Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tales from the Bucket: Weekender Bucket One

WB1 was not exactly a success. Nor quite a failure,’s clear I have more work to do for that particular question set.

I’m still working on minimum volumes, and figured I’d tackle the minimum-contact issue, too. Would it be practical to keep a small bokashi bucket at a weekend place, or in some similar occasional-use situation? Not that I have a weekend place, you understand, but the basic bokashi bucket instructions assume a landowner producing organic wastes on a daily basis. And since this blog was born in part out of my frustrations with that first assumption (what DO the landless do with post-bucket cured bokashi?), I figured I might as well tackle some of the others, too.

The potential problems with an occasional-use bucket are obvious—gas and fluid build-up top the list—but I can see ways around them. If, in fact, they really do have to be worked around. Not that I’m planning on letting buckets explode just to prove it happens -VBG- But that daily addition in a standard bucket also lets gas escape. Without that?

The not-to-be-repeated Weekender Bucket #1 procedure:

*Add a small quantity of compostable waste
*Add AEM and dry matter at the usual levels (my EM bokashi bran not being ready)
*Expel air
*Leave undisturbed a week to ten days—unless bucket rocks to touch or failure evident

About five cups of matter, coffee grounds and melon detritus, mostly. (Meat, dairy, and oils all require a more vigorous fermentation, and since I wasn’t really sure this would work, I decided to leave them out. Once I get the basics down, I’ll revisit their inclusion.) The time is on the brief side, but with this so-small quantity, I expected a fairly quick fermentation. And, okay, I was a little worried that fluid might build up, and wanted to stop the test before the bucket flooded.

For any of my bokashi tests, I define failure as

*insect presence around the area (or in the bucket!)
*blue, blue-green, or black molds
*lack of characteristic bokashi aroma

None of that applies to WB1, though that last is rather questionable—there was more alcohol in the scent than vinegar. (Perhaps I should have left it to ferment longer. Next time.) I call this less-than-successful because, beneath that strange stale coffee-vodka aroma, there was a hint of incipient rot. The smell of fruit about to turn from overripe to disgusting. I’m impressed it hadn’t gone all the way to spoiled, but it was not an attractive alternative to simply trashing wastes or tossing them to the local scavengers.

Visibly, the waste was not so bleached-looking as in my successful buckets (I’m told that doesn’t always happen). White mycelium was visible in one section of the bucket, though not evenly distributed.

Which might have been half the problem, that lack of an even distribution. In which case, the same procedure using EM bokashi bran might work, as it’s easier to see any sections that might not have received their due share of microbe-carrier.

A weight might have helped, too, as the contents of this bucket were still fairly wet, and little bokashi juice had separated. In fact, I’m starting to think that weights may be necessary for all smaller buckets/smaller waste volumes—in a filled multi-gallon bucket, the weight of the organic matter itself serves to compress the mass so that air and water are expelled.

Also, the next WB test is going to include a much greater infusion of microbe carrier! Some of the bucket-kit instructions recommend adding EM bokashi bran every day, whether or not adding waste, and pretty much everyone says more EM bokashi bran is the first thing to try when fermenting is less than wholly successful.

It’s not like it really failed, after all; I figure it’s worth trying again, with adjustments. In order of expected improvement, that be:

  1. adding more EM (any form)
  2. adding a weight
  3. increased bucket time.

Watch this space bucket blog!

Final verdict: WB#1 not successful; process tweaking required, further tests planned. NOT PRESENTLY RECOMMENDED.

Oddly, writing that last paragraph made me feel like I’m working a government-funded study. You know, except for the funding. -G- And the first-person reporting. Let’s see, In order to evaluate the feasibility... Nah.

Off to play with my buckets,


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