Waste Reduction in suburbia

Waste Reduction in suburbia

We don’t really go out of our way to save the planet, but my Mum and Dad did live through “The Great Depression”; Mum was pretty canny with the family funds while raising six children and Dad was a great producer of food from their two acre block. I was the sixth of the children, so he no longer sent produce and poultry to market, but I spent many hours avoiding the housework so happily stirring liquid manure, watering the vegies or picking peaches and plums for Mum to preserve a zillion ways. It all seems like common sense to me, so I definitely picked up a few habits and values along the way. Waste not; want not, stitch in time saves nine and all that.
Plums
I recycled when recycling wasn’t fashionable and composted when my generation were throwing everything away. We took the cardboard to the cardboard recyclers, the aluminium cans and metals to the metal recyclers, the man up that dirt road takes beer bottles and wine bottles, but they have to be sorted by colour…all seemed too easy, really.

I have also been following backyard, suburban, Permaculture principles for the past quarter of a century to create a home for my children, unproductive and productive family pets and beneficial insects as well as providing food, fun and aethetic gardens along the way. However, my pièce de résistance was a yard I have not owned for 10 years now. Much water under the bridge with a divorce, parents health needs, work, remarriage and a myriad of personal crises and ‘just life’ clouding my early clarity of purpose.

One project sometimes flows onto others and just brings your world back into focus.So, once I found Bokashi last year, there was a sudden great increase in the proportion of our rubbish that was getting recycled in our suburban home.

I already put most newspapers and cardboard aside for use in Permaculture sheet mulch gardens (lasagne, no-dig). We just put technology and chemicals aside in the garage until our local council calls a day when we can take these in. If we miss one, there will always be another soon. Batteries and printer cartridges eventually find their way to the participating shops’ recycle bins (I can’t believe we would ever just throw them in the bin; honestly us humans sometimes act like it is someone else’s responsibility to make sure the world doesn’t get contaminated).
E-Waste-Recycling-Scheme
Our council collects plastic waste, paper, cardboard, steel cans, etc in a fortnightly pick up. There is also a green waste pick up on the other fortnight, but we rarely have a lot to put out. We have been composting fairly unsuccessfully the past few years as our heart hadn’t really been in it; the dog (and the weeds) get into on-ground compost and the tumbler we bought off E-Bay just seems to take so long and gets so heavy to turn. Quite often my hubby slips a few catchers full of clippings in the ‘green bin’ just because he thinks there is way too much already. When I go to create a new garden….there is never enough.

I ressurected my wormfarm which my inexperience had let ants take over a couple of years before. It now sits happily on our back deck with a container full of water under each leg. I just fill up the containers every so often. If ants want in they’ll need to swim in. I also leave the tap on the bottom turned a little on any excess liquid can just run out into a bucket, otherwise it could flood. Some people just pull the tap out, but I think that leaves the wormfarm a little bit too open to visitors.

The week we started Bokashi, our kitchen tidy bin had nothing in it but plastic bags and cling wrap. When you do one thing, you often start to get angst about stuff that you hardly noticed before. We used to fill up a kitchen bin a couple of times a week but, all of a sudden, we had hardly a thing to put out for council collection. The plastic I was conscious of, but consciously chose to leave that project for another day.
Sign for Kitchen Bin
I got on my trusty computer and made up a sign for the lid of the bin. That was all that was needed as far as educating the family on what to do. Everyone happily plonked their scraps in the container provided and I just added them to the bucket at the end of the day, added some Bokashi bran and pressed them down to exclude air. So much easier than having a scrap bucket that can’t have bread, citrus, onions, fungus, etc and which has to get out to that compost bin or the kitchen aromas can become less than pleasant, very quickly.

So far, so good. This Bokashi idea seems to meet my initial goals and then some. Wonder if it can get any simpler or cheaper or better??

Bokashi Composting – My early thoughts – after a bit of light reading

I am only starting Bokashi composting, but may eventually want to know and decide for myself what mix of micro-organisms is most beneficial or needed. Also, for small scale use, financial constraints often mean avoiding the commercial and developing ways to make or create products.
Bokashi buddy with liquid Bokashi scraps and leftovers
My vague and naive ideas around the concepts of Bokashi are that some understanding of what should go in to the initial ferment (so the end product is most productive for the intended purpose) would be best.

I will research more before I think I know it all.
Kung Fu Caine
My interests (those which I feel may be enhanced by application of Bokashi method, should my experience bear out it’s usefulness) are, in no particular order:
Reducing waste;
Building soils (to feed my plants and my family);
Broadening uses – neighbours, offices, community gardens, town policies, cities, etc;
Education

I feel the greatest practical understanding is with the few (in this case scientists, farmers and people on the land) but the greatest resource is in heavily populated areas where waste is created and literally going ‘to waste’ (not to mention pollution and disease). I see two basic benefits of suburban Bokashi: less waste; and the end product of that waste reduction. A very large bonus benefit is that cities might have less impact and more respect for rural communities, farmers and natural systems.

Other than the uses by farmers for broadscale food production, there are people/organisations concentrating on specific medium and small uses. For example, town councils and authorities are bringing in a range of diverse methods to clean up and break down all types of problems and stockpiled wastes. This is a great benefit to our lifestyles and maybe to slow up damage to natural systems. On the other hand, some individuals want to do a little to help the environment, but might not be interested in soil, gardening, farming or the science behind these; just the solution to their own problem.

Some people are doing kitchen Bokashi, just to get rid of rubbish or because it doesn’t stink, and maybe even just passing the ferment to others for use.

Would be strange to see resources spreading out of cities instead of being sucked into them. That is but a dream, but I am impressed that such world replenishing techniques are easy, available and acceptable to so many across the world.

Well, these are the sorts of thoughts I had back in February 2012. I am pleased to say that most of my initial views on Bokashi have not been changed by my experiences with it. My endless hours of research gave me much depth of information (along with some supreme shallowness and misinformation which needed to be weeded out of the formation of my basic ideas about the concept).

I found complicated methodology and big noting yardy-yar which near did my head in. I don’t know how my poor husband survived the heady days when I would spend hours researching and then had to spill it all out into the open air, which he sadly inhabited – poor man. Once spoken, it doesn’t take long to realise what things are unnecessary or just don’t make sense. My conceptual brain has a tendency to get completely bogged down in the details until I reach the point where I can just cut through the BS and explain the topic in layman’s terms.
Burying Bokashi spade at the ready
The notes above are a prime example of me in the learning curve stage. I do get more down to earth; let’s face it, Bokashi is just that – DOWN TO EARTH!

My Bokashi Beginnings – someone was a bit excited!

My Bokashi Beginnings – someone was a bit excited!

What seems like eons ago now (but was only January last year, really) … I discovered Bokashi. Here are my preliminary ramblings from back then:

I stumbled on Bokashi less than 2 weeks ago, when I googled ‘kitchen compost’ and thought I was looking for a suitable hardware item. I went from ‘what the’ to ‘wow’ over a sceptical and dizzying personal research program. The more info I found the easier, simpler and possibly cheaper it got and the limits of the benefits to gardens, communities and … the planet seem endless.

I looked at prices of ‘required’ equipment and EM-1 activated microbes (the powder you sprinkle on your scraps to commence the fermenting process – stands for Effective Microorganisms). I tried to think it through and did a bit more research. It was becoming a little daunting – with lots of online and youtube suggestions that you can add this and that, you can make your own powder in 50lb lots, etc. I just wanted something that didn’t stink in my kitchen so I could get back to not throwing out perfectly useful scraps.

Then I found http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/it-can-be-done-bringing-home-bokashi-to-your-veggie-patch/ Suddenly this was easy as: Follow simple steps and throw just about anything in. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. I ended up buying the commercial bucket (lets face it, my initial plan was to buy something nice-looking to keep in my kitchen also hubby encouraged me to spend the extra as I LOVE gardening), Jenny is very successful, on quite a large scale, with just a lidded bucket. Highly recommended reading!
Bokashi Bucket commercial
I chose to also buy the powder. But have recipes for making the base and activating the EM inoculant (in smaller than 50lb lots). Plenty of youtube instruction videos – you probably need to buy the inoculant to start though this goes a long, long way and is not costly (share the cost with a friend or two?). The commercial powder contains a mixture of ‘good’ microbes in a wheat bran (or similar) base. It’s light, smells just sort of fresh and is easy to use – grab a handful and sprinkle.

So far, I have had NO smells (I’m only on my first bucket remember, don’t hold me to it). It won’t be in the kitchen once it is full and going through it’s ferment stage. I will be using a normal bucket for a second bucket and sacrificing the liquid as I went crazy and re-established my previously murdered worm-farm, too. My second bucket is going on holidays and, as I don’t have to worry about a bit of paper sucking up the liquid, I’ll be collecting all the meat, vege, cheese, bread, cofee grounds, etc, etc, etc scraps from 4 families, sprinkling with Bokashi powder and bringing home. Can’t wait actually! This seems so much more user friendly than worm farms and even traditional compost where my own family would have trouble working out what to put in.

Once the scraps are fermented – in about 2 weeks, I could just dig a hole and bury it (in the yard, in the garden, in a box of soil). I will use it to get my compost pile going faster and also introduce some to the worms. I feel Bokashi just makes all the processes come together and the garden should just come alive. The fact that ferment doesn’t stink like rot is just a bonus so I can do this on the run, right where the scraps are created – in my kitchen.

There’s people doing this that don’t care for gardening, just for waste reduction – giving it to the gardener down the road or the local community garden.

Week 2 – I don’t know how I survived without Bokashi – guess I’m hooked!

In a minute, In a minute, in the meantime …

In a minute, In a minute, in the meantime …

Procrastination wake up call via Grammarly

Thank you to my facebook friend who put this pic on their profile. For some reason, I suddenly felt that it might be time for me to curtail my procrastinating activities and sally forth to infiltrate those To-Do items left unsallied to for what seems time immemorial (borrowing badly from Monty Python, and the English language in general, with irreverent apologies).

There is quite a list of procrastinations that I am guilty of – from cleaning the windows to a years worth of book-keeping, but I won’t bore you with the list.

The main item for discussion here is…well, my blog and, more specifically, blogging of my Bokashi experiences. I have been trialling and keeping records of my waste reduction, garden construction, composting and vermiculture adventures since January 2012. I signed up for my blog, but didn’t even write my first post until WordPress sent me an anniversary congratulations email.

Now, my blog is up and running and I am slowly getting a few posts together when I get a chance. However, I have not committed a word to screen about Bokashi, which is crazy when it has had such a big influence on my life.

I am one of those people that needs to always have a project and I had been a bit down (and noteably projectless) with some fairly serious personal issues, not the least of which was (is) chronic back pain. I had given way too much, to way too many (as is my way) and finally burned myself out physically, financially and spiritually. Mentally, I was finding it difficult to compose myself and just get on with. And then…..

Watch this space to see if I can actually get off my derriere, or more correctly – get onto it, and share my Bokashi story. Knowing me as I do, I’m hoping I don’t just decide to do the book-keeping and get back to this commitment after that. Problem is both involve sitting down, which isn’t great on the back, but writing will create enthusiasm in me while book-keeping will bring me a nice chunky tax refund cheque. Hmmm.

Do you procrastinate a certain something in your life???

To be unlike virus’ who kill their hosts

Seattle's Beacon Food Forest Schematic Plan by Harrison Design

Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest Schematic Plan by Harrison Design


“To empower ourselves and be the intelligence and processors of nutrients from the forest we steward. To be similar to beneficial bacteria that maintain our ability for resiliency and good health and to be very unlike and have no reference to virus’ who kill their hosts. Long live the ability and will power for Humanity to evolve with its Host, Earth.”

Read about Beacon Food Forest, Seattle on their website:
This is how we move forward co-operatively! http://beaconfoodforest.weebly.com/news.html

Another Link about Beacon Food Forest:
Andrea Watts has written a great article on Seedstock.com (http://seedstock.com/2013/04/10/beacon-food-forest-brings-together-diverse-community-to-regenerate-public-lands) which explains some of the hows and some of the how-it-nearly-didn’ts of Beacon Food Forest. It took some striving to get it happening and there’ll need to be more to get the project completed. It is a five year project and stage 1 is done.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Let’s share our connection with the soil, plants, food and fun! Whether you just keep your shallots (green onions) fresh in a glass of water or you manage a sustainable farm or acreage; whether you grow flowers, herbs or produce for market, would love to know about it. Community is what it is all about!

marymaryquitecontrary

Do you follow any particular methods? Make your own: compost? soil? preserves? ferments? garden beds? water systems? wildlife habitats? etc, etc?

Have you been able to reduce: waste, water usage, electricity usage, food bills, poverty in your area? Have you been able to increase: fresh local food for your family, quality of your soil, community involvement, Clean energy, public education, scientific knowledge?

Have you written or read a good book or helpful article lately?

Where do you grow? What do you grow? How do you grow? Who do you grow with? What do you cook? What motivates you? ….what ever is in your heart.

Each of us has a part to play in changing the direction humanity takes from this day on.

Local Harvest Challenge – Roundup

Local Harvest Challenge – Roundup

Local Harvest Challenge week; done and dusted. Bought local, ate seasonal, grew edibles, thought, learned, acted. Glad we did it.

Have you ever noticed that the minute you commit to something the rest of your life jumps up and down in protest?

The Local Harvest Challenge was only days away from starting when I received an event invite in Facebook. I really wanted to do the challenge – though just about everything was against us: short notice; travel plans; poor health; work commitments; lack of funds. What the hey; signed us up (as a family team).

About day one I was wishing I hadn’t been quite so bold. Perhaps if we defined local as within our country might have been more do-able? For starters, we hardly saw my grown daughter all week, so decided we were a team of two very early on. We didn’t have time to plan or prepare but, seeing as how we do already try to follow a lot of the aims of Local Harvest we thought what we had on hand and from our garden would get us close to the mark.

We chose 19 challenges from a long list and decided ‘local’ for us this week would be within 160km of home. We could have chosen a ‘bite sized’ challenge – as few as 7 activities or we could have gotten serious and chosen to eat only local and sustainable all week. We could have chosen various distances for our ‘local’ challenge (from within our country down to pushbike-close).

So, how did we end up?

Well, all in all, we got through the week reasonably well; learned a few things and enjoyed some new experiences. We think the challenge is in the thinking about our food choices and possibly changing our ways if there are better options available.

It was a real shame that the Challenge was run at the time it was (the week of Easter and including the Easter Monday public holiday as well as going into Autumn when our homegrown seasonal produce was considerably less). The bad weather once we were home from our Easter holiday and having commitments and health issues really meant we didn’t get to sink our teeth into the Challenge as we would have liked to but we successfully completed nearly all our goals, so we were quite chuffed after all.

If we had more notice, the fact that our homegrown resources were low could have inspired us to ‘get out there’ to find local options. We believe, sometimes, we get just as set in our good ways as in our bad ones and a shuffle up is good occasionally, just to keep us fresh.

Well we steered clear of the multi-nationals which wasn’t really a challenge; we both detest the supermarkets and our local Coles is disgusting for fruit and vegetables, though our local independent grocer IGA gets our vote. We heaped some praise on our local suppliers. We missed the farmers market but we have two local fruit markets which source their produce from as close to home as possible. We actually appreciate the experts choosing our fruit and vegetables for us and we are always pleased with the quality. Much of the produce comes from under 30km away.

We investigated our local suppliers: firstly on the internet – the Local Harvest maps are a great resource whether you are at home or travelling across Australia; secondly, we travelled some country roads and discovered some farmgate sales while sparing a coin or two to some local cafe’s along the way.

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We found out that there is an organic meat supplier at West Gosford and an organic meat, poultry and egg supplier at Somersby. We also found out there is a FIG (Food Integrity Group) at Ourimbah and had a chance to find out what that meant. They are a not-for-profit co-op bringing in produce for weekly food boxes, but only from within a 160km zone. There is also a Food Network at Woy Woy. We very much expect there are more suppliers in the area that are yet to register on Local Harvest. We hope more people will encourage their favourite local suppliers and farmers to register.

Example map search

Example map search

We have recently found Organic Plus at Erina (which has bulk hoppers of dried fruit, nuts and seeds as well as a range of fresh fruit and vegetables and a whole lot more. Only thing we don’t like is that their system is for plastic bags to be used at the hoppers. Can only suggest they think about changing that.


This week (like most weeks) we harvested food from our own garden. Bad time of year for backyard gourmet. We are going into Autumn here and our tomatoes, rockmelons, etc are finished (we actually pulled the cherry tomatoes out because they were getting heavy fly infestation and the dog decided most of the Roma tomatoes looked better on the lawn – she has always found green tomatoes good to chew up).

We are still enjoying fresh rocket (arugula), perpetual lettuce and various spinaches (chard, baby spinach, spinach mustard) and rhubarb. We have many herbs (rosemary, thyme, flat and curly parsley, garlic chives, oregano, shallots (green onions), mint and lemon grass as well as a miniature bay tree and a curry tree. We have just harvested the last of our Tamarillos (as anyone who knows me knows – I am very excited and enjoy finding new uses for this unusual fruit).

We let our rocket go to seed recently and collected seeds for our use as well as for gifts. Obviously, some got away as we now have rocket growing in a gravelled decorative garden. It loves it there, so we have just extended our food producing area. There is plenty for salads, sandwiches and stir fries with enough left for an Almond and Rocket pesto to go in the freezer, too. Frozen in small quantities, this is so handy for stirring through pasta or putting on a cheese and biccy platter for guests or for picnics.

We are lucky to have many mini butternut pumpkins (squash) and sweet potatoes ready for the eating from our backyard, also. We let the pumpkins run rampant (along with rockmelons) when our dog dug up buried compost and brought seeds up to the top so they could grow. The plants helped the garden survive some heatwave conditions and the mini pumpkins were the result of not cutting back the vines, I believe. We love them baked whole and have been able to hand them out to family and friends, too. Our sweet potato plant grows crazy and we rarely dig to harvest. Anywhere the vine touches the ground it takes root and the sweet potatoes form. Whenever the vine gets out of hand, we brutally pull it up and fossick for buried treasures.

We finished the week with a Pumpkin Sauce Fettucine using lightly sauted onion, garlic, zucchini and spinach. I’d usually use coconut milk to create the sauce (but I don’t think there are any coconut trees within 160km of our place so homemade chicken stock is a lot more local). No, the fettuccine was neither homemade nor produced within 160km, but everything else was good.

Homemade fruit popsicles - a yum way to boost fruit intake

Homemade fruit popsicles – a yum way to boost fruit intake

We always eat lots of fruit and vegetables and we only had to check that our purchases at the fruit market were within our challenge zone (160km isn’t that far when you are talking about some items. Until recently grapes were coming in from California, USA). The Central Coast area sits between the large cities of Sydney and Newcastle so it is possible to obtain a range of ‘local’ produce fairly readily. There are still some farming areas pocketed around the area (though a lot of small farms have become hobby farms and weekenders). Our Somersby Plateau has been maintained for agricultural purposes, though it too probably doesn’t produce anywhere what it used to as properties have changed hands over the years.

If ever we have a meal which is a little short on veg, we usually have a fresh fruit platter or fruit salad with homemade yoghurt to finish. Same when we are visiting; we always volunteer to bring the fruit and/or salad.

We love to top our breakfast cereals with fruit, yoghurt, nuts and seeds. Definitely helps to pack enough fruit and vegies in if you include some in all meals and snacks throughout the day. We always have healthy banana bread (yes, it is possible) and zucchini bread in the freezer, stored in chunks (say a third of a loaf) – just enough for a day’s worth of snacks for the family or ready to pull out when guests arrive.

We ate seasonal this week. Growing your own produce is a great way to keep seasonal. Another big indicator is price. If the goods are not readily available locally, you can bet the suppliers will get them from far and wide just to quench the consumers, “must have always” mentality, especially if we are prepared to pay through the nose instead of just saying, “what’s in season now?”

Our best fun cooking adventure this week was a Layered Pancake Pie. We had once had something like this at a cafe and we had some ready-cooked crepes in the freezer already (no idea whether they were made with local produce, sorry). I just roasted vegetables (carrot, onion, zucchini, sweet potato) and layered them with cooked chicken, sweet chilli, cream cheese spread thinned with a little milk. So easy and you could use any ingredients you like or have on hand.

Savoury Layered Pancake Pie in pan

We had chosen some activities that we already do: make yoghurt; compost kitchen scraps (we have tradition on-ground heaps, a tumble composter and have been storing and using Bokashi for about a year and are mixing traditional compost methods, permaculture, vermiculture and Bokashi together with lots of success (records of my trials will eventually be on my blog); wormfarm; visit local community garden; herb garden; preserve foods; ‘like’ Local Harvest on Facebook; read relevant books and research everything on the internet (yes, including bees).

What we did was to try and step these things up a notch or do something extra this week.

  • I made Sweet Yoghurt Cheese for the first time;
  • we added yet another compost pile (this one is a 205L drum with the top and bottom cut out – I had once used two of these alternatively as my only source of compost, with great success);
  • my husband brought home prunings and garden waste from his home maintenance clients (something he had avoided for a while as it can be a bit of a bother with importing weeds). I will put the prunings through our mulcher to top up garden mulch;
  • we didn’t visit a community garden though we often do. Our daughter’s partner works with a wonderful not-for-profit that develop community and school gardens across the Central Coast. Equilibrium Future Solutions uses and trains Natural Gardening methods;
  • we have in garden herbs as well as smaller (at the back door) pot so we are now trialling some new-plants-from-old techniques which I’ll blog about later (we have celery, shallots (green onions) and onion bottoms nestled in ramekins lined with damp paper towel (so far seem preferable to sitting them in a glass of water). Our garlic, turmeric and ginger started sending shoots up so all we needed to do was pop them in the ground.
  • I’m always reading my Permaculture books (Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay’s Introduction to Permaculture has been my constant companion for 25 years now and I still just want to read it). I chose “Extraordinary uses for ordinary things” for something different this week. Interesting, though I stop short of suggesting you rush out to buy the book. Some ideas were just the teensiest bit very strange (such as using marshmallows between your toes when doing your nails….really?)
  • I had only just been investigating bees the past few weeks. I have a bee allergy so probably won’t be getting a hive, though we love to aid native bees to make themselves at home in our garden.

There are a few things we just didn’t achieve during the challenge:
1) Join a relevant group. My mind immediately went to Permaculture and I have been hesitant to become involved with the local group as I haven’t heard much about them and their meetings are a fair way from my home. I was a little bummed that I had chosen this challenge, but wasn’t going through with it anyway. On Sunday night we were watching a docco on the TV about landcare and I suddenly realised where I would better fit in. I will follow this up later.
2) Collect coffee grounds from a local cafe. I had been going to do this eventually, but hadn’t got around to it. Well, we still didn’t. It was a big week, we’ll put this back on the to do list.

We are already looking forward to next year so we can really sink our teeth in. In the meantime, we will continue evolving and changing and hopefully heading forwards with our food choices. We are proud to live in an area where ‘normal’ shops are sourcing products locally where possible. This only happens because everyday people are asking for it…everyday.

The Local Harvest Challenge gave us food for thought AND thought for food!

http://www.localharvest.org.au/

For USA residents: you can find the USA Local Harvest here.

Note: I will be including recipes separately on my blog shortly and, once I’ve got them entered, I’ll update pages with the links to them.