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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Thaw Is On-Gotta Make Char!

This is Mucky Boot Moon, Maple Sugar Moon, Cranes Return Moon, Ice Goes Out Moon and the Springtime that we used to enjoy seems to be nearly over before it began. Temperatures have gone up nearly 100 Fahrenheit degrees in just a couple weeks and the very real possibility exists that hot dry conditions of late summer will be upon us soon. Climate destabilization has become the rule, not the exception. We thought it was bad last year when we pushed the polar vortex down out of the arctic into the heartland, but this year we repeatedly bifurcated the stable weather pattern that usually sets up shop in winter over the arctic region. sled dog owners in Alaska took their dogs south to try to find snow. Here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we had a very early bout with ridiculously cold weather, plunging below zero before Thanksgiving. Most of the winter was relatively mild and snow free, but after that, in late February we got another shot of bitter cold. Usually we have what we call the January thaw, but this year I half jokingly asked if people thought we would get a January freeze. Because of our extreme lack of snow, the drought is on already. This is taking place at a time when we usually face inundation rapidly melting ice and snow. Especially in rural areas this is noticeable because the wet soils, which appear dark, in low spots stand in stark contrast tot he tops of hills that are already completely dry and lying bleached in the steadily rising sun. The next few moons will be difficult because when the plows come out, they will just turn what little soil is left to dust and it will continue to blow away. With so little snow cover this past winter, the tiny ice particles that were blown about took out clouds of dirt and soil, depositing them on roadways, ditches and rights of way along the highways. Now that farmers are getting back outside, they will have a hard time understanding the losses that took place over the past few moons. when the last of the drifts melt, the black soil that they contain will disappear for another year. Many of our elected officials, especially during the Dust Bowl, advocated engineering vast shelterbelts of trees and shrubs to slow soil erosion from the plains states. what we have seen instead are the exact opposite changes being made to cropland across every region of our nation. Only a tiny minority of farmers are developing smaller paddocks and fields, minimizing their impact on purpose, to better care for their soils. During the Reagan years, hedgerows began to be eliminated at alarming rates. Bigger was better in every respect for the Mother Earth Rapers and greedy corporate welfare whores. It got so bad that small farm equipment went up in price exponentially and became hard to get. Banks wanted to loan and fully expected, and continue to feel that they deserve to always be paid back more. Instead of seeing the Earth as multivariate, infinitely changeable and alive, corporate farming eliminates life on a nearly unimaginable scale. In a healthy state, there might be on the order of hundreds of millions, perhaps as many as billions of bacteria per teaspoon (5ml). corporate farming practices kill off the majority of this life (equivalent in weight to about two cows) instead of cows dropping feces every so often, these critters are dispersing their wastes relatively evenly through the fields, increasing water absorption and adsorption rates, feeding other organisms and breaking down other residues that could fester into pathogenic cultures if left to themselves. This is a critical time for char making, so make as many excuses to sit around the campfire as possible. The majority of people can get their hands on a few basic items. Sawdust,(or wood shavings or chips) an old food tin, hammers and nail. Make sure the sawdust is clean and pure. No glues, laminates, foam or paint. Old food tins, cracker tins or cookie tins show up at virtually all second hand stores. Don't waste much money on this item, it just needs to provide an air tight heat proof seal. Pop a few holes in the lid so that escaping gasses can get out, but not let undue air into the container. Fill it with clean sawdust and put the lid on. The next bonfire, or campfire you go to just throw it in. This process, I call, riding the dragon. First, smoke will pour out of the holes then the smoke will change to jets of fire, so keep an eye on the process, it is fun and amazing to think of all that energy tied up in the wood shavings and particles. Technically, about half of the energy tied up in the wood comes out in these gasses. When flame stops coming out of the tin, it is time to remove your container and let it thoroughly cool before you open it. The char that results keeps the structural integrity of the wood cells, creating fourteen acres(5.67 ha.)of surface area per handful (approximately 1/2 cup 120 ml.) These surfaces are utilized as perfect habitat for soil organisms, if you create an environment that is hospitable for them. More on this process in future posts.

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