Kudos to the Warm Heart team for developing a series of trough-shaped Flame Carbonizers designed to work with a diverse array of feedstocks available to small farmers in Thailand and elsewhere. These kilns are similar to the pyramid shaped kilns except they are elongated into troughs in order to accommodate long stalks, branches and stems without the need for cutting. They are brilliant for bamboo!
Warm Heart has done a wonderful job of not only matching kiln design to feedstock, but also of creating and documenting the stoking techniques needed for efficient production with diverse feedstocks, especially light weight materials like rice straw that can ash very quickly if not properly fed to the kiln.
Warm Heart has also provided dimensions and welding details for constructing the kilns. That warms my Open Source heart!
October 15 – Biochar Expo, Umpqua Community College, Roseburg POSTPONED to OCT 29
October 20 – Biochar presentation at the Josephine County Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Meeting, Grants Pass
October 22 – Bokashi and Biochar Class at the Fall Fermentation Festival, Frog Farm, Cave Junction
October 29 – Biochar Burn Day at Frog Farm, Cave Junction CANCELLED
October 29 - Biochar Expo, Umpqua Community College, Roseburg - 10am-3pm
October 20 – Josephine Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Meeting Dinner, Grants Pass. I will present “Biochar – Improving Soils for Agriculture.” RSVP by Oct 15th by calling 541-474-6840 to reserve your spot.
October 22 – 23 Spiral Living Center Fall Fermentation Festival, Frog Farm, Cave Junction. Registration Required – see www.spiralliving.org for more info. On Saturday October 22 from 1 to 3pm, Kelpie Wilson and Cody Brackett present: Brewing Up Goodness for the Soil. We will discuss and demonstrate methods and materials for making soil amendments and fertilizers using fermented plant juice, Effective Microorganisms and bokashi with biochar. Learn some better, easier ways of cycling nutrients from waste materials back to your plants and promoting disease-suppressive soils.
October 29 – Biochar Expo at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, OR. Please join the Umpqua Biochar Education Team at our annual Biochar Expo on October 15 from 10 am to 3 pm on the Umpqua Community College Campus. No admission charge, but please make a donation to the work of UBET. The Biochar Expo is a fun-filled day of learning and hands-on experience in making and using biochar for soil improvement. UBET will feature the work of the Umpqua Community College Welding Department on the UCC campus. UCC has fabricated a number of biochar kilns for use in UBET's Biochar Farms and Compost project. The Expo will start with a morning of presentations and short films on biochar science. After a lunch break, UBET volunteers will show you how to make biochar in several kinds of simple devices. Biochar Expo Schedule 10 am to 12 noon - Classroom presentations and short films on the science of biochar and soils 12 to 12:30 - Lunch Break - bring a bag lunch 12:30 to 3 pm - Outdoor demonstrations of biochar technologies For more information, check the UBET website: www.ubetbiochar.blogspot.com
We fired up two of the Oregon Kilns in a suburban setting in Cave Junction last Saturday - real Backyard Biochar! Had lots of help so it was a smooth run. We ran out of feedstock, or we could have made a lot more biochar. Here's a video:
Here's a checklist of things you need to consider when planning a biochar burn:
You need a water source, first of all, both for safety and for quenching the char.
Several shovels and rakes for spreading and cooling the char when it's done.
Old steel roofing material is helpful for spreading and cooling the char without getting dirt or other contamination.
Dry wood. A moisture meter is helpful. It's not very efficient to use wood that is more than 20% moisture.
Safety - Helpers should all have leather gloves and wear cotton or wool clothing that won't melt. These piles can put out a lot of heat! It is good for at least one person to have a fire helmet and a face shield.
You may need to get a burn permit from the local officials.
Ignition - I use a propane weed burner type torch for ignition, but all you need is a match if you have plenty of dry kindling. Light it on the top.
Make sure the kindling is somewhat densely packed so it will sustain a flame and allow the flame to move down to the lower layers. It seems slow to start but pretty soon you'll find the whole pile is ablaze.
Use a wind screen if conditions are breezy. Even if wind is not a factor, a wind screen will help hold in heat for a safer and more efficient biochar burn.
Daisy Hill Farm owner Meadow Martell was happy that we made a big dent in a multi-year accumulation of old grape vines, blackberries and other woody waste. Meadow covered the piles back in the fall with used truck tarps from Sharp's Tarps in Grants Pass (a great resource, people!). As a result, the wood was stayed dry - mostly between 15% and 25% moisture and was suitable for biochar production. A small crew of neighbors showed up to help and share in the biochar bounty. Meadow will use the biochar in compost and in the chicken yard.
It was a misty morning down by the Illinois River (Cave Junction, Oregon)
We load the two kilns full with loose packed grapevines and light the top
Once the initial charge burns down to glowing coals, we add more, in layers
We lit these at 9:30 in the morning. by 1:00 pm we have added the last layer
At 2 pm the last layer has burned down and we are ready to quench
Meadow hoses down the char
Total harvest is more than 2 cubic yards of biochar
Flame Cap Kilns come in many different shapes and sizes. They all seem to work quite well, but there are some fine points of design that will help users determine the most appropriate configuration. Parameters to consider include feedstock type, available materials and cost. Keep in mind that large round cone shapes can be more expensive to fabricate in small welding shops than pyramid or trench shapes. On the other hand small cone shapes may be easier in some cases. Tubes can often be found ready-made. Look for other ready-made containers like small dumpsters or old tanks. You also need to consider how you will quench and unload your char. More on that later.
This Flame Cap Kiln Design Guide is a work in progress, but I want to share it now because I am getting busy with other projects and I don't know when I'll be able to get back to this to make it more complete. You can download the Flame Cap Kiln design guide, or just take a look here:
I am working with a group of innovators in Oregon called the Umpqua Biochar Education Team. They have come up with some super simple, very productive biochar kilns. The first one is called the "Ring of Fire" - it is a Flame Cap Kiln made with old roofing steel. As you can see, it can handle some large slash type of material. UBET member Don Morrison provided these pictures of his operation using forest slash material. It's probably the cheapest, most efficient small-scale biochar production tech I have seen yet. To make it work, you need to be able to seal the bottom of the kiln, and you need plenty of water for quenching. We are not using these kilns in a forest setting, mainly because it is too hard to seal the bottoms on rough ground. Here are the pictures:
Here is another very simple approach to backyard biochar from Edible Acres. Great job on this and you'll learn a lot of fine points about kiln operation from Sean's commentary. Pay attention to what he says about quenching!
Backyard Biochar This site has descriptions of my experiments with Flame Cap Kilns. I also report on work by others.
US Biochar Initiative I am on the advisory board of the USBI. We are sponsoring the 5th North American Biochar Symposium in Corvallis, Oregon - August 22-25, 2016
Illinois Valley Forest Collaborative I've been involved with the group in my hometown for several years. We are working with the US Forest Service on hazardous fuels and small diameter timber sales. Biochar is a part of what we do.
Umpqua Biochar Education Team (UBET) I am working with UBET on a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA-NRCS. We are helping small farmers learn how to make biochar and use it to manage manure and make premium compost.