Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Thinking Gardening...

Last year I became so disgusted at the weather impact on my garden that I vowed NOT to do another garden this year. However, as time rolls around and the catalogs roll in, I seem to be wavering.

Right now, and whether I put in a garden or not, I'm working on how to make an inexpensive biochar crusher. I'm convinced
biochar that's been inoculated with beneficial microbes is the best thing next to homemade bread hot from the oven. The problem isn't making biochar, it is in getting it crushed small enough for distribution in my garden.

The charcoal bits remaining in the ashes from my wood stove are 75% perfectly sized, but not many folks have a wood stove anymore. Last year one of my gardening friends up the road crushed some Cowboy Charcoal (which you can buy at Lowe's and is pure biochar) with the help of her husband and son, and said it was a messy and dirty business.

Biochar is easily made by burning any organic matter (sticks, deadfall, tree trimmings, even green plant material) in a drum; the trick is to char it thoroughly rather than burn it to pure ash. Another consideration in making biochar is controling the gases given off in burning rather than adding them to the atmosphere. The optimal idea is to capture the gases and recycle them back under the drum as fuel; that's called a retort.

I have several ideas about making a crusher, but I want to do it cheaply. The roller mills made for crushing feed would do the job but they are hundreds of dollars to purchase. The home grain grinders the beer hobbyists use to crush the grains look like they would grind too small; fine for mash but maybe not biochar.

This project probably won't make much progress until it gets warm enough for me to spend some time working outside. I'll post any progress.

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