Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Hundred Dollar Bucket

Well, it's not the Sixty-Four Dollar Tomato, but The Bokashi Experiment has now cost me $100 out of pocket. At least it has if you count the wormeries. (Yes, that's plural now.) Took me about six months, and I'm not really sure how to calculate the return on my investment--from a purely monetary standpoint? Environmental impact? Presumed nutritional benefits, maybe?

Hey, I learned a new way to bore folks at cocktail parties! Though I don't think I'd have spent $100 on that.

I can at least estimate the quantities of compost produced and put a price on that, but how should I count plant-food applied to the landscaping, when I neither measured it nor substituted it for some retail product? Certainly it improved the area's appearance, but what value do I put on improved soil and non-food plant quality (in land I inhabit and tend but do not own)? For that matter, what about possible improvements to crops? Since I don't analyze the nutrients in my lettuce, there's no real way to quantify the difference between the heads I harvested in past years and this, though I have been growing more lately, since it's been doing well...

Bokashi in its various forms certainly hasn't saved me any money this spring: the garden's going so well, I couldn't resist the chance to expand. So I bought more plants, more pots, mulch, and even a bit of retail compost, after using all the composts and improved soils I had on hand. Had I not had all that lovely bokashi'd material, I'd have remained within my usual spring budget, instead of exceeding it by nearly 100%! I suppose it's possible the garden will produce so much I'll have no need to buy produce all summer, but that's never happened yet.

But, while the gardening budget is inarguably broken, the bokashi experiment's outlay is a little more questionable--not much of that money was really spent on bokashi per se. As far as EM goes, I'm still working on that original purchase. That $100 mark includes one liter bottle of EM-1, 25 lbs of wheat bran, and a bottle of molasses, which is what I started with. There have been multiple small purchases of hardware: spigots and potato mashers to make bokashi bucket kits, sieves and screens and mesh to line buckets for Repulsive and Verne. And worms, that I'm testing for a possible wholly indoor complete composting solution, plus a low-maintenance high-reward planter-topped flowthrough wormery. Everything else--buckets, plastic wrap, plant pots, bottles, bags, etc.--has been recycled, scrounged, repurposed, borrowed or improvised, without cash outlay.

Have I made $100 worth of compost? Probably not yet. And as this apartment doesn't have a separate trash-hauling fee, I certainly haven't saved $100 in pay-as-you-throw charges! The landfolks' chickens didn't eat $100 worth of BSFL, either, before Repulsive's temporary end...

I don't regret a single penny so far; I've certainly had more than $100 worth of entertainment from this! More compost and better soil means I do more, and more productive, gardening--good exercise, stress-relief, and healthy food. Who can put a price on that?

Oh, and no trash-stink if I forget to take out the bag? Definitely worth something!

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