Sunday, February 5, 2012

"BioPreta TM"

The next step "Further Beyond VermiCompost" is using a blend of VermiCompost and biochar.
For the full story, go to

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Compost Tea"

My grandfather would say, "We get too soon old, and too late smart". People would ask me if my VermiJuice was compost tea, and I would say it wasn't, to avoid the question of how much to drink. At last, I have realized that adding compost to water is no different than adding water to compost and collecting the leachate. So what, you might ask? Well, I had unnecessarily added mystery and complexity to a rather simple process.

It may be that the real value of all of this is to produce the "inorganic soluble chemical salts" that plants require to grow and produce food, indoors, year-round, without ownership of land, where people live, anywhere, any time, all the time; with nothing but organic waste materials, and the God-provided resources of water, sunshine, and air. I have added a page on Compost Tea to the blog:
Click on "Beyond Compost" above.

So, here we go with the practical matter of answering the question of Christ of Peter, "Do you love me?"

"Feed my lambs"
"Tend my sheep"
"Feed my sheep"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Cycle

Start anywhere.
Slice a tomato.
Put what you don’t eat in your organic waste container.
Dump the organic waste into your compost bin.
Take the worm food out of your compost bin.
Feed your worms.
Water your worm system.
Catch the drippings.
Feed your tomato plants in your soil-less farm with the drippings.
Pick your tomatoes.
Put the dead plants in your compost bin.
Slice a tomato.
“Feed my lambs”
Put what you don’t eat in your organic waste container.
Take your organic waste container to the neighborhood food factory.
Take home some fresh tomatoes.
Slice a tomato.
“Tend my sheep”
Put what you don’t eat in your organic waste container.
Give your organic waste container to the neighborhood food factory delivery person.
Buy tomatoes from the neighborhood food factory delivery person.
Slice a tomato.
“Feed my sheep”
Put what you don’t eat in your organic waste container.
Dump your organic waste container in the neighborhood container.
Fill out your online shopping list from the local food factory.
Take your bag inside.
Slice a cucumber.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Food from Wastes

"Beyond Compost" was a manual to fill a gap between the small under-counter worm bin and the huge commercial vermiculture operations involved with industrial wastes.
"Further Beyond VermiCompost" will go beyond composting basics, beyond vermiculture, and beyond the application of VermiCompost to soil gardening and the use of VermiJuice in "soil-less agriculture" or hydroponics indoors.

The concept will be that in order for us to feed 9.5 Billion people on the earth we will have to provide more food and use more sustainable methods. With a mere 6 Billion of us to feed, we are currently falling short of enough by 37,000 human lives lost to malnutrition and starvation every day. That is obviously not a sustainable fact of "life".

Our present methods involve enormous areas of land growing monocultures of plants that must be packaged and shipped long distances to markets, sometimes crossing oceans and sometimes flying through the air to retain freshness. There is not enough good land to continue this practice. Water is a limited resource. Current irrigation with drinking water is not sustainable. Distribution and packaging costs put much of our food out of the reach of 86% of our current population that makes less than $2 a day. Yes, I said "our" population. This is a global challenge for global thinkers.

Most of the people in the world live in or near cities of at least 500,000 population. It makes sense to grow food as close as possible to these markets. Even better, food can be grown inside these population centers.

Why is this important to you?

Remember the silly remark, "Let them eat cake"? Hungry people are not reasonable people. They are not happy people. They don't like people who seem to have too much when they have too little. Our best security and safety policy will come from accepting this reality and changing our behavior.

The first step will be for you to become familiar with the success stories of people who have arrived at solutions. The wheels have been invented!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Organic Hydroponics

I may have been taught at some time that plant roots must absorb inorganic soluble salts into their roots, but perhaps emptying loads of manure from our chicken houses convinced me that plants eat manure. At any rate, I now understand that the microorganisms in the soil convert the organic materials into inorganic soluble salts.

In a typical commercial hydroponic system the medium for growing food is an inorganic material similar to sand or gravel. The nutrients are a careful mixture of inorganic commercial chemistry, purchased many times from distant lands. This is possibly a good temporary solution to running out of vast fertile fields outdoors. In theory, this method eliminates weeds, insects and diseases by eliminating the "middle-microorganisms" that operate in the soil.

The problem that I am confronted with is that this merely creates another source of misplaced waste material, requiring extensive energy-intensive transportaion, distribution and packaging. It is still my basic premise that ...


This is where you may become uncomfortable.

The folks who are producing plants with organic hydroponic technology have been tending their crops in their basements. Now that "medical marijuana" has come "out of the basement", so to speak, we will gain the benefit of what they have been learning. Strange as it may seem, at this time, these growers may be holding the keys to our survival with "sustainable agriculture".

Remember the instruction to provide your worm farm with 70% moisture so your herd of worms can breathe through their skins? Well, guess what has been percolating down through the bins into the containers below. INORGANIC SOLUBLE SALTS that the microorganisms have converted from your organic wastes while being transported around in the guts of worms!

My friend, Richard, had his VermiJuice tested by MSU and they told him that his Potassium and Phosphorus tested "off the charts". So how about the highly touted Nitrogen? My usual answer is that microorganisms breathe in Nitrogen from the air for about four years, making the small test number into a large test number over a long period of time. It appears that a better answer can be obtained by adding some ingredients to the VermiJuice and bubbling air through it. So far we are playing with blackstrap molasses, fish emulsion, bat guano, etc. Stay tuned, and let us know what you have discovered!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We're back ...

The rainy season has begun in Costa Rica, and we have grandkids to hug, so we are back in Michigan.
I didn't make as much progress in Bello Oriente as I had hoped. The long grass that we cut and piled in the compost bins was too coarse and long. It took too long to decompose to make a good worm food, but it made a nice mulch. I need to figure out how to shred the material. Machetes don't prepare the grass the way my home lawnmower does. The kitchen waste was not a problem, and we generally get enough rain to keep the stacks moist, along with dumping any wash water on the piles. You might question the soapy water, but someday I hope to filter all of our used water through the compost.

The next book will probably be titled "Further Beyond VermiCompost". It will feature slightly larger systems. Since writing "Beyond Compost" I have been introduced to a number of systems that convert larger amounts of organic waste and they have adapted to their needs. I think you may find these adaptations helpful. The basics remain the same.

I'm hoping to help Meadowbrook Elementary School in Forest Hills, Michigan, initiate and develop their school gardening project and composting system. In an environment like this it is important to begin with something like a closed rotary compost tumbler, since not everybody understands the difference between compost and garbage. Assuming that the elementary program produces an acceptable amount of worm food, a high school could continue the process with a VermiChester vermicompost program. Already we have seen two results. First, the 2nd and 3rd Grade students are eating more fruits and vegetables because of increased interest in organic waste. Second, the administration is saving a huge amount of money due to a closer scrutiny of their waste disposal methods. They were paying for disposal of containers that were not compact or filled. There is still room for further improvement as they begin to shred more of their paper waste.

If you have stories to tell and share, please comment. If your story is long, we can connect by e-mail, etc.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

CoopaPueblo Beneficio

We left for Costa Rica, for the winter, on November 16, 2009. Near our home in Costa Rica near the border of Panama the coffee farmers have formed a cooperative and they have built a new processing plant. A few years ago, my family donated to the purchase of the processing machinery for the new micro-beneficio(a micro-processor of coffee beans)just outside of the town.
I was very fortunate to meet Mike Durighello in CoopaBuena. He is a student from California, and has been involved in a vermiculture project with the CoopaPueblo micro-beneficio. I visited the project with Mike and I think you will be interested in the different approach to medium-sized vermiculture. Unlike the lunchroom waste and greenhouse waste projects, the beneficio is a mono-cultural waste system that only processes a single waste stream. After the hulls have been removed from the coffee beans in a water-intensive process, the waste is like wet grape skins. Mike adds cow manure and a bit of calcium to enrich his vermicompost and reduce some acidity. The two trays are about a foot deep and about 2m.x4m. (6’x 12’), and lined with heavy black plastic. They have a slight slope to allow excess water to escape as leachate. I helped Mike set up a sort of micro-windrow process inside the first bin. We added new coffee hull waste along the side of the mature vermicompost. The worms will migrate from the digested waste into the fresh material, allowing the harvest to take place after they have moved. Some problems to be faced are that the coffee harvest is seasonal, requiring careful scheduling of feeding the limited material, and a few months of very dry weather that will require care to avoid drying out the system.
Unlike the vertical space-saving VermiChester system, the CoopaPueblo horizontal system requires more area, but they both follow the same general principles. We have the advantage down here of not having to worry about our worms being frozen.
So far, the only use for the finished vermiculture product has been a demonstration garden on the property. The effluent is allowed to drain out on the ground.

Meanwhile, in the village, Sr.William Mendez has been raising head lettuce according to a method taught by a visiting expert from Cuba. He cannot meet the local demand for his lettuce, yet. He has been tending a worm bin that was acquired from some scholars from California when they finished their research project. Whatever they learned and documented must have gone back north with them. I hope to connect some of these dots.