Friday, March 16, 2018

Bokashi (In a sense)

I decided to get rid of the compost pit, for a number of reasons. First, I'm trying to go no-till, and second...rats. A compost pile is really no better, and throwing away the food garbage is counter-productive.

Food waste has to go somewhere. It goes in the garbage and into a landfill, it goes down the disposal and into the water system, or it goes into the soil. Those are really the only alternatives.

Personally I'd prefer the soil.

So I started researching alternatives. One that I ran into was Bokashi.

Bokashi is an oriental system of food waste fermentation. You can spend a fortune on special Bokashi products, but at its core it's fermentation. An anaerobic process that turns organic matter into sludge.

Some people claim that fermentation is dangerous and should be avoided. Others say composting is unnatural and dangerous. Honestly, both have their place, and I'm beginning to think that this is one where fermenting might be a better option for my family.

The standard process is to put bokashi bran (bran treated with beneficial microbes) into the bokashi bucket and put food waste in on top. Then top the food waste with more bran. Keep packing the food waste in layered with bran, and when the bin is full set it aside and start another.

The fermentation process can take up to two months, but once the process is started it can sit there and stew in its own juices forever. When fully fermented, the bokashi can be buried in the garden (not near existing plants) to finish composting. One serious advantage of fermentation over composting is that you can use meat, eggs and dairy in bokashi. Because it's an anaerobic process, the aerobic microbes that make meat stink can't exist.

It's a good idea. I did some research, and it's not cost effective. Particularly for me, without a job.

Making the bran is relatively simple and cheap--beneficial microbes (which you can make from whey), molasses, wheat bran and water. But I don't have bran, and no way to buy it...

But if I can make the inoculant, why bother with the bran? The bokashi process is supposed to be a relatively dry process, but other things are fermented in water so why not this?

So I'm trying it. I have a big jug of inoculant (whey as a lactic acid starter culture and potato water as microbe food), and a couple 5 quart ice-cream buckets with tight fitting lids. I layer food from our garbage bucket, smash it down good, and pour the inoculant in on top. Then more garbage, more inoculant, until the bucket is full. Then set it aside and start another. The stuff makes its own liquid and stays mostly submerged.


The first bucket stank to high heaven. The food was already submerged in its own juice when I started, so there was little chance to inoculate. When I started I poured my "starter" culture over it, smashed it down and put the lid on. The bucket was already full, so I couldn't layer the starter with the ferment. The smell did not escape the bucket.

The second bucket has an odd sweet smell but doesn't stink. Not precisely the smell I'm used to for fermentation, but not unpleasantly "off" either. I was able to layer the starter with the ferment, since I started this bucket fresh.

The third bucket is in process. Powdered milk in the bottom (since the fermentation we're looking for is mostly lactic bacteria), then garbage, then powdered milk, then more garbage. Mashed down to create its own liquid and maintain the anaerobic environment needed for fermentation. I didn't even use the culture on this one, although I'll keep it for future tests.

Update (four months later)

Bucket 1 still stank when I buried it. This can be considered the "control" bucket since I didn't get a chance to inoculate.
Bucket 2 was moldy but didn't stink the same way. Buried it next to 1.
Bucket 3 was the first real success. I used layered powdered milk and garbage, no inoculant. It didn't stink and had no mold. Buried next to 2.
Bucket 4 same process as 3. Currently fermenting
Bucket 5 same process. Currently fermenting
Bucket 6 same process. Currently fermenting
Bucket 7 just started.

This seems to be working quite well. When a bucket is about three months old I take it outside and bury it in an unused area of the garden.

No comments:

Post a Comment