Grey Heron

Avalus has encountered this dapper beauty and managed to snap a few pictures for us. It is a long time since I have seen a live heron. Decades, in fact, since the nearest water reservoir where they at least occasionally occur is more than an hour’s worth of brisk walk from my home. It seemed closer when I was a kid.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

A Studio Ghibli Appreciation Bottle Garden

Well, it’s probably no secret that I love Studio Ghibli animes and their magical worlds and being. And I wanted to do a bottle garden for a while, the jar has been standing in the cellar for ages. A bottle garden is a close eco system, where the plants produce oxygen and carbohydrates that then gets consumed by the microorganisms that feed on the decaying plant matter. They’re an invention of 19th century botanists that needed to transport their precious plant samples by boat. The closed boxes don’t need water or fertilizer and there are some that are decades old.

I finally decided what I wanted to do with it and got some supplies, only to be foiled by transport damage. I love the kodama, the little tree spirits from Princess Mononoke  and happily ordered some on Etsy, only this is how they arrived:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The seller promised quick replacement, but I didn’t want to wait because who could tell if I had time then, so I glued them back together. They’re extremely detailed gypsum casts, so I covered them with clear nail polish because I was afraid that otherwise they’d melt inside the bottle garden. Then I wanted a small dead twig from our old apple tree and ended up tearing off a big branch…

Next: assembling the garden. First layer: pebbles for drainage.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I actually wanted to add a layer of clay substrate, but I couldn’t find it anymore. I won’t claim to have a photographic memory, but I have a very good memory for “where did I see this last”, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deal with my chaos. Mr, not so much, and while I don’t blame him, it’s endlessly frustrating to know that he put something somewhere and him not even remembering that the thing exists. Well, the pebbles do the job anyway.  You could now add some charcoal, which I’m probably going to do retroactively.

Next: potting soil and plants.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is pretty moist and probably a thriving ecosystem already. I planted an offspring of one of my succulents and a semper vivum (next pic). those are not ideal plants for a bottle garden. We will see how they do. If they don’t thrive I need to remove the lid and keep watering them like ordinary plants (I only keep orchids and succulents indoors because I suck at watering them).

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next step: Moss and decoration

I collected the moss from a tree stump in the garden. Did you know that by now you can by “moss for decorating” in the garden centre? Like, what?

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sadly, taking the pics through the glass is, well. The light just refracts too much.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I added some fairy lights by drilling through the lid and then sealing the hole with hot glue. Pics are even worse like this.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

They do look happy in their new home, don’t they? Now I got to balance the water and hope that they like it in there.

 

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 2 – Fish in the Aquarium

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer


There is a brackish water fish exhibit on the island Harakka. The fishes, caught from the Gulf of Finland, spend their summer in aquariums and they are released back to the sea in the Autumn. In the Baltic Sea, both freshwater tolerant of some salinity and marine tolerant of low salinity species live next to each other.

The fish pictured here are less typical or well-known in Finnish waters.

In the first picture, a tench can be seen. In Fínnish, it’s called suutari, which means cobbler or shoemaker (but the name may have nothing to do with making shoes, the fish is called sutare in Swedish and shoemaker is skomakare in Swedish). The tenches were rather inactive in the aquarium. The tench is freshwater fish.

A Lazy Tench © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There are some pipefishes in the Baltic Sea. The pipefishes are relatives of sea horses. This broadnosed pipefish is one of them. The broadnosed pipefish is called särmäneula (edge needle, neula = needle) in Finnish. The “edges” are lengthwise bony plates under the skin, which make fish look “edgy” according to Finnish Wikipedia. Broadnosed pipefish is a marine species that’s tolerant of brackish water.

Broadnosed Pipefish © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the third picture, we see a round goby. It is an invasive species from the Black Sea Area.

The Round Goby © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the second aquarium post, we shall be playing a game inspired by “Spot the lizard!”.

Baby, it’s cold outside

In one of Pratchett’s best novels, Nightwatch, Sam Vimes travels back in time and takes part in the “Glorious Revolution” (twice, actually), with its motto of Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard Boiled Egg, and its symbol of lilac in bloom, which happens on the 25th of April. I remember Caine being very fond of that day, posting pics of lilac. For me, living in a place where spring comes earlier than North Dakota and wherever Pratchett lived in the UK, by that time, the lilac had already bloomed, taking its sweet perfume with it.

Except this year, with its extraordinarily cold April. This year, the lilac has not yet dared to open its flowers.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Most nights still had freezing temperatures and lots of plants are four weeks behind their usual schedule, which creates a problem for your dedicated hobby gardener: I planted the seeds according to the usual timeline, and most beds are also ready, only that it’s way too cold to plant anything outside:

©Giliell, all rights reserved The garden as o two weeks ago. The lower terraces are ready for planting, but the weather isn’t.

This means everything is still inside, although I usually carry about 50 plants outside in the morning and carry them back inside in the evening. Say hello to the cocktail tomatoes.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I’m also running out of pots, because most of them have now been replanted three times and had to ask my mum for planting pots. What I really couldn’t keep inside for longer is the squash, so I planted it outside, hoping it would survive. By now, none of the plants look happy, some of them also don’t look alive:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I can only hope that it will regrow those leaves, otherwise the squash will be entirely shop bought this season. As they were last year, when all my plants insisted on having male flowers only.

In the meantime I’m taking joy in the growth of my corn. Intellectually I knew that in order to get that high, it had to grow like mad, but knowing and seeing are two different things.

The two upper terraces in the garden will become “milpa” beds, also known as the “three sisters planting”, an old central American planting technique where you plant corn, beans and squash in the same area (hopefully the squash will survive…). The corn provides stability for the beans to grow on, the beans provide nutrition for the ground, and the squash protect the soil from drying out and being washed away. This was the little one’s idea and I must say, the idea of fresh corn on the cob is intriguing. So, cross your fingers for warmer weather and surviving squash (also the fucking slugs have been at it already. There’s a whole garden for them to eat, they can’t tell me they need to eat my squash).

Winter Wonderland 5: Miscellaneous

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Well, it’s not the Arctic sea, but for a frozen puddle it looks dramatic enough.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A little chaffinch used the open ground under the trees to look for food.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The Nile Goose knows how to pose with a frame of tree branches.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Aaaand, save the best for last. It’s my absolute favourite. Taking pics of crows is damn hard, because the pitch black will just throw off your auto focus and they rarely keep still for long enough to adjust it manually. But in the bright sunlight, the auto focus caught on and the blue and green frame it perfectly.

Winter Wonderland 3: More Swans

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The two juveniles must be about the same age. They are still smaller than their parents, although they have grown a lot since they first arrived, but they have always been about the same size and started out the same cygnet grey. Yet one of them keeps clinging to its baby colours, only reluctantly letting go of the grey and slowly turning white.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Winter Wonderland 2: Swanlake meets Frozen

The swans are the mascots of the whole village. The old pair divorced and moved out some time in 2019, so last autumn they got a new breeding pair with two juveniles. They have shelter on a little island and get fed and I must say, they are remarkably relaxed for swans, especially since the pond has been busier than I’ve ever seen it. Can’t wait for Covid to be over and people going elsewhere again.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Winter Wonderland 1

We’ve been having some snow over the last week, but on Friday we had snow on the ground AND brilliant sunshine and the good thing about home office is that you can decide to take a long break at midday and work when it’s dark. So I packed the camera and the Pokémon and went to the pond for a walk.

It’s too many pics for a single post, so you’ll be getting them over the next few days.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

That’s the same pic, more or less, different camera settings. Takes you from brilliant to gloomy.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

I love icicles. I was not that easy getting this perspective and afterwards jeans were wet.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Take a pic in the shade, and suddenly everything looks grey…

Bullfinches!

We have no snow yet, but the temps are below 0 °C sometimes, so we are filling the feeder with sunflower seeds. And at least bullfinches are here again, I had four pairs show up simultaneously this week, although I did not, unfortunately, get them all in one picture. I got seven individuals at once, but unfortunately, the focus was not on the tree with birds but on the tree behind them.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.