Picture Sundays: US Postal Service Creates World’s Ugliest Stamp

I got some stamps out of a machine at the post office yesterday and this is what got barfed out. Is this a sign of the imminent collapse of the US empire or just evidence that the email thing is making the post office go broke? Either way, you’d think the Postal Service would be embarrassed by this graphic design nightmare.

How do we get them to reissue this one? I may not be a big fan of the American Poultry Industry, but that sure is a fine looking stamp.

Thankfully the post office lets you make your own stamps.

So how about one with that beekeeping donkey from yesterday’s link dump?

Or that menace of poultry keepers, an angry raccoon.

How about a composting toilet?

Or a tribute to the Mayan/Zombie/2012 Apocalypse.

Welcome to the new Root Simple!

The Root Simple Information Hub

After six years of semi-disorganized blogging, we’ve cleaned up our act. We hope this new design will make it easier to find the information you need, whether your want to access an old post, look for some specific information, or find out if we’re doing any events. Also, this new layout is what’s called a “responsive layout,” meaning it should look as good on your phone or tablet as it does on your desktop computer.

We want to thank our designer, Roman Jaster, pictured above, for a beautiful job!

Thank you, too, to Caroline Clerc for the charming drawings in the header.

Some features:

  • We’ve really cleaned up our tags (aka categories), to make information easier to find. In the top menu bar you’ll see some of the major categories, but also be sure to click on “All Categories” to see the full list. Relevant categories also appear to the left of every post.
  • We’ve finally started a project we’ve long wanted to do: creating short how-to videos. We’ll post about each new one as we finish them, but you can also always find them under the “Video” tab as well as on our YouTube Channel. We’re also working on making the videos “video podcasts”, so you can sign up to download them automatically.
  • On the subject of podcasts, we have long promised podcasts but have decided to focus on video production for now.
  • Keep an eye on the “Upcoming Events” in the right-side menu bar. More info will be found under the Events tab at the top.
  • A hint for searching: The search box at the top of our layout works pretty well, but if your search is a tricky one, Google often works best. Just enter “root simple” in quotes and then the subject, e.g.: “root simple” olive oil moisturizer

With any change there’s always bugs. If you experience any technical difficulties with the design, please let us know! And when you do, be sure to mention which browser you were using (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) when you had the problem. You can comment here or email comments to [email protected]

Giveaway: The New Sunset Western Garden Book

We’ve got five copies of the The New Sunset Western Garden Book to give away to lucky readers. All you have to do is leave a comment here telling us where you live (not your address, but your city or region) and name your favorite tomato variety. This way we’ll build a list of the best tomatoes to help everyone with their summer selections.

Tuesday, March 6th we’ll announce the five winners here by the name they leave in the comments–so no anonymous entries, please. We’ll work out delivery details from there.

Please be aware that this book is written for gardeners who live the western portion of North America: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, or New Mexico.

Call In Your Questions to the Root Simple Podcast!

As I mentioned in my voluminous New Years resolution list, we’re going to attempt a podcast after a false start last year. One of the ideas we have is to answer listener questions. This is where you can help. Got a question? Call and leave a message on our Google Voice number: (213) 537-2591. If we don’t have the answer we’ll interview someone who does. We’d prefer calls, but if you’d like to send us an email, you can reach us at [email protected]. Put “podcast question” in the subject line. Looking forward to some great questions and please be patient with us as it may take us awhile to produce the first show.

SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Resource

One of the highlights of the California Master Gardener Conference I just spoke at was a lecture by Toby O’Geen, Ph.D., Assistant Soil Resource Specialist at UC Extension. O’Geen mentioned an amazing online soil resource called SoilWeb, avaliable at http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/drupal/node/902.

SoilWeb overlays detailed soil information on Google Maps and Google Earth. There’s even a SoilWeb iPhone app allowing you to use the GPS capabilities of your phone to assist in shopping for, say, the perfect vineyard location.

SoilWeb maps cover most, but not all, areas of the US (Los Angeles isn’t included for some reason). While highly technical, terms are explained via hyperlinks. You click on the table to the right of the map for more detailed information including suitability for farming.

Of course in urban areas you never know what unpleasant surprises lurk beneath the surface such as concrete chunks and lead. SoilWeb won’t tip you off to those things, but it does give a good overall picture of the kind of soil you’ll be dealing with.

Friday Quiz Answer

The answer to our “Freaky Friday Fungal Quiz”: slime mold. And I should not have used “fungal” in the title. Slime molds are no longer classified as fungi. But I’ll stick with “freaky.” According to UC Berkeley, slime molds fall into three categories,

Plasmodial slime molds, like Physarum . . ., are basically enormous single cells with thousands of nuclei. They are formed when individual flagellated cells swarm together and fuse. The result is one large bag of cytoplasm with many diploid nuclei. These “giant cells” have been extremely useful in studies of cytoplasmic streaming (the movement of cell contents) because it is possible to see this happening even under relatively low magnification. In addition, the large size of the slime mold “cell” makes them easier to manipulate than most cells.

A second group, the cellular slime molds, spend most of their lives as separate single-celled amoeboid protists, but upon the release of a chemical signal, the individual cells aggregate into a great swarm. Cellular slime molds are thus of great interest to cell and developmental biologists, because they provide a comparatively simple and easily manipulated system for understanding how cells interact to generate a multicellular organism. There are two groups of cellular slime molds, the Dictyostelida and the Acrasida, which may not be closely related to each other.

A third group, the Labyrinthulomycota or slime nets, are also called “slime molds”, but appear to be more closely related to the Chromista, and not relatives of the other “slime mold” groups.

Friday Freaky Fungus Quiz

I spotted this strange blobby thing attached to a step just below our porch. Measuring about an inch and a half, it has not changed much in the week since I first noticed it. I suspect that it’s some sort of fungus, but I’m not absolutely sure. I ate about a teaspoon of it and developed an alternative to my usual lecture appearances. Just kidding.

But seriously, what the heck is this thing? Leave  a comment!