• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

100 year old pile of charcoal  RSS feed

 
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a 100 years old pile of charcoal.  This was left from a charcoal iron furnace.  Dust and small chunks were not used.  They were discarded.  I have the discard pile (over 100 years of operation)

My question - is there a use for this charcoal?
 
Posts: 105
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Can you post photos of the charcoal, including up-close macro shots? Has it been left outside? I'd love to see how weathered it is.
 
Chris Mullen
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When dumped it was considered "high grade" charcoal.  A handful, while wet, seems very pure.  There has been some wash into the pile of our local sand, fine and red, but otherwise it looks and feels like charcoal I just made.

I estimate that there is a market.  The pile is between a one and two hundred yards.  It's in the way of a restoration/preservation project.

My reading says that it will take centuries to degrade.  Charcoal deposits thousands of years old have been uncovered.
 
Matt Coston
Posts: 105
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I imagine there are some scientists out there that would be very interested to get hold of some 100 year old charcoal.
 
Posts: 184
Location: Maine, zone 5
9
food preservation forest garden solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds like a potential Biochar bonanza Chris!  I'd do some tests on it and see if it's decent for use as Biochar.  You can compost with it and then add it to your soils, mix it into mulches, use it mixed into animal bedding, etc.  If yours is decently made so as to be useful as Biochar you could also sell it to folks who what to work with it. 
 
Greg Martin
Posts: 184
Location: Maine, zone 5
9
food preservation forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe $10,000 of Biochar.....where are you located?
 
Chris Mullen
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in southeast PA, close to Reading.  There may be users or researchers interested, but I don't know them.  I'm going to try a couple of local nurseries.  Other than that I'm at a loss.

My ideal solution would be a buyer that brings a container, I load it and they haul it away.

I did put a couple of buckets in my garden.  It's winter but the soil looks great

The history of charcoal in this area is that it was widely used for fuel in iron furnaces and forges.  Most of them closed by 1850.  The furnace I'm dealing with was successful and continued operation at a higher pace into the 1890's

Most of the furnaces used water power to drive air pumps.  They were usually built into a hill.  Charcoal used in a furnace had to be high grade and only larger chunks were used, or the furnace would not achieve proper heat (2500 degrees).   Charcoal was generally stored in a barn.  Usually built into a hill.  Charcoal was loaded into the upper door and pulled from the bottom (downhill) door.  That process would break up some of the charcoal.  Pieces smaller than an inch and dust were discarded.

In the pile I'm dealing with, nothing larger than 1/4 inch remains.  I imagine that freeze/thaw reduced the one inch pieces.  There has been some intrusion of the local soil (very fine sand).  Other than that it remains where it was placed over 100 years ago.

Chris  
 
pollinator
Posts: 1526
Location: Toronto, Ontario
96
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What a windfall! I wish I had a mountain of potential biochar.

I wonder if there's a way to inoculate the whole pile as-is? I mean, I could see you having a harder time selling a pile of old, weathered charcoal than you could selling biochar, ready for the soil, but I guess that might be due to a bit of bias on my part.

I would inoculate the whole pile, or use it gradually in my compost pile, until it was all gone and in my soil. I also like the idea of making a biochar addition to on-contour swales, spreading fertility and soil life with infiltrating water.

I would be cautious of letting it dry out too much, although in the quantities being described, I would guess that it maintains its own moisture equilibrium. I wouldn't want to breathe in a lot of that charcoal dust. I would also want to have it tested, and to test the soil it's on, and make sure to get at least one sample with the visible dust incorporated into the soil/sand.

Sounds to me like you just need to find the right crazy permie to take it off your hands, though. I think more people would use biochar if it didn't take so much to produce so little, in the context of amending broad-acreage.

Let us know what you decide to do, and good luck.

-CK
 
garden master
Posts: 4159
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
428
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting purity
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
make a compost tea and a mushroom slurry and pour them onto the pile, then put an add on Craig's list for biochar either price it cheep or as a free for pickup. That should get your huge pile down fairly quickly.

The charcoal you are talking about was retort made so it is going to be great for use as biochar once it is inoculated with bacteria and fungi.

Redhawk
 
Chris Mullen
Posts: 4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This pile has been in the weather for 100 years.  Has weeds and trees growing in it.  I'm sure it has plenty of  organic matter in it.

Sure would like someone to take it.

Chris
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 4159
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
428
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting purity
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Trust me brother, I would be there with trailer if I lived close enough.

If you haven't tried Craig's list, give it a go, you might be surprised.

I wish you good luck.

Redhawk
 
Posts: 288
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm confused, is it charcoal or coal?
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1526
Location: Toronto, Ontario
96
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Charcoal.

-CK
 
Greg Martin
Posts: 184
Location: Maine, zone 5
9
food preservation forest garden solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Darn, if I was closer I'd be taking all I possibly could too.  What an amazing resource.
 
Greg Martin
Posts: 184
Location: Maine, zone 5
9
food preservation forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wonder what the cheapest way is to ship that much volume from PA to ME? 
 
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!