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What to do with food scraps?

 
gardener
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Any suggestions for what to do with food scraps that won't result in attracting a bear and doesn't involve livestock? I was so excited about composting but it brought a hungry bear.

At some point I will probably get chickens and a dog but right now that isn't an option. And it just bugs me so much to be bagging this stuff to be taking to the dump.  So wasteful and bad for the world...
 
pioneer
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Bokashi composting?

https://bokashiliving.com/
 
Sonja Draven
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Thanks, Ben! Looks promising. :). I will read up on it.
 
master steward
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Would you consider worms to be livestock?  ie vermicomposting
 
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Hi Sonja,

Do you consider composting worms livestock? If you have the space, like a temperature stable area, maybe a basement: when done properly, they don't smell or attract bugs. There are lots of ways to achieve this if its something you would consider.

I hope that helps!
 
Sonja Draven
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I think worms would be okay.

I need something super inexpensive and don't want to have to worry about the high maintenance aspects of livestock. Not to mention keeping them safe from predators. I'm worried enough about my fruit trees right now and I'm not ready to get a dog yet.

Is there an easy way to figure out the pros and cons to these types of composting and why someone would do one instead of the other? I know that if I ask what's best, I'll probably hear it depends. ;)
 
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Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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I find if you have a good blender you can whiz the stuff up into a liquid, add it straight to your garden, and it doesn't seem to draw in predators. It's just broken down so fine it assimilates quickly. You might keep your unfavourite blender for this job or pick up a second hand one. Though I do use a Vitamix which is a lot of horse power, so you may have to find a strong enough blender to grind what you are putting into it.

Meat scraps? I'd give these to your local crows or ravens. They appreciate it and will think kindly of you. Cool Corvids. They can be discreet about things, you just have to get to know them.
 
Sonja Draven
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Thanks for the great ideas, everyone!

The videos say the bokashi method doesn't attract bears. Is that true in the experience of people here? I like what I saw about that method so far. Seems like it would work well for me, if that's true.
 
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Any sort of food smell will attract scavengers.  Bears are opportunistic scavengers, if you put edibles, even scrap edibles, within nose-shot, they'll come looking, unless you have something to discourage them (for black bears, this typically means dogs...for brown bears, guns and vigilance.)
You're not going to be able to compost outside without attracting them, if you're not willing to discourage them. (bears are edible, not particularly tasty, at least in my experience, but edible, and eating them definitely discourages them from visiting...until the next one comes along.).

You could build a steel or heavy plastic compost bin, but the bears would still come to investigate, even if they can't get in, or ...  You could always throw some extra-smelly food scraps behind a not-so-close neighbors hedges, and let the bear be their problem.


 
pollinator
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A good solution that comes to mind might be a nice electric fence?  That way you can do what you want, compost how you want, and even not need to worry about it as much.  The big one-time expense on hotwire is the charger.  I personally love solar chargers but they're more expensive than AC or DC stand-alone chargers. I believe AC chargers are the cheapest, like 1/3 to 1/4 the price of solar!  I just like solar because it's so portable and I'm off-grid, so I don't have to have the charger right next to a battery bank.

Electric fences are high voltage at super low amperage; so the jolt may be shocking or painful, but it can't cause physical damage.  Some folks say you can't get less than a 3 joule charger for bears.  I've fried bears good on a 1.2 joule charger, but granted it was on a circuit less than 1/4 mile long.  A shorter circuit on a higher powered charger means a much meaner POP when you hit it!  A good way to train local bears on your hotwire is to bait them into touching it.  Some folks do stuff like tie a hotdog to the wire and wait for the animal to try and eat the hotdog (though to me it seems it would just teach the animal to fear hot dogs...).  What I did was set my grain bins, that the bear kept tipping over and rummaging through, on a rubber tire and wrap the hotwire around the metal barrel.  So the barrel wasn't grounded because it was on the tire.  And the next time Mr. Bear tried to get into my barrels he got zapped when he touched the metal and never tried it again.  Actually that was the LAST time he rummaged through anything on the place.  He figured the neighbors' hosues were predictably 'not-painful', so best to avoid my place and my scary biting objects.  Woohoo!

Anywho.  A hotwire, in my opinion, is a good investment.  It's pennies per foot for the actual string (I prefer 6 or 9 strand polywire).  You can string it from tree-to-tree and make home-made insulators if you don't want the expense of posts and clips.  A good charger lasts almost forever, and your hotwire fencelines can be permanent or temporary.  It can greatly deter bears, deer, dogs, and whatever else bumps into it, keeping trees, livestock, gardens, compost/trash cans, etc. safe and untouched.  If/when you decide to get dogs or livestock, it can keep them in just as easily as it keeps other stuff out  Well, not birds.  Birds are hard pressed to get fried by the wire; they have to touch it with their  bare face because their feathers protect them from the electricity.  But you get the idea!
 
Sonja Draven
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I decided to give bokashi a shot.... For now, using the tea and tossing the scraps after. At least I will be feeding my dirt something and working towards better soil. Then when I have a better deterrent in place, I can start using all of it.

One more question I hope you all can help with:
Several sources mentioned being able to pour the tea down the drain and it's good for your pipes. Is this true for septic systems too? Is this the good stuff for that environment?
 
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25 years ago my city, Kitchener, Ont. gave out free digesters for a couple of years and there was a lot of interest in them.  They completely digested ALL kitchen waste with NO work and NO cost whatsoever.  But at that time people who composted were already using a lot of their kitchen scraps.  And nobody else was interested in having a bin of waste in their kitchen, so interest died almost immediately.  The system involved a large plastic digester outdoors (very similar to an earth machine composter without any holes) and a small plastic container with a lid indoors for collecting the waste for several days and then emptying it into the outdoor bin.

Several mistakes were made.  The most serious was that if you covered the indoor container, it smelled bad!  We found that by leaving the indoor container open to the air, it never smelled at all; except only that if raw meat was added it needed to be emptied in 2 or 3 days.  This worked fine because with around 6 people in the household, it needed to be emptied in 2 days anyway.  A rule of thumb that we evolved was to keep the indoor bin as dry as possible and the outdoor bin as wet as possible.  That meant that if we were throwing out soup or gravy, for example, we just threw it directly in the outdoor bin.  The outdoor bin was large enough that it could store ALL the waste thru the winter frozen months and then decompose it thru the other 3 seasons.  (an exception was during the years our family consisted of 10 people when I used a second outdoor digester to get us thru the frozen months -this second digester NEVER got full and I gave it away to a step-daughter after 18 years)

I was almost immediately flabbergasted at the prodigious amount of waste this digester consumed!  Our family went from 6 people to 10 people and down to 2 people in the 18 years until I emptied it for the first time!  That is correct.  For 18 years stuff just kept disappearing.  By then it did not empty lower than 2/3 full and the space on top was not enough to last the winter and the second unit had been given away.  Also I was dying of curiosity to know what was in there, that 2/3 that no longer decomposed....I tried to find someone, anyone, in our huge recycle region bureaucracy who was interested, but nobody even knew what digesting was! (other than a way to produce methane gas) And no one was interested.

The only remaining interest in household digesting is the Green Cone from England and that company has probably single-handedly destroyed the future of household digesting.  An entire post would be necessary to list all the mistakes made in their concept of a digester.  

Even the word digester is problematic.  Compostgester would be better, but no compost is produced so that's not ideal either.  What is produced is digestate.  So I would like to call it a digestater.  Mine has been used for 7 years now since it was emptied.  I do not expect it to fill again in my lifetime with 2 people using it.

ray979
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Another thing to do with scraps is boil them down to make vegetable broth. Then you can feel a little better sending the scraps to the dump as you would have gotten a lot more "miles" out of your scraps.

I do advise frequently draining out your bokashi bucket. Otherwise the contents can rot and will stink up the house when open. I learned that the hard way.

My understanding of the bokashi process is that food scraps get pickled. I don't know what that means for its drain cleaning power, though. Maybe the runoff is acidic?
 
pollinator
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I have the opposite of rural bear problems.  I live in a 4th floor apartment 45 minutes from my garden.

I freeze meat bones for broth, and veggie bits if I remember, but I have very limited freezer space.  I have tried countertop compost but the smell, and the flies... I have tried a worm farm, killing so, so many worms in the process...

My solution is very un-permie:  The Food Cycler.  It is expensive.  It is single-purpose.  It takes up dumb amounts of space on my counter or in a cabinet.  It uses probably a dumber amount of electricity.  However, I put scraps in as I go, run it for a few hours every few days, and end up with a small amount of unsmelly powder that I can either get to the garden sometime at my leisure or throw in the garbage with little regret.  (This has prompted me to figure out how to get a biowaste bin for the apartment building, which my landlord has to do.  Also, woo the city sells super-cheap compost!)

I suspect I could do it by hand - using the dehydrator or oven to dry, then powdering via hand/grinder - but I am going to revel in my laziness and happiness with a new toy for a while.

NB, my cats are fascinated by the powder, so this may not cut down on the bear interest.
 
Ray Sauder
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I have the opposite of rural bear problems.  I live in a 4th floor apartment 45 minutes from my garden.
(This has prompted me to figure out how to get a biowaste bin for the apartment building, which my landlord has to do.)


The digester bin pictured in my post can sit on a piece of ground 3 ft. x 3 ft.  The spot can be grass, a flower bed, any place that is directly on soil.  The bottom of the unit has a 1 inch ledge bending outwards.  This can be dug 2 inches into the ground or laid on top of the ground and covered with curved paver bricks to prevent tip-over of the unit.  Eventually, the unit will need to be emptied and the easiest way by far is if the same amount of land is available beside it to dig a hole, lift off the unit, and push the contents into the hole.  A sunny spot will help greatly although mine lasted 18 years completely in the shade.  It was far too ugly to put into my wife's flower bed by the back door!  And I didn't know at the time if smells or critters would be a problem.  They aren't.  Except bears-they would be a problem out of the city.....

The unit I have is no longer available ANYWHERE.  Even the original manufacturer no longer has even a record of their existence, let alone old molds.  But they, as well as many other manufacturers, produce a similar size unit called the earth machine for composters.  They work reasonably well if one covers ALL the slots, both inside and out, with heavy black tape.  The door for removing finished compost is not used for 10 years or so.

My dream is to find a manufacturer who would produce a beautiful digester which could be placed in a prominent position at the back door.  I have several designs but my favorite is an ancient stone well as plastics can now achieve a realistic stone look....

ray979
 
Ray Sauder
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Here's what I think a beautiful digester should look like.  It could be made with a solid bottom for use as a lawn ornament, a rain barrel, a storage bin, a rolling composter, or even a large garbage can.  The bottom could be cut out for use as a digester.  Any plastics manufacturer/recycler seeing this???

Antique-Stone-Wellhead.jpg
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An indoor worm bin for veggie scraps. I overwinter a small bin of worms each winter indoors then put them in my gardens in the spring. For bones I put them in the crock pot for a couple days until they are mush then dehydrate and grind it to a powder. I use worm tea in my garden and the bone meal and have had no problems with animals etc.
 
Ray Sauder
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 " I was almost immediately flabbergasted at the prodigious amount of waste this digester consumed!  Our family went from 6 people to 10 people and down to 2 people in the 18 years until I emptied it for the first time!  That is correct.  For 18 years stuff just kept disappearing."

How many people read these posts?  Is no one curious as I was as to what was left after 18 years of food scraps disappearing???  We are talking about 18 years x 52 weeks x 1 roast with bone in or ribs or pork chops so what, maybe 936 large bones and 4,600 small bones;  18 years x 12 months x 1 = 216 chicken or turkey carcasses;  18 yrs. x 52 weeks x 2 doz. eggshells = 5,200 eggshells minimum!!; to say nothing of mountains of vegetable scraps  (maybe 13,000 quarts),  bacon grease, gravy, spoiled food, etc.etc.

'jus askin'

ray979
 
Ray Sauder
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sorry, make that 22,500 eggshells....
 
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We're in the midst of putting out a blog series called "Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads" that covers the myriad ways to cycle food scraps back into the landscape.  The first three we've written are linked below... the next ones, on thermophilic composting, indigenous microorganisms, biochar, and biomass generators are coming shortly, so check back if you're interested!

Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 1 - Vermicomposting

Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 2 - Bokashi Composting

Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 3 - Compost Tea
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