes.  I thought about where I should go from here and talked to my husband (endlessly, sorry sweetie) about it.  I had the option of disposing of these two (which I could not do), trying to find them a new home (which I wasn't excited about since I don't know anyone else with fish plus I didn't want to transport them in winter after going through such chaos), or doing a LOT of research and giving them proper homes in our home.  Can you guess which one I chose?

In the end I found that if you just find out the facts and do a little routine maintenance, fish don't have to be that hard to take care of (I'm not including saltwater fish, which are incredible expensive and difficult to take care of properly).

So,  friends of ours are giving us their fish tank which I will use for a brackish environment for the molly.  The cory cat will be getting more of his kind and something else (not sure what yet) in the 10 gallon freshwater tank in his room.  My friends are saving me a TON of money by giving us their tank and accessories, though there are a few things I will need particularly for the brackish tank.  It will take weeks to set everything up for both tanks and in the meantime, my fellows are hanging out in the hospital tank together getting daily water changes.  They're good sports and deserve good homes.  I'll hopefully be posting a lot of information and updates on how the process is going for both tanks.  I'm really looking forward to this hobby...should be fun and with some research, hopefully less heartbreaking. :)

Monkey/Robot quilt

Note: I removed this post when I originally wrote it so that it would be a surprise.  Well, it's finally finished and delivered (or at least shipped), so here's the information!

Also at Christmas I found out one of my girlfriend's was having her first baby this spring.  She and her husband have decided not to know the gender of the baby until it is born and she mentioned to me they wished they could do a monkey/robot theme for the nursery (I love them!).   I thought about how impossible of a task that would be and then thought to myself, "Perhaps this can be solved with a quilt!"  Thus my next project was born (which I will talk about later in case the subject of the quilt comes upon this blog).

This time I bought a quilting book for beginners and ended up with First-Time Quiltmaking.
I decided to go with the single-patch quilt as I had the die for it and it was a lot like the one I had already done, so I was hoping I could build off of what I had picked up from the last time.  I also decided to go with one type of fabric (flannel) instead of the crazy mixture (velvet, minky, satin, etc.) that I had for the first one which gave me more headaches than I could count.

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on collecting fabric for the Monkey/Robot quilt.  Finding gender neutral robot and monkey fabric that was cute and would look nice together proved to be a little harder than I had originally thought.  I found the perfect robot fabric at JoAnn and found an acceptable monkey fabric (precut on the sellers AccuQuilt Go!) on eBay.  The gal I bought from on eBay included a square of a different monkey fabric which was PERFECT.  I contacted her directly and got a bunch of that fabric.  I purchased some solids (yellow for alternating squares, green for a border and orange for the back) to go with the two as anything more interesting would, I think, make a hot mess.

ANOTHER NOTE: I ended up using orange for the border, a yellow binding and cream for the back.

Last night I finally pulled out the Accuquilt Go! and in less than an hour had all my cuts done (granted, they're just squares but hey, I'm new at this!).  Well, most of my cuts done.  I had also purchased a strip die but didn't realize I needed a different sized cutting mat for it (as much as I love this machine, it can get expensive, and my wish list for it is LONG).  I ordered it last night and should be getting it this week.

So later this week I'll be going back to the book, dusting off my sewing machine and starting to piece it all together.  Very excite! :)

Here's the monkey fabric

The robot fabric is just the robots, not the other stuff.

Quilting - my (very short) history

I have created one quilt so far, and that was largely from a kit.  It was a girly, pinky crib quilt for my daughter after she was born.  I liked the fabrics that came in the kit, but I wanted to make it larger and use other fabrics that I enjoyed.  I added some minky that I had also used to make her a small taggie blanket, as well as a few other things, including my first stab at machine embroidery. In my opinion, the result can only barely be labeled as a quilt.  I literally jumped two feet into the project, sewed it poorly (I'm new at sewing too) and had no idea how to actually "quilt" the sandwich.  So I used ties, which I know are an acceptable alternative but, well...it wasn't great.  Since then, a few seams have come undone and eventually she threw up blueberries on it which stained it beyond repair.  So I knew I wanted to make her a new quilt.  I had also purchased material for a full sized quilt for my son, but that sat on the shelf waiting for the day I would have the time and energy to cut the pieces.

And then, for Christmas, my husband bought me the AccuQuilt Go!.  It was a game changer.  He got it for a very good price on Black Friday and my excellent friend, Jana,  gave me a couple dies for Christmas.
Edit: information about the next quilt removed in case the intended happens upon this blog.  I'll put up more details once it's finished.

Here's a picture of the quilt I made my daughter, pre-blueberry stain!
Here are the fabrics I chose for my son's quilt

Blog Redux

I've never been a good blogger.  Every time I try to get into it I have a baby or something else that completely distracts me. :)

But now I'm finding myself completely inundated with projects and hobbies and if I don't find an outlet other than my husband to talk about them, I might drive the poor man crazy.

Currently I'm very involved with making hair bows, newbie quilting, setting up two fish tanks, binding my son's school/art work, knitting and gaming.   I'm hoping to use this blog space to talk more about all these things as well as help myself (and maybe others?) gather helpful information.

With that said, I'll talk about my first major project...