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Duckweed for Ducks

February 9, 2016

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.

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Ducks eagerly gobbling duckweed.

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Mr. Mang harvests wild duckweed every evening to feed his ducks.

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The Mangs and a couple of cute neighbor kids.

Sorry, no Duckweed Right Now

December 10, 2015

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:

  1. Wait until late spring (May) when my ponds are actively growing again.
  2. 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.
  3. For summer orders of solar-dried duckweed in lots of 1  kg to 1 metric ton, please email me at tamraf9@gmail.com

On a perso1209150746.jpgnal 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.

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BSF and Duckweed

November 19, 2015

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

 

Duckweed: Stress or Passion?

November 1, 2015

Sugar Cane in Kentucky

October 24, 2015

 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.

Duckweed Seen as Alternative Protein in Aquaculture World

October 7, 2015

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…

Duckweed as Alternative Protein Source Interview

September 2, 2015

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!

Duckweed Jam Instead of Farm Tour This Year

August 24, 2015

greensun logo smallFor 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.

Cheers,
Tamra

Torturing Duckweed

August 10, 2015

Let’s facduckweed in glass containere 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.

I Built a Mega Outdoor Living Space and I Mean MEGA

May 31, 2015

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.)

0527150824a 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.0531150806a

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!

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