Goal: Get my WFO tiled before my Caribbean birthday bash this past Saturday. (I had procrastinated 4 YEARS on this project and was sick of seeing raw backer board in my kitchen…)
Prep: Got a wild hair notion to MAKE over 200 tiny tile pieces for a unique mosaic as the focal point of the tile job. Took a ceramics course at WKTC in Paducah, KY this past winter just to learn the techniques. (LOVED that class and getting hang with really great local artists) Didn’t have red glaze so I ended up purchasing red mini tiles through eBay. Settled on a cobalt blue for the majority of the tiled wall.
Process: Played with several mosaic ideas and was not happy. Had gone through too much effort to NOT be happy with the outcome. Googled WFO tile. Not many pics but I did discover a fire motif that worked for me. My mosaic fell into place very easily suddenly. I even sacrificed a couple of necklaces for additional 3D baubles in the mix.
The Hard Part a: Used my scroll saw to cut an archway for the wood storage area below the oven, trying to keep the same degree of arch as the oven itself. The gaping opening had to be beefed up, made smaller without drilling holes through 1/8″ steel, with all wood well-supported, and the archway installed.
The Hard Part b: Had to build up a layer of thin set mortar to achieve a straight with the planet front and sides. Then lay tile vertically and do a lot cutting to go around both arches. I left the mosaic for last. Took my loose assembly and dabbed each piece with mortar and recreated it insitu. Grouted everything and then cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.
Summary: Still have to design and build an iron door for the wood storage area, but am happy with how it turned out. Got it done in time for my party. Am still nursing sore muscles and a thumb that I managed to tear up with a drill gun, but hey, it’s all part of the journey!
Not a very snazzy title, but the point I want to make is that duckweed grows wild pretty much all around the globe and probably in a small pond near you. Here is an example of a quiet pond beside a one lane country road in Southern Illinois, US. All summer it is covered with this amazing blanket of duckweed that never stops giving. It is fed by leaching lawn fertilizer from a nearby residential landscape and slowly decomposing leaves from all the trees you see in the photo. pH 6.7 ammonium levels 1-2ppm. Not a lot of nitrogen but enough to keep it growing. I harvested a pickup load of this lemna a few years back – nearly wiping out the entire mat. Almost overnight, it grew back to a solid covering. This particular lemna did not transplant well for me in a lined pond. Most of it died in shock, being particularly fussy. Other strains are much easier to transplant- lemna turionifera, Spirodella strains, Wolffia strains. However, I keep coming back to this sweet little pond and taking fresh samples every summer, just to see if I can successfully get it to thrive for me as well as it does for Mother Nature. Finally got it to happen. The trick is LOTS of dead, decaying leaves of certain types of trees. Fussy little bugger.
Am in Indonesia this month, working on a duckweed-related venture. Part of what I love about my job is getting to explore the unexpected in search of duckweed strains. Last weekend, a duckweed hunt took me to the communities around the international airport of Jakarta
. My colleague and I used Google maps of the area, then narrowed down to a few sites that looked promising for duckweed. We rented a taxi for a few hours ($10 for three hours!). We through heavy traffic and narrow alleyways in search of the elusive duckweed ponds that looked easy to access from a Google map but were another story to find with the tiny unnamed streets we encountered. We got out several times to walk a few more blocks to where the concrete or tin homes lined fish ponds and rice paddies.
We were happy to at last find healthy duckweed thriving in water that smelled like a sewer and laden with bobbing bottles and trash of all sorts. Nearby, the rolling, acrid smoke of a burning trash dump made our eyes water. We spoke with a local carp grower who was busy harvesting duckweed with a small net and bucket. He said that the duckweed made his fish taste better.
Later, we ran across another farmer harvesting duckweed for his ducks. He said they had better weight gain and eggs and meat tasted better as well. He invited us back to his home and watch his ducks get fed their evening ration of duckweed. We got to see his backyard where he raises ducks, fish, and some food crops. We got to meet his family, and had lots of photo ops with the neighbors. As we returned to the waiting taxi laden with duckweed samples, a young girl put her arm in mine and called to her friends to come see her visitor as we walked along. Many people came out of their homes and I greeted as many as I could. Fun times.
For some reason, am suddenly getting many requests for fresh duckweed samples here in the early part of winter. Even though I made that offer two years ago and even personally paid postage on envelope-sized amounts, am still willing to fulfil requests BUT with the following caveats:
- Wait until late spring (May) when my ponds are actively growing again.
- Send me your address in April or May along with….a. $2.00 for a tbsp of fresh duckweed in a zip lock bag in a regular envelope or b. $8.00 for as much as I can pack into a USPS small Priority box. (roughly 2 cups) or c. $90 for a five gallon bucket size (or shipping and container plus $30- whichever is cheaper) This is a mixed species: Lemna turionifera and Wolffia minutia.
- For summer orders of solar-dried duckweed in lots of 1 kg to 1 metric ton, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On a personal note, am restoring my grandfather’s 80 year old rocking chair. Don’t have a bandsaw or I’d make replacements for the broken wood pieces. My grandfather spent most of his senior waking and napping hours in this rocker. Fond memories.
Oh yes, and a VERY fun project- am brewing my first-ever batch of Christmas cheer- a Pilsner in a five gallon bucket.
Here is a terrific link to details on how to rear black soldier flies. Mention was made about feeding fresh duckweed to BSF larvae. A little tip- don’t try to ONLY fresh duckweed. Integrate with other vegetation and watch the moisture content. (around 60- 70%)
The first time I ever raised BSF was by accident. I found them in my kitchen scrap barrel. When the population ramped up, I watched them devour 6 inches deep of food scraps a day. Watching that seething mass of wriggling larvae was fascinating. I called my kids out to see what was going on. They took one look, started shrieking and ran for the house.
I guess I should have warned them.
Video courtesy Living Web Farms
Brought a couple of these 6 foot tall babies back from my biz trip to Florida last week. Bought them at a farmer’s market in Homestead. I had driven through at least one hundred miles of sugar cane fields, watching the trailers hauling chopped sugar cane to the processing plant in Belle Glade, FL and was totally mesmerized by the whole process. This is a half a billion dollar a year industry. Man, we go through a LOT of sugar!
On the way home, I pulled into a Taco Bell drive thru and a nice young teen asked excitedly, “Is that sugar cane?” (Due to their length, I had to cram the cane in on top of luggage sideways, smashed up against the windows.) When I said yes, his eyes sparkled and then teared up. He said that as a child, he used to chew/eat/suck on it on his grandfather’s farm but hadn’t seen sugar cane since. I offered to cut him off a chunk if he had a sharp knive. Alas, Taco Bell did not keep any sharp knives laying around, so I had to drive off, feeling his wash of memories as though they were my own
.I decided to create sugar cane memories for MY kids so I threw a pizza party- first firing of my WFO this year and introduced sugar cane to my gang. I think I was more excited about it than they, but they did demolish every bit I had prepped. asked a lot of questions, and we went another two rounds. The flavor is a light, crystal sweet and very refreshing.Since I did not have a sugar cane juicer handy, we had to chew or suck on the cane to break the cell walls to release the juice. Fun but I found myself mentally rummaging through my basement storage of old juicers, grinders, etc… to do the job more efficiently. Not worth it for this small amount which led me to my next challenge- raising sugar cane in Kentucky!
I cut 6″ chunks of cane and planted them horizontally in several pots with a mix of dirt and sand and have all in my unheated sun room. According to the Internet, these will sprout in the spring. I also placed a piece in a vase of water where I am rooting a vine cutting. In less than a week, the darned thing is already rooting and a bud swelling up. I have no illusions about farming a tropical plant in a temperate zone- these will all be potted plants on my deck or in my home and with luck, will shoot upwards of 8-12 ft in the summer. I can cut them down in the fall, bring the pots into my sun room to overwinter and have sugar cane to juice and experiment with.
Am delighted that International Aquaculture Magazine is running a very nice article on duckweed as a strong potential feedstock for fisheries. Thanks to Peter Parker of Perindale Publishing for discovering duckweed and running with the story.
Photo credits: Janice Parker of Mayfield, KY. She is terrific!
I have not been posting as much as I used to as I have gotten very involved in commercial duckweed production and my days just zoom by. I just looked at the stats on this site and found that it garnered over 500 hits on Sept. 24th. Can’t quite figure out why but am happy at the surge in interest in duckweed. Something about Pinterest uploads…
I was recently interviewed by Peter Parker of Perendale Publishers of England for their Milling and Grain Magazine. The e-version just came out, with the printed version to follow. It turned out very good. Nice job and thank you, Peter!
For two years running, my startup company, GreenSun Products has hosted a duckweed farm tour. This year I want to change it up and have a Duckweed Jam for my besties at my home instead. Bring your guitars, a folding chair, and favorite beverage. I’ll supply the duckweed vodka and whiskey and some duckweed jerk chicken. We’ll hang out on my massive deck (If I do say so, myself..) and jam to rock, country, reggae, and blues by the light of the silvery moon. If you don’t play an instrument, no problem. We need professional listeners. If you want to soak in the hot tub, that is cool. Swimming trunks are optional. If you want to camp, I have space for several tents. As always, free duckweed samples for those who want to get their own growing.
You know you are a bestie if you are reading this, can make it to Western KY on Saturday, September 26, and are one of the first 100 people to RSVP.
Life is short. Good times are shorter.
Let’s face it. as much as I love duckweed, I can be very cruel to it as well. I have no problem with putting it through the wringer in an effort to understand its absolute limits in small to medium outdoor settings. For example, I am currently gazing out at a glass casserole dish sitting on my deck. The container’s surface has a plucky layer of duckweed that currently is a nice shade of green and actually growing nicely. The torture part? It has been 95 degrees F every day for weeks and this lemna is sitting in one inch of water. It is every bit as hot as the air surrounding it. (if not hotter due to the reflection of the glass.) Pure torture. Am impressed.
Be nice to your duckweed in urban gardening settings. Don’t treat it the way I treat mine. Give it several inches of water and keep small containers in partial shade.
Imagine ignoring conventional wisdom and simply going ahead and building a mega deck. I recently built 900 square feet of deck space around the perimeter of half my home and absolutely love it. I lost twenty pounds and built some solid muscle in the process. It has been one of my dreams for the past five years to have an attached deck. Not just any deck but one that is truly a living space. Cook, eat, nap, entertain, watch wildlife, commune with nature, and have lots of extra space to spread out with power tools so I can build big stuff that I can’t build indoors. Oh, and finally get a hot tub.
I took the plunge and ordered that hot tub a few weeks ago and then had to burn the midnight oil in building that dream deck by the time the hot tub arrived. My son, Thomas, worked beside me every step of the way. Love that sudden adult relationship with a twenty year old son. It made the project so much fun and boy, we got it done a lot quicker that I could have on my own. We beefed up the hot tub area of the deck with extra supports. It all came out pretty level, thanks to renting a laser transit on Day One. I highly, highly recommend doing that, especially with a deck that wraps around a home in all sorts of configurations.
My new hot tub arrived from Fitness Leisure out of St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s a five seater- not super fancy like those crazy amazing floor models you see in a retail spa outlet, but well-built, wonderful and perfect just the same. We rolled it onto the deck using garbage can dollies and I spent two hard days converting the wiring from 110 to 220 volts by installing a GFCI breaker box and then wiring to the main breaker box. (That heavy wire was a BEAR!!! to wire up.)
Last night I climbed in the hot tub for the first time.Hummingbirds darted back and forth, the moon peeped through the clouds, and the frogs were in full chorus. I deemed it worth every cent and sore muscle to be able to sit in a hot tub on my own private elevated living space, high above the sloping ground, poison ivy and ticks, and with full view of a beautiful mini-forest.
I learned a few lessons from all this.
1. Even when the going gets so tough you want to bawl, KEEP ON GOING! It’ll be worth it in the end.
2. When everyone tells you 900 square feet of deck is too much, tell them it isn’t enough but its all you can afford.
3. Use building codes like your best friend. Seriously. I am love with building codes.
4. If you wire up a hot tub on your own, get an electrician to at least follow up and insure you did it right. (Note: I DID wire it up correctly but my connections needed to be tighter.)
5. Be creative like crazy- you don’t get too many opportunities like this in one lifetime.
Today, I am going to savor and rest. We threw a graduation party last night for my seventh son and the hot tub was a big hit. I crashed at 11pm but the party went on until 3AM according to my very sleepy sons this morning.
I have lots to still do, like install a permanent railing of steel cable, three sets of stairs, and finish a pergola. Then on to designing some cool deck furniture. Can’t go around sitting on five gallon buckets with a folded towel on top forever. Actually, if I modded them…. Hmmm…..
Medical report: I go in for surgery this week to correct a major hearing loss in one ear. I cannot lift or sneeze or anything for a month. This wreaks havoc with my building projects, not to mention duckweed harvesting but it will be worth it. My world has become more and more silent. I am lucky to be able to hear the loudest of birds outdoors. I can only imagine what the world will sound like once I recover from this surgery. Wish me luck!
Attention: Fish and Poultry Farmers,
Love saving money on feed costs and raising healthier fish and poultry? We do too and that is why we LOVE duckweed.
If you’ve ever wondered the following:
– What’s all the fuss about duckweed anyway?
– How to wild harvest duckweed for feeding to chickens or tilapia
– How to raise tilapia and duckweed in a win/win integrated system
– How to raise duckweed in a small pond using animal waste
– How much duckweed should be fed to fish or poultry?
We’ve assembled a panel of hands-on experts to describe the “How To’s” and answer your questions.
It’s going to be an information-packed hour! Have questions for the panel to incorporate into their presentations? Email them to Tamra Fakhoorian, host, ahead of time. email@example.com There will be a dedicated Q and A session during the webinar as well.
ILA Webinar: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 Noon Eastern (New York time zone)
For our international friends, try this time zone converter for easily calculating event time: http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/
Note: This meeting will be recorded. Participation limited to the first 20 responders. RSVP to meeting host, firstname.lastname@example.org
Event brought to you by http://www.InternationalLemnaAssociation.org
A couple years ago, I had a meeting with the owner of a local farm supply store. I was hoping he could point me in the direction of local cattle and hog farms so I could procure manure for testing. The conversation got around to what all I was planning to DO with the manure. I happily talked about my duckweed venture and my plans for the biomass. This gentleman scratched his head, tried to keep a straight face, and made an effort to humor me. Have to admit, it did bother me a little. As long as I found some manure though, I was happy. To heck with the critics.
Last year I stopped in again to that farm store. The owner spotted me and told me he’d seen me on the 6:00 o’clock news the night before. He was delighted for me. That was pretty cool, considering his resistance to the project the year before.
Today I stopped in that same farm store to pick up a few supplies. Just for fun, I asked to see the owner as I wanted to give him an update on what this crazy duckweed lady has been up to. Alas, he was out to lunch, so I gave a message to his gal behind the desk. The message was this:
“As a result of raising duckweed for the past two years here in Western Kentucky, I’ve now got duckweed projects forming in four countries.” Her jaw dropped.
I left with my purchases and a tiny smile.
|Dear Duckweed Aficionados,Bill Nye, the science guy would love our next ILA Round Table where we dig into simplified testing methods for duckweed growth trials. You don’t need a PhD in Chemistry or even have access to a laboratory. These are techniques that anyone can master.
You will learn…
Meeting Time: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Noon Eastern (UTC/GMT-7)
RSVP: Tamraf9@gmail.com Limited to the first 25 responders.
Five years ago, I found myself preparing a presentation on duckweed for a conference in China. The audience would be PhD world-class researchers and I didn’t even have a college degree. I felt totally out of my league. So I hunted on the Internet and discovered that there was a club called Toastmasters in Paducah, KY that helped members learn how to communicate more effectively. Perfect!
I visited a meeting. Without warning, they made me get up and tell a little bit about myself. I remember turning bright red and not being able to think of a single thing to say. The club members told me that that happens a lot at first and were so supportive, I knew I’d come to the right place. That was five years ago.
During these past five years of being a Toastmaster, I have become amazingly confident and actually LOVE speaking in public at a moment’s notice. I’ve given over fifty speeches so far and look forward to receiving my Distinguished Toastmaster award this coming summer- the highest honor one can achieve in Toastmasters. I’ve enjoyed serving in various club officer roles through the years and each one has taught me solid leadership skills. As a result, I felt confident in co-founding and leading the first nonprofit in the world dedicated to commercial duckweed production, ILA (International Lemna Association) and my own duckweed company, GreenSun Products.
I currently serve as Area 65 Governor for Toastmasters, Intl. With the encouragement of my peers, I’ve recently decided to run for an elected position- that of Division F Governor. I’ve never run for election before so this is yet another fascinating learning curve.
I currently belong to THREE clubs at the same time and enjoy many friendships with fellow club members. These are my peeps- we’re all self-motivators, self-learners, and just a bit on the nerdy side. Seems like every time I turn around, one of us is getting promoted, are handed a huge raise or land a better job because of our rock-solid skill sets learned in Toastmasters.
Remember that China presentation? Nailed it big-time and even ended up moderating sessions at the conference!
Boy, I love Toastmasters!
In December, I traveled to the Philippines as a consultant on a duckweed pilot project. I was gone for eighteen days.. It took 23 hours of flights to go from Iowa’s frigid cold and snow to Manila’s heat and humidity. It was a lovely shock to my system to see green landscapes in the middle of winter. I couldn’t get enough of the rice paddies, mango trees, towering bamboo forests. Still, the prettiest green of all… DUCKWEED PONDS!
My contacts at MP Wood Philippines Inc. turned out to be an energetic, highly talented group of people who saw to it that I was treated to the whole Filipino experience-home cooked delicacies, entertainment, in depth exploration of both rural and city life including several market visits, and scenic travel around the region. I experienced cultural events like a pre-wedding celebration that lasted all weekend in a tiny village and a Christmas show, food, and gifts for underprivileged children, hosted by sixty Montessori school children. What stunned me was that the kids sang and danced to the very same contemporary holiday songs that my daughter sang in last year’s elementary school program in Kentucky. The holiday song circuit is indeed a global one,
I was introduced to researchers, university heads, professors, students, a wide variety of farmers and their farms, as well as the extended families and friends of my hosts. We would all talk late into the night after tucking away amazing meals. No need for a TV as the conversations were always lively. I felt almost guilty as I was having WAY too much fun.
I did put in plenty of time on the duckweed pilot though. I ran hundreds of water quality tests and duckweed mat profiles. I did a ton of practical research on local organic fertilizers and solved algal bloom issues. I expanded the pilot to include another large pond for a new sustainable model and trained a couple of folks in monitoring techniques. I helped tweak the design on a half-finished solar dryer. It was almost finished on the day that I left. I knew it was going to be a winner when a thermometer broke from the heat in the dryer’s solar tunnel. Now THAT’S HOT!
The last evening, the team surprised me with a going-away dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The featured dish of the evening was roasted wild boar. Very delicious. I felt like they killed the fatted calf for me and I was deeply moved. We toasted our friendship and united vision for a more sustainable country with glasses of Red Horse beer. They asked me to come back and I promised I would. Beyond the business side of things, I do feel like I’ve left a piece of my heart in the Philippines. Lovely country, lovely people. Great place for duckweed production.
In painting the exterior of my home this fall, I noticed that the underlayment or “decking” was rotting under some eaves on my back porch. While I didn’t have water leaking into the house yet, I figured that now was better than later in trying a repair.
I put together a 12 foot tall scaffold and worked up the courage to climb up on the roof. Luckily, it wasn’t all that steep. This portion was covered with a 45mm EPDM rubber layer. I peeled back the EPDM and tore off enough shingles to determine where the rotting part stopped and the dry plywood started. I used a shallow cut via my Skill saw and cut a 16″ by 20 ft strip of plywood off the edge of the roof. As several of the rafter ends had rotted as well, I had to shore them up by cutting replicas out of 2×4’s and cut easements for the additional supports. Each piece required 4 specially angled cuts. A royal pain but one nice perk- my nail gun started working again after a year of retirement and made the job that much easier. I then reinstalled new pressure treated plywood, a layer of tar paper, a metal lip along the perimeter, and rolled the EDPM back in place. I used big head roofing nails to hammer everything down and followed up with roofing tar and fiberglass reinforcment netting running the length of the edge.
Sounds simple. Right?
Now the ugly details…
I had to get over my fear of heights. Drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on the roof and enjoying the fall colors of my woods helped tremendously. Wine or beer would have probably worked as well. If the roof could hold the weight, I could build a cool deck up there… (me and my tree house fantasies…)
Whoever built that porch, sporadically insulated it but didn’t use tar paper or plastic sheeting so the wind was free to blow up under the siding, through the cracks in the insulation, and then through some really butt-ugly pressed wood serving as the inside wall. I’ve suffered for three winters with that enclosed porch stealing heat from the adjoining kitchen. Now I know why.
Wasps- As the walls were basically hollow and easily entered through large exterior holes, literally thousands of them have lived and died in those walls and ceiling. None of the living ones stung me which was nice. I couldn’t find my can of Raid, so I struggled with the concept of letting them live. They weren’t bothering me so I’ve taken the high road and am letting them be.
I took a shower and discovered lots of wasp wings in my hair. Must have made me look quite lovely waltzing into Lowes for that plywood yesterday.
In the midst of fixing the roof of the porch, I got a little crazy and tore out the two remaining single pane aluminum windows and replace them with double pane Pella’s that I had laying around. It’s nice to be able to crank the new ones open and let the breeze blow wasp wings around now. I had to tear out the window framing studs and move everything over a few inches which is always fun for someone who has NEVER gotten the hang of perfectly “straight with the planet” anything. That and no upper arm strength so if nails and screws look like your grandma made an attempt at framing a wall, you’ll know why. Luckily, all will be covered up and no one will be the wiser. I’ve muttered THAT to myself more times than I can remember in this home retrofit. Am seriously considering ripping off that siding, sheathing it and replacing with new siding. That’s only a day’s worth of work. Or… nail a crude greenhouse to the whole shebang and use it for passive solar heating this winter. I like that idea better.
Old crappy porch- my new breakfast and plant haven- getting there!!!
Thanks to Nicole and team for helping spread the word on duckweed’s many uses!
Note: Nicole mentions that I eat duckweed. I do but wanted to add that it is only select species grown in very clean
environments and usually cooked. Don’t want to mislead anyone and get someone sick.
Nicole Cartmell of Cape Girardeau, Missouri KFVS Channel 12 interviewed me today out at the duckweed ponds. The news clip will run here in the next couple of days. She asked a lot of great questions and all went smoothly. That is… until she got a shot of me harvesting duckweed with a pole net. As I lifted the heavy net out of the water, the net fell off the pole. We both started whooping with laughter. RETAKE…
Here’s a picture of her in front of Walden Pond, where the duckweed was in fine form today- gorgeous coloration, an even green mat across the entire surface, and a silvery glint if you looked at it at shore level.
BTW: The Second Annual Duckweed Open House is a week from Saturday. 10-2pm. RSVP email@example.com
Next post will detail updates. Have folks coming from a couple of states. Looking forward to a great turnout.
In association with the International Lemna Association, Mother Earth News and Grit’s “Homesteading Education Month,” GreenSun Products is pleased to invite everyone to our second annual duckweed farm tour here in Western Kentucky. The event kicks off at 10:00am on Saturday, Sept. 13 with tours of our duckweed growing ponds. You will learn how to raise high-protein duckweed yourself for feeding to fish, chickens, and hogs, as well as many ways to incorporate duckweed in a robust garden setting. Learn how to raise earthworms, black soldier flies, and more with the incredibly versatile duckweed- the smallest plant on the planet.
Then settle back in a lawn chair next to a duckweed pond for a little country visiting, duckweed hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting showcasing local vineyards. Bring along a fishing pole and a picnic lunch to make your visit complete!
RSVP for directions: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was a fun interview I did with Mike Podlensy of the Average Person Gardening Show last week. Mike has ordered his first batch of duckweed starter and is going to grow it in his garden now as well.
Quoting his Facebook site:
“In this week’s episode, Mike heads west to the blue grass state of Kentucky and interviews Tamra Fakhoorian, an industry leading expert in the field of duckweed.
Tamra is going to tell us all about duckweed’s uses in food, fuel, water filtration and how many other countries are using duckweed as part of their sustainability.
From there, Tamra is going to take you step by step so you can get started growing duckweed, which species to use, and how to use them to help improve the soil structure in your home vegetable garden.
That, and so much more on this week’s Vegetable Gardening Podcast!
In this episode, here’s what we’ll cover:
-What is duckweed
-Various species of duckweed
-How to grow duckweed
-How to use duckweed in your garden
-International Lemna Association
-Ongoing research about the benefits of Duckweed
Ken Carman, naturalist from Roxbury Park, Hollywood SC, demonstrates how he harvests wild duckweed using a simple pitchfork. He only harvests duckweed on windy days when the lemna bunches up to more than three inches deep. He estimates that he has harvested over twenty tons of duckweed this way over the past two years. What does he use it for? Compost and chicken feed. Visit http://www.RoxburyPark.org for some the best photos of wildlife you’lll see in the region.
Am traveling this week on a duckweed bioprospecting hunt. In addition to collecting lots of cool duckweed strains, look forward to visiting fellow duckweed friends and associates from the South Carolina coastal regions northward to New Jersey. Am kicking off the week with a visit to Ken and Brenda Carman and take a tour of the new Roxbury Park in South Charleston County, SC where Ken is caretaker/naturalist.Ken is the duckweed affectionado that discovered lemna growing underground after being buried for 15 months in a mulch pile. I hope to get a sample of the strain.
Drove 700 miles yesterday after an informative training session for Toastmaster governors in Indianapolis, IN. Love my new TM friends! Such go-getters.
I knew I needed to give it up for the night when the thought of curling up in my backseat in the parking lot of a truck stop started looking real appealing. I drove on another twenty miles though and found a room at 2:00am. Those truck driver days are over.
Last weekend, a television crew lead by Mychaela Bruner from News Channel Six in Paducah, KY came out to do a second story on my duckweed developments. Here is the link to the video. I am very thankful for the interest and support by News Channel Six, my local community and state leaders.
If you guessed Wolffia, you’d be right! You’d win big at Jeopardy but sorry, there is no payoff from my blog site. On the bright side, you’d be in an elite but growing circle of duckweed folks “in the know” and now have the potential for looking pretty smart in biology class. Yes, Wolffia is the world’s smallest flowering plant. You’d have to line up 40 of the little green potato-like buggers end-to-end to make an inch. They flower and produce seeds but well… it’s a rare occurence and even I have not gotten to witness the holy event. They reproduce mainly by budding and reproduce like crazy when awash in fresh water containing ample nutrients. Wolffia is the fastest growing plant on the planet, doubling in weight every 24-48 hours, and up to 50% dry weight of the closest thing to animal protein that Nature can offer. Here is a shot of a couple of species that I am currently growing. Tastes like lettuce, cabbage, and a hint of spinach. Disclaimer: Even though folks in South Asia eat it routinely, don’t go around eating wild-harvested Wolffia as our immune systems are simply not up to snuff.
Our ILA Round Table workshop was recorded today with Dr. Louis Landesman acting as leading expert on fertilization tips for duckweed production. It’s an hour long but one of the best hours you could spend if you were really interested in growing duckweed for urban farming or commercial purposes.
Thanks, Louis. Wonderful job!
A sunny window and spring green loveliness of happy duckweed make up for the damp chill of March. This duckweed was grown primarily on aquarium water from my goldfish with a bit of trace pond muck for micronutrients. It is doubling every three days at present. Another month and sunlight intensity will move that growth rate up to nearly a doubling every one and a half days.
Photo taken by my good friend, Linda King.
I just spent the past week and a half traveling in Uganda and Kenya on business. While enjoying a nose-to-the glass focus on all the new sights, the back of my brain was ever on alert for duckweed.
Finally I spotted some in a ditch and shouted, “Duckweed!” Everyone in the car cracked up because they knew me too well. Our driver promptly pulled over and we all made a mad rush to dig up empty water bottles and plastic bags.
While the water looked clear enough to see what might be lurking, we hailed a young man who was more than happy to wade out to collect water samples and as much duckweed as possible. Yeay! A new Lemna strain that I’ve not seen before. We got it home and safely transplanted. Am tickled because it looks super healthy and not going into shock from its ordeal.
A few tips for YOU when you have neural wiring fine-tuned to spot duckweed from the AC comfort of your own vehicle. (trust me, I have done this for over 120,000 miles)
- If you are driving, drive and “Don’t do like I do” and duckweed hunt at the same time. Promise me…
- Ditches near fertilized lawns or golf courses are prime game. So are rice paddies, marshlands, drainage ponds from plant nurseries, wastewater lagoons, etc…
- Plastic water bottles are terrific for water samples. Any old plastic bag that’ll hold moisture is good for actual duckweed for up to 24 hours and NOT left in a hot vehicle to cook to death.
- If you are the water chemist type and can do simple water quality analysis of your water samples, try to at least get the pH, ammonia, phosphate, and total dissolved solids of your samples. This’ll help you know how to tweak your water when you get home and give your duckweed samples something similar to what they were used to in the wild. or…
- Replant in YOUR water system and hope for the best.
- Back to harvesting, a net and pole in the trunk of your car will make harvesting a whole lot easier and safer than this young man who was vigilant for crocs while he harvested this duckweed. (I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself had he gotten attacked but he was so willing to do it for a dollar… $2 a day wages in this region.)
- If you feel you MUST harvest from a wastewater lagoon, don’t do it unless you have protective gear on and soak everything down with bleach afterwards. Then you have to treat the duckweed like a red-headed stepchild for a long time in terms of potential germs. Not worth it. Let the pros handle it.
- Now that I’ve absolved myself from any potential lawsuits, do go out and enjoy hunting for duckweed from a vehicle. It’s a fun little treasure hunt. Enjoy!
Yes, yes, I know… Over the past three years, my blog about duckweed has drifted to everything from duckweed to decks to wood-fired ovens to skinny-dipping in hot tubs. As there are now nearly 200 posts, it is getting hard for folks to find duckweed info they need. .Am going to fix that here shortly with a new page on the site. Just give me a couple weeks..
I am traveling abroad quite a bit these days, currently starting duckweed pilot projects in four new countries. . I’d always dreamed of doing this sort of thing and what do you know- wishes do come true.
Playing catch up with you all on the nitty-gritty of duckweed production and applications:
- Duckweed has value as an animal feed for just about any animal you can think of. Peacocks like it. So do rabbits. Haven’t tried it on monkeys yet though.
- If you come to me with a bioenergy project with duckweed, I will run, screaming in the other direction. Only exception is waste water to duckweed and then it had better be in country where energy prices are through the roof. Do I sound a bit frustrated here?
- Expect to be disappointed if you try to use off-the-shelf fertilizer on duckweed. It will not work unless you tweak the heck out of it.. Start with mimicking duckweed’s former natural habitat- water, mud, a dilute waste nutrient contribution (a bit of manure, etc…) a bit of shade, wind protection, etc…Which leads me to #4
- Consider that you are culturing an eco-system, not a mono crop. It’ll make your life easier.Even duckweed needs beneficial relationships with bacteria, etc…
- Duckweed’s primary limiting factor is nitrogen. Shoot for 20ppm ammonium if you have a tester. Build up duckweed’s tolerances and if all other nutrients are there and your pH is around 7 or lower, you can ramp up to 60ppm. ammonia/ammonium. Just watch out though. You’ll have more duckweed than you know what to do with. What can get you there? Manure from cows, hogs, goats, or sheep will do it but don’t overdo it. Biomethane effluent works well but with ALL forms of fertilizer- test the heck out of it first in graduated amounts and see what works best.