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Friday, February 12, 2016

Biochar and the Five Principles

My pagan friends know the Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit connection well. These forces and qualities permeate, entwine and give substance to all that surrounds us. all of these elemental forces are alive in soils as well. Biochar can help to heal and nourish our environment, our soils, our cells, our selves and our spirits, but only when we take the time to honor the fundamental parts, the char itself and the life giving nutrients and minerals that we add to it with love. I have been part of this process since before time began and my ideas will continue to be passed along centuries after I have passed the veil. That is one of the things about charmaking that has become infinitely clear to me.

The Earth, supreme mother and womb of all terrestrial life is the structure, the latticework upon which life thrives. The fundamental basis for biochar involves roasting organic cells to purify them, pyrolyze them down to nearly pure carbon. As you can easily see and understand, the roasting involves fire. During the actual roasting, it is important to deprive the char of air, otherwise you will be left with mineral ash only, the beginning of making lye. The black char acts as a structure upon which soil organisms thrive.

The Air comes later, once the char is heated to glowing hot (about 450 degrees) and left to cool, the char becomes highly absorbent and can be allowed to, should be allowed to breathe. Interestingly, the surface area of finished char is over fourteen acres per handful and the smaller the bits, the better. most experts recognize a maximum size of 2mm, or about the size of a grain of rice, but my work is finding that smaller seems to always be better. The smaller the particles, the more surface area that can later hold moisture and nutrients.

Fire lends an energy to the char that lasts literally for many decades, almost like clay, once fired is as permanent as rock, but the cellular structure of the parent material is preserved as a microscopic latticework upon which life can thrive. We invest time energy and thoughtfully prepared substances to the char to make soil faster than the Earth ever does. Our efforts are rewarded over time.

Water, is part of the magic as well. Char holds 6X its own weight in water. Although char is extremely light, biochar is relatively heavy. Once it is nutrified, primarily with organic nitrogen fertilizer, and mineralized (typically with rock dust or other mineral-rich substances), it can hold even more moisture. finally, when a safe and secure habitat is created upon the surfaces of the char, healthy soil microbes are introduced that will colonize and fill the char with microscopic life.

Finally, you ask, What about Spirit? This is the part that is most difficult to speak of. For me, after five years of making char, caring for soils and building my garden beds, I am only beginning to grasp the spiritual depth of my commitment. Giving our lives for our children or a cause only take us so far, but gibving our life force to the healing of the soils upon which we grow our food, upon which the forests rely and upon which future generations will make their way, now that is a profound gift.

We are stardust.




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