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!

Contest Winners!

An excuse for another kitten photograph

It’s the release day for Making It, and we’re celebrating by giving away two copies of the book.

First, we want to say again how much we enjoyed reading all of your tips. They are excellent, without exception, and should be compiled into a book or something. We’re pondering on some way to highlight that post so that future readers can find the tips.

Second, we’re glad we don’t have to choose among them–because that would be impossible.

So we went to an online random generator and asked it to generate 2 numbers between 1 and 203.

It came up with 42 and 119.

(Yes, 42! This delights Kelly’s inner geek. Erik doesn’t know why it delights her.)

Then we counted the comments, grumbling over the fact they are not numbered. Twice.

And the winners are:

42:

Rachel said…
Birds will not peck at the same fruit/vegetable they pecked yesterday. They’ll go for a new piece every time!

119:

Tina said…
I like making stock out of veges that are not going to get eaten and then freezing them. I make it concentrated so that the stock doesnt take up much room in freezer.

So Tina and Rachel, congrats! If you’ll both email [email protected] with your shipping addresses, we’ll send you a book. Please write soon, or you’ll have to wait for your books until we get back from our tour.

And for the rest of you, thanks for entering, and don’t worry! We’ll be doing more giveaways in the months to come.

Gathering in Portland: Looking for ideas

Hey all,

We’re visiting in Portland on Tuesday, May 3rd and Wednesday, May 4th as part of our book tour. On the Tuesday we arrive, we’re going to be on KGW’s “Live at 7″ program. We’ll be done by 7:15 and have nothing to do afterward. Would anybody like to meet us downtown?

Our idea is that we could settle ourselves at a pub or cafe, and anybody who feels like it could come and hang out with us. We’ll talk about manure the whole night. It’ll be fun!!!

One thing we really need to make this happen is a suggestion for somewhere to meet–otherwise we’re at the mercy of Yelp. We’ll be at Pioneer Courthouse Square, so somewhere within walking distance (or do-able by public transport) would be preferred. It should be quiet enough that we can hear each other speak, and casual enough that we can take up tables whilst nursing a beer or coffee.

So Portlandites(?) Portlanders(?), tell us what you think. We’ll let you make the call.

Giveaway: What’s your favorite tip?

We want to give away a copy of our new book, Making It. To make this contest interesting for everyone, we’re asking you to give us a homesteading-type tip to enter.

Leave us a comment on almost any subject you’ve had some experience with: gardening, fermenting, brewing, sewing, livestock, foraging, cleaning, cooking, building, general common sense–really, it can be just about anything. And the tip doesn’t have to be big and profound. Something like “X is my favorite variety of winter squash” is just fine.

You can also tell us of a mistake you’ve made, something you’ve learned the hard way–a mistake is just an inverse tip!

This way, the comments on this page will be a fascinating read in and of themselves. Only one person will get a book, but we’ll all get lots of good advice.

-We’ll choose the winner using a random number generator.

-The contest will close this Monday night at 10 PM PST. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday.

-If we announce your name, we’ll ask you to contact us via email to arrange shipping. This way contestants don’t have to put their contact info. in their posts.

So keep an eye out for that post on Tuesday!

ETA on Sunday: We love your tips!!! And we’re amazed at the response, so much so that we’re going to give away two books instead of one. Keep ‘em coming.

Question for you: Do you like giveaways?

The more we blog, the more offers we get from people willing to provide goods for giveaways that we host–we’re talking new books, gardening tools, seeds, that sort of stuff. (Although we have been endlessly spammed by an antique replica sword company who is desperate that we share their information with you. Their marketing focus is obviously rapier sharp.)

We’re of two minds on this. We like free stuff, and are happy to be a conduit of free stuff for you. Why not? But then again, we hesitate because we don’t necessarily want to be anyone else’s marketing tool, nor do we want to subject you to marketing if you’ll all find that annoying. Yet….there’s all that free stuff. And we’d do our due diligence on the companies, of course, to make sure they pass muster.

What do you think?

Oops! Sorry!

Thank you for your kind comments, but condolences are not necessary. Chickenzilla passed a few years back.

See, I’m cleaning up the labels or tags on our old posts so that we can have a more effective search system, and somehow I republished 3 old posts as new posts, including one about the sad death of Homegrown Neighbor’s friendly rescued chicken, Chickenzilla. The other two were on figs and bike fashion, respectively. I’ve just taken all those posts down, but those of you reading this on a feed will probably still see them, and I’m sorry about that.

Why Did We Change Our Name?

The answer is simple. To those of you who have ever tried to find an available url, you know. It’s tough. Everything is taken. When I began this blog on a whim one afternoon in 2006, I registered “survivela.com.” Our first publisher, correctly, thought that was too Los Angeles-centric and asked that we make it more universal so that we could expand our readership. Thus began the second painful search for an unused URL, followed by a third painful search due to a comedy of errors too tedious to describe.

Rootsimple.com is here to stay. I like it a lot better than “Homegrown Evolution.” It’s easier to remember and I dig the symbolism.

“Everything changes and nothing remains still …. and … you cannot step twice into the same stream.” as Hereclitus says. The publishing and blogging world is getting a bit crowded in the “urban homesteading” category. It’s time to expand the conversation and explore some new home ec related topics. We don’t want to become stale. Having a new book coming out later this spring, Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, also makes for a good moment to update our website.

Incidentally, for those of you trying to find an unused URL, I discovered that you can just add the word “burrito” and you’ve got yourself a website. So go ahead and register rootsimpleburrito.com before someone else does.