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The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › open pit biochar production

open pit biochar production

Tyler O.
TylerOmand
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 22
The article was also talking about the great potential of creating designer biochar, "Biochar can be intimately tailored to address any specific growing need, or to create a complete, slow-release plant and microbe fertilization system packaged in an ideal delivery module" . Gotta ramp up my production..
Tyler O.
TylerOmand
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 23
Possible sequence I am imagining: Get comprehensive soil test (make sure it includes Na-sodium) for the area to be cultivated->using CEC, determine appropriate amendments and concentrations to balance the soil (Dr. Reams or Dr. Albrecht's methods) and insert in finished biodynamic compost (if to be primarily used for perennials, the compost should include around 20% remedial hardwood chips and pile placed on the edge of existing deciduous forest for a season)-> mix in 20% biochar by volume (biochar soaked in biodynamic aerated compost tea for 24-72 hours previous to being mixed in with compost, possibly adding liquid or soluble powder sources of the nutrients that the soil test shows are below optimum for the intended crops to the tea a couple hours previous to brew completion)-> than left for at least four weeks in the pile-> then dispersed and worked in to the area to be cultivated, than for even more nutrient cycling and soil loading grow a mix of cover crops tailored to further accumulate desired nutrients (specifically phosphorus and calcium-nutrients most commonly deficient in Maine soils,according to Mark Fulford of Teltane Farm) Further customization can be done to this process to tailor it to specific crops and their nutrient requrements
Jesse S.
user 29709632
Harrison, ME
Post #: 104
Ideas on making a charcoal cone kiln? I'm also thinking it could be done with a 50 gal steel drum, perhaps cut in half. As someone who heats my home with wood, it does make me want to capture/utilize the heat somehow. I like how I can get char as a co-product of wood-fired baking, maple sugaring, just wish I got more out of a typical firing.
Here's an interesting collection of 19th century Euro/ American writings of farmer using char to boost their crop yields:
http://turkeysong.wor...­
Tyler O.
TylerOmand
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 25
Awesome link, thanks Jesse!
Jesse S.
user 29709632
Harrison, ME
Post #: 108
For fun today, I tried an open pit-style burn using the two halves of a 50 gal drum cut crosswise. I tried to follow the general guidelines that were described in the cone kiln link, building a fire and adding fresh layers of wood as the material reduces to coals. The yield was seemed good after I quenched it, with just a few semi-burnt brands left over for next time and a large wheelbarrow sized pile of char. That has gone into the sty and coop for odor reduction and innoculation.
Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 617
That's great Jesse. Kelpie speculated that a drum cut in half along the long axis would likely work...you proved it. She mentions that you want to save the smallest wood for the end of the burn to make sure that everything is driven to char, but as you said....no biggie, just throw the unfinished stuff into the next batch.
Jesse S.
user 29709632
Harrison, ME
Post #: 110
Yeah, I can see the advantage to cutting the barrel the long way; you'd be able to use longer sticks more easily. My barrel was open on one end, so I had to cut it crosswise. I used both halves during my burn, and could imagine getting a few more going at the same time. Easy to maintain once they are going, and I have quite a pile to wood to work from. It made a big difference in my animals' bedding right off the bat- odors gone! We do winter deep bedding in our coop, adding hay, shavings once or twice per week and I think a few applications of char over these winter months is going to keep is nice for our girls-plus that bedding will be compost dynamite come spring!
Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 621
Can't wait to hear how the winter bedding works out for you. Pretty sure this is how biochar is meant to be used...sanitation and nutrient recycling leading to super soil. Very sad that it didn't take off back in the 1800's.

I keep thinking of Michael Pollan's description of Joel Salatin's compost pile from chicken harvest day and how disgusting that is to be anywhere near. Mix in biochar and I bet even that pile would be ok to be near while also resulting in a much better final product. I'll drop him a letter in case he hasn't yet seen this (I suspect he has, he's a broad reader and has so many connections).

I'm thinking that the way the Amazonian's used biochar is largely solved. Now we just need to have a great way to utilize all that heat.

Ideas so far:

  • An outdoor boiler for hot water would be great. Send it indoors or to a hot tub to ease those worn out gardening muscles.
  • Boiling maple syrup.
  • Outdoor cooking.
  • Any camp fire / fire pit use to keep warm.
  • To fire clay to also add as a soil amendment.

Other ideas?
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