Monday, July 6, 2009

Frugal Bokashi

When I did the numbers before starting this project, I figured an initial $30 investment should cover my first six months of bokashi, $5 a month to see if bucket fermentation was suited to my particular needs. No retail-priced bokashi bucket in that budget (though I am curious about the EM-impregnated plastic ones), not even packaged dry EM bokashi bran, just a bottle of EM-1, molasses, and bran, plus some scrounged buckets. The cheapest entry-point I could see. Why six months? Because I’d read that the bottled culture would lose efficiency after that point, so I’d have to restock. Or not, if it turned out bokashi wasn’t for me.

It’s approaching the one-year mark, and I decided to revisit those numbers. How much did a year of bare-bones branded EM bokashi cost me?

A dollar a week.

Actually, a bit less. $50 for the first year, counting a few durable items. I decided that spigots are absolutely necessary for me—I’m lazy, and far less inclined to remove the inner bucket from the reservoir than I am to just turn the tap—and bought as well a couple of potato mashers and a pail opener to complete my basic bokashi kit. That last item isn’t necessary with my favorite repurposed kitty litter containers or the two-gallon plastic barrel with the screw-on lid, but for the food buckets, it’s a convenience well worth the $4 it cost.

In all, I spent less than $40 on the actual inoculant/carrier/food. And next year, that number may go down further still. A smaller bottle of EM-1 would only be cheaper if I could find one locally, as shipping liquids is seldom really cheap (to date, I’ve only found one place in town where I can buy any EM, Whole Foods). But “activating” EM stretches a bottle in terms of both quantity and longevity such that one bottle a year is reasonable, and I don’t really need a whole liter just for me. Nor would I if I were mixing bran for half a dozen households every month! As I’ve had some success with non-bran carriers, I’ll keep playing with those, so I may well buy less wheat bran, but if/when I do decide to buy any, I’m placing a small-scale bulk order for that and for the molasses as well.

The required repeated expense is a common objection when bokashi comes up in discussion. And home-cultured IMO is a valid alternative--there are tons of recipes out there, and while my own experience has so far been mixed, lots of folks swear by their non-branded silo bucket inoculants. But that annual @ $40 expense is actually saving me money. Forget about trash fees, it’s the commercial compost I no longer have to buy! But there is also the lesser expense on trash bags (volume and frequency), less use of chlorine bleach (cleaning, washing towels and dish cloths, deodorizing the trash bins) and non-chlorine bleach (laundry).

And my happier plants are producing more even in the drought and heat...