Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Bokashi Experiment

Our new composter and bokashi bran

Let me start by explaining that we don't have trash service where we live. We take our trash to the recycling and trash drop station every few weeks. Food scraps don't go in the trash cans at our house. Otherwise, the they would be so stinky by the time we got to the transfer station that nobody would want to take it. Further compounding our food scrap problem, we don't have a garbage disposal because we're on a septic system.

All of our vegetable matter goes to the compost pile where it eventually turns into a nice, dark compost. That leaves all the rest of the food scraps; meat, fish, non-veggie matter, etc, that we have to do something with. We can't put them in the compost pile because they will draw unwelcome visitors, bugs and will smell bad, we don't have any animals that would eat them (besides Buddy the Farm Dog, but he has a temperamentalstomach), we have no garbage disposal and we can't leave it in the trash.

Sowhat is a family to do? Previously, we saved all the scraps in a plastic bag and froze them until the next trash run. While we have a large freezer with lots of space, this really isn't a good option either. Food rotting in the landfill produces methane gas and methane is an even worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Enter the Bokashi Experiment

Bokashi is a Japanese method of fermenting waste using a specific combination an anaerobic microorganisms. Anything can be Bokashi'd; meat, fish, dairy. Supposedly, the microbes complete the fermentation process in as little as two to three weeks. The finished product smells a little sweet and sour and can be buried in the yard, garden or compost pile. It can even be fed to worms (that may be a later experiment).

How does it work? All we really need to bokashi is a bucket with an air-tight lid on it, although I purchased a bokashi bucket with a spigot and a food masher. Food is placed in the bucket and sprinkled with a bokashi growing medium. My bucket came with a bag of bokashi bran. To properly inoculate the food scraps, start with a thin layer of bran on the bottom of the bucket then place about a 1" layer of scraps in small pieces (the smaller the better - this increases surface area), topped with a dusting of bokashi bran. Continue this layering until the bucket is full.

The inside of the bucket with the food masher

Bokashi bran in the bag. It smells a little like

sweet feed with a touch of sour.

The first addition to the bucket.

I started the bokashi experiment on 23 Jan with the remains of the New Year's Eve Party sausage and cheese dip and some leftover dumplings from Tuesday night's dinner. The bin is supposed to stay warm so the fermenting microbes can do their work. Melanie begrudgingly gave me permission to store the bin in the laundry room, which is adjacent to kitchen. That approval is only valid as long as there are no bugs or smells. I'll keep you updated on the progress as we go along.
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