Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tales from the Bucket: Instafail

How not to start to bucket off right

It was a new bucket.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! I’d just drilled the drainage holes for a nested bucket set that afternoon, and wanted to start it immediately. So I just tossed the day’s mixed kitchen waste in there, sprinkled on some EM bokashi bran, and went on with my life.

The next day didn’t happen to include that bucket (either I wasn’t quite finished with the last one or I didn’t generate any organics to speak of, I can’t remember now). Nor did the next. It might have been two or even three days between the first use and the next time I opened it.

I wish it had been three weeks—the smell might have faded a bit. I can’t imagine it could have gotten any worse!

So what did I do wrong?

Actually, more than one thing. And, yes, I am ashamed. -G- I’m still pretty new to bokashi, but not that new. I knew better. My mistakes, in no particular order:

1.I added meat scraps and fat to a new bucket.

Meat and fat can be added to a bokashi bucket, but it’s best not to do so until fermentation is already established. “Heavy” items—fat and protein—slow fermentation; I should have either pretreated those bits or added some molasses powder or AEM to ensure the process went fast enough to prevent putrefaction from taking hold. Or, more practically, I could have tossed the meat scraps in the fridge or freezer for a couple of days, until I was sure the EM colonies were happily engaged.

2.I did not add a weight to a new bucket.

For large quantities, the weight of organic matter itself serves to expel air, but for new buckets, and especially buckets where there’s a lot of surface area compared to depth, a weight will speed anaerobic fermentation.

3.I did not add an extra dose of EM bokashi bran for meat/fat.

It’s in all the basic retail instructions, I just forgot. Even if your mixed kitchen waste has more vegetable matter than meat scraps, at least one extra dose of EM bokashi bran is advised any time you add meat, fats, oils, or dairy.

4.I did not add a dose of EM bokashi bran per day.

I’m still not sure about this one, and it’s not universally accepted, but a lot of the retailers recommend adding a scoop of EM bokashi bran every day whether or not you add waste. This may serve mostly to allow gas to escape, or to ensure that you check the bucket so you remember to drain it as needed, but it certainly won’t hurt unless you’re short on “magic dust.” And in this particular case, it might have let me know there was a problem in time to correct it, by adding a whole bunch more EM bokashi bran or through some other rescue tactic.

So, mea culpa—the bucket failed, and it was my fault. But, hey, wasn’t it just a week ago I was wondering what I’d do with failed buckets? Now I know.

But that’s another post, I think.

Happy bucketing,

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