John Suavecito

gardener
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since May 09, 2010
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forest garden fungi trees food preservation bike medical herbs
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Food forest in a suburban location. Grows fruit, vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms.  Forages for food and medicine. Teaches people how to grow food.  Shares plants and knowledge with students at schools.
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Recent posts by John Suavecito

As a starter, using a few briquettes doesn't sound so bad.  The oils and wood still in them should burn off, as long as you monitor it until the right time.  You would still have the steps of getting it to be the right size, which often includes crushing, and charging/inoculating it with something nutritious, before it's actually biochar.

Some people had bought commercial charcoal and used it directly instead of biochar, which is not a good strategy for many reasons.  

John S
PDX OR
4 days ago
Around here, you don't have to grow them intentionally. They will appear at the edge of nearly every field. If you know what to look for, they are extremely easy to find.  
John S
PDX OR
5 days ago
I was having a hard time checking on the size of the char inside the bags, because it is black and dusty.   I know the dust is bad for your lungs.  Coal miners get black lung disease.  I decided to leave a spray bottle there by the bags to cut down the dust and so I can see the size of each piece to determine if I need to crush it more than it is.  Spraying it helps with both: I can see more clearly, and I breathe less dust.  

John S
PDX OR
1 week ago
Yes, my chunks are just way too big straight out of the burn to avoid crushing: 2-5" in diameter.   I crush them somewhat, but I have to remove the bags from the driveway after a bit because they will get too much like powder.  I don't like the dust either.  Optimal for me is from like a centimeter in diameter to an inch in diameter.  We get very dry in the summer.   I do spray water on the biochar in the summer to keep the dust down if I'm not ready to inoculate/charge it yet.  I use liquid inoculant so there is no dust after charging.   Then I cover it with mulch when it's in the ground so it won't dry out there either.

John S
PDX OR
1 week ago
Burned biochar again today. The nice thing about the bags is that because it crushes better, you leave it in there a couple of times, drive over it, check it, and drive over it one more time if you need to.  I checked and ran it over one more time.  Perfect.  It is very easy to remove the empty or full bags and put them off to the side.  I am very appreciative of those other permies who clued me into the idea that there are toxins in the plywood so I could change to the new system.  

John S
PDX OR
2 weeks ago
I think that people were talking about separating the seeds and drying them.  Then they would grind them into a flour and add it to other flour. That should take care of the itchiness, but it seems like a lot of work for very little payoff to me.

John S
PDX OR
2 weeks ago
I have to agree on the efficiency of the system for moving stuff.  It's not a system that I would personally use for my land situation, but I want as many people as possible to see examples of how this can work, so they can apply it where they live.

I'm having a little problem translating the words on the screen. Can you help me with that, William? :)

John S
PDX OR
2 weeks ago
Compost tea is great. It has lots of diverse microbes in it. However, it doesn't really have food in it.  Biochar is great in a system, but it is not an ecological system in itself. If you leave it for awhile, it has likely lost nearly all of the life and dried out.  After adding compost tea, it should be placed into a live ecology right away.  Then you are taking advantage of all of the life that you've put into it, and it should thrive as a healthy part of the ecosystem that you put into it.

John S
PDX OR
3 weeks ago
I did limit the amount of drive over crunching I did with the biochar in bags this time. No extra driving just to crunch the biochar.  It seems to work better.  I am getting an optimal mix of different sizes of biochar chunks from 1" down to about 1/8".  It doesn't seem to take so long to take up the inoculation liquid mix.   It also doesn't increase in size like it did last time.  No extremely slow flow of liquid through the char.  

This is the first time that I removed the char from wet bags.  It was a little uncomfortable, but posed no problems, really. I just poured it into the buckets for inoculation. I did leave the bags out on the driveway so they would dry quickly and they did.  They didn't noticeably leak biochar stuff during the rain, but I'll watch to see more closely in the future.  I think I may remove the bags of char before I crunch them much more, as they are at a perfect state of crunchedness way earlier than with the boards.  

John S
PDX OR
3 weeks ago