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My biochar production tally thread.

 
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I'm starting this thread to keep track of my biochar production.  I burn in a steel barrel cut in half lengthwise then quench, it usually ends up heaped up a bit, so batches are roughly 30 gallons.  Therefore I will be keeping totals in gallons.  My best estimate of production to date is around 400 gallons.  My goal is to spread a meaningful amount biochar over roughly 2.5 acres of food savannah.  Should keep me busy for years to come;)
 
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Nice! I just did some quick math, and I came up with also about 400 gallons so far this year; in 2 morning sessions. If you have a lot of brush, which it sounds like you do, you should think about doing it in a pit! Once it gets going, you can just pile brush on basically non-stop. If you make the pit as big as the biggest branch you feel like schlepping, you can basically cut out all the fuel-prep and just pile stuff up to burn when its dry.

https://permies.com/t/157204/Experimenting-biochar-pit#1245226

I am getting a jump on fire season preparation this year, and cleaning up a bunch of slash I cut over the winter. I am hoping I will be able to make another couple hundred gallons this spring, as the the branches are looking dry enough to burn.

How much biochar are you aiming to add to your soil? I am guessing you are going to skip inoculation and just spread it out? I still need to find a use for all mine; I am currently just looking at it as a carbon-offset for living an irresponsible (if somewhat unavoidable) industrialized lifestyle.
 
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I encourage you to activate the biochar. I used urine, compost, and worm castings to inoculate mine and I am pretty amazed at the results thus far. Here are a couple of squash plants I amended with biochar before direct seeding. They are enormous compared to anything I grew last year.
Crook-neck-squash.jpg
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zuccini.jpg
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Gray Henon
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Shoveled out yesterday's batch into a 55 gallon drum.  Between the heaping and spill over it came to around 50 gallons (only counted 30).  Made another 30 gallons this morning with less heap and less spillover.  So let's add 50 gallons (today's 30 plus 20 extra from yesterday) to the total, now 450.

 
Gray Henon
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Benjamin Duggar wrote:I encourage you to activate the biochar. I used urine, compost, and worm castings to inoculate mine and I am pretty amazed at the results thus far. Here are a couple of squash plants I amended with biochar before direct seeding. They are enormous compared to anything I grew last year.



I have "activated" plenty of char in the past with urine.  But despite a fondness for barley soda, I don't think I could produce this much!  But, the savanna is grazed by sheep, a goat, and a cow which deposit copious amounts of manure and urine.  It may not get doused immediately, but it will happen.  They also do me the service of crushing the biochar with their hooves.
 
Gray Henon
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Carl Nystrom wrote:Nice! I just did some quick math, and I came up with also about 400 gallons so far this year; in 2 morning sessions. If you have a lot of brush, which it sounds like you do, you should think about doing it in a pit! Once it gets going, you can just pile brush on basically non-stop. If you make the pit as big as the biggest branch you feel like schlepping, you can basically cut out all the fuel-prep and just pile stuff up to burn when its dry.

https://permies.com/t/157204/Experimenting-biochar-pit#1245226

I am getting a jump on fire season preparation this year, and cleaning up a bunch of slash I cut over the winter. I am hoping I will be able to make another couple hundred gallons this spring, as the the branches are looking dry enough to burn.

How much biochar are you aiming to add to your soil? I am guessing you are going to skip inoculation and just spread it out? I still need to find a use for all mine; I am currently just looking at it as a carbon-offset for living an irresponsible (if somewhat unavoidable) industrialized lifestyle.



I did consider the pit, but opted for the mobile drum to get closer to the brush and minimize hauling.  Also don't want to fall in it one night while checking on the animals!  I might reconsider in the future once I get the fuel load whittled down a bit.

I think it would take me a 100 years to overdo it, so I am just adding what I can from prunings, coppice fodder, self pruning from the trees, and windfalls.  Right now, I am burning through 10+ years of deadfall.  

Yep, just spreading it and letting the animals/worms/dung beetles do the rest.

Carbon offset was never really part of my plan (I just like growing stuff!), but ironically, since we are not traveling due to covid, the biochar operation is locking up a significant portion of our fossil fuel consumption.
 
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Carl Nystrom wrote: I still need to find a use for all mine;  




If you really can't find a use for it, and don't mind shipping it out, I could use more for my farm. I'm having to make char from things other than wood, and  I haven't found a way to do that efficiently since most of the fuels don't burn hot enough to char themselves. So, if anybody wants to dump large amounts of biochar on my field, I would let you :)
 
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+30



Total 480
 
Gray Henon
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Had a lot of overflow/heapage on this afternoon's load so call it 35 gallons.

515
 
Gray Henon
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I've got most of the small diameter deadfall cleaned out of 3/4 acre of white pines with the help of my two kids that are home everyday due to the pandemic.  After we finish this section up, we have another 3/4 acre to go...
 
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Finally rained enough that I felt good about burning.  Hoping to get another couple batches in before things dry out again.
 
Gray Henon
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Dang, Gray, you're making the rest of us look like slackers!
 
Gray Henon
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Dang, Gray, you're making the rest of us look like slackers!



Nah, just making up for 13 years of slacking and largley ignoring 500 white pines planted (not by me) on 7x7 ft spacing.  Quite ridiculous how much deadfall they can put on the ground!  I couldn't have made the progress I have without the help of my two teenage sons.  Things will slow down a lot when they go back to school and work:(
 
Gray Henon
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Tried splitting some larger logs into firewood sized pieces for feedstock vs the brush I have been using.  Prep was much quicker, but the burn took forever.  I can usually burn a batch of brush in an hour or so.  At two hours, I only had half a batch or so with the logs.  I might try the tilted barrel technique and see how that goes.  If I like it, I could probably tend 3-4 of them at a time.  Whereas when I am burning small brush, the half barrel can eat it about as fast as I can haul and break it down to size.
 
Gray Henon
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Gray Henon
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Douglas Alpenstock
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Got a picture of Mount Char?
 
Gray Henon
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No, I spread it as fast as I make it.  I do have some pretty impressive feedstock piles I need to take pictures of before they get gone.
 
Gray Henon
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A bit of feedstock...

image.jpeg
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Gray Henon
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Here are two large brush dams we built.  They are bigger than they really need to be, so we will probably remove some material to char.
image.jpeg
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Gray Henon
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Need to figure out a more efficient way to turn large wood into biochar quickly...
image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for image.jpeg]
 
Gray Henon
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Starting to look a bit more like silvopasture...
image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for image.jpeg]
 
Gray Henon
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This is where the char is going.   We started planting trees 6-7 years ago and filled in as we went.  Things have really taken off over the past couple years...

We don't own all of what you see, only to the fence line, but my neighbor has noticed and started planting a few trees in his portion of the bottom;)
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Gray Henon wrote:Need to figure out a more efficient way to turn large wood into biochar quickly...



The only way I know is to split it.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I wonder about chainsawing 2/3 way through every 8". Maybe alternate cuts on the other side? It's a bit of work, but a lot less than splitting.
 
Gray Henon
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Gray Henon wrote:Need to figure out a more efficient way to turn large wood into biochar quickly...



The only way I know is to split it.



I split some down to 4-5" diameter and it still took quite a bit longer, maybe 4x.  I may end up running multiple fires so my yield matches my time investment.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Yes, multiple burns makes sense. Especially if you can pull the partially burned big stuff into a pile you're starting. Let the fire argue with it -- it will win.
 
Gray Henon
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Burned a pile this time and quenched it with the hose.  Took a big pile to to make 35 gllons of charcoal!  I'm pretty sure the barrel is more efficient in terms of volume, but the pile more time efficient than lopping all the brush to fit the barrel.

I'm sure my biochar future will contain a combination of the two.
 
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Gray Henon
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Getting hot out there but plenty of rain to keep things safe.  Moved the rig closer to the house and spigot which is helpful.  Morning shade is nice and everything is still wet from the evening showers. But, the new brush piles are on a hill and tangled in briars... fun, fun!
 
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The latest piles are a pain.  They were formed when we had a new leach field put in and the installer pushed all the tree tops and stumps to the edge.  Everything is a tangled mess compared to the ones we piled up by hand.  After we get all the brush removed, I am going to try and move the stumps into our brush dam.  Not sure if I will be able to get all of them, some are pretty large.  After we get what we can, I'll thin the trees a bit and plant grass.  Should make for some nice looking silvopasture we can see from our back porch!
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