Leaping ahead because this is kind of timely: so we try to move our goldfish indoors for the winter. We got off to a late start this year. For one, October was incredibly warm. November too. Even December has only barely gotten to ``just a little warmer than average''. And one of the plastic tanks we use had a leaky plug. Replacing the plug and its O-ring the rate of water leaks dropped to nothing detectable, but it took time to identify and correct the problem. And after that getting the (tap) water safe was a problem. Chloramines in the water keep it healthier for human purposes, but deadlier for goldfish purposes. Time and some potion sold at pet stores will cure that. But the measured ammonia level just would not go down, even when I poured fresh water from the pond into it.
Finally we were getting late enough in the season we just had to start putting fish in and trust the ammonia wouldn't spike too badly. Into the pond went the traps, a mesh one and a wire one. The wire one didn't catch anybody, not all season, an amazing strikeout. The mesh one caught a healthy number early on. That's not too surprising. Goldfish are social enough and one goldfish in a trap will lure others in. And once the fish, and some water lettuce and coon's tail plants were put in, the ammonia inside dropped to its minimal and safe levels.
But we didn't get everybody. Last year we got 54 fish inside --- the last one on Thanksgiving Day --- and still missed at least two which survived the mild winter through spring. This year, perhaps because we started late, we're topping out at I think 46. I lost count, partly because after a week of nobody coming into the traps I actually took fish that were inside and put them in the mesh trap as bait. They'd only get two or three days in the pond as bait before being brought back inside. But you can see how I really should have kept better notes about this all.
That's bad enough. But one of the last fish to come in was one of our original set, the ones we first stocked the pond with. We don't want to lose any goldfish, of course, but losing our original fish would really hurt. This one, Magnum or possibly Gemini --- they're hard to tell apart, and impossible to tell apart when they're separated --- just stuck to the mud. I ended up on an ongoing struggle with him. (I suppose him. The goldfish know.) Several times I saw him in the pond nosing around the mesh trap, and I'd try to nudge him into it. He wasn't having any of it. It looked likely that he was just going to take his chances over the winter.
Finally, the week after Thanksgiving, I noticed. Magnum (might as well use that name) was there, nice and visible in the afternoon sun. And station-keeping. We have a plastic trifold thingy in the garage, meant for holding open trash bags until there's enough stuff in the bags to keep them open. I hoped it was waterproof, and opened it, and dropped it into the water around the fish. And hoped I didn't startle it enough that it would go swimming off to parts undetectable. A 12-foot-wide pond eighteen inches deep offers a surprising lot of parts undetectable.
He wasn't. The water was cold; he was moving slow. I pulled my sleeve up and grabbed. And felt the strange slime of a goldfish's coat! I had Magnum. Briefly. Goldfish are hard to hold. I grabbed around some more. Got him! Pulled it out. Even a cold-catatonic goldfish is mostly muscle, and Magnum is maybe nine inches of it. He flapped out of my hold back into the pond. I grabbed him again and tossed him in the five-gallon bucket of water I'd got ready in my optimism. And brought him inside.
So we have some uncertain number of fish still in the pond. But we had the greatest prize inside. (We'd get one more after that.) And I'm going to be all smug for a long time about my goldfish-grabbing skills.
The pond's finally freezing over, as the temperature's dropped below freezing and promises to stay below freezing for five days or so. It's later than last year --- when Thanksgiving was the end --- but we were trapping goldfish later than last year too. I hope it's a mild winter, though. I hope there's chilled but happy fish waiting for us in spring, when the melt comes.
Really, I'm in it for the fish touching.
Trivia: Dr John Snow, famous for the stopping of a London cholera epidemic by shutting down a public water pump, recorded in his career using chloroform during 867 tooth extractions, 222 female and 7 male breast tumor excisions, nine eyelid corrections, and twelve penis amputations. Source: On The Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the way the World Looks, Simon Garfield.
Currently Reading: Groovy Science, Editor David Kaiser, W Patrick McCray.
PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Quotient Groups, or me looking really hard at odd and even numbers.