The Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 24 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg The days following the electrical storm were filled with strange activity.   Before the storms roared through, the sky filled with thick inky clouds so murky the solar lights were activated. Indoors, the cats laid low.   When the power went off, the house was plunged into […]

The Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 24 2018

Cleo investigates the goldfish

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The days following the electrical storm were filled with strange activity.   Before the storms roared through, the sky filled with thick inky clouds so murky the solar lights were activated. Indoors, the cats laid low.   When the power went off, the house was plunged into darkness.   I hunted for the storm candles and flashlight.   The lights surged back on after lunch.   The storms had moved southward.

Opening the freezer door for ice cubes, I looked up to see a delicate spider web. The guide wires connected to one sheet of Kleenex in the box on the top of the refrigerator and a corner of the freezer door. The small orange spider was perched in the center of her creation.   Two door openings later the nervous spider had retracted the web and disappeared, I thought.   The next evening spider lines were linking the high intensity lights above the dining room table to the lazy Susan.   I gently took hold of the silky thread with the little spider holding on and carefully carried it to a window far from human activity.   The web this small arachnid spun was complex and beautiful.   What inspires this little representative of wildlife as it weaves its intricate design?

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Sometime during the next night large black ants entered the utility room from under the door and colonized the cat box. This was a first. Nothing wakes one up faster than seeing dozens of giant ants swarming in the kitty litter. The box was picked up and taken outdoors.   The corncob fibers with baking soda, mineral oil and ants were tossed past the redcedars. Bye guys.

After the electrical storm, the house cooling unit failed.   The laptop decided to go to the blue screen of death. Consultation with a computer geek helped me correct the laptop problem, but the air conditioning dilemma required two visits by professionals.   The fan direction had reversed, forcing hot air down on top of the compressor.     The hard start, designed to give a super jolt to the capacitor, had malfunctioned.   The capacitor was not properly working.   Was the culprit an electrical surge?   They recommended a home surge protector installed at the breaker box.   Yes indeed.   Summer has just started.

And now Pearl, the surviving goldfish who lost her partner Goldie a few weeks ago. Spoiler alert.   I wish I could blame Pearl's demise on the storm. The past week Pearl had been jamming herself into the sides of the tank or hiding in the cave.   I thought Pearl was just having trouble adjusting to the new fish and was tired of being pestered..until I closely examined her fins.   The dorsal top fin had been chewed off as well as part of her tail.   The goldfish that caught my eye that day at the pet store was the largest among the 75 tiny goldfish in the aquarium.   It was big for a reason.   That fish was a violent bully.   I watched Pearl zoom around the tank with this little monster nipping at her sides.

Filling a large bowl with well water, the two newbies were scooped out and dropped into their temporary home.   Pearl seemed to know she had the tank to herself and slowly floated out of her cave into the wide-open waters. Poor pitiful Pearl.   Would she survive the concerted attempts on her life?

'Nature is ruthless' stated Kurt Vonnegut.   Volkswagen asked famous thinkers in their 1988 advertising campaign to write letters to people of 2088. Vonnegut went on to explain the quantity of life is matched with quantity of nourishment available.   He saw too many people and too small a food supply. His viewpoint was from a human perspective, but it applies to all forms of wildlife.   Survival of the fittest is no accident.   Pearl was slower and larger. She shared 10 gallons of water with one other fish. The small goldfish was quick and agile.   It had come from a tank with 75 other goldfish and stiff competition. Pearl's fins were easy pickings for protein.   Somewhere deep inside its little fish brain (or was it instinctual?) the goldfish had figured out a way to bring down the larger fish.

I don't speak goldfish so I will never know.   Pearl survived three days and is now buried near Goldie.   The aggressive goldfish and its little buddy who, I might add, did not participate in the persecution, were moved back into the big tank.   I told Cleo the cat if she sees the cannibal jump out of the water, feel free to have a snack.

New Trellis

On a happier note, the trellis went up on Saturday behind the oakleaf hydrangea, muscadine grape, raspberry and self-fertile kiwi plants.   While the hydrangea bloomed and the raspberry set fruit, the grape and kiwi were sending vines over the plants and across the grass. They were freed of vines that were then tied higher to the actual trellis. A few plant stems snapped off.   The oakleaf hydrangea stalks with cool blooms were put into a vase filled with water.   They look pretty and if I neglect them long enough, the stems might just root.   Another option is to dip the cut ends into rooting compound, insert in sterile moist soil, and cover the plant with plastic as a makeshift mini-greenhouse.   Only problem is this technique works best on branches that had not flowered.

Sweet corn is on the menu for supper. On the counter sit two types of bicolor sweet corn.   Two organic ears were grown in Texas.   Three conventional ears came from Bixby OK. Tonight comes the sweet corn challenge.

Well over 40 varieties of bicolor sweet corn exist.   Standard is the oldest type, Sugary Extenders have more sugar retained 2-4 days in refrigeration but kernels easily bruise, Supersweets have 4 to 10 times the sugar content, Synergistics have different genes and Augmented Supersweets have different genes combined with Supersweet properties.

Organic vs. conventional corn

Most corn are hybrids.   Not listed are the genetically modified bt corns with genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis or the broad-spectrum systemic herbicide glyphosate resistant corns.   Some scary research is has uncovered how easily Roundup transfers into other crops and plants.   Glyphosate has been linked to liver and blood diseases such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so are we also controlled by Roundup? Is this what Kurt Vonnegut means when he says nature is ruthless?

There has been some major tinkering with the corn genes which is why I prefer organic.   Keep it clean and simple and my body is happy.