How To Create Your Own Rain Garden

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.
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).
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;

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 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???

Hope in a Changing Climate

Hope in a Changing Climate

Can we clean up our catastrophic messes? Can huge companies want to learn beside us and contribute to correcting historical environmental faux pas? Can we work co-operatively to come up with sensible long-term solutions and to avoid future large scale degradation? Is it as simple as including quality of life and environmental factors into calculations of the “value” and the “cost” of any proposed actions.

I have watched with interest several videos regarding re-greening deserts. I am impressed with how humans can work together to restore depleted (or, in some cases, all but deleted) ecosystems to abundance and, with that restoration, the livelihoods and quality of life of communities.
desert to abundance pic
We, as humans, are a plague and a blight on this planet. We on mass range from totally indifferent to our surroundings to so sensitive we will stop at nothing to stop everything. We need to realise that each of us contributes to the mess we have made. None of us is blameless just because we didn’t educate ourselves on the components that make up our technology or didn’t realise that our homes were built on what used to be the best agricultural land in the district, etc.

We pigeon-hole, de-personify and generalise others (and ourselves) so that we are less likely to band together in agreement and community. “Keep away from the Greenies and the Activists” and “Corporations and Governments are just out to get us”. Although there will always be those that we disagree with or who we believe (rightly or wrongly) are not acting in the best interest of humans or the planet, displaying similarly destructive and disruptive traits probably doesn’t help the cause.

I just reckon if US got together with THEM, that would be a whole lot of hands to do good work. Pretty sure that, if we could all see the good in others and speak calmly and clearly (assertively, not aggressively) we would get a lot more achieved. Win, win for all and the planet and the animals and the soil and the economy….. dreamer me!

Equilibrium! Nature swings on the pendulum, but eventually all the forces and variables bring about an equilibrium. Humans fight equilibrium because we don’t want any change (we want seasonal produce all year round; we dredge channels, fill in wetlands and build break-walls instead of sitting and watching while nature does the repairs and maintenance. We value ourselves, money and our un-necessary wants above all else.

All our actions (and inactions) bring about the very change we tried to avoid, incredibly fast. We are our own worst enemy!

There are stereotypical responses – whether these responses originate from personal experience, education, indoctrination, anecdotal evidence or mere conjecture:
1) success is money and power; to be without money is to hold no power
2) the flip side: anyone with money or with power will wield it against those without.

There are definitely instances to support some generalisations, but none of them help anyone. Many people of humble means are strong and proud of their achievements and others, should the cards they are dealt lead that way, might become wealthy or be in a position of power or authority. For example: an activist who wishes to stand up for the people might well become a politician. Many simple products have become best-sellers and so the creators and authors and designers achieve commercial and perhaps even corporate “success”. Should these people then remove the white hat and put on the black hat????

You would think we could not glorify both power and the virtues of poverty, though it would seem we do. It would appear, to me, that each activity humans undertake seems to hold a value (sometimes monetary, sometimes sentimental/patriotic/spiritual….) and while eeking a living some find that others value their activities and are willing to pay (currency, homage, in kind, etc). However, those that would outwardly appear to be of common thought and who would appear to hold similar values are most likely to separate and segretate than to co-operate and bind their power or their wealth to benefit local, national or global community.

Where there are established community groups and, all of a sudden, a new one appears, there is often consternation and much pointing and shaking of heads. Perhaps the new one is of persons less experienced; wanted to do things a different way; maybe not even aware of the existing group. The logical action would be for one to contact the other and compare notes and see if the two groups can compliment each other’s activities or even join forces on larger projects. In reality, this type of co-operation is rare to unheard of.

There appears to be pockets of community, pockets of activity and pockets of influence. In all of these there are pockets being filled. Too many pockets; each with their own agenda and looking for their own outcomes.

It is easy to click ‘like’ on some global activism or against some authority but, to see the problem and to be the solution the tables need to turn and those seeking change will be the authority…will then the followers click ‘like’ on their solutions. Anarchy is very unlikely to solve the world’s ills; it will most certainly allow for heightened graft and corruption to ensue behind the crazy facade.

I have no answer to these questions. I am just blurting out what has come to my eyes, ears and heart recently.

A few articles I had read and a few conversations I had had brought me to a state in which I found myself seeing proud, profit-driven agendas across all levels of society, across all lands and across the future visions of many otherwise ‘good’ people. Perhaps it will pass and I’ll get back to wondering if I could flog some vegies down the farmer’s markets or start making cupcakes in hopes of being the next great business success story? Perhaps I will trust the companies that say that they are doing their best to strive for good environmental outcomes and rise up with them against those that don’t? Perhaps my government and yours will see what is happening across the globe and realise that no amount of duck-shoving (a term my Dad used to use, seems appropriate) or double-talk will turn the people away from bringing about complete and sustainable (don’t even like using the ‘words’ anymore as they are all becoming catch cries for politicians and marketers – oh, hypocrisy, now I’m generalising!

Anyway, my soapbox blah has certainly got in the way of my introduction to these uplifting videos and articles on a communities that have succeeded in bringing about startling and broadscale change; some light reading or watching material for your enjoyment. Sorry!

Trailer for Hope in a Changing Climate:

An article  by Dr Mercola (includes two videos)

The Open University and Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) – Hope in a Changing Climate.

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!


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.