Archive for July, 2009
This is our dog Tim. He’s a Norwegian Lundehund, almost five years old now. Full of beans and a truly lovable character. Lundehunds are a breed under rescue, some 50 years ago there were only a handful left on earth, huddled on a stormy island in the Lofoten archipelago on the far NW coast of Norway. They’re as close as you can get to a primitive dog, still much as they were hundreds (thousands?) of years ago. Smart, lovable, slow as anything to housetrain. Six toes for hanging onto the precipitous stormy cliffs of Lofoten when they were climbing in and out of holes looking for puffins — these were true work dogs well into the last century. A family could own ten or more, each worth as much as a cow (a lot in other words, if you think back on the tough life in Northern Norway in those days) and they were sent out to bring home puffins. A huge source of income (puffin feathers) and meat (which was salted down for the winter).
ANYHOW. The thing is with Tim that he is healthy as anything. He bounces around here where we live in the country with no cars to worry about and thinks all animals are his friends (we have deer and moose passing by regularly, tons of geese, cranes and a lot more we never see). And he’s been eating Bokashi for some time now.
Not a lot, just a sprinkle on his food each day. He has nothing against it, just woofs it down with the rest of his dinner. We can’t prove that it makes him healthier, but it certainly does him no harm. (All the bacteria in Bokashi are approved by the FDA because they exist readily in nature anyhow.)
We all know by now how important it is with probiotics — I don’t know how it is where you are, but here the TV is full of ads telling us how we need probiotic bacteria in our yoghurt, in our butter, in our you-name-it. Soon it will be in our toothpaste. But why not? We humans go round with a couple of kilograms of bacteria in our guts — a couple of kilos! That’s how all the work gets done down there. Get some bad ones in the mix and we all know what trouble we can expect. The usual solution then is of course antibiotics. Anti. Biotics. Anti. Life. Antibiotics kill off all bacteria, the good along with the bad, and our gut is left in limbo.
The idea with probiotics is obviously then to move in some healthy bacteria — the right kind — into your gut. If your bacteria culture has been wiped out with antibiotics, probiotics will help restore it. If you’re in reasonable shape anyway, probiotics will help ensure you stay that way.
And that’s why we add Bokashi bacteria to our dog’s food. These are age old bacteria that work in harmony with the other age old bacteria in the digestive system. Keeping our number one dog nice and healthy and full of mischief. The way we like it!
PS Read more on the various EM sites (the NZ one is good) about the use of Bokashi and EM in general with pets, horses and livestock. This is a growing movement, with documented health benefits. Very interesting to look into if you’re interested.
PPS You might wonder why we don’t eat it ourselves if we feed it to our dog. Actually it works fine (great baked into bread), but there are many complex rules and regulations around what one is and isn’t allowed to say and this is not something that can be officially discussed. But obviously we wouldn’t feed anything to our dog we wouldn’t be prepared to eat ourselves.
Gabriel the gardening angel (great name!) is growing tomatoes, and you can see here how she’s comparing the healthiness of a couple of her plants — Tomato with Bokashi and Tomato without Bokashi. (Sounds almost like something on the menu of a flash café. Or the title of a still life painting…)
Tomato-with-Bokashi has got greener, healthier leaves than Tomato-without-Bokashi. Stands to reason, feed anything well — your kids, their pets, your neighbour’s cat — and they’ll grow better. Most of what “we gardeners” do is not terribly scientific: you do something, it works, so you do more of it. You do something, it fails, you change it a bit till it works. Far more fun than looking stuff up in books and probably, in the bottom, quite scientific in its own experimental way.
So Gabrielle is feeding the other tomatoes so they can catch up. (So much for a control experiment!). As she says, Bokashi is strong stuff and is best added from the side so you don’t knock the plants over with an acidic overdose. (They won’t thank you for the acid as I can confirm, having decked a number of seedlings this spring in the name of Bokashi, eh-hm, science.) But feed them from the side and they’ll love it — the soil can take up the nutrition, neutralise the pH, and by the time the tomato roots find their way in the tables will be laid and the plants will be in for a banquet.
Well, must say I envy you who can can grow tomatoes outdoors. Here it’s a greenhouse business unless you’ve got a really warm and sheltered courtyard. Luckily I have a greenhouse (moved piece by painstaking piece from a neighbour who didn’t want it) and have a bunch of very happy tomatoes and cucumbers growing in there at the moment. Each and every one planted in Bokashi soil, roughly a 20-30% mix with normal potting mix in a black plastic bucket. I keep them topped with fresh grass clippings to cut moisture loss and keep the nitrogen flowing. So honestly, I can’t say I know exactly why they’re doing so well — is it the Bokashi, the grass clippings, or the fantastically hot summer we’ve had so far? But in my not-so-scientific way I’m pretty sure it’s the Bokashi. They’ve never grown this well before.
And for me, the very curious very unscientifc gardener, that’s more than good enough!
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.