Turkeysong

Experimental Homestead

Peeling Oak Bark for Tanning Leather and Apple Breeding Update

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Here are a couple of recent videos I did on the stuff I do around here.  One is a short update on labeling and protecting fruit that was pollinated earlier this year as part of my apple breeding project.  I talk a little about the breeding parents and related stuff, but it’s pretty straightforward and short, with a quick visit to my new pig.

The second is a follow along while I cut down, cut up, and peel the bark off of a tan oak tree that is infected with the organism involved in sudden oak death.  I use the bark for tanning skins.  I’m working on a book right now on tanning with plant materials like bark, various leaves and pods and stuff like that.  Writing, research and experiments around that project now consume most of  my time, energy and thought.  In the video I show a few pieces of leather tanned with oak bark, peel the bark, split the wood and clean it all up.  There are few things I’d rather do with my time than that type of forestry work.  Splitting wood, playing with wood, using my axe, burning brush to make charcoal, etc..   is all my idea of a good time!  woo hoo!  It’s really hard for me to cut these videos down and focus them in.  There are so many satellite topics I want to talk about!   Definitely some stuff coming on axe use, wood splitting tutorials, forestry and forest ecology, and lots of tanning and skin working stuff.

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July 25, 2015 Posted by | animal parts, Apples, BioChar, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Forestry, plant breeding | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Simple, Efficient, Cheap, Flexible Biochar Trench Video, and Frankentree Trailer

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Coming next weekend!  I guarantee the actual video is less exciting than the trailer, but it is much more edifying!  This video will just be an introduction to the idea, and the benefits of frankentreeing.  I hope to put together a much more technical video in the future.

Below is my second fast motion video on the two simple biochar methods I’ve been experimenting with.  A few notes…

Fuels:  I suspect that pieces larger than about 3 inches are better either split down or charred by another method, and chips might be better done in a TLUD or some such device.  I haven’t tried either in the trench though, so that’s just speculation.  I doubt that large wood will char well in the trench because it takes so long to char all the way through, but chips might be just fine if fed pretty constantly in thin layers.  As long as everything you’re putting in turns to charcoal and you’re not getting a lot of ashes or a lot of smoke with it, you’re doing well.  I’ve done green and dry wood.  Dry is better of course.  I think the jury is still out on green wood.  The one I did mostly with pretty green wood was a very hot, large pit and the wood was brushy allowing for the ingress for large amounts of air.  It was still pretty sluggish and I’d certainly tend to let the stuff dry for a summer first if possible. Continue reading

October 4, 2014 Posted by | BioChar, Forestry, Garden Stuff | , , , , | 1 Comment

Sloping Pit Charcoal Kiln and Agave Roasting

charcoal cone pit header

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In the comments on the biochar experiment post, Lars mentioned Japanese cone kilns.  I checked them out on Kelpie’s cool blog, Green Your Head and they do indeed look way cool.  Although slapping a crude one together out of sheet metal would probably be pretty easy, Lars had just simply dug a pit in the same shape.  I tried Lar’s pit idea the other day, burned some charcoal in it, and learned a few things that I want to pass on.  This is slightly premature compared to most of my post, which are typically backed by a bit more experience and contemplation, but I’d like to get this idea out there more.  There is very little posted about it anywhere on the net, but it seems very promising, accessible and meets a lot of criteria for a good charcoal production system with very little effort.

Commercially available cone kiln from Amazon Japan

Commercially available cone kiln by Moki, from Amazon Japan

Part one.  Sage, Agave and fishes (which have little to do with charcoal production.)  If you are interested in burning charcoal and have a short attention span from internet overstimulation, skip ahead! Continue reading

December 22, 2013 Posted by | BioChar, Forestry, Garden Stuff | , , , , | 7 Comments

Biochar in 19th Century Europe and North America: A partial review

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(The comments in this article have been slightly updated and the title changed since first publishing.  The original title was: Some 19th Century References on Biochar Use in Europe and America, which was just sort of lame.)

Biochar, the promising expedient of adding charcoal as a soil amendment, is often represented as a recent discovery of a very ancient technique originating in South America.  But, the research I’ve been doing lately shows that its use probably has more of a history than we may think and may have been gaining momentum among European and American horticulturalists in the 19th century. I will present all of that research here after a short introduction.

As a keen experimenter, super geek and infoholic interested in what are now mostly considered archaic arts, I find myself frequenting online archives of old books to find knowledge on various subjects.  The most searchable and useful of these that I know of is the arm of our big brother known as Googlebooks.  This is an astounding tool for the type of research I do!  Wow!  I have collected over the last 2 and a half decades any interesting books I can find on various archaic subjects such as glue making, argiculture, electricity, casein, animal fats, tanning etc… Those few books have been hard won by perusing used book stores, flea markets, junk shops and yard sales, but in the end often amount to little in the way of information when I go to consult them on this or that subject.  Sometime a couple of years ago I ran across a reference to something called  biochar.  I had always wondered if charcoal might be either useful or detrimental when added to soil, so I looked into it a little.  I found a collection of enthusiastic experimenters making claims about the greatness of adding specially burned charcoal to the soil.  I was intrigued by some of the evidence, but it was all good news, which generally raises red flags for me and I was hesitant to jump in with both feet preferring to wait a bit for more research and more information, both old and new, to become available.  The information available on the net has exploded since then.  In the meantime, I’ve instructed everyone in the house to pick the charcoal out of the fire in the morning before relighting it and have also salvaged charcoal from campfires and brush burn piles and we have accumulated enough to start experimenting. Continue reading

May 18, 2012 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Forestry, Garden Stuff | , , , , , , , | 14 Comments