As you know from my previous posts, we took an extended trip to Texas (3 destinations along the Gulf Coast: Galveston Island, South Padre Island, and Mustang Island near Corpus Christi). This trip was followed by some extreme health problems in our family (all of which had successful outcomes).
We celebrated by seeing Despicable Me 2 and having dinner at Oriental Buffet with Baba (their great grandmother with the shoulder replacement at 84 years young) and their great aunt, G, and Mr. C and me.
We were able to swim a couple days, the weather and pool were both warm enough and it was not stormy.
Our daughter, B and her husband and our 3 grand children from them, A, K, and J visited from July 25 through August 3. This was perfect timing as that gave the 5 cousins some time to be together.
The week that B's family were here we had a chilly snap (even had to get hoodies for all the kids as they hadn't brought any coats).
Snuffles enjoyed the trip, also. We saw 2 lovely does cross the campground one evening and saw and heard lots of various kinds of birds.
We also apparently had a visitor one night (although we never heard or saw a thing). One day after our daily bike ride, we were parking the bicycles and I noticed something on the side of our living room slide out. It's hard to see, but this is what I saw in the dirt/dust: I hope it comes out on your computer if you are reading this. There were 3 little handprints, larger than Snuffie's little feet, and they looked more like little hands. We came to the conclusion that we were apparently visited by a raccoon who was brave enough to walk right up to the trailer and put his/her little paws right up against it.
After our trip to Lake Shelbyville, we started preparing for our last trip of the year which would be a 3 1/2 week trip down to Louisiana and Alabama to see if we can handle the heat and humidity the area is famous for during the summer. We loved Alabama last year in the spring, but weren't sure how we would feel about it in August to September. It was down right chilly, here at home, the last week or two before we left (at least at night) and since our pool lost all its heat, we decided to go ahead and winterize it and "put it away" for the year before we left on our trip.
In addition, I had been thinking for several months that I'd like to start up a reef aquarium again, but just a little one, this time. Several years ago we had an 75 gallon tank at one time, but life got in the way and we weren't able to care for it adequately, so we sold it all. I've missed it though. We can't have fish due to our extended vacations, but we've found a way to have a reef tank with soft corals. Setting up a reef tank takes time to cycle it properly and it goes through several ugly spells before it is pretty.
MarcoRocks (Key Largo Rock is the one I chose) and it arrived quickly, well packed and wonderfully sized pieces and the rock itself is great, very porous and with lots of little nooks and crannies. I started playing with it out of the tank first to see how it would fit together. The pieces kind of "interlock" together like a building set of some kind, just because of how the various protrusions and nooks and crannies fit together. This is how it was set up at first:
Then I needed a couple of small pieces of rock with Coralline Algae on it to start seeding the entire tank with Coralline Algae (if your tank grows coralline algae, you have a healthy start, but it needs to have some somewhere to start).
I joined the FaceBook reef tank groups in Central Illinois and found Reefs R Us which is just 45 minutes away was having a pre opening sale. I asked if I could possibly purchase some used gravel from one of Aaron's tanks and some coralline scrapings from his tank or rock. He said sure, but he would give me that. So we did that. Aaron Derment and his family are true gems. He not only gave me the gravel, but also gave me two small pieces of "rock" that were coralline covered. They also happened to have some soft corals on them. One had a small Xenia Colony and the other had 2 Green Hairy Mushrooms growing on them.
We got one more small piece of rock from Sailfin Pet Shop in Champaign for additional coralline algae and it happened to have 2 small striped mushroom corals on it as well as a larger flower leather coral which was just hanging on by a thread. I removed the leather coral and placed it into a cup like area in my favorite piece of dry rock. I am hoping to "confine" it there as from what I read, it is a fairly aggressive coral. It seems quite happy where I placed it. The striped mushroom corals are also happy, so happy in fact that one of them has produced a little baby (just above and to the right in the dip of the mushroom on the left).
As a final aid to getting the tank cycled quickly and as painlessly as possible, I ordered some GARF (Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation) Grunge (which is very well used gravel from their long established tanks with lots of coralline algae and other various little critters etc. in it. This time I was a bit disappointed in the Grunge. It was much muddier than what I remember purchasing for our original large tank). In addition I ordered some "Reef Janitors" (various types of snails and hermit crabs to help with the algae that crop up during the cycling process). Because the GARF Grunge was so incredibly grungy, I took every piece of rock out, stirred the Grunge lightly into my new gravel/sand bed, let it all settle and then replaced the rocks and small corals. With all these additions, I found I was out of room and had too
much rock, so we placed a smaller (20 gallon long) tank on the stand below the 29 gallon tank and started a second tank. It it primarily going to be a grow out tank when my corals get large enough for me to start dividing them. In this picture, it looks a bit cloudy, but it was clear when we left. It has 2 small live rocks in it as well as one piece of rock covered with coralline algae and both tanks have GARF Grunge, as well as Janitors.
This is what the main tank looked like the day we left. It has an automatic top off unit that makes it not need to be checked more than once a week, which my great sister, G, and my Mom do when they come to pick mail up from the post office for us. They say so far, it is looking great.
During this time we had some very sad news when we were called with the information that Mr. C's best friend had a massive heart attack and passed away. We were both very shocked and saddened by this news and it has affected us quite strongly. John was the same age as Mr. C and it really hit home that you never know when or where or how long you have. We are still working through our grief over John's death and hoping we are able to extend our love and assistance to his family in any way asked of us. Our thoughts and love and prayers go out to Donna, Sean, Mark and their families.
I have lots more to report on, but this blog is too long as it is, so join me later for the latest. . . Smiles, Sue C