Mississippi Bamboo Summit

16 06 2009

Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Delta Bamboo Supply Chain Summit in Greenville, Mississippi.

Welcoming sign at the Greenville Airport.  Who knew Uncle Ben's called this place home?

Welcoming sign at the Greenville Airport. Who knew Uncle Ben's called this place home?

The event was hosted by Ed Johnson, CEO of the Delta Economic Development Center in partnership with Jackie Heinricher, CEO of BooShoot Gardens.  I met Jackie last summer at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City where she was displaying her ground breaking discovery to grow and plant bamboo on a large scale.  Jackie got my name to Ed and next thing you know I’m in Mississippi doing a presentation on the market of bamboo textiles.

“Booshoot is a biotechnology company located in Mount Vernon, Washington. Through years of research and development, Booshoot has produced breakthrough tissue-culture science that enables rapid propagation of bamboo plants on an unprecedented scale. Booshoot’s accomplishment represents eight years of research and development, establishing them as world leaders in the development of bamboo tissue culture. Their technology enables markets worldwide to meet the growing demand of bamboo for use in wood products, pulp for paper and textiles, soil stabilization, and reforestation combined with bamboo’s untapped potential for carbon sequestration.”

For the record I think Jackie is a genius and I am grateful to work with her on this domestic bamboo project.

The purpose of the summit was to gather bamboo experts from across the country to meet with Mississippi landowners and discuss the viability of growing and harvesting moso bamboo as a domestic crop.  Other companies and organizations represented were, Rose Carbon LLC, Cali Bamboo, Limerick Energy, Teragren, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, US Department of Commerce, Evolution Resources, Delta Research and Extension Center, Memphis Bioworks, Mississippi State University, and the USDA.  This two day meeting was a huge accomplishment since it has been over 40 years since the Delta region has thought about commercialization of a new crop.

Oh look, we are being welcomed by bamboo found right in the Delta!

Oh look, we are being welcomed by bamboo found right in the Delta!

The first day of the summit consisted of presentations on the bamboo market, benefits, yield per acre (about 25-30 dry tons per acre as compared to 6 dry tons of woody biomass per acre for poplar pine), financial opportunity for farmers, planting and harvesting considerations, and economic benefits to the community by establishing a vertical supply chain in the Delta region.  The main markets for bamboo are:

1.  Hard goods – flooring, cabinetry, fencing

2.  Pulp and paper

3.  Textiles – clothing, bedding, towels

4.  Bio-mass – bamboo could make an excellent candidate for fuels due to it’s low moisture content, and low ash/chlorine contents

5.  Carbon credit opportunities – moso bamboo is the largest carbon sequestering plant in the world

6.  Eco-tourism – how cool would it be to tour groves of 75 feet tall grasses?

The information presented convinced me even more that bamboo is our future and we are headed in the right direction. I learned some interesting facts such as:  Teragren reported that for every pound of bamboo product they make, they are taking 1.7 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  They are a CARBON NEGATIVE company.  Harvesting bamboo does not release the trapped carbon back into the air, it stays locked into the product for it’s lifetime.  Rose Carbon LLC is a carbon off-set company that works with bamboo plantings as a source of carbon mitigation.  CEO Ted Rose presented Delta farmers the scenario of switching 5000 acres of cotton to bamboo.  Farmers could expect a revenue of $89 – $179, 000 per year over a 10-20 year period.  Teragren, a US leader in bamboo flooring, had made a commitment to build a manufacturing facility in the Delta region if at least 1000 acres of bamboo is planted and harvested and Evolution Resources plans to plant 1000 acres of moso bamboo in the Delta region in April 2010 to use as cellulostic ethanol.

The second day of the summit featured a wrap up session with next steps and tours of available farm land to use for bamboo plantings.  I had the pleasure to tour with landowner Jim Newsome.  He was a wealth of information regarding the history, culture and economic conditions of Mississippi.  Catfish and cotton used to be the largest industries in this region until our nation decided that we could import these items for much less than we could produce them here.  Jim showed us his shed which had 3 cotton pickers valued at over $350,000 a piece that haven’t been used in over 3 years.  He says the Mississippi cotton industry is “dead”.  Currently in the Delta region it is mainly corn and soybeans grown with a minimal amount of rice and cotton.

On our farm tour Jim showed us where the alligators hang out.  He said he tries to “run over one every day”.  The marshy areas actually had some type of bamboo growing as well (don’t know the kind though) and Jim was surprised to see he already had bamboo growing on his land.  Here’s a pic of a gator I spotted outside my truck window (his head is in the center bottom – I know he’s hard to see):

I'm happy to see mostly cows on Minnesota farms instead of gators.

I'm happy to see mostly cows on Minnesota farms instead of gators.

Jim took us to his farm and trucking office to meet his staff and family.  His grandson had made us a batch of chocolate chip cookies and Jim’s wife loaded us up with souveniers to take home.  That’s the one thing I noticed about Mississippi – you just can’t beat the hospitality provided by the locals.

Establishing a domestic supply of moso bamboo would benefit so many people, it just makes me giddy thinking about it.  Naturally Bamboo will in some way, shape or form be harvesting their own bamboo supply from right here in the good ol’ USA.  I’ve always said there are only 2 pieces of the puzzle left to make bamboo fiber the ultimate in sustainable clothing:  a domestic supply of raw moso bamboo and a cleaner, greener processing method to break down the fiber.  The first step is well underway and the second I have a pretty good lead on, but will need some time to develop and crap ton of money.

Being as I was down in Mississippi where the Mississippi river flows into the Gulf of Mexico, I thought I would bring back some old photos of a family trip to the beginnings of the Mighty Mississippi right here in Minnesota.  I believe the last time we were at Itasca State Park  was August of 2006, a few months after Noah was born.

itasca3

Kallen (then 3) wading across the mouth of the river.  Water is extremely clear and about 1-2 feet deep all the way across.

Kallen (then 3) wading across the mouth of the river. Water is extremely clear and about 1-2 feet deep all the way across.

Me and Noah (then 4 months old) enjoying our day at Itasca State Park.  Wow, he was a much lighter load hiking around with then!

Me and Noah (then 4 months old) enjoying our day at Itasca State Park. Wow, he was a much lighter load hiking around with then!

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I’m addicted…..to mushroom hunting

18 05 2009

The past few weeks have been just awesome for morel mushroom hunting.  I have taken my boys out several times to keep us busy while Dad is away at his bi-annual Boundary Waters canoe trip.  I actually just cooked up a batch a little while ago as a welcome home surprise, but now Jason just called and told me he won’t be home until after midnight – bummer.  We all missed him and was looking forward to seeing him before we go to bed.  I gotta give props to all the single parents out there – it’s hard raising kids alone and I’m sure  glad we’re going back to being a complete family tomorrow.  I don’t know how my mom did it alone with 4 of us – but somehow we all survived.

I found a new hot spot with my sister and I’m not even going to tell J about this one – I”m keeping it all to myself.  Here’s a pic of our loot:

mmmm......tasty

mmmm......tasty

Ha, ha, ha....we don't need no stinkin men....we can scavage for food all on our own!

Ha, ha, ha....we don't need no stinkin men....we can scavage for food all on our own!

Today we headed back out to Grandpa’s and found the largest mushrooms of the season.  They were the golden kind and some were up to 6 inches long.  In addition to dying/decaying elm trees, we’ve had some luck around dead cottonwood trees as well.  Look for soil that is sandy, not rocky, and in an area that gets at least a little sun  (not full sun – but partial).  I’ve found most of mine on hillsides in open dirt areas, but they do grow right in the grass on flat ground as well.

Cheers to finding the big ones!

Cheers to finding the big ones!

There are many ways to clean/cook/store morels, but here’s how we do it.  Slice them in half and soak them in salt water for about 15 min to kill any critters/bacteria.  Dip them in melted butter, roll in flour and pan fry.  Mine didn’t turn out the best tonight cuz I think I used too much flour.  I also just sauteed them in butter (skipped the flour) and they turned out much better.  Jason has made them with panko chips and those were my favorite.  If you’re not going to eat your shrooms within a few days you can dry them out and store for months, if not years, in a container.  We slice them in half, lay out on a window screen for a few days to dry and then put in canning jars.  Once you want to eat them, just soak them in warm water to rehydrate and they should pop back to their original size.  I have also heard that people string mushrooms through thread and hang them up to dry and people have freezed them as well (stays good for several months but not as long as if you dry them).

Well time to go to bed, so I can check my backyard in the morning for my fungal friend……like I said, I’m addicted.





First mushroom hunt of the year

6 05 2009

Looking for a fun, free, outdoor activity to try with the family?  Every spring we look forward to morel mushroom hunting.  In Minnesota they start to pop out when temps climb into the 6o’s during the day and it doesn’t get colder than in the 40’s at night (end of April – beginning of May).  It’s also a good idea to start hunting after a good rainfall.  Yesterday we went to a local county park and found our first morels of the year – a whopping 5 tiny gray ones.

Kallen and Noah showing off their loot

Kallen and Noah showing off their loot

Here are some things to know that will help you with your hunting:

1. Wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt along with a good pair of hiking shoes/boots.  I made the mistake yesterday going out hunting in shorts and Keen sandals.  Not a good idea – my legs are completely scratched up.  Bring some bug spray too.

2.  Look in stream and river beds, wooded areas, thick underbrush and especially around dead elm trees.

3.  Find a good long stick to help move dead leaves and brush aside.

4.  Take a woven mesh bag (such as an orange or potato bag) with you to put the mushrooms in.  This is important because morels spread through spores, which shake loose as they are jostled about.  Allowing the spores to fall to the ground will help ensure morel hunting for our children and grandchildren.

5.  When picking the mushrooms make sure not to pull the entire mushroom out of the ground.  Pinch off above the ground so as not to disturb the underground plant.  That way they should pop up again next year.

Kallen, my six year old, had become quite the little hunter and he is an excellent spotter.  He was the one who found our “hot spot” yesterday.  Don’t expect anyone to tell you where they go hunting.  People are very reluctant to give up their hot spots so they can enjoy the treasures for themselves.  The best places to hunt are on private property so you don’t have to share public hunting grounds with other mushroom seekers.  Now don’t go out and tresspass – get permission from the land owner.  We are lucky that my father-in-law lives about 5 minutes from us down in the river valley and has some great spots to hunt.

Why do I love mushrooms so much?  They are absolutely pure goodness.  I can’t wait to collect enough to enjoy this awfully tasty treat on a grilled steak.  Dipped in butter, rolled in flour and fried in a pan is the best way to make them, in my opinion.

Kallen spotted the first 2 treats of the year

Kallen spotted the first 2 treats of the year

The boys also had fun finding frogs out in the woods.  I am used to seeing toads, bullfrogs and leopard frogs around Minnesota, but I had never seen this little guy before.  He almost looks like something we would have seen in the Puerto Rican rainforest.

Our little green friend

Our little green friend

I just looked him up on the DNR website and I think he is a Gray treefrog.  Didn’t know we had tree frogs in Minnesota, and I wonder why he’s called gray and not green – hmmmm……

ADDENDUM:  Just got back from a great hunt tonight.  Found about 50 mushrooms including lots of big yellow ones that we didn’t think would be out this early.  One more thing….if you have long hair like me, don’t forget to put it in a pony so it doesn’t get caught on prickly ash.

mushroom-pic

To top off the day, I tried to play a little tennis with Noah since he has shown an interest in the sport.  They have summer tennis camps beginning at 3, but judging how the day went, I don’t think he’ll be joining one anytime soon (see last picture).

Hey mom - I'm ready to play!

Hey mom - I'm ready to play!

And this was Noah, 5 minutes after we started playing……

Wahhhhh.....I can't hit the ball!

Wahhhhh.....I can't hit the ball!





Living Green Expo

5 05 2009

Naturally Bamboo had a blast at this past weekend’s Living Green Expo, held at the Minnesota state fairgrounds in St. Paul.  I don’t have attendance numbers yet, but last year there were about 25,000 visitors and this year’s expo seemed just as busy to me.  It was great to talk to repeat customers from last year and hear such great feedback.  One woman said that she only came to the expo this year just to find Naturally Bamboo again and that her husband only bought clothes from us this past year.  Awesome!  Two repeat customers came back again to purchase arm loads of our bamboo socks.  We’ve sold thousands of pairs – people just can’t seem to get enough of them!

By far our Cascade dress was the most popular style of the event.  They are so comfortable and flattering – every lady deserves to have one in her closet.  Due to the popularity of the Cascade dress, Stillwater tank tops and the men’s Palisade polo, we will be taking orders again now until the end of May for delivery the end of June.   My main sewing ladies, Sam and Kim, will be back from Cambodia the last week of May and they will be so thrilled to have orders waiting for them.

My sister Jenny and my intern Jaime were excellent sales reps for the show.  They also took on double duty as models for the Green Fashion Show.  Once the fashion show was over we had a flock of people back at our booth looking for the designs they modeled.  Sadly for the customers, most of the featured designs were sold out before the fashion show even started.  Have no fear!  We are planning to have the styles in stores and on the website by the end of June.

Here’s some pics of us at the show.  I think we have officially outgrown a 10’x10′ space since at most times there were way too many people to squeeze in the booth.  I’m working on a new 10′ x 20′ booth design that will debut at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City this July.

My fabulous intern Jaime (in black bamboo tee) assisting a customer with pant sizing.

My fabulous intern Jaime (in black bamboo tee) assisting a customer with pant sizing.

Hi Jenny - it was so cold in the building she had to hide her bamboo dress behind her winter jacket.

Hi Jenny - it was so cold in the building she had to hide her bamboo dress behind her winter jacket.

Here's super Jaime again talking up all the great things about bamboo.

Here's super Jaime again talking up all the great things about bamboo.





Latest bike journey update from Noah, our sponsored athlete

24 04 2009

The Tonsai beach boys were starting to get out of hand, our collected group of personalities from all corners of the globe were ruling and right on schedule to surpass the longest stretch of saturdays currently being held by another group of derelicts from the Fort collins/steamboat region from the great state of ColoRado. Sometimes when you are on top and smashing ever conceivable notion of how much fun you can squeeze out of life you receive an awaking. My awaking came in the form of a series of events that has now left me poor, unable to sit down comfortably( insert joke here) and completely dependent upon the altruistic notions of those around me.

I have once again managed to get myself robbed. All my personal effects were removed from my lifeless body as I was flirting with death last sunday. The last time I was robbed i was sitting in a park contemplating what to do and feeling slightly sorry for my sad situation when i saw a terrible accident were a beautiful girl younger then myself was killed. It was at this point that an sweet angel manifested in the form of a 5 foot three inch Thai women came to my aid and helped me through my dismal situation. This time was not so different, my newly acquired brethren kicked in some funds and I was able to catch a boat out of Tonsai to visit big Momma and then take a bus to Bkk were I find myself now.

Having trivial things such as money, electronics and other objects that we place extreme importance upon removed from you shows you what is truly the most important thing in this heretic world and that is the positive intentions of good people. I have discussed at length with some friends whether or not Altruism exists and through my hazardous and silly life i have found that humans are inherently good people and lead with the heart when given the opportunity.

Triple Booya to all of you, If anything I hope this poorly written message will help you through any tough predicament that you find jahself in in the future. The ebb & flow of life cannot be predicted and when life gives you lemons it’s the manner in which you react that dictates the type of person that you are and seek to be. Smile frequently and never let bad events change your feelings towards other people. We can never give up on each other because were intrinsically linked together through the motions of life.

Whew. i know most of this message does not make any sense but i have a very short amount of time since I can only afford an hour of internet service. I had allot on my mind and my journal was ruined in a monsoon a week ago so this had to suffice. On a funnier note I thought all of you could get a a laugh knowing that I ‘ll be riding my bicycle with a slight case of torn’ass’amiss’minimus. I obviously cannot pay a doctor now to give me a proper check up but long story shortened I was practicing some new tricks on my slackline when i fell and ripped my ass in half….. oh my oh my…. it really hurts.

Anyways, see ya much love and positive vibrations and keep in mind a rolling stone gathers no more ass swelling.

Noah





Marketing and Branding for the Outdoor Market

22 04 2009

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while – but hey a business owner, mom, PTO member, etc., etc. gets around to things when she can.

I received this package from Talon highlighting their zipper and trim solutions for product manufacturers.  I absolutely love the way they put together their product line.  It was extremely creative to package things in a way that the outdoor industry can relate to.

Naturally Bamboo is working on some new branding concepts to be unveiled at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009.  Sadly, I am not the creative type, so I have hired a professional to take care of it for me, thank goodness.

Box that all the materials were sent in

Box that all the materials were sent in

Samples of buttons, rivets, etc. packaged as "trail mix".

Samples of buttons, rivets, etc. packaged as "trail mix".

Company information presented as a "trail guide"

Company information presented as a "trail guide"

Mini sleeping bag highlighting zipper and tags.

Mini sleeping bag highlighting zipper and tags.

Unzip the sleeping bag and voila, it's an assortment of label options!

Unzip the sleeping bag and voila, it's an assortment of label options!

This sleeping bag was the darn cutest thing I have seen in a long time.  The first day I got it, Kallen zipped up one of his stuffed kitties into it and slept with it for a few nights.





Update from our sponsored athlete

6 04 2009

And now here’s a word from Noah Noble – bicycle adventurist.  Whew!!! I’m glad he checked in since I hadn’t heard from him in a while.  He made it 4500 km’s (2796 miles)!!

Cruising on a bicycle at night on winding roads during a tropical storm is not the safest idea, now throw in the fact that Thailand has one of the highest rates of alcoholism and virtually no driving laws intact and you arrive at a very dangerous cocktail.

Here I sit dripping wet at comfortable computer kiosk in the “Narrowest part of Thailand” so the sign said a few km’s back.

Arriving in Thailand I immediately ordered my favorite meal, it’s hard to find a delicious meal in Cambodia, this is a bold statement, and the food has the same ingredients as Thai but is lacking something. Anyways I ordered my Pad Khao Pow and set my bicycle against a Narrow wall, possibly the Narrowest, well my rig fell against an adjacent water fixture and I created a lovely stream of water several feet high. Just celebrating the water festival early that’s all.  The women who owned the shopped was not pleased to meet me Jack’ass’a’Miss Maximums. A few kind words of Thai and a joke in her language must have eased her dismay as she was smiling and raising her hand to hit me in a mocking manner. This stunt did cost me about ten bucks pretty much all the money I have, so I might be spending a soggy night outside since there are no banks open at this hour. OH well

I must be keeping this short since I can only afford the 15 baht for one hour.  I will have to drop another message in the future with all my rambles and so fourth.  I just wanted to give a positive shout out to all my friends and loved ones out there.  My Tour will be wrapping up in a day or two since my bro flew out to Thailand and we will unite and continue on foot.  4500 km’s and lots of GREAT TIMES. I have learned one thing traveling alone gives you the opportunity for a lot of self discovery and so fourth and I have done plenty along this trip and the other solo mission I have embarked upon. Sharing memories with other just may hold more significance. Companionship is lovely and all of you were with me at some point believe Me.  Having said this I want to extend an offer to any interested parties. My contract for work expires in October; consequently my mantra of “everyday is Saturday” will have change to “everyday is Friday”, ahh but Friday is a good day as well.

Anyways, in November I will be be taking a few Months to Explore India and Nepal via bicycle and positive vibes Baby. I would love for anyone to join me. I have so much more on my mind and I will send another message at another juncture in time.

Boohahkahsha

much love Noah