Friday, February 27, 2009


I just wanna show my method of layering my compost. I use the newspaper method. I like this because it is neat and free.

1. Here's what the bucket looks like when I open it. You see a soggy newspaper. I use that instead of wheatbran which is usually used. It's just plain newspaper. Some people inoculate the paper with stuff, but I choose not to bother. See the blog below to see how this is a risk.

2. Here's my kitchen scraps. There's lots of coffee grounds and in this batch some of my spent forced flower bulbs. There's also egg shell and often moldy cheese, shrimp shells and other mystery things from the refrigerator. The most risky thing I have put in this bucket is a whole turkey carcass, I've done this twice. If this decomposes quickly I will know that I am a success.

3. Here's some fresh newspaper. I guess 2 layers work better than one. This makes the next step less messy.

4. Here's me packing it down with my fist. Bokashi is primarily an anaerobic method of composting. packing this in reduces air pockets and also allows for more room to pack in more stuff. When I am done packing it down, I put the lid back on and I wash my hands.

In my house we generate a bout a layer a week. This varies quite a bit. I think it takes about a month and a half for us to fill up this bucket.

Aside from filling it up, every other day or so I check the bottom bucket for liquid. This I empty into my bokashi juice bottle.

See the bokashi link below for more on my trials and theories of bokashi. And PLEASE COMMENT!!! I'd love to have feedback on this!

More on Bokashi

I feel like I need to say more about bokashi. I am not an expert but based on checking around I have seen some claims that aren't completely true. Somebody out there claims that the bokashi method does not generate ANY greenhouse gases. That is simply not true.

I said in my last post that I am not doing this scientifically at all and that not completely true either. I understand some basic science, I took chemistry is high school though I have forgotten much of it I know that yeast microorganisms feed on sugars and that the end product is alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bokashi has some yeast in its mixture of efficient microorganisms (EM) therefore it must generate some CO2, unless there is another chemical reaction that changes it into something else after that and there isn't.

I live with a homebrewer, Todd which by the way is very nice and he has influenced me in daring to try bokashi without purchasing EM products from anybody. You see no matter what you do with your waste it will 99% of the time will decompose somewhere and somehow. The process is quite similar to brewing beer and winemaking.

Usually when Todd starts a batch of hooch he sterilizes everything that comes into contact with it and when his batch is ready he mixes in a specialized strain of yeast. I think he splits up most batches into several vessels to brew that he inoculates with different yeasts. The craziest thing he has done is to brew something with a 'wild' yeast, that is something that was just floating around somewhere and in many instances the end result has been very nice. This has been my approach to bokashi.

I will borrow from a discussion of hard cider. We start with a trusting free-spirit describing their method of making hard cider.

Trusting free-spirit:
1. buy a gallon of apple cider
2. take off the top
3. cover bottle top with cheese cloth
4. stir every day until fizzy
5. put an airlock on bottle
6. forget about cider bottle fermenting in the back of the closet
7. remember cider.
8. drink cider.

it's really that easy.
Todd's response:
she leaves the door unlocked.
this means friends might come over and give you a surprise party,
or you could come home and find your tv is gone and someone took a dump on the floor.

by using a known yeast, and sanitary practices, you can control more of the process and get reproducible results. to be fair, i have made a few brews from wild, spontaneous fermentations and haven't suffered yet. you can culture your own wild strain(s) like sourdough and use it over and over again

Bokashi is quite different from making hooch. You are dealing with a solid product that comes out solid and there are many varieties of micro-organisms involved. But I believe that the worst case scenario is better than that in brewing. If I have a batch that is off it will decompose anyway. And because I am thrifty I will try it. If I end up with a bunch of putrid batches I'll change my ways but so far I have emptied about a half a dozen buckets and they've been OK. In a few weeks I'll check the bed I've been burying them in. It's just thawing out so I don't think that they've had a chance to properly decompose but the bed does not smell bad.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Bokashi

This is about an experiment. It all starts with this little blue bucket full of kitchen waste. Like many of you I tend to fill mine up until it is overflowing. I guess if it were warm out I wouldn't because it'd attract flies but right now that is not a problem.

There's lots of things I could do with this. I could throw it into the trash like most people do but I am a composter. I feel guilty when I contribute unnecessarily to our mountains of waste and I know that when properly processed by me, that this bucket will help my garden grow.

So I put it in this larger bucket beneath my kitchen sink. This is my homemade bokashi bucket. Bokashi is a method of composting that I started last fall. I like it because it is OK to put animal products like meat and cheese as well as the usual eggshells in the bucket. I even sometime put hair in it. It is supposedly less smelly than some other methods (I won't vouch for that until I pass a summer doing this) and it has reduced the fruitflies that have infested my kitchen to nothing. I think I find the flies most annoying and don't miss them.

My bokashi bucket set-up is this.

I have 2 buckets that nest together and a lid that fits on top. This lid is what keeps the flies out. I have 2 buckets because the one on top has holes drilled on the bottom of it to drain off any liquid from the compost. This liquid comes from liquid already in the compost and liquid that is created as it decomposes. If I let the liquid collect in the bucket with the compost it would get mighty stinky, but I don't.

Instead I let a bit collect in the bottom bucket and periodically pour it into a small bottle. In theory the liquid should smell like silage or beer or vinegary, but not so much like poop. In practice it has smelled like all of the above at different times.

This liquid is not a waste product. It is good for helping your drainpipes stay clear. The microorganisms that liquefy compost will liquefy whatever collects in your drainpipe. It also is a good fertilizer for your houseplants. I am inclined to pour the bad smelling stuff down the drain but that that smells edible, I mix with water for my plants. They seem not to have suffered from it.

Every source I have seen mentions inoculating your compost with the proper micro-organisms and that is something I have not bothered to do. I want to see if it is possible to do this without all the fuss described by others.

I really have not described in detail what this is about. What I have been doing is a primary stage of decomposition and it is mostly anaerobic. I cram the stuff in my bucket pretty tight. I put newspaper on top on each layer I so I can pack in in really good without getting messy. Sometimes I top it with a little bit of something like yogurt to give it some lacto bacillus to grow on, but lately I haven't. It sorta depends on what's in there already and how it smells.

My method is not scientific at all.

Eventually that bucket will get full. When that happens, I put it in the basement to sit for at least 2 weeks. Really, since I have 2 bokashi buckets set-up because my system is so cheap, it sits longer than that. That's what this final photo shows, my 2nd bucket sitting in the basement. I still drain out the liquid from the bottom like I do the bucket in the kitchen, indeed, in theory, this liquid should be more uniform than the fresh bokashi upstairs.

The next step is to bury your bokashi outside. My sources say that this compost that has thoroughly been inoculated by all sorts of micro-organisms will breakdown rapidly once it sees air. Note: it does not decompose in the bucket, it just starts to decompose, if anything it pickles.

For more information google it. Wikipedia is a decent start. There's also a few videos on youtube. I have a feeling that there will be more information out there.

I intend to update as my experiment succeeds or fails.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Just checking in.

OK, It's been a while but there really hasn't been much happening and I am just itching for it to finally really warm up and be spring.

I find this neck of the woods is kinda irritating in winter because Pittsburgh never gets a solid freeze or thaw, it just keeps bouncing back and forth til the spring.

I've lived as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and before that other midwestern states north of here and they all have a good winter. I'd say that fall is the most beautiful season here, so here I am annoyed by winter.

I promise I will try to get myself back into the habit of posting here twice a week.

I think I should talk about my 'lazyman bokashi' experiment. I think it's working but can't vouch for it yet.

Yeah, that's a good winter topic. Will check in hopefully soon with more info including photos.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wintry Things

1. Cat with freshly spun true black alpaca.

2. Faded hyacinth blooms in flourescent light packaging

3. Frozen soap bubble; hard to make in this climate

4. Forced bulbs; hyacinths and thalia narcissus, image slightly doctored by oversaturation.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Admitting things

First of all I feel guilty for not updating this in a while. I really don't have much to say or do landscaping-wise but I promised to post pictures of my recycled lightbulb packaging bulbs. They have bloomed and are mostly faded now but I still have other blooms. I am quite partial to my thalia narcissus, lovely small white blooms.

It is not longer leaf season but I haven't changed that.

It's still winter. It's been a pleasant winter considering and I think it's OK for me to slack for a while.

I will admit that I am quite pleased to see Obama as president. The superbowl game last night made me very happy. I don't really own anything black and gold which is unusual here, but I love the Steelers. They represent some old values. I don't need to talk about it here but the approach to winning is seeing the big picture. Tomlin was hired as a coach who is going to be around for a long time and what he has done is just incredible. He had very high but unrealized potential not to long ago and I gotta hand it to the Rooneys for seeing that. I also admire the Steelers because a lot of them actively campaigned for Obama, very early on. I see them all as seeing the big picture and just doing things right.

It really was an amazing game last night.