Food Adventures with Connie

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

Best 5 Apps Discovered at NETA

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) Spring Conference in Omaha.  Although I’m not a K-12 teacher, librarian, or administrator I’m glad I followed a coworker’s recommendation to join the association and attend.  As a Nebraska Extension Educator, one of the immediate benefits I found was learning about cheap or free, easy-to-use apps that I can immediately put to use in my programming to grab the attention of youth and adults on the web, increase audience engagement at face-to-face events, and ultimately better serve my clientele. Here are the best five apps I discovered at NETA last week and how I plan to use them in my online programming.


1 – Flipgrid


I learned about Flipgrid from Holly Clark in her presentation Checks for Understanding.  You can pose a question or discussion prompt and have students respond with a short video.  Talk about engagement!  And students can use other apps and filters on their devices to really show their personalities.

Now how can I use this platform?

One of Holly’s examples was a school that uses Flipgrid for teachers to introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year (Spring Lake Park, Back to School 2016). This would be great for parents that can’t make it to the school’s open house in the fall. In Extension we could use it to have the educators and assistants in each office or district introduce themselves and talk about their programs, where they’re located, and what topics to call them about.  We could provide a link on our websites so clientele could get to know us and perhaps help them decide who they want to have come talk to their community or garden group.

I already interview fruit and vegetable producers for my blog. In the future, as part of those interviews, perhaps I could get them to record a short intro about who they are, where they are located, what they grow, how to find them online, etc. Then we could create a grid of local food producers that customers and students can use to get to know them, identify internship and mentorship opportunities, etc.

For future conferences, we could have key speakers record a brief description of who they are and what topic they’ll be covering that can be used to help promote the conference and their individual sessions.

The possibilities are endless.  As Holly cautioned though, you only get one grid for free and after that you have to pay.  So if I decide to run with all these ideas I would need to pay.

2 – Animoto

animoto-in-app-storeHave you ever tried to make a slideshow to share highlights of an event?  If so, were you happy with the results?  Last fall I wasted most of a perfectly good day trying to make a slideshow about county fair, trying several apps that I still can’t get to stop popping up on my screen and sending me spam, only to settle on creating it in YouTube (4-H Grows in Cass County slideshow) which just didn’t allow me the freedom to make it as “pretty” as I wanted.  I don’t know how else to say it other than I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter Animoto.  Andrew Easton introduced me to this app in his presentation App-Smashingly Great Instructional Videos.  Not only did he introduce it but he gave us time to try it for ourselves (check out my three-photo slideshow of my daughter playing softball).  This app was very intuitive and easy to use, so now you will be seeing more slideshows from me (and I will actually feel good about them).

3 – Adobe Spark Post

adobe-spark-post-in-app-storeWe see infographics everywhere.  A quick Internet search of “why infographics” will give you list after list of why they are so effective.  I have listened to my Nebraska Extension colleagues expound on why infographics are so great and which apps they use to make theirs.  I’ve tried.  I have.  But I just didn’t like the feel of any of the apps other people swear by.

Well no more.  Shaelynn Farnsworth gave a whole NETA presentation titled May the Infographic Be With You about having elementary school kids create infographics to demonstrate their learning.  That’s right, I need an app so simple that kids can figure it out.  Shaelynn provided some simple infographic rules to follow and then turned us loose to practice using Adobe Spark Post to create a one-fact infographic. Here’s what I came up with in less than five minutes.  I can do this!


4 – iMovie

iMovie-in-app-storeMy iPhone came with iMovie on it and I had honestly just never taken the time to play with it until Michelle Cordy showed us all the ways she uses it with the kids in her classroom during her presentation Create & Capture Learning-iMovie on the iPad.  I wish I’d had teachers with out-of-the-box thinking like her when I was in elementary school!  Anyway, iMovie is an easy to use app that as I said, comes standard on new iOS devices.  With it you can record and edit short video clips.  I don’t feel like I need to go into much detail because unlike me, you probably already know all about iMovie, but if you don’t, check it out.  Michelle also showed us how easy it is to use GarageBand to create a custom soundtrack for your videos, which is really cool, but I’m not quite there yet.

How-to videos are an obvious use of this app for Extension: how to collect a soil sample, how to identify and control pests and diseases…the list goes on and on.  What I like about this app is the control it gives me over my final product and again, easy enough that kids can use it, so there’s really no excuse not to make more videos to help share fruit and vegetable production recommendations with the masses.

5 – ChatterPix

ChatterPix-in-app-storeThis is another gem from Andrew Easton.  With ChatterPix you take a photo of any object, draw a line on it for a mouth, and then record yourself speaking.  As you talk, the mouth will move.  I’ve played with this app and think it would be a lot of fun, especially for projects aimed at kids, but I don’t have a finished project to share with you yet.

Some ways I’ve thought about using this app are to have different fruits and vegetables introduce themselves and where they like to grow, to have agricultural tools describe what they’re used for and any safety precautions you should take around them, or have the different farm animals share interesting facts about themselves.

Bonus app: Tiny Scanner

tiny-scanner-in-app-storeI don’t know about you, but I regularly have to sign paperwork, scan and email it back to the sender.  I also sometimes have something in hard copy that I need to be able to save or share electronically.  Yes, my office has a copier that can scan (to email, thumb drive, or X drive it’s so fancy) and my printer at home has a scanner, but it’s all the way in the basement and I have to step around boxes and “stuff” to get to it (I know, poor me).  Well, now I have a scanner on the phone in my pocket.  Just take a picture (it automatically crops out the area outside the paper’s edge), adjust it to be lighter or darker, black and white or in color, and then email it or save to your camera roll.


How cool is that?

What would you add to this list?  Leave a comment explaining what your favorite app does and how it could be used to serve Extension clientele.

Note: the above screenshots are from an iPhone; FlipGrid, Animoto, and Tiny Scanner are also available for Android devices.


The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Soil Sampling for Home Fruit and Vegetable Production

Whether establishing a new garden or orchard or managing an existing planting, submitting a soil sample for analysis is an important step in sustainable food production.  The results you obtain from this test will let you know if your soil has an appropriate pH for the crop you want to grow and offer recommendations of amendments necessary for optimal plant growth; they will also let you know if you can cut back on your fertilizer applications which will save you money and may result in greater yield.



Anyone growing fruits or vegetables should collect and submit a soil sample for testing every three to five years, more often if changing production systems or trying to identify the cause of poor plant growth and production.


A soil sample is a composite mixture of multiple sub-samples (10 to 15 should be sufficient for most home plantings).  If your planting contains more than one soil type (different texture, color, drainage, etc.), then you should collect a separate sample of each.


Sub-samples should be collected randomly across the production area, to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.  In perennial tree and vine crops you may want to collect a second sample as deep as 24 inches if you suspect severe subsoil problems; the root systems of these plants may extend 36 inches or more into the soil.  Keep in mind however that amendments primarily affect just the upper soil layer; nutrients like phosphorus and potassium and amendments for adjusting pH like lime are not very mobile in the soil.  Incorporating these amendments deeper in the soil is not an option for perennial plants because you want to avoid damaging their root systems.


A soil sample can be taken any time the soil is not frozen.  It is best to submit samples in the fall or early spring so you have time to apply any necessary amendments before or early in the next growing season.  Soil test values will vary by season; you will want to collect samples in subsequent years during the same season so results and recommendations can be compared.

For best results, collect samples when the soil is relatively dry rather than after a rain event or irrigation.


Soil pH and nutrient content have a direct effect on the health and productivity of fruit and vegetable plants.  Submitting soil samples for testing will provide you with recommendations for amendments that can improve your soil quality.

Your results may indicate that you have been applying too much of certain nutrients.  For example, excessive nitrogen in the soil will cause your plants to become excessively vegetative (lush green growth) with a negative effect on fruit yield and quality.  Knowing this will allow you to reduce your fertilizer inputs, and therefore your annual input costs.



Three different soil probes capable of sampling to a depth of 8 inches.

Use a soil probe, auger, spade, or shovel to collect sub-samples from 10 to 15 points across your production area.  Make sure you sample from where the plant root systems are or will be (rather than from walkways, for example).  Mix the sub-samples together in a clean plastic bucket, removing any large stones, vegetation, or other foreign material.  You’ll need about two cups of soil to fill the lab-provided sample container.


Soil sampling in a peach planting using an auger. Samples should be collected where the plant’s roots are located, here at the peach tree’s dripline.

Several labs in Nebraska offer soil testing.  Midwest Laboratories in Omaha and AgSource in Lincoln are two options.  Their websites contain information about requesting a soil sample test kit, which parameters they test for, and when you can expect to receive your results.  The test will cost approximately $25 per sample.

Next Steps

Your soil test results will contain recommendations for soil amendments based on the garden or orchard crops you indicate on the sample submission form.  If you have questions about interpreting your test results or which soil amendments will best meet the needs of your site and production system, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

Most fruit and vegetable plants prefer an acidic soil pH.  If your test results indicate that the soil’s pH is too high, elemental sulfur can be used to lower it.  Just keep in mind that Nebraska’s clay soils have a high buffering capacity which means that their pH will immediately begin to rise after you add sulfur.  To maintain the desired pH you may need to add sulfur every year or two.

For more information about managing soil and nutrients for vegetable production check out UNL’s Fertilizers for Vegetables in Home Gardens. The Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide is an excellent source of information about fruit production, including recommended fertilizer rates.

Handful of garden soil photo via Jing,, CC0 Public Domain.

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