Category Archives: Uncategorized

Much To Report …

All the big stuff has changed:

  • Fell in love and got married
  • New job
  • New homeIMG_2363

Pictured above is the 1/3-acre backyard of a Mission Hills craftsman in south Mission Hills, San Diego, where we now live. We are descending into a finger canyon. There are avocado, persimmon, apricot and quince trees, and also roses, wisteria, and raised garden beds.

For fun, I used a soil survey tool to generate a soil report for the yard —  to plot out next steps to improve soil quality and plant performance with less water.

The tool:


The undeveloped parts of the yard are Gaviota, a fine sandy loam associated with canyons and hillsides. These are well-drained soils with low amounts of organic material.

The parent material for Gaviota is weathered calcareous sandstone, which implies a marine origin. Old beach and seafloor. Shells.

Sand-Silt-Clay Percentages

  •   Sand 66 percent
  •   Silt 20 percent
  •   Clay 14 percent

Soil Family: Lithic Xerorthents

The soil order is entisol, characterized by poorly defined soil horizons. The soil material is largely the same as parent bedrock. Not enough weathering and biology to form a thick top soil layer. These soils have at most 16 inches of top soil.

The soil family is Lithic Xerothents.

Bottom line

The soil is sandy, loamy, skeletal. The cation exchange capacity of this soil is low. The pH is non-acidic due to the calcium. Drainage is high because of the sand. This soil has a low water-holding capacity. This is not a fertile soil and is rates “poor” for agriculture. It is suited for rangeland.

Native Plants

California sage brush community would be natural to this area.


The native soil needs a lot of added organic material and fertilizers to support fruit trees. It is also a thirsty soil with high sand content and poor water holding capacity.

I need to focus on adding compost to build the soil structure. Mulch will help reduce water use. Ultimately, we need to transition to native plants or at least drought tolerant ones. This will be the easiest most beneficial choice for wildlife and us, too.


Porpoises and dolphins in San Francisco Bay, oh my!

A happy story of an urban estuary that got a bit cleaned up and found itself home to porpoises once again. Now the neighborhood is gentrifying and dolphins and whales are moving in. Families are being raised in the bay’s sheltered waters. Scientists are having a field day!

Our Ocean

To the delight of animal lovers and cetacean researchers, harbor porpoises and bottlenose dolphins have found new habitats in San Francisco Bay and are now regularly seen foraging for fish and body-surfing in boat wakes under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Harbor porpoises, among the smallest of the world’s six porpoise species, first re-appeared in 2008, after a more than 60-year absence. The appearance of the bottlenose dolphins in 2010, in contrast, is believed to be associated with a range expansion of the species. Prior to the 1982-83 El Niño, the dolphins were rarely found north of Point Conception, according to scientists.

“I am not talking about seeing one or two animals,” William Keener with Golden Gate Cetacean Research said at the recent State of the Estuary Conference in Oakland. “I am talking about people watching a hundred (porpoises) go by in two hours.”

In the last few years, he and colleagues…

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