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Bear proof composting for a community of 20

 
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Hi. I'm new.

We are an off grid community of between 10 and 25 people varying through the year.

We're in the rural North, pine forest, bear country.

We haven't composted our kitchen waste as it is a potential bear attractor. Instead we take it in with the recycling and it gets landfilled.

I think it's a waste, and as far as I know it's possible to compost without attracting bears.

Thing is I've never done it. And i have some questions if you kind people will help me. For example,

- What's the best system. Just a pile on the ground? Buy a bearproof composter? How do I make sure the composter is big enough to handle all of our waste?

- how do I get the compost started? Will it stink initially? (attract bears?)

- any other suggestions for this situation? (Most compost systems are for small households and we would be doing it for a lot of people so I suspect there are some things that we will have to do differently.

Info:
It's COLD here in winter, - 30 with snow for long stretches.
We don't have livestock, probly won't be getting any soon.
At peak, we generate roughly 5 or 6 5-gal buckets of kitchen waste a week. We almost never eat meat.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

 
Posts: 201
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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Phew! That's a tough one, Joe.

Greetings from the Great White North, where composting is a 5-6 month activity during the year. The rest of the time it is frozen solid, though ensuring adequate moisture in fall helps to mechanically break down tough materials through freeze-thaw.

Greetings also, from a solo wilderness backpacker who for years practiced clean-camp bear discipline like his life depended on it.

On the one hand, I hate to see that all that fine veggie material wasted, especially if it's being landfilled.

On the other hand, a bear never, ever forgets a food source. I get the impression that you would not be comfortable shooting (and perhaps eating) a bear that becomes a significant safety hazard.

My big-picture idea is that the goal is to deny the bear a meal. With that as the starting point, let me toss around some random ideas. Keep in mind they're probably worth what you paid for them, or probably less  :

- Dilution: if you have an area where you are trying to build good soil, could it be thoroughly mixed in and composted in place? If there is no concentrated food source, it may be less attractive to a bear. He's focused on getting calories efficiently.

- Distancing: it it possible to try compost experiments miles away from your location, and monitor the results?

- Going anaerobic in containers: It's disgusting, smelly, nasty. I honestly don't know if bears would be attracted to the strong smell, but perhaps it doesn't present an attractive meal. Then again, bear brain is not the same as people brain.

My 2 cents. Best of luck!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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Looking into it further, it seems that going anaerobic is what you definitely DO NOT want to do. Strong smells of any kind are bear attractants, including rotting fruit. The advice I'm finding is to go heavy on the brown matter and keep the pile well oxygenated to prevent odours.

I would be cautious about eggshells too. when I open my composters, the dogs seek them out even after they've been in there for 2 years.

I'm not sure what sort of composter would be bear-proof. They break into cabins with locked doors. It would have to be built like a tank.

 
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You might consider looking into Bokashi.  Here are a couple of threads that might help.

https://permies.com/t/78784/Bokashi-Composting

https://permies.com/t/137408/Quickest-Easiest-bokashi-home-Experiences
 
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Welcome, Joe.
I think if you were to use bokashi you would have to do it all inside your buildings. Which is easily possible. Use buckets with taps, you could dump the runoff outside on beds or potentially save it for other types of active fermentation (I use it with coffee grounds to make a Fetid Swamp Water type thing that gets put on the plants). Then the full buckets, if you have the foresight to fill large bins half full with dirt, could get "buried" in these dirt-filled bins. I've read that theoretically after a time these turn into nice compost, which can then be used in your garden when it turns warm, assuming the stuff does rot down. It might take a long time, quite honestly (especially in the cold), and you might end up with a lot of bins. But that might be a possibility for you.
I can tell you that the bokashi that I bury after the barrels are full and fermented does attract cats and rats, and if there were bears I have no doubt they would be here. But I think the ability to do bokashi inside makes it an attractive alternative. Maybe acquiring some rabbits, if that is feasible, could make a serious impact on your waste quantities before they enter the waste stream and produce some nice fertilizer to boot.

Otherwise, I think composting somewhere far away might be the best option, but then you run the risk of having permanent bear residents at the "dump", not sure how that would work for you and your community.
 
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Worm composting inside a building? or even standard composting inside a building (with ventilation)
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Worm composting inside a building? or even standard composting inside a building (with ventilation)



Respectfully, this is no small undertaking.

Given the climate, it would need to be inside a well-heated building.

10-25 people, mostly vegetarian, would generate large amounts of compostable material.

Don't misunderstand, I like the idea. But the logistics of implementing this in a practical way are pretty huge.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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It occurs to me that we haven't factored bear hibernation into the mix. Thoughts?

Edit: When bears hibernate, outdoor compost piles also hibernate. But maybe there's a hidden option somewhere?
 
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I say don't fight a losing battle. Bears can smell food from a ridiculous distance away (20 miles?). Skip composting altogether.

Rabbits were touched on...but I think they or other "scrap eaters" are the solution - turn the green waste into manure. Guinea pigs would be another rodent that could be used.

BUT I think maybe a few goats (chickens?) would be ideal, they seem to eat everything, produce milk, and could be used on the homestead or hired out for brush/invasive plant control.

This is an alternative option to solve the organic waste issue and avoid the landfill. Perhaps there are others, aside from composting.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I agree it's important to exercise shrewd judgement. A losing battle? Maybe. And yet a search reveals many municipalities in bear country that advocate composting as long as it's done thoughtfully. Bird feeders and fruit trees seem to be a larger concern.

Goats or pigs present an interesting approach. Keeping livestock in very cold climates is a pretty big commitment, though. I grew up with it. Far from impossible, but not a trivial business. I don't know if it fits with the OP's vision for their community.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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If the OP had a neighbour with goats/pigs/chickens, it could be the basis of a trading relationship. Just a thought.
 
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First of all, I’d like to share my opinion that “bear proof” as a physical security concept is pretty much impossible.

That said, my mom always had an active compost pile in bear country and it never attracted a bear.

Depending on your circumstances, something as simple as a robust outside-living dog might be all the deterrance you need. Black bears will only rarely come into the territory of an active dog. Grizzly bears, on the other hand, do not have any fucks to give.
 
pollinator
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I wonder how remote and how much land you have? Also, are there existing problem bears, used to being fed from humans/human trash?

Most of the  remote places I have visited incinerate their trash. Incinerators are usually kept at least a km from any sites of human habitation, and surrounded by 8 ft chain link fences with barbed wire on the top, and a similar gate. Bears still pass by that area more than usual, drawn by the lovely smell of garbage (usually incinerate weekly or biweekly).

If I were to try a community scale compost pile in bear country, I would want a similar setup, 1 km away from humans, 10 ft tall fences, well covered with straw or something.

For home scale composting- worm bins indoors or the garage might work. I have also had small compost piles while I was growing up. We were 1 km from the nearest neighbour and had outdoor dogs, so the bears never got close enough to discover the pile.

 
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