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Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 11
I don't know about driving over it, but I am interested in fishing some out of my woodstove (and soaking it in urine!). We make a lot of ash, is the char in the form of logs that were burned but not completely burned to ash? little chunks of charcoal?

Hi Lori,
The biochar that I make from burning logs in my woodstove comes out in the form of chunks from about 4 inches across down to tiny pebble sized pieces. When wood is charred it reduces in size to about half it's starting volume. The forces on the wood during this shrinking process cause large items like logs to break into chunks, though items like wood chips or sawdust are small enough that they don't fracture. I char logs one way in my woodstove and chips/sawdust another way.

WARNING...DANGER. What I'm about to write could be hazardous and I only recommend it if whoever does it uses caution. This is literally playing with fire.
I harvest char made from logs burned in my EPA rated woodstove by managing the burn under low oxygen conditions in the primary chamber (I always make sure that the burn is clean and smoke isn't leaving my chimney). The danger is that I pull the biochar from the stove while still hot (but after the flames have died down to a pile of glowing char, no flames)...good way to kill everyone in your house if you do the wrong things with these coals. You need to fully cool the biochar or it will continue to burn and produce carbon monoxide (I keep a carbon monoxide detector nearby). I put mine into an air tight metal container and bring it outside, then quench it with water to fully extinguish/cool it. When I do this I wear a dust mask because small peices will go into the air that I don't want in my lungs. There are better ways to make biochar, but I want to get what I can from the wood I burn each winter.
The char that I make from wood chips or sawdust I char in a stainless steel canister with small holes in the lid that I place in my woodstove. When the flames/gases are no longer leaving the top of the lid, I place this in my air tight metal container and bring this outside to quench it with water as well in the same way.

All this goes through my compost pile before being mixed into my garden beds. The first year I added it directly to a garden bed and it stunted plant growth...like most things that you add to the garden it's best to compost to bring the materials to equilibrium so that they're not robbing nitrogen from the soil or what not.

It's safer to make char outside, but I'm trying to sink as much carbon as I can...I'm still not carbon negative yet. So I make char in the woodstove in the winter and in a two barrel retort outside in the summer.
A former member
Post #: 14
Greg, thanks for clarifying that you manipulate your woodstove technology to make biochar. Just the charcoal that sometimes remains when my woodstove goes out would not be biochar.

My old unrated jotul would not be making biochar, unless I used a sager chamber like you do.

David W.
user 2670503
Cape Elizabeth, ME
Post #: 22
Great info! Here is what I'm up to. I have not made biochar outside yet. From what I've read the charcoal that I pull out of the woodstove along with the ashes seems to be perfect for use as "biochar". It has undergone pyrolysis and then stopped burning due to a shortage of oxygen. My plan is to keep peeing on the ash pile outback and this spring shovel the ashes through my compost screen and then through a 1/4 inch mesh screen. I'll take all the char that is 1/4 inch and bigger and put em in an old coffee sack (burlap bag) and jump up and down on on it (or just leave it in the driveway for a few days and make a game of running over it on the way out and then again on the way back). After it looks suitably crushed (pebbly?) I'll soak the whole bag in compost tea for a week. I plan to grow two beds of beans side by side both treated equally except for the char. If the char bed is "stunted" I'll run the rest of the bag through the compost pile and use the compost in the fall. If the char beans look exceptional I'll put the treated char into the whole next planting of beans and some other beds......The ashes and the pebbly char still in it will get run through the compost for direct application in the fall to the garlic beds. If in fact the woodstove char is the right stuff then most everyone will have some every spring...hoping it is...and looking forward to hearing about other folks' results and systems....
A former member
Post #: 37
David, you are a genius! What will you do with the stuff that is smaller than 1/4 inch?
A former member
Post #: 15
In the next couple of weeks I am going to make an art/permaculture experiment. I have some tiny clay pieces that I would like to give a smoked look. So I am going to fill a cannister made of a couple of tin cans with sawdust and straw, insert my experimental clay sculpture and fire the whole thing inside my woodstove. I'll report back on how much fun I have.
Lori P
LoriPower
Portland, ME
Post #: 36
I can't wait to hear how that goes, Carla!
David W.
user 2670503
Cape Elizabeth, ME
Post #: 25
David, you are a genius! What will you do with the stuff that is smaller than 1/4 inch?


Hi Mary! You are too kind....the smaller than 1/4 inch stuff will just fall through the 1/4 inch hardware cloth and stay with the ashes. The ashes and these small charcoal bits will all get run through the spring/summer compost piles...this will get used on the garlic beds in the fall. I'm looking to make the 2011 garlic crop the biggest, healthiest, tastiest garlic ever...and we already love the garlic we grow...just put 6 small heads of garlic in a chicken soup...the garlic was perfect and very alive! It's been out of the ground 6 months!
Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 15
I know I'm going off subject here, but garlic will make you do that. Have you tried green (or spring) garlic yet? When I let some of my garlic go to clumps I end up in spring harvesting the whole plants while they are still tender and haven't yet starting forming bulbs. They look kind of like small leeks at this stage. I then chop them up (everything but the roots), saute them and remember how much I love gardening. Letting them clump and harvesting a portion of that clump makes it like a whole new vegetable and works really well outside the vegetable garden in a permaculture scheme.
On the biochar front, I'm a big proponent of sinking as much as you can, no matter how you make it. Looking forward to the day that we're all carbon negative. Until then I'm looking for ways to sink more.
Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 16
I can't wait to hear how that goes, Carla!


Likewise Carla! Love to see pics.
David W.
user 2670503
Cape Elizabeth, ME
Post #: 28
Hi Greg,

Haven't left bulbs in the ground past the summer harvest but I should try it. We plant the bulbils form the topsets and harvest those big rounds in the spring while we wait for the "main" crop in late July. We call those bulbil planted rounds "Spring Garlic"....pretty funny......
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