What’s Bokashi got to do with lunch?

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Today we had fresh homemade pasta. For the first time ever! (Thanks Jamie Oliver…)

Not only was the pasta fabulous, it was astonishingly simple. 400g of flour on the bench, 4 eggs cracked into a well in the flour, mix and stir and knead. Grind through the benchtop machine. Ready!

But the second best thing with the lunch was what we had with it. I had no plan but came back from the garden with a handful of fresh ruccola, marjory, basil and chives. Chop chop and in they went with the only-just-blanched pasta. Then a handful of fresh mangold (which is its Swedish name, I think its called chard or something like that in English) into some olive oil sizzling with fresh garlic and chilli. Just a quick stir to heat it through.

The lunch was delicious. Such a treat to have a garden of stuff just waiting to be picked.

But the real point of my story is this: The whole lot had grown in Bokashi. The seeds were planted in seed soil atop a layer of Bokashi-enriched planting soil. The repotted seedlings were of course planted into a Bokashi soil mix and regularly watered with Bokashi juice and/or EM. The garden beds have had Bokashi dug into them for well over a year now and are jumping with worms. And they get a dose of EM watered onto them now and then for good measure.

It’s all very unscientific I know but the plants look great. They’re growing well, they taste great, and so long as I keep the snails off they are really healthy. I’m no super gardener and no super cook but I think its one of the rare luxuries in this world to go and pick lunch.

All that’s missing now is a few hens chooking around to provide us with all the eggs we’ll be needing for this new-found pasta passion. Watch this space!

Bokashi in Motueka

Photo: Motueka South School

…and where the hell is Motueka, you ask? Ask any kiwi, they’ll tell you. It’s a great little town on the top end of the South Island of New Zealand. A paradise really, with a fantastic coast, laid back lifestyle and nice climate. When I was a kid I had a friend who always went to Moteueka for the Christmas holidays and I remember being so envious of her, I don’t know why — I think it just always sounded like such a fun place to be. And by the look of it, I don’t think these kids are suffering either!

Anyhow the kids at Motueka South School are really keen to try Bokashi. They do their own blog, and in a recent post have written about how a woman from their local council came to talk to them about Bokashi. They write…

This is Kate and she works for the Tasman District Council. She came to talk to our class about composting. She showed us this composting system called BOKASHI. This idea was created in Japan because most houses in Japan do not have big gardens or places to put compost bins.

Hope it goes really well for you there with your Bokashi composting, guys! Good luck! And let us know how you get on!

 

Can bacteria juice save the world?

konohana family

Not my headline but I wish it was.

A truly excellent blog by Holly Jean Buck from October 2008 — well worth reading if you’re in the least interested in Bokashi, in EM, in the ecological future of our planet. Read it here on “The Walrus”, which bills itself as Canada’s best magazine.

Holly Jean Buck writes that she first tried bacteria juice during an afternoon tea break at Konohana Family, an organic community in Japan near the base of Mt. Fuji. A self-supporting cooperative, they base everything they do on Effective Microorganisms (EM), the fermentation concept developed at a university in Okinawa during the 1970s by agriculture professor Teruo Higa.

As she was shown around the chicken coops, the goat barn, the veggie patch (they have 13 hectares of land), and ate a sumptuous lunch on the farm, Holly became increasingly convinced. This must surely be the way to go, but why haven’t we heard about it before?

Good question. Maybe the right answer is that we also need to embrace things that are working well — extremely well, in fact — for people that are working in closer harmony with nature than we are ourselves. Where nature thrives there’s surely something to learn from the process?

PS Read more about the Konohana ecocommunity here. I have to say I got quite fascinated — I spent some months living in Japan when I was younger and love a lot about the country, the people, the culture but found the commercial rat-race a bit much to be honest. To spend time working on an ecofarm like this would be a dream — all the best of Japan without the stuff that makes it impossible!

Bokashi on base in Okinawa

Higa

Sometimes there’s an unexpected twist in the tail.

I clicked on this link expecting to find a classic Bokashi tale — how Bokashi was discovered inadvertently by Professor Teruo Higa in Okinawa in the early 1980s and has since spread to virtually every corner of the globe. Still on a smallish scale, but the message is spreading neighbour-to-neighbour as we speak.

So here we have a tale of a truly happy woman/wife/mother living on what I assume is the US base on Okinawa — and she just received a Bokashi bucket for a present. It’s really cool to read — they can’t have traditional compost bins at base homes apparently for fear of rats and stuff, and at the same time the soil is hopeless and she wants to grow tomatoes. So why not do as the locals do? A Bokashi bin in the kitchen and a great veggie patch outside the back door.

Bokashi is based on Effective Microorganisms, a special brew of naturally-occuring microorganisms that do many different things. Mainly because these microbes have been around a fair bit longer than us (say, 4 billion years), they are extremely versatile and multifunctional. EM is used in many applications ranging from agriculture to environmental restoration to healthcare and animal food — it’s a fascinating area and something we’re sure to hear much more about as the years go by.  Hopefully we’ll look back on this time as the years when biology started to be used instead of chemistry — more nature, less poison.

Anyhow, it all started on Okinawa, and much of the research supporting and developing the EM movement has taken place there over the last 30 years. Teruo Higa has written his story enthusiastically and well in his book “An Earth Saving Revolution” (ISBN 4-7631-9214-0), it’s a bit tricky to get hold of but google it in your country and you’ll probably find you can get hold of it through your local EM organisation.

A Los Angeles apartment-dweller’s adventures with Bokashi composting

I know there’s a lot of people who live in apartments and would love to get into Bokashi composting but don’t know quite how to get started or if it would be the right thing for them. Here’s a woman in LA who does a great blog on Bokashi, she explains all the ins and outs and the thing is, she actually lives in an apartment and gets it to work beautifully. The key is to find yourself a gardener friend. Or a spare bit of land nearby. And the more you find out about Bokashi and the great little microbes that make it all happen the more fascinated you become.

She  describes her blog as “A Los Angeles apartment-dweller’s adventures with Bokashi composting: From kitchen to compost to garden – and back again”

You can check it out here: http://blogkashi.blogspot.com (There are a lot of good posts under Bokashi basics.)

A kindred soul in the Bokashi world

You get into a lot of interesting conversations when you bring up the subject of Bokashi. I have to admit I often feel like a bit of a nerd, but the subject of taking care of our soil and our waste and our gardens is relevant as hell so often I just dive on in anyway. Sometimes you end up in a long and philosophical discussion on the environment, other times you end up with a very, very blank look to deal with.

There’s a woman in Austin, Texas who is experimenting in every way you can think of with Bokashi, worms, compost and apartment gardening — all with a great spirit of curiosity.

But on the subject of blank looks she describes it perfectly — have a read of it here, it’s quite funny!:

“Go on,” my friend said, “ask her.” My friend’s friend rolled his eyes but obediently asked me what I’m doing with all my buckets.

“…Bokashi? What’s that?”

“Two-stage composting,” I answered.

He nodded, said that he didn’t garden, and the conversation moved on.

Argh!

The whole idea of running a soil factory at home is interesting.

You can reach a committed gardener easily — fellow composters are quick to recognise a kindred spirit. But often they think they’ve got it sorted, nothing to be gained by trying something new. “Suburban gardeners” often have another response, they love their gardens to bits, but that whole business of soil is a bit of a mystery. Too hard, too messy, too complicated — can’t you just buy something in a bag? So some buy into the idea of Bokashi — a back garden soil factory — while many don’t dare.

Then there are many dedicated green people you come across, they understand immediately we can’t carry on the way we’re going. Some jump on the idea immediately of getting a practical solution to an everyday problem, something they can do themselves. Easily. Others back off a bit, sometimes the theory is more comfortable than the practice.

Then you have the people who just don’t get it. Those who are worried about what the neighbours might think, are afraid it might smell, that they don’t know anyone else doing it, that actually it should be someone elses problem to take care of their rubbish. My only consolation is that times will change — ARE CHANGING! — and the world is slowly but surely moving forward in this any so many other areas. It wasn’t that long ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of sorting our plastic for recycling, now its everyday life (at least here in Sweden).

So how do we converts convince the unconvinced? I don’t know. But it’s worth keeping on trying!

All those damn coffee grinds

Draining coffee for Bokashi

Well, I guess we all drink more coffee than we’d like to admit to. Personally I’m a prezzo drinker. A plunger. Or a whatever you call it wherever you are.

The coffee is of course great. And needed. But those damn grinds!

For years I’ve been tipping them down the sink. Cringing each time because I know I shouldn’t be doing it. Yes, it will block the drains in due course. Yes, it’s not the sort of stuff that should be in drains in the first place.

But it’s messy and how do you get it into the bin — compost, Bokashi, or otherwise — without a struggle? Easier just to shut your eyes and let it wash so easily down the drain.

OK, so now I’m running a zero-tolerance campaign here. NO waste is to be wasted. And this is how we deal with the coffee grinds. Piece of cake actually, don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago.

Buy yourself one of those permanent filter things from the supermarket. Fill your plunger with water, swill it around and tip the coffee soup into the filter. Dump the filter into the plunger to drain off a bit. Next time you’re passing by the kitchen sink empty the filter of drained-off coffee grinds into your benchtop caddy (where the banana skins, tea bags and other good bits from the day are lurking until Bokashi hour when they go into the big bin).

Easy! So go on enjoying your coffee with a good conscience!!.

PS works just as well for draining rice, you know the icky sticky mess you get when you’ve soaked off all the rice you stuck to the bottom of the saucepan. (Which of course you didn’t mean to do but did anyhow….)

Coffee bokashi

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