AMICITAS FLIGHT THREE – MISSION DAY 33
ARES III SOL 36
TRANSCRIPT – WATER TELEGRAPH EXCHANGE, ESA BALTIMARE and ESA SHIP AMICITAS
(note: all standard telegraphy / Mares Code shortcuts and abbreviations translated)
AMICITAS: Amicitas calling Baltimare, over.
ESA: Baltimare calling Amicitas, over.
AMICITAS: DF – go for communications experiment Beta. Over.
ESA: Copy go for comm Beta. Stand by. Over.
AMICITAS: DF – dragonfire spell collapsed this side of air transfer system, leaving small pile of soot and ash. Over.
ESA: Copy no joy on dragonfire. Status on experiment Gamma? Over.
AMICITAS: DF – go for communications experiment Gamma. Over.
ESA: Copy go for comm Gamma. Stand by. Over.
AMICITAS: DF – Unable to decipher message due to disorientation of life support alarm. Could not concentrate on blinking warning light.
ESA: Copy no joy on cycling suit life support. Over.
AMICITAS: DF – our host is annoyed. Too much water. Over.
ESA: Disable water outflow. We can use indicator light as signal. Over.
AMICITAS: DF – unable to disable flow without permanently disconnecting water flow. Water flow needed for future food production procedures. Over.
ESA: Understood. Will await your signal for comm Alpha. Out.
MISSION LOG – SOL 36
Dirt doubling yesterday. It’s a good thing ponies are so resilient, because two days after her breakdown Starlight was able to put in a hard day’s work, and we needed every hand or hoof we could get.
For one thing, I decided to dig up and separate the alfalfa sprouts I’d planted, and that ended up taking me all damn day. I had to let the ponies and dragon do the actual dirt-doubling in the rest of the hab because the sprouts, which are a good two feet tall now, had grown huge root complexes so entangled with each other that I couldn’t pull them apart without killing most of them. My fault- I planted them way too densely and the soil is way too shallow for them- but it was still a lot of delicate, painstaking work.
The alfalfa plants spent the night sitting with their roots in water in a large sample bin. Today I replanted them a little looser to allow them to grow. They’re doing surprisingly well for the non-optimal conditions.
My ultimate plan for these plants isn’t food. In the short term I’ll use these plants to infect the rest of our farm soil, here and in the cave if we get that going, with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots. I can’t be sure the alfalfa seeds from the pony packs have those bacteria. They probably do, if they’re viable at all, but I feel better with a second source. Of course alfalfa plants naturally inhibit their own seeds from sprouting right next to them, but I’ll only have them in the ground next to the seeds for a couple of days- just long enough to give the baby alfalfa a nice case of the nitrate cooties.
But beyond that, these plants are seed plants. As long as I have a potato I can grow more potatoes, but our alfalfa seed stock is finite. I figure we have enough for almost an acre, and if we can cultivate an acre of Mars we deserve to go down in history right next to both George Washington Carver and Merlin. But that assumes all the seed is viable and that something doesn’t happen to kill off the plants.
So, if we lose the plants, I want a way to restart the farm. If the Hab and the cave fail at the same time we’re just plain fucked- and not just for food. But if one or the other fails and we can fix it, we can use the soil from the good one to restart the farm- if we have seeds.
So these plants are going to be allowed to flower. Normally you don’t do that, because the optimum balance between nutrition and digestibility of alfalfa is the day the first flower buds begin to open. After that the plants become woody and harder to digest.
Alfalfa requires insects for pollination, but we don’t have any. What we do have are cotton swabs from the geology kit, my medical supplies, and the pony first-aid kit. (Though I’m not sure I’d want a cotton swab after a pony has held it in her teeth…) When these plants bloom we’re going to spend a dull, dull, dull couple of days passing pollen from one itty bitty flower to another, all in the hopes that the mommy pistil and daddy stamen love each other very, very much. And four weeks after that- seeds, dozens of seeds per plant!
Look at me- I’m actually coming up with backup plans. That means I’m moving beyond basic survival. I’m actually feeling good about my situation for once. I think I might even believe I could survive this! So far everything’s been going my way!