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Anyone compost a carcass in charcoal?

 
pollinator
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I'm going to give a try with lamb butcher scraps here in a few weeks.  I'll report back.
 
pollinator
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No, but I sometimes put bones and gristle in the charcoal maker along with other burnables. I like that the resulting char has no odor. The gristle usually turns everything in the batch an interesting shade of silver. It's actually kind of pretty if you know to expect it.
 
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I definitely am adding char to my compost and I also add dead chickens and carcass scraps. (A friend has added deer guts several times this fall.) I tend to add a lot of "browns" along with the scraps, like saw dust or coffee sack material.

I've also used a can in the woodstove to char chicken/duck bones mixed with sawdust which sounds similar to what Ellandra is suggesting she does.
 
Gray Henon
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Finally got cold enough to do the lamb.  Guts go in the charcoal tonight...
 
pollinator
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I’m not convinced charcoal alone will work well. It has carbon in it, but is not biologically available for the composting microbes to use. It’s a nearly inert substrate, which works well in soil because it is inert. In compost you actually want the “brown” to be actively involved in the composting chemistry, to get the right C/N ratio.

I do add char to my compost heaps, but typically keep the char at around 10% of the total at most. I include char so that it adsorbs nutrients and gets fully innoculated.

If you don’t add so other source of biologically available carbon (woodchip,old leaves, etc...) I would expect your compost to be far too nitrogen rich and likely to end up stinking and putrid.
 
Jay Angler
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Michael Cox wrote:

I’m not convinced charcoal alone will work well.

Gray is doing an experiment, and I'm sure his nose will tell him if it's not working, and I'm hoping he'll report failure as well, not just if it is successful.

I agree, that if the first try doesn't work, activating the charcoal in advance with aerated compost tea, might be experiment #2.

Or mixing the charcoal with wood-chips as you suggest, would be a great experiment also.

However, I can remember reading somewhere that the human body contains every microbe it needs to biodegrade (no idea where - I read the weirdest stuff sometimes!). Gray is mentioning the guts, and I have no doubt there are microbes there. However, one possibility is that it will be microbes like E-coli that may be predominant and move into the charcoal. I suspect that just like other forms of composting, one's nose will be a good guide. "Good compost" smells good - I wish mine always did! Anaerobic compost smells yucky, and that yuckiness is a sign of less desirable compounds. However, I've met swamps with wonderful stuff growing in them, so given time and opportunity, I can usually get my compost over the hump with a little extra air, or a little more leaves, and before I know it, I've got a worm orgy happening.  

So I'm waiting impatiently for Gray to report back on what happened!
 
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This reminds me of a story I read on the Biochar Journal website that Kelpie Wilson wrote about Justus von Liebig.

“A dead rat, nicely buried in a cigar box so as to be surrounded at all points by an inch of charcoal powder, decays to bone and fur without manifesting any odour of putrefaction, so that it might stand on a parlour table and not reveal its contents to the most sensitive nostrils.” (The Garden, 1873)

That dead rat in a box in the living room story really has stuck with me.  Even if organics were to break down anaerobically the biochar should absorb all the odors if enough biochar surrounds the materials.  I've read that biochar will absorb 90x its volume in ammonia gas, for example, such that all nutrients are retained within the biochar.
 
Gray Henon
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10 gallons of charcoal, mostly quarter size, under the guts, head, forelegs and hide.  Ten gallons over the top, all in a 55 gallon drum.  Lamb was slam full of grass and hay.  

I have used this method with wood chips extensively in the past with great success.  No turning, I just give it a year.  I believe red wrigglers do most of the work as I find thousands when I empty the barrels.  Otherwise just hair and bones.  Sometimes very fatty scraps off of a hog will need a little longer.  Only stink problems I have had are when I tried fish.

Finished compost is delivered to the chickens under my fruit and nut trees.  They enjoy the worms and the trees enjoy the compost and manure.
 
Gray Henon
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Buddy and I both shot does over the weekend.  He graciously donated his gut pile to the cause.  So now we have 4 layers of charcoal and 3 layers of guts filling the barrel. the weather has been quite warm, and I did  not detect any odor from the week old lamb guts when I was adding the deer guts.
 
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I bury everything straight in my garden beds: lamb intestines, turkey and chicken and duck intestines, and even entire turkey carcasses or whole turkeys w/ feathers that died of unnatural causes.

They break down very fast. Digging 10" down in my bed this fall to bury sheep guts, I encountered the tiny almost-entirely gone bones of entire >20lb adult turkeys from last fall. Everything was fully composted, except a few small crumbly bones (i.e. the final 10% of the bones, 90% of bones already entirely composted).
 
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I suspect it will result in a odorless breakdown process, whether or not the end product could be consider soil or simply a soil amendment is my question.

Will it "work?" I think yes, if you are loose in your definition of  "working"
 
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Redhawk posted a while back that a carcass can be composted in an anaerobic situation.  He was differentiating that from regular plant compost.  

Also, a lot of work has been done on using maggots to compost carcasses.  Soldier flies, I think.  It's supposed to be quite effective.  

John S
PDX OR
 
Gray Henon
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There may have been a little stink from the barrel, but it resolved quickly.  The contents have settled a but, perhaps,  15-20%.  Not quite sure when I will dig into it.  Maybe after it has warmed up a bit.

If all goes well, I should have a bunch of carp carcasses after a few weeks. That will be the real test. I've got lots of charcoal ready to go!
 
Gray Henon
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It's been almost two weeks since I buried the carp carcasses in charcoal and capped them with mulch.  No stink!  I haven't noticed any smell at all!  What a difference compare to just mulch.  I opened one of the barrels and there was a wave of warmth that came out.  
 
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Couple weeks ago there was a feral cat got hit by traffic and had been lying by my drive way for days. I shoveled it up and buried it in the middle of my hot compost pile. It had oak leaves, charcoal and food scraps mixing up. I turned the pile two days later, the dead cat had fell apart and the remains looked like cooked salmon. I turned the pile again in two days, everything was gone and I looked really hard to find the skull. No foul smell the whole time. I don't know a hot pile without charcoal would do the same or not, but it makes sense the charcoal would be helpful for reducing odors and facilitating microbes for composting.
 
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