The Unconventional Farmer: Archive of Korean Natural Farming techniques

It was a 420 Magazine member @MerryAnna who first introduced me to the techniques of Korean Natural Farming and a website created by Gil Carandang that provided excellent guides to making the DIY ferts and soil conditioners etc. That site, The Unconventional Farmer (dot com) was legendary, and then it disappeared completely sometime in 2017.

I used the website a lot during my first grow and still use some of the tech in the non-canna garden (and for any canna plants not grown in Doc’s High Brix kit) and have been wishing the site was still in existence.

In a brilliant turn of events, someone has reproduced it, nearly in full, a group of bio-dynamic farmers from Oregon in fact. :cheer:

All the recipes and guides are there: an incredible resource for soil growers. Some of you might recognise the LABs and DIY Calphos recipe ;), now you’ll know the sources. I’m not saying that Gil Carandang, was the first to ever do all this, it comes from Korean Natural Farming practices that are no doubt very old, but AFAIK he was the first to thoroughly document it online, some years ago

I will link to all of the guides reproduced there and for the sake of preserving the info I will hopefully reproduce each of the guides here as well (have to check out if that’s ok - might not be).

The person who reproduced it there says the following:

This page is dedicated to which is currently no longer online since 2017. I cannot take any credit beyond collecting and reposting information as a way to insure that this important knowledge is not lost to the ethers. This information was given away freely on the website and I wanted to insure this resource to stay in the public consciousness. - Clay

I will echo all that and thank Clay profusely, whoever they are, for bringing it back. These methods can be very useful in an organic and/or biodynamic garden! Especially the Lactobaciullus Serum :thumb:

Each guide will get it’s own post and I’ll link them here:

As the BD farmer from Oregon states, none of this is my work. The original website was by Gil Carnadang and these excellent folks form Oregon have reposted and preserved it and I’m simply doing that over here - so if their website ever goes down, we still have this info.

NB: I am not an expert in any of this and I I certainly haven’t used all of these - but I have used quite a few, and know that others used the original site as a resource as well. I hope that it continues to be a resource for many.

Introduction (source link below)

Original write up from the unconventional farmer.
Welcome to Gil Carandang’s natural farming hub. We started this website because there is a lot of interest in natural farming coming from both small hobbyists and larger industrial scale farmers and gardeners. The appeal of sustainable agriculture like organic and natural farming is broad. It’s initial appeal is for clean and safe food. But at the end of the day, it goes far beyond that. It enhances and protects the environment from degradation, whereas traditional agriculture tends to be a major culprit of this phenomenon. When we start to see this environmental or ecological issue, we go beyond the sustainable food system of creating safe food, to a food system which will provide life. It is this holistic context of “food, health and environment” that has both universal and particular appeal to all segments of society.

We have a passion for the philosophies behind natural agriculture; appreciating the power and significance of nature and applying those lessons to our environment. Passion is infectious – we want to found a community, where anyone can come to learn about natural farming techniques, see the proof of their effectiveness, and become motivated to apply these techniques in their own lives. Ideas grow by sharing, and that’s what is all about.

While Gil has been busy working with farmers in the Philippines, he has not had time to publish current topics of research, or refine the material that is already in circulation. Part of our goal here is to make Gil accessible, and his knowledge available, organized, and centralized.

This website has a ton of good information on it. If you like playing outside, you’ve come to the right place. You can learn everything from how to make your own homemade fertilizer, to how to build a piggery that requires no cleaning and has no smell. Along the way, our hope is that you will start viewing the natural world through our eyes – full of possibilities and lessons, recipes and instructions, code hidden in plain sight.

Source: Unconventional Farmer | Unconventional
I just picked up some FPJ one Comfrey and one Peach and Comfrey.
It's made with organic Comfrey, LABS, EM-1, super Cera Powder, and molasses.
Should be a nice addition to my soil.

Also picked up some Ferticell algae extract which sounds awesome.

I may have to try fermenting some of my next batch of Alfalfa Sprouted Seed Tea like I just read from that link.
Thanks for posting it.

Buildasoil has their Black Friday sale going all week, most everything is 20% off.
I saved about $100
Well yes, you can now buy OTC versions of some of these products and that will be how may people need to do it. Thanks for sharing the sale info nunya :)

This thread is mostly about the ‘original’ recipes and guides for making them DIY, and helping to preserve the original internet source of this info
Lactobacillus Serum (source linked below)
This is the workhorse of the beneficial bacteria we’ll be discussing here. We use it for everything! Foul odors, clogged drains, cheaper pig/chicken/etc farming, aquaculture, the applications are amazingly diverse. Learn how to make and use this and you will have a powerful tool in your farming arsenal.

How to Make:

  1. Get container, fill halfway with rice-wash. Rice wash is the water leftover when you rinse fresh rice. For example, go buy rice, whatever kind, bring it home, put it in a pot with warm water, swirl it a bit and then drain the [now milky colored] water. The water is now a rich source of carbohydrates. In this step, you can substitute rice with another carbohydrate source if you don’t have rice, as long as it is complex (don’t use simple carbohydrates like sugar, honey, syrup, molasses, etc). You can use wheat, barley, kinoa, other carbohydrates as the base to make your carbohydrate wash. This wash will attract microbes from the air, among them lacto bacilli.
  2. Cover loosely and let stand for a couple days to a week
    • When is it done? When you see a light film on top (molds) and it smells a little sour and forms 3 layers. This is indicating the rice wash is infected with various microbes. This happens more quickly in warm temperatures because microbes are more active. Thus it is all relative since we don’t do this in controlled laboratory conditions.
  3. The layers are distinct
    • Top layer: floating carbohydrates leftover from fermentation and possibly molds
    • Middle layer: Lactic Acid and other bacteria (cheese buffs will recognize this as a makeshift “rennet”). We will use this layer.
    • Bottom layer: Starch, byproduct of fermentation
  4. Extract the middle layer using a siphon. This layer contains the highest concentration of lactic acid bacteria and lowest concentration of the unneeded byproducts
  5. Get a new container, larger than the first. Take the extracted serum from the last step and mix it with 10 parts milk. By saturating with milk (lactose), we dissuade other microbes from proliferating, leaving L. bacilli. E.G. if you have 1cup of the serum, mix it with 10cups milk.
    • TIP: The best milk to use in unpasteurized natural milk. However, any milk will do, even powdered milk. In our experience, the best is unpasteurized natural but just use what is available. We just want to saturate with lactose to promote L. bacilli bacteria.
  6. You want to keep this stage anaerobic as much as possible. You can use something like rice bran, barley bran, wheat bran, etc sprinkled on top of the milk. I use a sealed container with a one-way valve.
    • Note: Beware of bubbling during this phase. It can lead to overflows if you filled to near the top. It can go through the one-way valves so keep an eye on it and don’t do this step around nice things.
  7. After about 1 week (temp dependent), you’ll see curds (made of carbohydrate, protein, and fat) on top of the milk. The water below will be yellow colored – this is whey, enriched with lactic acid bacteria from the fermentation of the milk.
    • NOTE: Microbes like L. bacilli are more active in warmer temperatures. The curds you see are a byproduct of the fermentation process. Fermentation is generally associated with microbial processes under anaerobic(no oxygen) conditions. Now, L. bacilli is a facultative anaerobe, that is it can live and work with or without oxygen, but less competition in anaerobic conditions.
  8. The water below(whey+lacto) is the good stuff. You want to extract this. You can either skim the curds off the top, pour through a strainer, or whatever other methods to accomplish that
  9. NOTE: Remember the curds, or byproduct of milk fermentation by L. bacilli, are great food. They are full of beneficial microbes like L. bacilli. Feed the curds to the soil, compost pile, plants, animals, humans – whoever wants them! They are full of good nutrients/microbes. No waste in natural farming.
  10. To preserve at room temperature, add an equal part sugar/molasses to the serum. So, if you have 1L of serum, add 1kilo sugar or 1L molasses. Otherwise store in fridge to keep.

Example Recipe:

  • 1 L rice wash
  • add 10L Milk
  • After rice wash and milk remove curds – around 1L
  • Left with 10L pure LAB (lactic acid bacteria)
  • add 10kg sugar or 10L molasses
  • = 20 L stabilized lactic acid bacteria serum
What to Use it for and How
Before using, first mix 1:20 with water. 1 part serum to 20 parts water. Then follow instructions below:

Odor Reducer:
Add mixture to animal’s water at 2tbsp/L. You can mix it more or less, there are no rules here, just how we typically do it.

  • Apply to places where there is odor buildup. The harmless bacteria “eat” the odor causing germs and the smell is gone!
    • Indoors: reduces foul odors, including animals like cats, dogs, mice, other pets. Stinky shoes? Wet clothes from being outside? Gym clothes that haven’t made it to the wash yet? Smoker in the house? Kill these nasty smells!
    • Outside: use to control odor in pens – pigs, cows, chickens. In barns, around the yard, etc

Household use:

  • Clear clogged drains: dump mixture into drain to clear clogs. Exact amount depends on the clog, haha. A few tbsp to 1L works well. For semi-clogged drains (like kitchen sink draining progressively slower), use at night and allow at least the night for microbes to work.
  • Keep septic clear. Tired of having your septic system drained? Add lacto! Depending on size of your system, pour a few tbsp. to a few L into the toilet every few months.
  • Houseplants: Mix 2-3tbsp per 1L water and use that to water them.
Animal Bedding:
Mix 2tbsp to 1L water. Mix with animal bedding to reduce smell and increase longevity. In natural pig farming we use at least 1 yard deep of bedding so there is plenty of space for microbes to work. Bedding consists of organic substrate like rice hulls, wood chips, sawdust, wood shavings, shredded corn cob, any other high cellulose, high lignin material. Natural pig farming is a future topic on this site. Spray until bedding is slightly damp but not wet. How much you spray really depends on your climate. If you are in a very dry climate you can spray a little more and mix in evenly. Wetter (more humid) climates use a bit less. Mix into the bedding evenly where necessary (in many cases, like with pigs and chickens, they’ll mix it themselves). How much you use is all relative. These guidelines are for pigs and chickens. More extreme smells, just use more! Want to spray less often, use more! As we notice a smell we spray. Thus, as pigs grow bigger, make more poop, we spray more often! Dosage/frequency is relative and will depend on your situation.

Animals – Digestive/Growth Aid:
Mix 2tbsp to 1L water, then add that mixture to animal’s water at 2tbsp/L(so the animal’s water contains little less than a quarter tsp/L of lacto serum). But this is very flexible. The Lacto serum is not harmful, so its just about adding enough to be effective, without wasting it.

  • Improve digestive efficiency in humans and animals alike:
    • Improves how you feel after meals, particularly meals rich in meats. It’s awesome. After eating, mix 1-2tbsp lacto with a cup of water and drink that. Makes you feel so much better after! Lessens that afternoon lull, gives you more energy!
    • Aids digestion in animals. This is critical. You can raise animals on less food, and see the same and greater growth rates. Amazing results in pigs . The principal is that the microorganisms help digest the food coming in – better digestibility means better nutrient absorption. Save on feeds, better feed to growth conversion ratio!
    • TIP: If you really want to boost growth, mix 2tbsp to 1L water and soak the food in this solution for a few hours to a few days. Food is pre-digested when animals eat it, AWESOME!
    • Great results in livestock and poultry.

Plants – Growth Aid:
When added to water for plants, nutrient uptake efficiency is increased, which increases growth!

  • Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.

Disease Resistance:
  • This is a consequence of the increased efficiency of nutrients. More nutrients available at smaller metabolic cost.
  • Lacto suppresses harmful bacteria in food/water that animals consume, enhances their gut flora so that line of defense is working optimally, etc.

Aid Compost:

  • Mix 2tbsp/L and spray on compost pile to improve decomposition. This is a huge topic that will be expanded upon in another post.

Aid Organic Fertilizer:
Add 1-2tbsp per gallon water-nutrient solution. Lacto consumes organic nutrients making them bio-available to plant roots.

  • Plants don’t use organic fertilizer! Microbes break it down to inorganic constituents, and plants take those up. This product makes that process more efficient.

Lacto works in aquaculture just fine if you don’t have BIM available. Add lacto at roughly 1L per 700m3 of fish-containing water. Example: you have a pond that averages 20m wide by 30m long by 2m deep. So, 20 x 30 x 2 = 1200m3. In this case you would add roughly 1L of BIM or Lacto

  • Microbes digest fish wastes, cleaning up water and improving water quality.
  • Allows fish to grow larger due to digestive efficiency
  • Allows higher population of fish in the same amount of water! Literally, increases the carrying capacity of your body of water! This is awesome for aquaculture setups
Source: Lactobacillus Serum | Unconventional
Bokashi Composting
Source: Bokashi Composting | Unconventional

What is Bokashi Composting?
What is Bokashi composting? The rough translation is ‘the fermentation of organic materials’, which is pretty broad. With this broad definition of Bokashi we can liken it to a basic fermentation recipe. So in that way, you can think of this as a guide to fermentation. I like the Bokashi buzzword, it sounds cool, but don’t feel like you’re limited to fermenting kitchen scraps in your “Bokashi Bin” (aka fermentation bucket – sounds way less cool).

What is fermentation?

It’s important to note – Bokashi composting doesn’t break things down the way traditional aerobic composting does. You won’t get a pile of dirt from your kitchen scraps, fish, bones or whatever you’re composting this way. You will simply have the same material, looking a little more monochrome, more easily broken/separated/smushed when you squeeze it, and smelling sour. BUT, this material, in the next stage of decomposition, will break down much faster and more completely than it would otherwise.

Why Bokashi Composting??

So Bokashi composting, under the broad definition above, is far from just pre-composting kitchen scraps bound for the traditional compost heap. It is a valuable tool we can use to boost the decomposition rate or digestibility of a nutrient source. Just like in the anaerobic compost tea, we aren’t worried about overloading the system with nutrients. You don’t need it to heat up, so you don’t have to monitor the ingredients to get just the right balance of greens and browns. It won’t heat up like a traditional compost pile, so it won’t get too hot if you put in all green nutrients.

Just like comparing aerobic vs anaerobic compost teas, we can compare bokashi composting to traditional composting. Aerobic composting produces a wide variety of beneficial aerobic microbes which break down a limited amount of nutrients into plant available forms. In bokashi, a little more limited group of beneficial anaerobes break down an unlimited amount of nutrients into more plant available forms. The breakdown process doesn’t go as far as traditional composting, but it still makes a much more bioavailable nutrient source for whatever your need – plants, animals or people.

So, unlimited nutrients. In fact depending on the need we will use only nutrients in the system. In this way you can break down a ton of material safely and without smell. You can’t just put your kitchen scraps in the compost heap every day. You will likely end up with a wet, sloppy, stinky mess that will harm the garden rather than help. So instead, you’ll use bokashi to break down the material scentlessly and safely before adding it to the garden or compost bin. If you want to make your animal feed much more effective, increase the growth rate of your animals, you’ll use bokashi to pre-digest their feed. Or maybe a batch of animal feed got wet and will spoil or has already started to spoil. Bokashi! A ton of green waste and no brown waste to balance it out? Bokashi! After fermenting, you can add the waste to the garden where it will quickly break down and feed the soil. There are a myriad applications of this valuable technique.

Basic Principles of Bokashi

As mentioned above, you can ferment anything organic – food, paper, bones, sticks, coffee grounds, moss, leaves, animal waste, bird feathers, etc etc. It just involves adding an energy source (sugar most commonly), the right microbes, proper moisture level, and keeping the system anaerobic (no oxygen).

The simple energy source should be simple carbohydrates – sugar, syrup, molasses, honey, jaggery, etc. The generally accepted best source is molasses, because of all the vitamins and minerals it contains. In any case, the simple carbohydrate source is the basic feed of the anaerobic bacteria that you’ll use to ferment the solids in your system. You can use up to 1/3rd part sugar in terms of solids. For example, you might have 30kg of solids to ferment, you would add 10kg sugar max. You can use less sugar, and the fermentation will not proceed as far along since there is less food source. You can also diversify the feeds by adding other energy sources – fruits which contain sugar, etc. My personal guideline with sugar is – the more biologically active the ingredients, the more sugar to be used. The abundance of food helps beneficial fermentation bacteria dominate. For example I would add more sugar when fermenting bird feathers or fish than I would coffee grounds or fresh cut leaves. The other guideline I follow is stated above – the more sugar you add, the ‘farther’ your system will ferment and the ‘stronger’ it will be – the bacteria convert sugar to alcohols and acids. So for example when making animal feed Bokashi I add less sugar than when making compost Bokashi.

Just as in aerobic composting, in Bokashi microbes are the foundation and good quality Bokashi hinges on having the correct microbes. Lactobacillus bacteria are the main workers here, but also other anaerobes like Actinomyces, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and more. To make sure these beneficial microbes dominate, we’ll inoculate our Bokashi with a microbial inoculant that is chalk full of them. That way they get a head start on other bacteria. These beneficial anaerobes produce enzymes and other byproducts like organic acids that hinder the growth of competing bacteria – that’s why fermentation is a food preservation technique – pathogens can’t grow! It’s still possible to Bokashi without the microbial inoculant, but there is a much greater risk of the batch going “bad” – the wrong bacteria thriving – we don’t recommend it. If you don’t have the microbial inoculant I’d advise adding more sugar to your Bokashi. You can monitor your Bokashi by smell – it should smell faintly alcoholic/vinegar/sour but not in a foul way.

Bacteria don’t thrive in dry conditions – often they don’t die either, they form cysts/endospores/etc and wait out the poor environmental conditions. We want active bacteria not sleeping bacteria – so we’ll make sure there is enough moisture to keep them alert and mobile. For me that is at least 30% moisture. You can have more no problem, but I wouldn’t recommend less than 30% moisture. I think they are just more efficient in a moist environment. Maybe someone can pitch in here on the lower limit of moisture level, this is the arbitrary limit I work with. My animal feed Bokashi is normally around 45% moisture level. Enough that you squeeze it and it clumps firmly together in a ball but doesn’t drip. Keep in mind this is an anaerobic technique, so there is no upper limit to the moisture level. The moisture level you use depends on your purposes, really. For fermenting animal feed for example, normally you start with a very dry feed and just wet it enough for the microbes to work – no need to make animal feed soup. For kitchen waste bokashi, you don’t really worry about the moisture level, but normally you add a drain for the simple fact you can drain off the nutrient rich bokashi leachate as it forms.

Lastly, oxygen level. This technique, Bokashi, is an anaerobic process so it has to be oxygen free. We’ll exclude oxygen by keeping the system sealed – in a bucket with lid, sealed plastic bag, etc. It is best to use a bucket with lid though so that you can pack the material down and it won’t change shape, and also won’t be disturbed during fermentation. That is a big factor – during fermentation keep the Bokashi system as static and undisturbed as possible – minimize the gas exchange in the system. This helps ensure you have a successful fermentation – introducing oxygen and thereby aerobic bacteria is one of the easiest ways to get a bad Bokashi – you will know when you finish the fermentation and it doesn’t smell right, smells foul. Remember a good Bokashi should smell, after about a month or so, faintly alcohol/vinegar/sour but not foul or putrid.

Now we’ve covered the basic principles of Bokashi composting. Keeping these principles in mind, you can ferment any organic solid to break it down into more easily digested/degraded/composted material ready for human/animal/plant/microbe consumption.

Bokashi examples

Traditional bokashi

There are all kinds of examples of bokashi out there. Commonly it is done at home in the kitchen below the sink – kitchen scraps going into a bokashi bin, which gets emptied into the compost pile when it fills up. My mom does this at home. Funny story – the first time she drained the bokashi leachate for use with the houseplants, she mixed about 1cup per gallon. Only a couple of the plants died but they all got burned. Haha, be careful with that stuff it’s strong!

How it’s done: normally this bokashi is made in layers. Start with a layer of ‘bokashi bran’ which is just bokashi itself – fermented wheat bran normally. Make the bokashi bran by mixing water, sugar, and a microbial inoculant like our lacto serum with the carbon rich growth medium. The growth medium is normally bran (wheat, rice, barley, rye, etc), but you can use any carbon rich source – sawdust, newspaper, groundnut cake, wood chips, etc. Ferment the bran at least 3 weeks prior to use. Once you have the bran ready, start with a layer of that. This establishes the microbes needed for proper bokashi making. After the first layer of bran, add the first layer of kitchen scraps (anything goes with the kitchen scraps – meat and dairy included – fermentation kills pathogenic bacteria). Alternate layers of bokashi bran and kitchen scraps from then on. When the bucket is full, empty it into the compost pile or bury a few inches deep directly in the garden.

Animal Feed Bokashi

You can use bokashi for much more than just the garden. An example of that is animal feed bokashi. I practice this at home. The dog and the roaches get the same food. It is a mixture of dog food and some other things I have around that are excellent nutrition sources. These ingredients are mixed and then fermented for 6 weeks. This bokashi is an awesome food – both dog and roaches love it! In the case of the roaches it is a filler when no kitchen scraps are available, it’s a nice treat for them haha.

How it’s done: Take your animal feed, whatever it may be – seeds and grains for rodents and chickens, pellets for your pigs, dog or cat food, etc. Add the water, sugar and microbes like lactobacillus and BIM until the feed is sufficiently moist (30%+). Then add the feed to a sealable container like a 5 gallon bucket or 50 gallon drum. Pack it as you go to remove as much air as possible. Leave for at least 4 weeks to ferment, then feed to animals. Keep it sealed when not using, to maintain anaerobic conditions, or dry it out away from sunlight to keep longer term. You can use this bokashi as the bokashi bran for your kitchen scraps – it is a great microbe source to keep your kitchen scraps bokashi fermenting properly.

Bokashi Summary

Bokashi is a valuable tool in the natural farmer’s toolkit. It goes far beyond simply composting kitchen scraps. It has applications all over the farm, when other forms of composting are unsuitable or when conditions don’t permit. It allows you to safely compost large quantities of wet, nutrient rich material that would otherwise spoil. Keep this technique in mind and have fun anaerobically composting around your farm and garden!
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