ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Char Update

Burning waste gas from our char retort. We are heating the organic material inside the retort to glowing hot. Pyrolysis changes the carbon like firing clay. It fixes carbon into tube- like structures that exponentially increase the surface area in soil. Microbes flourish in this matrix when it is nutrient dense and inoculated with healthy soil organisms.
For those who are new to this site, ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.  began many, many years before we incorporated. we were an informal gathering of like-minded individuals who mostly worked at citizens for a Better Environment, a now defunct not-for-profit that educated the public and represented the public's right to clean air, pure water and protection from hazardous substances that corporate welfare recipients (polluters) unleash on us in the process of making their living. This informal group of friends would meet up and take tree seedlings into denuded areas, corridors along parkways, publicly held land and parks. We also reforested private property if the owners would understand that we were not a landscaping concern, we used expert understanding of habitat, soil type degree of slope & aspect, moisture,and a range of conditions to guide our planting. Some lanowners were surprised when we told them that we could not plant climax species trees until there were thriving communities of pioneer species to provide cover so that the mature forest trees would have a fighting chance.

We treat our non-profit as a business, but the usual modus operandi by which businesses are run are not something we expect to work in a sustainable system. We model what we do on the way nature has always worked. We build relationship through the process of finding our way in the world. If there were to be a single moment or two that exemplify our work, it would be the moment of realization that came about, speaking with a developmentally disabled friend who said, "I love trees. They make oxygen that we need to live!", or perhaps the times that birds have come to alight on tiny seedlings, just planted moments earlier. The bird, seemingly curious about the new addition to their neighborhood, performs their pre-flight checklist before flying off and drops a bit of fertilizer on the ground beneath the tree. We teach a different kind of logic about ecological reality. Our methods put people, profit and the planet on the same scale of importance. A three-legged stool of economic relevance. Our tours are always fun and educational, but with a more important twist, their benefits last for generations. We create relationships which have the power to outlive us.
This is our 55 gallon retort. It was created with over 80% salvaged materials. The char we produce has at least fourteen acres of surface area per handful. This drum, once fired, yields nearly 1,000 acres of surface area.

This different approach can be difficult to understand. In the early days, before we formally organized, I was doing outreach to potential landowners whose land looked perfect for planting, places that would have big impacts downstream. Property that frequently got rained out or always produced marginally, you would think that even the farmer would know that it was not worth their time to pull equipment through it. I had several farmers try to argue, "That's not a creek, that's a ditch." Thirty years later, someone else owns the land and they have started to reforest the places that we would have targeted for recovery all those years earlier. The tide can be turned, but it can only be by a tide of understanding and realization brought about by expanding our horizons, making friends, participating in relationships. Just like nature does it. Treat all those you spend time with as if the moments you share are sacred and you will find infinite blessings about you.

We touch one another and the world in profound ways. Each string in the web of life touches many others. As with most growth processes, ECO-Tours needs to adapt to several challenges that came about upon trying to scale up our char retort. We went from a five gallon (20 liters) retort to a fifty-five gallon (220 liters) one. Our current hearth was only capable of partially charring the material. We need a much larger fire, or an oven large enough to enclose the entire retort to create that much material at one time. The good news is that we now have commercial quantities to sell! Send us your garden dimensions and we can help you to either make your own char or we can mail char to you because it is ultralight and pretty fun to enrich and colonize, you can tailor your char to your location with our unique instruction book. In our passing through the planet, we leave a wake, a trail of gasses and fumes, we consume resources and procreate, seek shelter from storm and strife. The concepts that we have taught from the beginning are all alive within the char. By mimicry of natural processes, we can fix atmospheric carbon directly into soil, creating a diverse mix of organisms invisible to the naked eye, but not insignificant by any measure.

On an acre of typical "healthy" soil today, soil microbes per acre are as much as a full grown cow and her calf. Each handful of char has fourteen acres of surface area. You can do the math. Planes grow not by soaking up chemicals in the soil directly, their preferred foods are the waste products of microbes inhabiting the soil.

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