image from 2funadguyz, who will happily sell you a full-size poster. Probably best to put in your home rather than your wormery--just in case Verne really can read. (Though I'm pretty sure he can't!)
Call this shortcut recipe FAIM, for False--or Faux, if you're in that sort of mood--AIM. There's nothing scientific about it, though I'm hoping others will be a bit more rigorous in their testing [yes, that's a hint]. Short version: kombucha + vermicast + molasses and water as if making AEM, let ferment to completion once, then again to ideal pH, then used.
Longer, rambling version follows. You have been warned.
If anyone wanted to issue me a white coat, it'd be the sort with the extra-long sleeves that fasten in back. I am no sort of scientist—among other things, I never could hack the math—but now and then I do try to dignify the stranger of my behaviors by calling them experiments.
This one isn't finished, but it's nearly as far as I can take it, and I can't be sure my success to date means that this process will work for anyone else. So I thought I'd write it up, see if any other mad fermenters might be interested in giving it a try. (Also, I'm none too confident the folks with the big butterfly nets will let me bring all my buckets along. -G-)
Should probably start with a screen and a half of disclaimers, but I don't feel like it. This is not EM, nor should it be treated the same way. I don't yet know if it's as effective—again, I don't know if it'll work at all for anyone with a different situation than mine—but I am certain it's not shelf-stable, and as I'm not working under lab conditions or anything close, I don't really know what microbes beyond those I'm after might be in here, so it's not recommended where you're really concerned about pathogens. It's just something to play with, okay?
Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO), also known as Beneficial Indigenous Microbes (BIM) can be cultured from forest, field, and pond or even your backyard, assuming you have more than just manicured lawn. I have done this, using the process described at AgNet, and re-cultured the result for use in a bucket, too; but this is not that.
This is the easiest recipe I could concoct that might possibly stand in for retail EM-1 in my buckets.
I sometimes run a kombucha jar; other times, I buy a locally made kombucha by the glass or bottle. Kombucha, for those of you who don't know, is a fermented tea drink that tastes rather like someone made soda using cider vinegar and sweetener (better than that sounds, and quite refreshing). But the important part for this post is that kombucha is made by feeding tea and sugar to a SCOBY, a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. For bacteria, read lactobacilli.
As in, two thirds of the triad that makes up EM: yeasts, lactobacilli, and PNSB (rhodobacters).
I have tried using lacto-only or lacto/yeast inoculants in my bokashi bucket, and while other people have reported success with those, it doesn't work for me except in strictly vegan buckets, and my buckets cannot be vegan, since I'm not.
So I needed a source for those PNSB. The rhodobacters I'm after propogate where soil, water, and sunlight meet. Pond mud of certain depths. Rained-on dried leaves left to lie on fertile soil. Bromeliad cups. Some garden soils. Trouble is, it's really hard to tell if you've got them without doing the whole jar thing, unless you luck onto some purple mud.
They are, of course, in retail EM. Perhaps they're in vermicompost made from EM bokashi? Seemed likely enough to be worth a try.
I mixed two tablespoons of fresh kombucha, one tablespoon of molasses, and one tablespoon of finished vermicast (not -compost, but the worms-have-moved-on, absolutely finished stuff). Filled the liter bottle with water, and left it, tightly capped, in direct sunlight.
Bled off the gases when the bottle bulged, but otherwise left it alone for about two weeks. When the smell had gone from molasses to nearly pure alcohol and the bulging stage was done, I did it again, using one tablespoon of the new brew and one of molasses in a fresh bottle of water. There was much less alcohol scent this time, and the final result smelled like EM-1, so I treated it that way, mixing it with molasses and water yet again to use in a bucket (and in my leaf-and-UCG worm food), and to make a baby batch of non-EM bokashi bran.
First bucket test is finished, and successful—but it might almost have been rigged to succeed, since that bucket was fed tea bags (kombucha microbes are used to tea!), pineapple skins and apple cores (yeast and lactobacilli with fruit sugars, nearly guaranteed to ferment), and no meat or dairy (I didn't cook much that week). Second bucket underway, non-vegetarian this time, and it seems to be doing well so far. But 1) it's early yet, and 2) I don't know if vermicast or compost from a region not dosed with retail EM for more than a year would do as well.
So I'm just putting this out there, hoping there are some similarly curious folks who'll give it a try. Bokashi experience not necessarily required, though a bucket or reasonable facsimile would seem to be necessary...