Bokashi in Kiama

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Kiama is a great spot by the beach not so far south of Sydney. My aunt and uncle live there, it’s the ideal retirement spot for them with beautiful beaches they often walk along and some spectacular rainforest in the hills behind the coast. Best of all, not the manic daily life of the city. And my mother is in the process of firing them up on Bokashi.

Kiama has been quite progressive in adopting Bokashi. The local council has made bins available to residents at a reasonable price to help them get started. I’m not sure if they run courses or provide any other form of backup training, but hopefully by making Bokashi part of a community effort, word will spread and those that are unsure of what’s in it for them or how to go about it will get help from their more inititated neighbours.

This is, I think, where the bottleneck is with getting Bokashi off the ground. From what I’ve seen and read the concept takes time to get established everywhere. Once you’ve got into it yourself and have seen the benefits (for the world’s  soil, for the environment, for the backyard veggie patch!) you can’t see why others don’t just hop on the bandwagon immediately. Well, I know life’s not like that whatever you do. People have many worries, many priorities, many things taking up their thoughts and energy. And many who really want to do the right thing, do their bit for the environment, are not sure about rolling up their sleeves and getting a Bokashi bucket into action.

Generally I think it’s the icky-sticky factor. Dealing with old food waste is hardly glamorous. And I think many people give up about the time the first bucket has to be dug down into the soil. Some sort of mental barrier lurks in the dark corner of the shed where the spade is. Digging a hole is just not part of our daily lives any more and the whole idea resists. Takes on a life of its own and nudges the project sideways into the too-hard basket.

So, all potential Bokashi composters! Trust me! This is NOT HARD. Take it step by step: fill your bucket and think out a strategy that suits you.

Small garden? Decide on a spot to make an “underground compost pile” and go on digging your Bokashi down in the same spot. It will be integrated into the soil by the time you next need to bury a bucket. Don’t worry, you won’t get a mountain of soil there, it takes less space than you think. And any time you need it you’ll have a great supply of supersoil to spread around your roses.

Hate digging? Build an aboveground veggie patch. Pole in each corner, planks screwed up 30-40 cm high to make a box, thick layer of cardboard on the bottom to stop the weeds getting in. Size to suit, but 120 cm is often a good width. Year one you use it as a Bokashi compost — soil, Bokashi, soil in layers. (Leave a boat scoop lying there and you can simply scoop older soil over the new food waste.) Year two you can plant veggies directly in your box and they’ll grow as hell I promise you. Perfect for pumpkins and the like! Make a new box alongside that you can be filling while you’re growing in the first, next year you can swap them over. NO DIGGING GUARANTEE!

Can’t stand looking at old food waste when you dig it down? Make a mini soil factory. Take a big plastic storage box (50-100 litres) and layer soil, Bokashi, soil, leaves or whatever. Scoop out the good stuff when you need it, add Bokashi whenever you have a full bucket to empty. Store somewhere warm. Guaranteed easy.

All of which of course has nothing to do with Kiama, but was a reflection on the concept of neighbours helping neighbours. Getting started on a new way of life is never easy and sometimes a bit of imagination and encouragement is needed from a friend or neighbour to get things going. Bokashi works brilliantly. But we haven’t yet learned how to make use of it in our daily lives.

And given the fact we all live in such different ways, with different spaces and definitely different paces of life we need tons of different solutions for making it easy. There’s a great expression in Swedish, “är det lätt så är det rätt” which rhymes nicely, but basically means if its easy then it’s right.

Bokashi is more right than we’ve even started to realise, but the thing is we have to make it easy. Take it into our backyard in a way that works for us then help our neighbours take it into theirs.


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