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Advice on Crushing Biochar  RSS feed

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John Saltveit wrote: I have been using the meat grinder.

I tried it. The char was wet from when i put out the fire in the restort. It took about a half hour to go through a 5 gallon bucket at about 90rpm as you have to trickle it in.  It stops with any brands or if you overload it and you have to grease the contact parts. But I like the consistency of it as it is like a medium sand.   If it is damp it comes out fine then it will ball up as it dries, but it breaks up easily. If it is wet, it comes out of the grinder as goo. It squeezes a lot of water out of it.  I didn't bother to sift out any of the ash first. It is straight from the retort.
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Add me to the list of people that run over the charcoal with a pickup truck.  I put it in a bag and run over it a few times.  The plywood idea is interesting, I may try that and see if it works as well or better than the "charcoal in a bag" method.  I mix mine with my compost as I am making it to inoculate some of it.  In new areas I am starting, I broad fork the area and spread charcoal around.  Some stays on the surface of the ground and lots falls into the holes left by the broad fork.  I spread compost and wood chips after.  I usually don't have enough.  My thinking is that the charcoal will help drainage and sooner or later will be inoculated.  When I plant, I use more compost, but it's possible the charcoal can cause a nutrient suck for some period of time. If it takes a couple years to reach full production, I can live with that.
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Here in the PNW, it's dry as a bone in summer. I'm finally getting a good timing pattern on this.  I cut the wood during the summer, fall, winter mostly, especially when it's in a dry window to prevent entrance of disease.  Then when summer starts, (June), I fire up my first biochar burn, because it's dry enough to burn efficiently and the wood I cut is internally dried out.  After each burn, I put it in between panels of plywood as I've been explaining.  During the wet part of the year, I urinate in the yard, because it's wet enough to be diluted. In summer, it's too dry to urinate directly on the plants.  Then I have the biochar, mostly in 5 gallon buckets.  I put compost on top first, then worm"castings".  Then I urinate on them so there is rich fertilizer inoculating the biochar for a few months while it is dry out in the yard.  When the rains start to come, usually October,  the soil gets wet enough, that I can dig out a ring around the drip line easily in soggy soil to not tear up the roots.  I put in the biochar just after the rain, going down 4-8 inches or so with the inoculated crushed biochar.  When it dries out, I wait until the next rain.  We have normally acidic soil, so I am starting with the most alkaline soil friendly trees in my food forest. Currently they are pie cherry, persimmon, and Asian plum.  I do that until I'm done with that summers' biochar.  Then I start again the next summer.

John S
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