Saturday, December 31, 2016

Squirrel Defense

Squirrels: Cute and destructive

It never fails- spring rolls around and the squirrels in the neighborhood all decide that they must CERTAINLY have buried all of their acorns in my flower pots. I've lost a good amount of seedlings and young plants each spring to their pesky digging. They aren't even interested in the plants! They dig them up and leave them, roots destroyed, to shrivel up in the sun.

Well not this year! This year I have squirrel defense. No not the cat, though he would love to get his little paws on a squirrel. He's not allowed outside by himself so his only squirrel defense is to lunge headlong into the door and hope that scares them away.

This year I have decided to make some squirrel-proof wire covers for my square pots. These are the ones I usually plant lettuce in at the beginning of March when squirrels are most likely to be digging for long-lost nuts. Squirrels can technically chew through the plastic of the pot if they're really ambitious, but I'm hoping that they aren't that interested. I mean, the acorns aren't even actually in there. They just hope they are.

Squirrel cover over a pot

I used 1/2" mesh hardware cloth to make the covers. It's similar to chicken wire, but thicker gauge and smaller holes. My other tools and materials included measuring tape, permanent marker, masking tape, thick gloves, and tin snips.

Materials for the squirrel guard.
I found out bungee cords work well for keeping the extra hardware cloth rolled up for storage.

The thick gloves are a must while cutting. The metal is very sharp on the ends which is also why I covered every cut end with masking tape, both on the piece I was keeping and the piece I was leaving behind. I don't want to reach into the closet one day and stab myself with the leftover mesh. Ticky was also running around while I was doing this and I wanted to keep his paws safe from sharp ends.

Safety! Yes!

I measured the pots and made the covers about an inch wider per side on the long sides so I could bend the wire around and crimp it tight to the lip at the top of the pot. The covers can slide on and off of the short ends (with some force) but are fastened on too tightly for a squirrel to detach it.

 The project is done well before I'll need them but I have the time for it now. In spring the covers will stay on until the plants have enough leaves to fill in the space and hide the bare dirt. Then the squirrels either give in or figure the seed has probably already sprouted. I can't tell what the squirrel logic is for that one. All I know is that thankfully they eventually lose interest. Here's to a good start to my garden two months hence!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Containing Your Cat

You cannot contain me! Or maybe you can...

Most of the time your cat is a free-range, crazy beast but on occasion you may have to trim his claws, apply flea meds, or (God forbid) constrain him if he's badly injured. In those cases it's best not to have to contend with a frustrated, frightened, or potentially angry cat. Containment is an essential tool to have in your cat-care repertoire.

So, how do you constrain a cat? It depends on the temperament of the animal and how comfortable you are with them, as well as how severe the situation is. If you're like me and you were blessed with a very tolerant cat, you might be able to get away with just the Method 1 containment. If your animal is feral or you're unfamiliar with the cat you're trying to contain then you may have to use Methods 3 or 4 to avoid hurting yourself or the cat. Here are the methods that I am familiar with for cat containment:

Method 1: Cat wrestling

If cats knew JuJitsu it would be a terrifying world indeed. Luckily, when faced with things they don't like, the tame cat generally has two escape moves: Spring forward or back up. In order to effectively wrangle your kitty you'll need to block both of those exits while making sure they are comfortable enough not to try their next escape move: biting at your hands. For me this is a multi-step process. Make sure you are calm and confident throughout the exercise. Try it a few times without actually needing to constrain your cat until you can get the hang of it. Don't try to reassure your cat with high pitched or concerned sounds, as weirdly this has the opposite effect on them and they get worried about what you might be concerned about. Just talk to them like you would normally.

Step 1: Lure and distract

Ticky says "Sure, I accept your exchange of treats for claw trimming"

My cat will do pretty much anything for treats, so the first step is luring him over with them. I like to have the pair of cat clippers, his toothbrush (yeah he has a toothbrush), or whatever I'm about to do with him on the floor so he knows what's coming. If he's so wound up that he sees the clippers and runs then I know I should probably try again in half an hour or so when he's less of a spaz. I sit on the floor in the position shown in prep for cat-wrestling. I sit with my legs tucked under me and spaced slightly apart. I have a pile of broken-up treats to the side of me to distract him with if he gets antsy while I'm trimming his claws.

Step 2: Grab and tuck

I pull Ticky towards me and tuck his tail out of the way

Without making sudden movements, but just moving with certainty and intent, I grab my cat under the armpits and move him toward me. Once he's closer to my body I tuck his tail in close to his side with my left hand (or right hand if you're left handed). This keeps his tail from being bent wrong or being trapped under my leg when I sit back down. I position his rear end toward me, his front end away from me and sit down. This blocks his rear exit- he can't back up. (If you don't sit down you'll quickly find your hands empty and a somewhat frowzy looking cat behind you!)

Step 3: Blocking the front exit

My hand is on his chest, blocking him from moving forward. He can still eat treats off the floor.

To keep Ticky from jumping forward out of my hold I put my left hand (or right hand if you're left handed) on his chest, up close to his neck. It is helpful at this point if you have some treats next to you to toss some in front of the cat so they're distracted while you pick up your clippers. If the cat is very wiggly you may have to put one hand on the cat's chest and one hand on their shoulders and gently but firmly hold their torso in place while someone else trims their claws. This hold is also useful because it is very hard for the cat to reach around and bite you while your hands are that close to their head. If things get too crazy you can simply let go and the cat will spring forward and away.

Step 4: Working on the cat

It's hard to see, but my left hand has reached under his chin and around to pick up his right paw. My left arm is still blocking his chest. When trimming the other paw it is the opposite.

Now you are ready to begin doing whatever task you needed constraint for. I usually bend over to get closer to the cat's paws if I'm trimming their claws like this. This also constrains them more from the top. I do a few claws, then reward Ticky from the pile of treats beside me. Then continue clipping, reward, etc. I've used this constraint technique for claw trimming, eye and ear cleaning/inspection, tooth brushing, flea med dropping, and removing tape or other sticky things from his fur. I have not yet used it on Ticky to treat an injury though our family cat, Max, used to be held down like this for putting medication on abscesses he used to get from cat fights. 

Method 2: The Towel

Towels are used for more feisty cats but the technique is roughly the same as the first method, just with additional layers between you and claws. It is also harder for the cat to move around when constrained by a towel, making it an even better method for holding a cat still during medicating or wound inspection. 

Step 1: Lure and distract 

If you can, lure the cat close to you with food. It is far easier to wrangle a cat that is distracted and within reaching distance. Though it is possible to toss a towel over a cornered cat, it is much harder, not to mention more stressful for you and the cat!

Step 2: Towel approach

Approach the cat with the towel from the side/back as shown. Keep your movements calm but swift, firm, and purposeful. Don't try to suddenly "attack" the cat with the towel. Instead, move the towel in and surround the cat with it in one smooth movement. Hopefully they're still eating treats!

Step 3: Pick up the cat burrito

Pick up the cat in the same way as you did for Method 1. The towel should further wrap around the bottom of the cat as you drag the cat toward you. You should still be grabbing them just under the armpits and still be in the same sitting position that you were in Method 1. There's just less of a chance of flying claws.

Step 4: Wrap the cat

Once the cat is facing away from you with their rear end constrained on either side by your legs, fold the towel around the front of the cat and hold it in place at the chest, just under the cat's chin. You now do not need to worry about holding the cat's shoulders down, as the towel can do that job with you just holding it firmly in one hand on the chest. This prevents the front escape, your body prevents the backwards escape. Inspect away! You can also use this method to get an unwilling cat into a carrier, or to hold an injured cat's limbs still, depending on how tightly you wrap the cat. 

As with the previous method it's best to practice this a few times first on a friendly cat in a relaxed mood where you don't actually need to do anything with the cat. Ticky gets treats for being such a good wrapping demonstration volunteer. He says "no problem!"

Method 3: Cat in a Sack

I would probably not use this one unless I was absolutely unable to confine the cat using the prior two methods or if the cat's wound was on the back end where it is hard to get to with towel wrapping. If the cat is prone to biting or is semi-feral  and wary about handling this is also a way to capture and inspect the cat. Its head is enclosed and the pillowcase can be opened around a single paw, for example, to get a closer look at it. Note that the cat can still breathe through the pillowcase (unless the pillowcase gets wet! Be careful about pillowcases that get wet- they can create suffocating conditions), and can see shadows of movement but not the environment around them. However, be warned that unless you have the pillowcase wrapped very tightly around the cat they can still move around and bite through the fabric. If you have a very vicious or feral cat, best to trap them in a humane trap and transport them to a vet to inspect!

Step 1: Distract and prepare

Bunch up the pillowcase behind the opening so it is smaller and easier to work with. Distract the cat with food and hover the pillowcase near their head to see if they are immediately frightened away. If that is the case then there is very little chance of actually getting it over the cat- pick a carrier or humane trap instead. 

Step 2: Capture

 If the cat is still distracted by the food, quickly place the bag over the cat, pushing the pillowcase edges all the way down to the ground over the cat's rear. The cat will immediately begin to back up, sometimes rapidly, shaking their head back and forth to try to get the pillowcase off. If you approach from the front and put the pillowcase on in this way the cat will always back up, so use this predictable response to your advantage.

Step 3: Block and tumble

When the cat backs up, tuck the pillowcase under their rear and grasp the far edge, pulling it toward you. This will flip the cat over onto its back. Do not do this in the air! Keep the pillowcase on the ground while flipping the cat to avoid injuries. Also do not open up the pillowcase. Keep it closed at the top to prevent the cat from escaping. You now have a very irritated cat in a bag, but it is a constrained cat, and one that is probably not biting or clawing your face off. You can now transport them safely to a cat carrier or wrap the cat more tightly to constrain them for inspection.

Not a step, but I wanted to reassure Ticky that me dumping him in a pillowcase was an alright thing to do. lol. He got lots of treats afterwards and only had to lick himself off indignantly for a few minutes.

"Well, this is new."

"I hope I get treats for this."

Method 4: Carrier or Humane Trap

If you're taking your cat somewhere and need them confined for the entire time, or if you're dealing with a feral cat then the best place for them is in a carrier. They are safe, no matter how wild they get, and you are protected as well. You can pick them up and take them wherever you need to and they have enough room to move around during a longer trip. If your cat is feral and doesn't allow you near them then a humane trap is basically a carrier that automatically closes behind the cat. ALWAYS remember to check a humane trap every hour or two. Do NOT leave a cat out in the elements while trapped. They can quickly dehydrate or overheat/freeze and die.

Step 1: Lure early and often
Treats make a carrier into a toy that only SOMEtimes takes him to the vet

The easiest way to get your cat into a carrier is to get them in it when you're not about to drag them to the vet. Leave your carrier out and use it regularly as a training tool. Toss treats into it at least once a week and get them used to going in and out of it, and get their scent into the carrier. This will make it insanely easier in an emergency. I had to get my cat quickly out of the building when a fire alarm went off in our apartment complex, and I just shoved him in there and closed the door. Easy peasy. When he started freaking out he was already contained.

Step 2: Contained!
Ticky is safe and portable in his cat carrier!

I hope this has been a useful tutorial on the different methods to contain a cat. I'd like to give a big thanks to Ticky for being such a good sport and J.D. for being the cameraman during my cat-containing antics. Ticky is sleeping on me as I write this, so he doesn't seem to hold a grudge. :)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Begonia Bloggin'

A rainbow of leaves.
The Angel Wing Begonia's leaves turn red underneath as they age!

The begonia plant that I got from a friend back in summer is supposed to be getting ready for winter, but it has decided that it's not ready yet and is growing new leaves at a breakneck pace. (I'm not ready either begonia. I totally understand.) Since it seemed so healthy, I decided to try giving it a slight trim and propagating the stem that I trimmed off. So far it seems to be working well, and I decided to make a blog post to obsess over how well it's doing.

First a little background on the Angel Wing Begonia. There are several different types of begonias, from the kind that you see commonly at your local Home Depot garden center (wax begonias) to hybrid varieties created by botanists to have weird traits like super spirally leaves, purple foliage, or tiger stripes!

Some of the many varieties of begonias
I think the kind I have is a Lucerna hybrid (though I don't know exactly what it's hybridized with) or Angel Wing begonia. It grows in tall canes, sort of like bamboo, and can grow several feet tall! It has pink blooms and dark green leaves with silver spots and red backs.

My plant bloomed around August. The flowers look just like wax begonia flowers!
Mine was beginning to get very top-heavy with all of the leaves, so I staked some of the stems and cut one to try and propagate it. I had heard that you could put the stems straight into water or into damp perlite, so I decided to try both. Perlite is the white rock looking stuff found in potting soil but they sell it all by itself. It's sterile, so your baby plants are less likely to get moldy or have any sort of bacteria infection while still delicate. 

Damp perlite in a vase, with the begonia cutting shoved into it
The leaves wilted a fair amount in the week it took for the stems to start forming roots, and I removed a leaf or two (the stem used to have four leaves) but eventually it perked up. I left it for another two weeks and then pulled it out. It had roots! :D

Roots that formed on the begonia cutting
The cutting in water also rooted! I couldn't see any difference between the two other than the one in perlite had a few more roots. That could be because I trimmed the small water-jar one off of the bigger one a few days in, though, so it didn't have as much of a head start. 

Water-rooted begonia cutting
I planted the perlite cutting in the big begonia pot to provide a few more leaves lower down. The water-rooted one will go in a separate pot to start an entirely new begonia! I may put that one in my office at work.

The re-potted begonia cutting

I also took one of the leaves that I trimmed off and tried doing a leaf cutting propagation. Although the leaf pieces haven't died or molded yet, they also aren't doing anything spectacular. I just keep misting them from time to time. Until something tells me they're dead I'll just assume they're taking their time about growing roots. 

Half a juice container turned out to be perfect for a mini-greenhouse

Anyway, that is my update on the Angel Wing begonia! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Planting Small

Happy Halloween! Succulents can sometimes look like they're from another planet!
Succulents are slow growers. It can take years for one to even double in size. This can be an advantage if you want them to stay packed into a small space for a time, such as the ones displayed above! If succulents are put in a small pot they're also more likely to sprout "pups", or offshoots that can be split from the main plant and re-potted elsewhere. There are lots of reasons to plant small, including running out of space for plants in your apartment!

To begin I bought tiny, healthy looking succulents from the local nursery (and some extra cactus potting mix). I think I have two  echeveria plants, a type of jade, and a crassula. J.D. told me he'd found a bunch of cute mini-pots over in one corner of the store. He was not wrong. I think this one looks like a tiny plant canoe!

Gathered my supplies... ready for planting!
I liked that the mini-pot had big giant drainage holes, because cacti and succulents require really good drainage. They like to be drenched thoroughly, then dried out fast! Otherwise they rot. So the pot was perfect for this type of plant. However, big giant drainage holes also mean dirt comes out the bottom with the water. So, I lined the bottom of the container with a layer of paper towel.

Paper towel: Check!
The first step was to dump out all of the surface gravel that was in the pot from the nursery. Rocks are good as a soil cover, but I didn't want them taking up what little space I had for soil!

The plants, sans container and rocks.
Next I split up the plants that were clustered together in one pot. It was cheaper to buy them that way, and they would do well for a year or so in that pot, but I wanted to plant them in this little container instead. I learned that apparently it is better to cut the roots apart instead of tearing them, because that way they have clean ends that are less likely to get infected by mold or bacteria. Makes sense. I did have to be careful of the rocks that were still embedded in the soil because I didn't want to dull my shears!
Plant mess.
Next I placed the plants into the container. Some of them had tall roots, so I cut one side of the roots to make a sort of "L" shape so I could smush them down into the pot. This isn't the best thing to do to a plant, but I did it. It seems to have gone ok. Succulents are pretty forgiving about root mangling. They grow from a single leaf if you treat them right, so they are capable of developing an entirely new root system from a stub technically. It's not the greatest way to start a plant but it's feasible.

As a matter of fact, I found this little stowaway hiding in the pot underneath of the echeveria!
Sneaky baby plant! Already had new roots and everything.

I put it in the tiny pot that the other echeveria came in, and it's growing nicely with a daily misting of water. I guess I got an extra for my money. Haha. It'll take years to reach the other plants' size though. Remember, they grow slowly!

Anyway, moving on...
I then added some of the cactus potting soil around the plants to fill in the gaps. This took a little bit of finesse because of how little space there was between the plants. I used the blunt end of a wooden paintbrush to tamp down the soil close to the plants. It's good to pack the soil fairly tight in a small container like this to keep the plants positioned properly, but only if the soil is very dry. You probably shouldn't plant succulents in wet soil anyway but if you do don't pack it. The roots require air to avoid rot and to process food.
Adding dirt around the plants.

Finished soil packing. So pretty!
Finally, I added some "top dressing," aka: stuff to keep the soil from falling out of the pot every time I water the thing. I used fish gravel. They also sell soil dressings of all kinds at the nursery, from moss to fancy glass beads, but fish gravel works just as well and looked pretty. I pressed the rocks down lightly into the soil.

Top dressing. In the background you can see the top dressing from the original pot.

Ta-da! The most important thing to do after finishing a transplanting of succulents is to COMPLETELY IGNORE IT for a week. Don't water it, don't pull off any dying leaves, don't even look at it. (Ok, you can look at it. After all, that's why you got them!) But seriously, cacti and succulents need some down time after planting to heal their roots before watering them. Otherwise they can easily rot. So... after waiting a week I took this to the sink and dribbled water into the soil until it came out of the drainage holes, let it sit until it stopped dripping, and then put it back in its sunny spot on the table. These plants all like tons of sun, so I am trying to give them as much as possible. The echeveria on the end is still getting a bit leggy, but we'll see what it looks like after winter.

Yay, new plants! :)

That's it! Water every week to every other week, depending on how much soil is in there. These I water every week because they dry out so quickly. Hope you liked learning more about re-potting tiny, adorable succulents!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Tricks for Treats

Tricks for Treats?
Cats have a reputation for doing exactly what they want and not being beholden to anyone else. This is usually where the blog post goes "but it's not true! You can get your cats to do tricks." No. No, cats have that reputation because that's exactly what cats are like. I'm not going to tell you that your cat is going to lie down and roll over for you every time you tell them to because they won't. They are horrible crowd pleasers. They are, however, excellent barterers. You throw in a little somethin' somethin' to sweeten the deal and they'll happily go out of their way to jump on a box for you. So... here is how to barter with your cat: Tricks for Treats.

The Goods: 
Not endorsing Friskies or anything, it's just Ticky's preference.

The first step in training your cat is making them realize that there's food involved. You may have to search around for a treat that really gets your cat excited about life, but my cat isn't very picky. If it comes in a plastic pouch and rattles when you shake it he'll come running. 

Most treats are pretty high in calories, so if you have big treats try breaking them up into pea-sized pieces to make the treats last longer when you're doing a training session. Try not to gorge your pet on treats. Keep it to 5-10 full-sized treats at a time. That's about as long as you want training to go on anyway. Shorter times are better for interest and memory. 

The Deal:

Pick one trick at first to build on. You want it to be easy so your pet grasps the concept of doing an  action to get a treat. Ticky's first trick was "Up." I'd hold a treat just out of his reach and say "up!" and he'd have to reach up with one paw to get it. As soon as his paw touched my hand I'd release the treat and say "Good boy!" At first he was kind of sloppy, just batting at my hand, or missing it by an inch or two. If he made an effort at it I'd still give him the treat. After he got the idea of reaching upward toward the treat I started touching my hand to his paw while it was in the air, then giving him the treat and the "good boy!" By showing him that touching my hand was the answer, I was able to then hold my hand still in the air and say "up!" and he would solidly touch it by himself after awhile.

The blurriest action shot ever of "up."
It's hard holding a camera and a treat at the same time!

The Tricks: 

I've found it easiest to have both a verbal command and a hand signal for each trick. Ticky seems to respond more to the visual hand signal, but also having verbal commands can only doubly reinforce the trick, so I use those too. Doing the "omg, we're doing tricks for treats, isn't it exciting?!" voice also makes him more enthusiastic, so that's a plus.

Some tricks I've taught Ticky: 

Sit: I started this one by holding a treat back over his head where he had to either back up or sit down to see it and said "sit". When he backed up I didn't do anything. When he sat down I released the treat. Eventually I did a hand signal of a fist over his head, then just a fist held at his eye level and he'd sit down for the treat. 

Turn: This could also go under the "first trick" category, because it's initially just the cat following the treat around which they'll do anyway. Guide the cat into a turn by luring them with a treat. Eventually just make the motion of a circle over their heads with the treat. Be sure to say "turn!" It's usually easier going the first way you teach it than the other way. Try both!

Give me Five: J.D. actually taught Ticky this one. After doing "sit" I open my hand right at his chest level and say "five" and he touches my hand with his paw. To train this one we basically annoyed him enough by shoving an open hand toward his chest that he'd lift his paw up to push it away and he'd get a treat for lifting his paw. Then, similar to "up" we started tapping his paw with our hand once it was raised. Now I only have to open my hand and he touches it for a treat. Seems like everyone wins. High five.

Jump: I picked surfaces that were too tall for Ticky to reach up onto without jumping onto it for starting this one. I'd make a show of arcing the treat from Ticky's level up to the couch or somewhere and say "jump!" When he jumped up to it he'd automatically get the treat because it was sitting there. Now I can make the arc movement and say "jump" and he jumps onto the surface I'm hovering my hand over. He never asks me how high though... Typical cat.

Touch: This one uses the cat's natural curiosity about new stuff that you hold out to them to smell. I started with a pencil or paintbrush that he hadn't seen before and said "touch!" When he sniffed the end of it I'd do the "good boy"/drop a treat for him. Eventually I moved the tip of the cool-looking stick to one side of me and said "touch!" and he'd seek it out to sniff it. Now he touches whatever I'm holding (or my fingertip) with his nose for "touch." This is apparently a great one for if you want your cat to be in a movie because you can be across the room from them, at the top of steps, etc, hold out a stick and say "touch" and they'll run over to it. Ticky will not proooobably not be in any movies, but it's cool nonetheless.

Go In: This one evolved from a need to get Ticky into a carrier without fuss when it's time to go to the vet. I'd show him that I had a treat, then snap and point into the carrier, saying "go on in!", then toss a treat into the carrier. He'd follow it in and get the treat. Eventually I could snap and point and he'd go in by himself, then turn around to get the treat I put in for him.

Over/Under: This one is really just a modification of both "jump" and "go in." I stick my leg out (because I'm too lazy to make him a hurdle) and do the "jump" hand motion over it and he jumps over. I do the snap and point for "go in" toward the space underneath of my leg and he goes under. It took a few tries to get the hang of it. It helped if I just threw the treat underneath of my leg at first for under. You can see in the following video that he's still trying to follow the treat instead of completing the trick sometimes. We're working on it!

Here's a video of Ticky doing some of his Tricks for Treats! You can see he's enjoying this bartering. Hehe.

It's pretty amazing to watch your cat figure out a new trick. They have little mental breakthroughs and suddenly realize what you're trying to tell them you want and it's awesome. I can only imagine it's the same feeling Ticky got when he realized he could get me to move off the couch by scratching the carpet. *sigh*

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Succulents: A lifelong obsession

When I was eight years old I begged my parents for a cactus. I think I had been flipping through some of my mom's gardening books and ran across the succulents section and found things like this:

Lithops, or as I like to call it the tiny butts plant.
Weird fuzzy cacti, similar to one my sister once grabbed as a toddler.
It was not so fuzzy below the surface. More spiny. :(

I thought to myself "this is the weirdest type of plant I've ever seen in my life, I have to have one." My parents said it was the easiest birthday purchase they'd ever made. They bought a $5 miniature cactus set from Walmart and I was beside myself with happiness. Not just one cactus, but FOUR to raise all on my own.

There were actually two cacti and two aloe in the pack. They were the following types:

Ruby Ball Cactus which I named Eenie
 (Actually it turns out that this one is two cacti grafted together!)

Aloe Juvenna, which I named Meanie
Haworthia, which I named Miney

Pilosocereus Azureus, which I named Moe
Eenie and Meanie made it a few years. Eenie's red cap eventually rotted from overwatering. Our cat knocked Meanie off of the desk a few too many times. However, Miney and Moe are still alive and kicking, making them the oldest cacti I own. They are both approaching the two decade mark!

The succulents initially came in teeny tiny pots with labels that said "these will grow to 3 inches tall." I guess they only meant if you kept them in that exact pot, because Moe is now a good foot and a half tall...

Moe doesn't know the meaning of chill.
Eventually Moe will fall over or break, but with a bit of luck I'll be able to save the top half for re-planting. Hopefully that doesn't happen for another several years though. I don't want to go through the trauma of trying to save a 20+ year old cactus until I have to. :-/ 
Miney gave me a good scare a few years ago when I moved into my current apartment. I put it in a sunny window and left it, as I had always done in my parents' house. However, it turned brown in a few months! I was sure I'd lost a succulent, but I moved it to the kitchen table in less bright sunlight and kept close tabs on the soil moisture. Now a few years later Miney is doing very well! It lost a good bit of growth, and used to be much bigger than it is currently, but now I technically have two Mineys- there was a "pup" or side growth off of it that is in the same pot but has developed as a separate plant.

Miney today

It turns out that taking care of succulents mostly involves NOT giving them much in the way of food or water. A "neglected" cactus is a happy cactus. You do have to check on them to make sure that they're not sitting in moist soil for more than a day or two and that the leaves look green and full, but other than that I've gone a month at a time without watering my indoor succulents. I actually lose more to overwatering than underwatering. They tend to mold or turn to brown mush if watered too frequently.

I now name very few of my plants in case of sudden plant death, but I do have some more succulents that I've grown fairly fond of. One is another aloe, though I'm not sure of the type. It was a gift from my grandad to my mom in a pot with several other succulents, most of which are still at my parents' house. I liked this particular one so my mom said I could have it. It's been with me for about 10 years now. I recently got a pup off of it, which has been developing nicely.

Pup from the aloe which has grown a new leaf bud in the past three months. It liiives!

Aloes are slow growers, especially in pots. None of my aloes are very big except for....

Ursula 1 and Ursula 2, the Aloe Vera
A gift from a friend before they moved, Ursula the Aloe Vera plant has survived dividing twice now. The smallest Ursula is currently putting out a new leaf to make up for the ones that have faded in trying to grow proper roots. In the picture you can see a tiny leaf bud growing in the center of the plant. It also liiiives!

I wonder how big this one will get?

Some succulents do very well at growing fast. My portulaca plants have not only taken over their pots but have produced tons of offspring that I'm putting into different pots. The Rose Portulaca has been doing amazingly well this year in the heat and will probably be a repeat purchase next year. I'll try bringing one of the Rose Portulacas inside for the winter, but chances are it won't do very well considering it's been outside its whole life and is an annual plant.

 Rose Portulaca, happily taking over the world.

There are lots of other succulent plants that I would like to try growing. I particularly like the look of things like string-of-pearls and various types of sedum. Maybe someday I will have an entire rock garden for my succulent plants. Wish me luck!