I finally got to fire up the tube kiln - it is 4ft diameter and 4 ft tall. I made a heat shield out of some thin, finely corrugated steel from an above ground swimming pool - got it at a yard sale for $5!
Here is a slide show video:
The heat shield makes a big difference. It's all about holding as much heat in the flame zone as you can. You can see from the pictures that there is not much smoke emissions. The cap of flame on top burns the smoke for clean operation.
We actually tried 3 different methods at once - Tube Kiln, Pyramid Kiln and TLUD - a Three Ring Circus of Pyrolysis!
Illinois Valley residents and the neighbors of the Page Creek area in Takilma worked with the Forest Service to design a logging plan and timber sale of small diameter logs and poles from the 4 acre woodlot designated by the Page Creek Community Forestry Management Plan. The objectives were to improve the health of this even-aged plantation stand and also to reduce fuel loading and fire danger.
On April 11 we held a Page Creek Community Forestry Expo Day with a pole peeling demonstration, a Clean Carbon Conservation biochar burn (CCC Burn) demonstration and other demonstrations of small logging equipment. We also sold a lot of poles and loaded them up for purchasers.
We hope to use the CCC Burn method to treat the piles of waste logging slash that were left in the forest - next fall or winter.
The Biochar Intensive at Spiral Living Center was a blast! We did it all and at the end of the day, I told the 16 attendees: "Now you know what I know about biochar." Well, maybe not everything, but close. My hope was that each person would leave with enough knowledge to start making and using biochar in their own gardens and farms.
Thanks to everyone who attended. I was thrilled to meet some really interesting and very nice new people, and especially pleased that we could offer work trade scholarships to some young farmers.
Here are some pictures:
I always start a pyramid or cone kiln with a top-lit burn. It's a really efficient way to build up heat fast.
What: Spiral Living Center Biochar Intensive When: Saturday, April 4 – 8:30 am – 5:30 pm Where: Spiral Living Center, 9044 Takilma Rd, Cave Junction, OR Who: Kelpie Wilson, biochar consultant Cost: $100 ($80 for Spiral Living Center members) Included: Lunch, a biochar sample and instructional handouts
WORK TRADES ARE AVAILABLE - come and help out at the Spiral Living Center to cover all or part of the fee for this workshop. Call Debbie at 541-415-1822 to apply.
Description: At the Biochar Intensive, you will learn several ways of making biochar yourself using simple equipment. You will get an overview of the science behind biochar and how it affects soil chemistry and microbiology. You will see a demonstration of techniques and equipment used to test, condition and charge biochar to make fertilizers that feed the soil food web, promoting healthy soils and plants.
Schedule: 8:30 - 9:00 am - Registration and welcome 9:00 - 9:45 am – Presentation – Introduction to Biochar and Pyrolysis 9:45 – 10:00 - break 10:00 – 12:30 – Demonstration – how to make biochar in open fire kilns and gasifier stoves 12:30 - 1:30 - break for lunch and biochar cooking demonstration 1:30 - 2:30 – Lab – how to test biochar characteristics using simple kitchen chemistry 2:30 – 2:45 – break 3:00 – 4:00 – Presentation – How to use biochar in soils and compost 4:00 – 4:15 – break 4:15 – 5:00 – Demonstration – biochar processing and composting 5:00 – 5:30 – Wrap-up, Evaluation and Questions
I am giving a couple of one day biochar workshops in Southern Oregon. I will be in Williams on March 14th and I'll do one at the Spiral Living Center in Takilma on April 4. Still working out details for the Takilma workshop, but here is a poster and registration info for the Williams workshop. Thanks to the Williams Community Forestry Project:
On Saturday, I visited Edgewalkers Social Forestry Wintercamp, located this season in the mountains outside of Ashland, Oregon. This group of nomadic forest restoration workers is learning about forest restoration and fire ecology in oak woodlands through sharing knowledge and skills and also through sitting in quiet observation of the processes and creatures around them. They have been at the camp for four weeks now, and are beginning to apply their learning - cutting and burning small firs and brush that crowd the old oaks and compete with them for water and nutrients. These forests are adapted to a natural fire interval of a few decades, where wildfire used to clear out the understory on a regular basis, without damaging the big, old trees. A century of aggressive fire suppression has left the forests thick with small fuels that set the stage for conflagration - the explosive wildfires that have raged in the western forests of the US at an ever-increasing rate.
The Edgewalkers Forestry Camp - with their new Pyramid Kiln
The Edgewalkers have big ambitions. They want to not only learn skills and apply them to a piece of land, they also want to create new life paths for humans in relation to forests. Read more about them on their Indiegogo page. There is an upcoming opportunity to learn more about social forestry at the Social Forestry Advanced Permaculture Course with Tom Ward, February 2-7, 2015. Here's a description of the concept: "Social Forestry connects villages and communities to their forested water catchment basin. Here in a developed industrial empire, the forests are lonely. We have lost our sense of living with forests as friends."
I brought the Edgewalkers a Pyramid Kiln so they can make biochar during their evening campfires - Social Biochar! I hope they will use to also bake potatoes and grill food. I enjoyed meeting these dedicated forest workers. We talked about fire and the best ways to reintroduce it to the forests, as well as techniques for top lit fires that reduce smoke and leave behind biochar. Wet wood is the biggest challenge. Wet wood makes it difficult to build up a good bed of coals in the Pyramid Kiln, but once there is a layer of hot coals, the wet wood is more managable because there is enough heat to dry it.
Using a small Top-Lit Open Burn stack to start the Kiln. Notice we used a bit of dry firewood to get it started. This is really important when you only have wet wood to add. The dry stuff will give you a good quantity of hot char-coals to get started with.
When wood is wet, small diameter twigs won't char easily - they tend to go straight to ash. The challenge is to get enough heat in the bed of coals to dry and char larger sticks, so the char can build up.
Steven Edholm of Turkeysong blog has documented his work with ultra-simple no-tech biochar methods. We linked to his videos in our recent article at the Biochar Journal: Kon-Tiki - The democratization of biochar production, but I want to give Steven a shout out here too, and give you the link to his Turkeysong blog where you can see his two videos, Easy Biochar, Top Lit Open Burn Brush Pile Style and Simple Biochar Trench Method, Like a Cone Kiln for Long Wood. Steven has a lot of other great permaculture and homesteading skills documented on his site, so check it out while you are there.
Many, many thanks to all who took part in the Biochar School, Nov 7-11 at Swallow Valley Farm in Sonoma County, California. With 12 instructors and more than 40 students, we had a full house!The learning and sharing was a two-way affair, as we all learned from each other and made valuable connections across disciplines and regions.
I will be posting presentations and links to some of the videos we showed at the school on the Resources Page
I have posted pictures and short video clips of the Biochar School on a web album here:
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.