So I have been doing a lot of reading/research this past week. I decided that I'm going to do a 2 part ferment/compost on the algae. So I went back to the river to collect some more. This time I collected from the right side, but you can see where I collected last week is growing back quickly.
I knew I wanted to collect a lot of material. I had originally cleaned out a 30 gallon trash can, I guess I was dreaming big haha. What I really ended up with was a large feed sack about 2/3 full. I hung the feed sack from a tree so that it could drain some while I worked.
After I finished collecting, the sack was still pretty damn heavy. So I came back to the house and ate lunch, smoked a bowl, screwed around a bit and finally went back to collect my goodies about 3 hours later. The sack was much lighter and not soaking wet, so I threw it on my shoulder and moved to the porch. I had more than a 5 gallon bucket worth, but not enough for the 30 gallon trash can... so I had to improvise a little bit. I took a large, heavy duty trash bag and put it inside another feed sack. I transferred the algae to it. Another reason I wanted the algae to drain out was so that it could absorb more of the 1.5 gallon of lacto/molasses culture I started 3 days ago. It took another gallon of water mixed with more molasses to get the whole thing soaking wet, but without any freestanding water. The idea is to do a very wet, yet still a "solid fermentation".
Then I took an old piece of hose and quickly sanitized it in some bleach solution. This was probably unnecessary, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I twisted the bag around the hose, and zip tied it into place.
The other end of the hose was placed into a bottle of water, making a rudimentary airlock. Sorry about the photo, the sun had set by this time.
The lacto culture I used was already chugging along nicely, and the extra molasses I added should keep them going. This should drop the pH somewhere between 3-4, effectively "pasteurizing" the material. After 10-14 days it should be done. I will then drain and save the liquid. I will mix a large portion of powdered egg shells into the solids. Eggshells are calcium carbonate, and are very good at neutralizing the lactic acid. I have been adding them during my normal lacto ferments as a buffer.
The high acid content should help break down some of the hemi/cellulose in the material, making it easier for fungi or other organisms to digest. I haven't decided whether I am going to do another anerobic ferment with a trichoderma culture, or use traditional thermophillic composting. I would prefer to retain as much nutrients as possible, which is why I didn't start with a traditional green/brown thermophillic compost. Compost is a great soil additive full of microbes, but is very low in nutrients compared to the starting material (most of it off gasses or washes away). I'm open to suggestions, I'm just playing around.
Research shows the bacteria can produce much more lactic acid in a buffered solution (their own metabolites are no longer hindering them). Using eggshells is a good way to get soluble calcium to your plants, and brings the pH up to around 6... so you're not dumping strong acid directly on your plants. I tend to use more like 1/4 cup of brew per gallon of water instead of 1-2 tbs that is normally called for... without any ill effect.