Textual & Visual

The Khamba Project: The First 10 Days

The composter is here. A couple of weeks ago, we  visited Daily Dump with friends from The Potted Garden.

Daily Dump founder, Poonam Bir Kasturi graciously answered our thousand and one queries. She obviously gets a lot of whacked out questions from wannabe composters like yours truly. Poonam’s confidence in everyone’s ability to deal with the perils of wet waste composting put our minds at ease and boosted our confidence. Plus she left quite an impression on us with her generous, open-source approach towards her very unique and potentially world-saving product. 

3 Tier Clay Composting Unit

Eventually, we picked up a small modular, Janta Khamba with 3 pots. We also picked up some compost accelerator and organic neem based pesticide to help us along the way.
Goodies For The Khamba

3 days after we started we added the compost accelerator and neem powder. A week down the line, the first pot was three-fourth full and coming along nicely.

I have a feeling the Janta Khamba might be tad small for this household’s waste, but we’ll get to that chapter, when we get there.

Fish Food & Bird Feed

Maggots; black and white, plus fruit flies seem to love the pile of kitchen scraps. Unappealing as that may seem, these buggers are a vital part of the composting process and are totally harmless to people. They don’t carry any germs or diseases. Keep repeating that line and you’ll learn to live with bugs flying out each time you open your composter’s lid for a fresh deposit.

In some parts of the world, our composter would be considered a protein rich gourmet treat. Imagine crispy fried maggots. Besides, maggots are awesome treats for fish and birds. Put a few out on your bird feeder, then wait and watch. Some folks even add an extra attachment to their composter to allow them to harvest maggots for their pets.

However, not all of us can stomach bugs galore, so we turned to Daily Dump’s troubleshooting pages for rescue. Consequently, turmeric and more paper scraps were added to keep our new guest’s population under control. We made a lemon grass spray to deal with the fruit flies that escape when the lid is open and the stuff works just fine (as the Daily Dump website suggests). We are to keep adding dry leaves and paper scraps to control the moisture levels of the composter.

Now we wait 3 months, stirring the decomposing food particles and maggots occasionally (Oh joy!), interchanging units and adding organic whatnots to keep the compost healthy. Saturdays just got a gruesome thanks to the Khamba Project.

UPDATE: It has been over 13 days (or more) since the khamba was brought home. The first pot was full to the brim, so we decided to demote it to the lower level and bring up the second pot for use. But this was not to be.

The minute the lid came off, a host of fruit flies descended on us. Upon first stirring, we figured something was very, gravely wrong. Somehow, all the organic matter seems to be compressed too tight to stir. Upon breaking chunks of blackish-brown earth like compost, a faint rancid, rotten stink emerged and the maggots revealed themselves! Since our last encounter, these buggers had grown. They had really blossomed, from 0.05 cm white larvae to 2 inch long, fat, yellowing maggots. The compost didn’t seem too dry or too moist, but the vast quantities of maggots kinda screamed, “We need more dry leaves”!

UPDATE 2 | Day 15: A friend brought us dry leaves so today we decided to redistribute rotting bits of food between two pots, all the better to stir them with. After all, compost must be aired! And then, this is how some folks gain retribution on Sabbath mornings.

At first, the horror of the task at hand seemed to overwhelm us. But in a few minutes common sense kicked in. So plastic hand protection was whipped out along with mini rakes and spades and we set to task. More compost accelerator and neem powder was mixed in and the entire unit was doused with lemon grass spray, for vague hygiene reasons we can’t really explain in the presence of these many maggots.

The thing to remember is, this is not gross rotting food, this is beautiful compost, rich top soil. It resembles soil too. When mixed with mud in pots, this will nourish our plants and in a few days, when it rains, this will no longer smell of rotting things, but of beautiful mud. Small consolations.

Keep saying that, until the next update.

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