This is Part Two of a three part series on Local Effective Microorganisms (LEM) by Laura Ney and Kishan Mahmud. You can read Part One here.
Before we can preform any kind of project studying LEM, we must have LEM. The fermentation process required for LEM to mature takes about a month, so making the LEM was one of the first things we did. In Costa Rica, we had been making LEM for over a year before I (Laura) had begun my project so we had the technique down. The ingredients that are required: semolina flour, molasses, charcoal, raw milk, yeast and of course, the leaf litter, were all things that were readily available on campus. We ordered the semolina through the same providers that we ordered our live-stock supplemental feed, we kept a constant stock of cattle molasses in a big 50 gallon barrel, we had sacks of charcoal from cleaning out the fireplace and raw milk is obviously not a problem when you milk your own cows. In the U.S. however, these simple items were not quite as easy to come by. We had to call multiple sources before we found reasonably priced 50 pound sacks of semolina flour, we cleaned Kroger out of their 4.5 pound bags of all natural charcoal and since selling raw milk in Georgia is illegal, we had to find a local, raw goat milk producer whose milk was sold under the clause that it was for pet consumption only. Not to mention having to find the 50 gallon, open topped, food-grade plastic barrels to store the LEM in.
Once we finally got all of our ingredients and barrels gathered together we had the task of mixing it all up. This was no small task since we were making four batches of this stuff. (We collected leaf litter from three different locations to see if there was a difference in microbial communities between the location plus we had to make one “False LEM”, which contains no leaf litter inoculant.) To make all four of these LEM batches, we hand-mixed 200 pounds of semolina flour, with over 50 pounds of crushed charcoal, three sacks of collected leaf litter and multiple gallons of goats milk and molasses. Once we were done, we shoveled them into their respective barrels, sealed the tops and just made it to our next class, looking and smelling like we’d escaped from a baked goods factory explosion.
Stay tuned for Part Three of our LEM series on Friday!