Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tales from the Bucket: Silo Buckets!

Testing Lisa’s Solution

This is the first of two (or more) reports on my Lisa’s Solution tests. I can’t yet talk about it as a composting technique, as I haven’t yet completed that stage; I can, however, talk about how it does in the bucket.

Compared to EM bokashi, Lisa’s Solution uses far less volume of inoculant-in-carrier; if you were even more crunched for space than I, or ordering product by mail, that might be something to keep in mind. Lisa’s Solution is not EM bokashi, and there are differences in performance. But that might not be a bad thing, depending on your needs. The big differences—for me, in one standard-bucket and a couple of mini-bucket tests, not necessarily generally—are:

1)No “bokashi juice”

I haven’t yet done a proper side-by-side, matching-additions test; it’s an apartment, not a lab. But very little fluid separated out in the Lisa’s Solution buckets compared with what I’m used to seeing. Which means that you could, if you wanted to, skip the whole spigot-and-sieve thing, and just use a standard-issue bucket with a bunch of absorbent material at the bottom. (In fact, Lisa suggests doing just that. It might not work well with EM bokashi bran, but with this powder, it’s feasible.)

Of course, that also means you’d forgo harvesting bokashi juice to feed your plants and pipes.

2)No cidery scent.

Lisa’s Solution has no aroma worth mentioning in its dry state. A successful bucket has a faint alcohol-to-vinegar smell, actually less perceptible than the equivalent EM bokashi cider-vinegar scent, but with some character of the more heavily scented matter still sniffable when the bucket is opened. With a bunch of cilantro stems, this is not a problem. If you’re attempting to treat the leftovers after a clambake...

In the bucket with masher—that is, with matter compressed upon addition but without a weight continually pressing down on the waste matter—odor was a recurring issue until sufficient volume of waste had been added to act as its own weight. This isn’t an insoluble problem, it only requires a shift in technique, and in fact this happens with EM bokashi bran as well, to a lesser degree. It’s just much more of a problem with Lisa’s Solution. Bluntly, if the stuff isn’t working quickly, the bucket stinks. Not just that “transient off odor” I’m so concerned with avoiding, but eau de trash-can. If you generate waste regularly, and/or choose a proper container to handle your waste volume, deep enough and not too wide, you should be able to avoid this.

One small test, the “coffee cart” mini-bucket (plastic coffee canister with lid, an inch of shredded newspaper in the bottom, used coffee grounds with filters and used tea bags plus a few lemon slices), worked better with Lisa’s Solution than it has with EM bokashi bran—that difference in moisture again—but then, I like the smell of coffee, which neither the powder nor the bran completely supresses.

Too soon for conclusions, but I’ve concluded that I need another term. EM bokashi is, more or less, a branded name—but there are a lot of people out there fermenting things in buckets. Many of them using one- or two-thirds of the EM major microbial triad.

Ensiling, in agriculture, is a preservation technique for animal feeds, anaerobic fermentation to prevent rotting/putrefaction. Akin to pickling. And, yes, the inoculant of choice is often one of our favorite li’l lactobacilli (yeasts can be assumed to be present in the fodder). All ensilage begins to heat up/break down upon exposure to air—in farm country, it’s not uncommon to hear about silo fires, when ensiled grains heat too quickly—which makes ensiled products great activators for compost piles...

Does this begin to sound familiar?

So from this post forward, any bucket-based kitchen-waste treatment other than EM bokashi may be tagged “ensilage,” or maybe ensiled bucketing. To differentiate it from(brand-name) EM bokashi, with its formula inclusion of photosensitive odor-eating bacteria.

Composting tests are underway, as is a mixed-waste mini-bucket (all early tests are vegetarian). One obvious bokashi/silage test is not: irradiated foods or food given an antimicrobial rinse might disrupt a bucket (especially if a lactobacillus-only inoculant was used). As I choose not to purchase such things, someone else will have to try adding them to a fermenting bucket, fermenting only those, etc.



thelisasolution said...

Hey thanks for the test. It's really good to have someone test it who is an experienced bokashier. I have actually started spraying my food scraps with a little water when I put them in the bucket to help them get started with the fermenting. It's not such a big deal if you have a lot of cooked food, which is wetter. Also I am going to leave the dry flour out of subsequent batches. Flour contains naturally occurring yeast and it was silly of me to add it. Just sugar along with the lactoculture (which is made with flour.) I am happy to tell you how I make it if you want to make your own. The stuff about the fermented newspaper is pretty cool eh? I am going to give that a try pretty soon. Alrighty thanks again. And thanks for sharing your composting adventures.

D. S. Foxx said...

If you know any office workers, _definitely_ offer them some bokashi powder. A bit of shredded office paper in the bottom of a cute compost bucket, a spice-jar for the powder...very discreet, very simple, very nice!

I'm working on another test-bucket now; so far, it really does seem like your powder just produces less liquid than EM bokashi bran. Which, as I've said, can be a good thing, depending on the circumstance.

Great to hear from you! (And cute video, too.)