Wednesday, June 5, 2013

While Sleeping Dragons Lie, technical considerations

            June has brought lovely warm weather to us in coastal Maine. The tulips have bloomed and faded. The lilacs are out in full force, and the peonies are covered in buds.
            In the process of moving my kickwheel back to the barn studio, we saw that its table is not doing so well. The varnish has suffered from years of contact with wet clay. So Mr. Riverdragon sanded off the old, and soon will be painting on new. My wheel will look so lovely when he is done, and be pleasanter to use as well! It turns out that the wood is fairly nice looking under the cracking varnish.
            I'm also in the process of setting up my thesis, While Sleeping Dragons Lie, in the barn studio. This will be its permanent home now. After sitting about in pieces for months, it needs some cleaning, repainting, and repairs.
            The pools themselves are actually fairly mundane objects: two sleds and a kiddie pool that I spray painted black. Here's a picture from last summer when I was setting up at the Meeting House Gallery:

            The difficulty with painting these objects is that they are plastic, and the paint doesn't adhere to them incredibly well. Oh, it sticks - but don't scrape it with anything, or it comes right off. This is even with paint intended for plastic items! No matter how careful I was during the traveling required to move the display from place to place, I always carried a roll of black electrical tape along to fix these little scrapes that appeared, almost inexplicably, in the most visible possible places as I was setting up or checking things over just before a reception. Today I peeled off all the little tape fixes and repainted the pools. Now that they'll be staying in one spot for the foreseeable future, hopefully I won't have to make so many cover-ups.
            My original intent when I planned my thesis was for the water to circulate all the way through from the top pool to the bottom one. I wanted to imply a stream through the forest. It turned out that the clay portions of my clever idea took so long to make that I had no time left over for great feats of engineering!
            So now I'm taking this opportunity to go ahead and do the necessary plumbing to create the stream. I made spouts out of stray bits of gutter by cutting the gutter to appropriate lengths. (A saw worked well; a box cutter did not, FYI.) I cut out places for the spouts to go on each sled, tracing the spout shape on the sled with a sharpie. (Box cutters work great for sleds!) Then I used aquarium silicone to attach the spouts to their pools.
            Why aquarium silicone, specifically? Well, I'm a big fan of aquarium silicone for a number of reasons. 1. It sticks to a lot of things, including plastic and ceramic. 2. It's waterproof! 3. It's fish safe. I want to have fish living in the bottom pool, so I better use fish safe materials. 4. It's flexible, so changes in temperature (like when the sun comes in the window and heats up the inside of the barn) won't just pop the join apart. I hope.
            I've also cut a hole just the right size for half-inch tubing to fit through in the top pool. The tube will run from the pump - submersed in the bottom pool - to the top of the tube in the highest pool. The tube comes up about in the middle underneath the stump, so it will be hidden. The stump itself is also a fountain, with a separate, smaller pump.
            The stump isn't designed to have as much water flow as is needed for the whole piece. That pump pushes 75 gallons per hour, and I'm looking for about 300 gallons per hour for the whole stream. 300 gph won't be a lot of current, but it will be enough for a gentle stream and should suffice for the fish. Thus, two separate pumps for two separate purposes. It will appear as though the water flow is all originating from the stump, as that will be the obvious source. But this way I won't have to sacrifice the amount of flow further down the stream or the peaceful trickling of the stump fountain.
            As for the fish in the bottom pool, I'm still mulling over different possibilities. I don't think I will use zebrafish - the fish I used last time - because of how tiny and hard to see they were. I'm certainly not going to try something giant like goldfish, but I think a small school of some kind of barbs would be super. (And some algae eating something-or-other. I love critters that eat algae! They make my plants happy.) With about thirty gallons in the bottom pool and so much surface area, plus the extra five-ish gallons in the upper pools, I have room for a fair number of fish.
            I've also been growing out some aquatic plants this winter, so ideally the display will be quite verdant. I still need to get some lights to put up in the display area. It's rather dark there most of the day, as the barn was not built to let in light particularly well. Even though I'm choosing plants that don't need loads of light, both in and out of the water, they do need more than what is there.
            I think this time around will be the best yet for While Sleeping Dragons Lie. I'm very much looking forward to having my original idea fully developed, including plants, fish, and running water from top to bottom. The dragons will be very happy in their habitat!

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