Weislander Vegetation Type Mapping

A student of mine happened upon the Weislander Vegetation Type Mapping data set while conducting some of his thesis research.  This is a very great find of historical vegetation cover mapping for California.  This method was well ahead of it's time (being compiled in the 1920's and 30's).  This data set is now GIS enabled as a result of work conducted by UC Berkley and UC Davis.  I hope you find this data set useful in your work.  At least check it out.  Historical photos are available as well.

My student explained to me that some of the trees in the Sierras are not as near as big now as they used to be, especially of some species.

What a great data set that is available for other ecological research!

Thanks Jim!

Winter Downtime?

With my busy schedule, I don't often to post much of anything, but thought I might provides some info on a variety of topics.

I teach an online Python class at American River College.  It is completely full for the Spring and I am working on having the class offered more often.  I am also working on a text that I hope will become a book the provides the bridge between Python and ArcGIS.  A draft version of this will be offered in my class for the Spring.  Check out my blog and JenningsPlanet links for more information.

GIS and the Community

I am working with Soil Born Farms to possibly provide an Internship opportunity that can help Soil Born with their mission while using GIS to deliver the "local food message" and showcasing some of the utility of GIS.

I have also created a GIS of my home property that focuses on how I am using my property for gardening.  I hope to develop the data and generate some web services that I can  showcase to students about what GIS can be used for and as potential project ideas for some of my classes.

GIS and Renewable Energy/Environmental Management

Renewable energy is an important interest to me and as almost all sectors of industry, GIS is being used to communicate the messages.  ESRI has posted some interesting show cases of how GIS is being used in environmental management.

I came across this organization by chance in a book store.  It turns out it is run by the same person who put out EarthWatch and published scientific papers on the state of the World.  Check it out and read through Plan B 4.0 and get involved.

JenningsPlanet Urban Farm

My little patch of garden is in nitrogen and soil replenishing mode.  I have planted a wheat, vetch, fava bean mix in two of my plots as well as my back fence.  Luckily my neighbor cut is "evil privet" bush down, so I now have a little more sun light.  I am trying to remediate some soil on my back fence and have dug up a little patch near my shed (aka future green house) for something.  Compost bins are near full with my trees leaves and grass clippings, not to mention my home food waste.  At some point I need to seriously prune my wonderful seedless mulberry weeds (I mean trees) so that my little garden can benefit from the sun.  This will all come in time, since I need to fix my roof.

Energy Production

I have been thinking about how to implement (relatively cheaply) solar arrays on my property, better use water (hmmm...maybe I should be capturing this water for use later)....Note to Self:  Buy bins to collect rain water, then use on garden.  The solar arrays are not going to sustain my energy use for my home, but it will offset something.  The search goes on.


I now have some snow shoes, but of course the challenge is finding that time and obtaining winter clothes for my kids so we can go play.  I am also thinking of investing in a pretty good GPS for my treks.  I also plan to create GIS data sets/web services to also show case the use of GPS (yet, another one of my classes at American River College).

This is the update from JenningsPlanet Urban Farm.  If I could just shift the Earth's orbit or slow it down, I would have time to do these things.

If you want to call this downtime, so be it.

Be Productive, Get Involved


Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe

Bonsai Rock - Lake Tahoe

I finally made it to the Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe. I was a little disappointed when I saw the rock, since it looked like the trees had been cut down. I checked other posts and realized that they were ok. I am glad these have not been further cut down. I hope to go back at other times of the year to see how it is doing.


JenningsPlanet Organic Family Urban Farm EarthDate - 07.31.2010

Bed 1

I have been harvesting cherry and large tomatoes from the garden. I also have 3 poblanos almost ready. I have started a new batch of lettuce and carrots that I put in 2 weeks ago. First real leave are appearing.

Bed 2

Started 12 bush bean seeds. Currently 3 are coming up. I realized that one of the potato pieces I planted a couple of months ago is growing leaves. Maybe I will get a batch of potatoes. I also started 3 sweet potato cuts to see if these will start. My Japanese Eggplant which did have at least 4 flowers only has one developing eggplant. We will see if this survives.

Bed 3

My mandarin tree that I thought was dead, looks to be alive. It is producing flowers and buds and leaves, so hopefully, my little tree will make it. The pear tree did not make it. The fig tree has 7 developing figs. The cherry that I thought wouldn't make it has good leaves, but no flowers. I will probably need to wait until next year to see if I get any production.


One amazing thing this growing season, is I have been able to successfully start at least 6 tomato plants that actually started from seed in my developed compost pile. This (accidental) method was more successful than trying to start them from seed in seed trays. I know it had a lot to do with the soil temperature. Some even came up in a bed that I just threw compost on and mixed in with the soil.


I also built 2 starter boxes from recycled cedar boards I picked up in my neighborhood from a fence remodel.

I am planning on starting onions and brussel sprouts in these boxes and then transplanting them into my garden once sprouted.


Python and ArcGIS 10

I just completed a webinar produced by ESRI on Python and the new release of ArcGIS 10.  Some very cool tools/functions coming out, especially with being able to access the map document, layers, table of contents, extents, etc., being able to create PDF map books, etc.  Looks like one can write some code within ArcMap to run some simple processes such as a tool or any other process.  The same thing can be done with a script attached to a custom tool.  In either case the output can be automatically added to the Table of Contents.
Here are some highlights from the webinar.

Comments welcome.  For those in the Sacramento Region (or not), I teach a class at American River College, Geog 375, Introduction to GIS programming.  Completely Python and ArcGIS and on-line.

1.   Can build Python code in Field Calculator

2.  arcpy is now the primary module for ArcGIS (replaces arcgisscritping)

3.  Script within ArcMap.  Have a Python Script tool within ArcMap.  Brings up a Python script window at the bottom of the map interface.  Can run in the background and do other map work while script is running.  The script results add the output to the table of contents. 

4.  can import extension modules (e.g. spatial analyst [sa])

5. Type commands from ArcGIS (Python script window at bottom of ArcMap window.

6.  Python 2.6.5 will be supported on ArcGIS 10.  Previous Python scripts and syntax should work with ArcGIS 10

7.  Import arcpy into Python IDE to see geoprocessor code completion

8.  Mapping Module:

              arcpy.mapping, automate map workflows, update/repair data sources (use a loop to do this!)

              access layers, create reports

              create PDF map books

              add/remove layers from table of contents

              definition query, transparency, rotation, scale, etc

              turn on/off labels

9.  OS Support - Windows XP, Vista, 7


JenningsPlanet Organic Family Urban Farm EarthDate - 05.09.2010

The second weekend in May, Mother's Day.

Starting Seeds...

of any sort, pitiful. I do have a couple of prospects of

Brussel Sprouts

but only a few out of the dozens I attempted to start (tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes, okra, peas, squash, zucchini, etc) are atually making it. I think my biggest challenge was keeping the seeds warm and with enough light during the starting phase. I really didn't have any place in my house to really do this.

So a project over the summer in preparation for the fall is to convert my shed into a greenhouse!

As a result of my seed propagation failure, I bought plants:

Cherry Tomato (1)
Hot House (1)
Japanese Egg Plant (1)
Basil (2)
Poblano Peppers (3)
Round Red (1)
Okra (2)

Strawberries (1 bag)

Onions were coming up from the bulbs I started earlier in the year. The spacing could have been a little better, but they are coming up.

I transplanted Rosemary and Oregano from a pot I had.

Box 1

Tomato, Poblano, Eggplant, Garlic

Box 2

Lettuce, Basil, Okra, Garlic

Box 3

Started Sunflower, Palm seeds
I found in downtown Sacramento,


Is going well. This is the most successful part of my garden, since all I have to do is through my food waste and yard waste in there and turn once in awhile :)

My First Lettuce Salad

I managed to clip enough lettuce I started from seed in my garden for a salad.

My son planted a couple of pumpkin seeds in the garden. We will see if they come up. I also (re) planted a couple of zucchini and squash seeds. Hopefully, these will come up.

Here is a picture of a succulent garden I have that I keep adding to from time to time.

A Happy Accident

I noticed when I was watering my blue berries that I have two small tomato plants underneath my blue berries!! What a surprise. I will try and transplant it to my tomato garden.

Front Yard Orchard

The cherry has some new viable buds on it, so my transplant did not kill it :)

I managed to transplant the pear from a pot to the yard. I am still not sure if it will make it. I did give it some organic fertilizer in the soil and some good watering.

The lemon and lime tree had flower buds on it, but I think the bugs ate them. We will see if any fruit comes to fruition.

The mandarin is still a twig, but I am still hopeful. Some set of leaves are coming out of the ground, but I think it is a privit seedling. If so, it will go.

The fig is the most vigorous. Leaves are growing well. A new bud looks like it is appearing down at the base of the tree. I will see what comes of this.


Flowers seem to be growing well. The flowers from last year are coming back, the roses are in bloom, however with a bit of leaf rust. The lilacs are doing well and the little bushes in front are producing more leaves each day!

The lone lily is about 4 feet tall! I can't wait for the blooms to appear.

I threw some flax seeds in the spot where my lemon tree is.

BioInensive Garden Class

I was able to attend the biointensive gardening class yesterday at SoilBorn Farms. Julie and Alison from Peas and Harmony gave the class. It was a great introduction to biointensive gardening and the basics to work the soil, perform close planting, and keep the soil healthy and your garden functional all year around! Thank you Julie and Alison!

As a result of the class, I was thinking about my back and side fences in my back yard that are now overgrown with grass and still has the clay soil since I have not put any amendments in it. I did manage to clean them out last year and dig up the dirt, but not much else at this point. I do get a bit of shade on both fences, however the side fence does get some afternoon sun, especially in the summer.

Back Fence (South side of property)

South side somewhat shady most of the day. Probably good for flowering shrubs. I have a Japanese Maple (~4 yrs old) in foreground.

Backyard Side Fence (West side of property)

2 lilacs present in foreground. Potato tree by the telephone box in the far corner.

So I was thinking of planting wheat, rye, and/or oats here in the fall, which will serve as my brown material in the winter for my compost. The plan is not to grow grains for eating, but for keeping my compost and soil maintained....so I will try this out.


BioIntensive Gardening

One of the more well known methods of organic gardening, BioIntensive Gardening lends itself to take a small plot of land (garden space) and turn it into a productive area for growing food. With the latest downturn in the economy and people needing to "be creative" in being able to get by with much less, turning an a small "urban space" into an area where a family can offset some of their food cost while being more gentle to the environment as well as know where their food comes from and to care for it, BioIntensive Gardening is one option.

Coined by John Jeavons in the early 1970's, he is a world wide proponent of productive organic gardening in small spaces and to help the soil be more "alive" and productive. His working farm is in Willits, CA.

This is one area I am spending a good portion of my time learning and trying as part of my own Urban Garden. Luckily, I live near a working organic urban farm, Soil Born Farms, where I can gain on-site information and knowledge that I can translate into my own experience.

Come back to see how my experience expands my own backyard geography.


Creating the Palisades Creek Lost Google Map (GPS/Digital Camera)

The following describes how I created the map above (from my Oct 2009 Palisade Creek "Lost" hike) - See my Palisade Creek Lost blogpost from Nov 1, 2009.

To create the Google Map post from Nov 1, 2009, I used a basic Garmin 76S and a plain digital camera - Cannon with 5 Mp that does not have GPS capability.

One can create a map like this without any special software other than the Free GPS Babel software to do GPS to other format conversions (one of which is KML) and a free Google (gmail) account.


1. Download the GPSBabel software.

2. Obtain a free Gmail account if you don't already have one.

3. If you want to view your Google KML file in Google Earth, then you will need to download this program. If you want to see you KML file in Google Maps, then you just need to save the KML files.

Create the Map

1. Collect GPS Data

Go collect some GPS locations, routes, tracks. At some point this post will be outdated, but for those of us who don't own the latest and greatest toys, this will be helpful to those who want to create free and easy maps for some basic location GPS data and digital photos.

2. Download/Convert GPS Data using GPS Babel to KML Format

Download the GPS Babel software (if needed). Note where the GPSBabelGUI.exe file is located so you can start the program. The GPSBabelGUI.exe is the GPSBabel program that has a grapical user interface (GUI), which makes it simpler to download/upload/change GPS formats.

Download your data using the GPS babel software and save it out to a KML format. Save the KML file somewhere on your computer.

3. Download your photos to you computer

Once you download your pictures go to the Photos link and create a new photo album and upload the pictures you downloaded to this album. This creates a "Web Album" on your Google account.

4. Add the pictures to a Google Map.

Add a caption if you choose

5. Create a KML file of your photo map

Go back to the Photo Album of your photos, and then click on "View in Google Earth" to generate a KML file.

Instead of "Open in Google Earth," choose "Save." Note the long number. You will need to remember where you save this file, since you will "Import" it into your custom map you will create later (see the next steps).

6. Create a Google Map of your GPS data

Click on the "more" drop down list in you Gmail account andselect Maps from the list to bring up a window to create your own Google Maps.

Click "My Maps" to create a custom Google Map. This map will contain both the GPS data and your photos.

Click "Create a new map" to create a custom map. Give it a name and a description if you choose, and then choose "Import" to import your KML files.

You will need to import your KML files of both your GPS data (exported from GPS Babel) and your photos (that you created in the above steps) into this new map.

7. Import the KML file of your GPS data and photos to your custom map.

You should now have a custom map of your GPS data and photos.

From here you can edit the captions and add text about the locations or photos.

Happy Map Making!



Urban Garden

Spring is trying to get here and I am trying to get my garden going as well. For the last few years of creating and planting raised beds, my what should be "green thumb" is rather brown or gray. I thought I might start out this year with actually testing my soil. My son made this his science project, which actually got him to a District science fair. Turns out my soil is basically depleted of Nitrogen and Phosphorus, but ok with Potassium. pH is neutral.

So a few weeks ago (early March), I added the following:

Chicken Manure - 1 bag over all three boxes
Steer Manure - 1 bag per garden box
My own Compost - a number of shovel fulls of compost

Mixed all of this in.

About 3 weeks ago, I planted my gardens:

Box 1

(all seeds

Pasilla peppers
Cherry Tomatoes - planted in a circle
Big Boy Tomatoes - planted in a circle

Box 2

Lettuce Mix
Garlic - from a head of garlic
Onion bulbs



Box 3

Beans - planted in circles
Brussel Sprouts
Green Onions

Lately, the temperature has been in the high50's low 60's. Two weeks ago it was 70 in the day, 50 at night. I think it has been a little too cold for the little seeds to germinate.

In addition to planting my garden and keeping my options for planting going, I also started inside:

Starter Box 1

Tomatoes (cherry and big boy)
Pasilla Peppers

Starter Box 2

Tomatoes (cherry and big boy)

The beans are currently in a wet paper towel and germinating

The tomatoes have germinated after 1 week. The peppers have not germinated.
I have not used any light source on them other than the light that comes through my back sliding door and kitchen table.

I have also started pepper seeds in a wet paper towel, but no germination after 1 week.

Currently, lettuce, carrots, and brussel sprouts have sprouted in the garden. Garlic tops have appeared from my planted garlic cloves. All the rest has not germinated.

I do think my soil still has too much clay. I probably should have added 2-3 bags of good topsoil and a little more steer manure. I did not add any lime, or phosphorus or other phosphorus additive. I am attempting for pure organic and trying to develop my soil. I do have plenty of earth worms moving around, so I know the soil has some good stuff in it.

Okra, Peas, Cilantro

Today, I just planted okra, peas, and cilantro in an attempt to germinate other plants indoors while it is still cold.


On the side of my yard, I do have black berry bushes with buds and one of my two blue berry bushes have buds and the other is doing ok.

Fruit Trees

I bought fig and cherry tree and have yet to install them in raised boxes in my front yard. The cherry is questionable. The leaves that were on there when I bought is are dying, but I do see some new green buds appearing. The fig is doing well. The lemon and lime have sprouted new leaves and the lemon has new buds about to open. The mandarin still has a green stem, but I am awaiting an new signs of recuperation. The pear tree has no buds on it and I am not sure the pear is going to sprout any buds.