Bokashi composting is a system for eliminating food waste from your trash bins. I’m a big fan of compost—I have all the books and I even fancied taking the Master Composter course at the county extension office (alas the schedule conflicts with roller derby). This is to say, there are many different methods you can try to efficiently compost your kitchen scraps—it’s a whole science and art. Bokashi, in particular, uses a small, air-tight bin and requires that you cover your waste with inoculated sawdust (or some other carbon-rich substrate—I use coffee grounds because coffee is another passion of mine). This dust is alive with beneficial indigenous (ideally) microbes that break down the organic material in an anaerobic fermentation process. Yes. I like bokashi the best, because it ferments your garbage.
The thing is, it’s not enough to just toss some dust on your carrot tops and forget it. Once your bucket is full, the material still isn’t suitable for use in the garden, unless it’s aged so it can further breakdown. You have to bury it somewhere. Or leave it in a dark closet. Or find another compost sister system it can become part of.
This site, for so long, has been my bokashi bucket.
If you’ve ever written a blog, a book, or endeavored any creative pursuit, you can probably relate. To begin, you toss everything in. All the scraps of your day—the stuff that doesn’t make it to work, the stuff that doesn’t get talked out of you in meetings, the stuff you’re not Tweeting or posting on Facebook.
And then, it has to ferment. You’ve got to layer it with the good stuff. Treat it gently. Keep it in a warm, dark place. I think of fermentation as an act of stewardship, and creative incubating is the same.
The part I struggle with is transitions—it’s not an intuitive muscle I have developed. So knowing when my bucket is full, when it has rested sufficiently, when it’s composition has changed so much that it is no longer the thing it started as—that’s the trick. If you want the process to remain easy, you just guess, when it looks good enough, that it’s time to spread that shit all over. And then, you hope you garden grows better.
But this is really about writing. And how do you know when the words you’ve gathered have fermented into a new and useful and even beautiful thing? If you’ve gone through the process of gathering, layering, and resting in the dark places, when is it time to turn?
Allow me a moment to pivot back to my metaphor. The thing about composting is, you really can’t fuck it up. I mean, you could move it along too fast, and the worst you end up with is some moldy potato peels in your flower beds. Sure it might stink—it might even stink a whole lot. But even if it smells, it’s not lost. You can fix it. Or you can forget it and (eventually), it’ll be fine. The point is, your cabbage hearts are out of a landfill—you’ve already won.
But do something with it. Pull it out and stir it up first, if you must. But decide that it’s good enough to throw on the lawn. Otherwise all the effort you’ve put into your bucket is lost, bubbling in a closet, until everything that was good, that could have been good, that might have helped, has been eaten away.
Are you now as fascinated by bokashi as I am? If you want to get obsessed, here are some resources:
- The Compost Guy has a good primer write up on bokashi fermentation
- This method, from The Unconventional Farmer, is how I make my bokashi bran from coffee grounds
- And while you can use any plastic bucket to get started, this is the bucket I keep in my entry closet