Bokashi: The First Burial

It’s no coincidence that the first breakup with Bokashi also led to the first burial – that’s how it has to be with experimental composting.

Mack and I took our filled bucket (which had sat, basically untouched, for over a month) to my parents’ house, intent on burying its contents in spite of the fact that snow still graced the ground. Lucky for us, the mounds of soil in my Mum’s garden was already thawed to the point where digging wasn’t too difficult.

Mike advised us that the ideal burying conditions involved a three inch trench, and mentioned that the Bokashi bacteria tend to just die off in freezing temperatures (instead of becoming dormant and reactivating later). He also said that it might take 3-4 months for the compost to be broken down into garden soil.

Burial

We may have dug more hole than trench…

What we found at the bottom of the bucket after all was said and done was – could it be – tea? There probably wasn’t enough liquid to have come through the tap, but there was certainly enough for a healthy drizzle, caught between chards of onion skins and blackened banana peels. Mike, in his attempt to encourage us, said that the types of food we were adding could have been soaking up any tea that was produced.

Tea!!

Tea, glorious tea!

The deed done, we rinsed out the bucket (it was so handy to have access to an outdoor tap). We are now ready for reconciliation.

Round 2

Round 2 begins

Bokashi Update: The First Breakup

So, Bokashi. We’ve been seeing each other for more than three months, and though I know I haven’t been tending to our relationship as much as in the beginning, I feel it is because you don’t have room for me! Every so often, I stir the pot, hoping that the juices will flow, but nada. Sigh. I think we may just have to start over.

Okay, the relationship metaphor is probably a bit too much, but it pretty much sums up our first quarter with Bokashi (I first wrote about it back in February). It shouldn’t be discouraging (especially because Mike warned us that it does require a bit of a learning curve), but seeing the success of others highlights that we’re doing something wrong.

We started adding more material to the composter after about two months, given that the volume in the bin (as a commenter had indicated) had decreased. We also tried to take Sarah’s advice by not stirring it every time, and simply sprinkled the Bokashi over top.

Bokashi

Bokashi after three months

Three months later, we have acceptable mold (apparently, white is the good kind), and on top of the compost, a bit of moisture. But no magical tea.

No tea

No tea for you

It’s still a bit unclear to us how long we need to let the compost ferment in the bin before it can go in the garden, but we figure three months should have been enough time. We’ll be bringing the first load to my parents’ place this weekend.

Bokashi

To the garden!

Hopefully, our second batch of compost goes better. C’mon Bokashi – I know we can get through it.

Indoor Composting with Bokashi

Mack and I are delinquent Bokashi bloggers. At the end of last year, I wrote that I would be writing about our Bokashi experience “soon”. Well, that undefined period has become eight weeks in length. But no longer!

In December, Mack answered the call put out by Mike Thomas for people interested in trying out an indoor composting method that did not involve worms. We met up with him one weekend, and he supplied us with our own Bokashi starter kit – three Ziploc bags of Bokashi, and an Eco Living Organic plastic tub outfitted with a drainage tap and a lid.

Composter
Indoor composter

Michael explained that Bokashi is a bran-based mixture, that when added to certain natural materials, and void of oxygen, would help ferment organic matter. He provided us with a list of permitted additions, which included everything from vegetable peels, tea bags, egg shells and bones. Not permitted? Anything bleached (e.g. white coffee filters), mouldy, or liquid.

Just starting!
Base layer of Bokashi

The composting process seemed simple: add permitted materials to the tub, sprinkle some Bokashi over it, and give it a stir. Michael also advised using something like a plate or a plastic bag to cover the top of the mixture which would help squeeze and keep out excess air. The compost smell would be minimal, and was to resemble a pickling odour and nothing more.

First addition
Our first composter additions!

Every few days, Michael said the mixture would yield 2-3 tablespoons of liquid, which we could dilute and use as a fertilizer for plants, or pour down the drain to act as a sort of natural Draino.

In terms of “disposing” of the rich compost material, as condo dwellers without a yard or a community garden plot, we still had a few options, including throwing the material out in the garbage (in the grand scheme, if everyone composted even a little, it would impact overall waste management systems, in lightening the garbage load). That seemed a little “wasteful”, so we figured we’d donate the material to my parents, who do have a garden.

Since we started using Bokashi, we’ve made a few observations:

1) It is easy to use! Adopting Rachael Ray’s “garbage bowl” technique, I would place all of the scraps in a bowl, and dump the contents into the tub at the end of the day. The only minor inconvenience was having to cut up things like grapefruit halves and banana peels – Mike recommended nothing larger than the size of a potato chip go into the tub.

Garbage Bowl
Garbage bowl!

2) Because we cook quite a bit, our tub was about two thirds full in about a month. As Michael had said, most of the peels would retain their shape and colour – it was odd to see that things like orange peels remaining intact week after week.

Still early on
Still early

3) We were checking for the liquid every few days during that time – but none was produced.

We left it alone for a while, unsure of how long to let the mixture break down. More importantly, we weren’t sure if we had messed it up – though the smell was tolerable (a sort-of pickling smell), because of the lack of liquid (still, after two months), we weren’t sure if we were on the right path. Mike reassured us that we might be though (and more Bokashi can fix most ills), and advised us to simply add more organic material to the mix.

Bokashi
Our compost after two months

More posts about Bokashi to come (for real this time)!

You can read about Sarah’s experience with Bokashi here (as a single family home dweller with a young child) – unlike us, she hasn’t been delinquent.