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

Saturday, July 2, 2022

New Digs

ECO-Tours of Wisconsin, Inc. is moving to a new location. We will be near the shore of Lake Michigan, just a half-dozen miles from the premier tourist area known as Door County. Our first concern is to make the home on site liveable and to add two bedrooms for travelers and guests who come for classes and tours. After that, we will begin documenting the natural ecotones on site and putting effort into a large classroom space so in the event of inclement weather, we can still teach our biochar classes. By the coming Spring, we will be actively reforesting and adding to permaculture management strategies, getting the fruit trees and vines back to their prolific state and infusing the land with many, many more perennial food and medicinal crops.
For our supporters and friends, it may seem odd that we have drastically pared back the size of our new center, but in light of rapidly escalating prices for everything, not just energy, we want to place our home base in a more central area, so that we can serve a greater number of people at drastically lower cost. Instead of asking our guests to treck many hours into the Northwoods of Wisconsin, we are locating just a day's bicycle ride from over a million potential guests. The air quality is much better than where we were located and the night skies are much more full of stars. Although it may not be the remote backwoods experience that "Up North" has to offer, we are within about an hour drive of one of the state's dark skies parks and can arrange transport and camping expeditions to that location for stargazers and those who have not yet seen the Milky Way or Northern Lights. Kayaking opportunities abound and as we are located about a day's walk from the Eastern Terminus of the Ice Age Trail, those who want to hike have ample chance to find peace and quiet there as well.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

What is the Nature of Soil?

One of the most fundamental ways of looking at soil is to determine what the main ingredients are. Some soil contains rocks and gravels and it has been determined that anything bigger than 2mm is just a contaminant in soil. Rocks, stones and gravel are considered by soil scientists to be too large to be considered. So, first we have to screen soils through a 2mm mesh to see what portion of the ground beneath our feet is really soil and how much is just a contaminant. I have tried growing a garden on gravelly ground and the plant that did best there is purslane. Sadly, at the time, I didn't know it as a nutrient dense food crop, but I did know that it composted easily and turned it into compost for years, until I could build enough soil to grow other plants for food. Like most living things in soil, which I will discuss later, I have the tenacity to not give up, not give in to pressure, but to hold out long enough for conditions to improve. I put forth as the primary nature of soil to contain and express the deepest level of tenacity our human brains can fathom. Let's not get ahead of ourselves... The most important information to get about soil is what on earth is making up the mass? Luckily, the simplest and most profound question can be answered with a simple and profound test. Take a handful or two of soil, put it in a clear container that is taller than it is wide, fill the container with water, put a lid on it and shake. let it sit overnight or up to several days or weeks until the water has cleared and you will see three separate and distinct layers in the vessel. At the bottom will be sand. These are the largest soil particles, so they fall out of suspension first. The middle section will be silt which ranges from as small as two thousandths of a centimteter all the way up to five hundreths of a cm. Finally the topmost layer will be clay, particles smaller than two thousandths of a cm. I recently heard an interesting way to think about these relative sizes. tiny numbers really don't tell the story, especially when you get down to sizes we can't even see. Think of it this way, if the smallest particles were the size of BBs or marbles, the middle sized particles would be the size of basketballs or beach balls and the large particles would be the size of a chair. Typically, these three ingredients make up over 95% of the soil.
Of course with any hard and fast rule, there are major exceptions. Organic material in the soil, which is often seen as bubbles on the surface of the water used in the previous test, can become a large percentage of the soil, but then it is either called peat or muck. Peat being derived from mosses and growing organic sources and muck being from lake sediments, or detritus (like the waste bin of nature)Across most of the developed world, many soils have been tilled so agressively that no organic material is left in them, less than one percent organic material is frequently seen but it is an extremely dangerous condition for soil. At that point it is more accurately called dirt. It will easily erode with either wind or rain, without a thick mulch layer or some growth and living roots to hold the material together and protect it from rain and sun. Each component of soil is good for some things and terrible for others, so having a good mix is best. If you have a single material dominant it raises management issues but any soil can be worked with. My own personal preference is clay, but the management of that type of soil is just as quirky as would be a predominantly silt or sand soil.The difference is that I have learned to respect the limitations of my clay soil. Sand drains like crazy, which is normally very good, but it presents a problem in that it drains so easily that it is hard to keep soil misture even enough to get plants to grow well.sand also very seriously flirts with contaminating surface and ground water because any nutrients applied to the soil can be washed away because the matrial drains so freely. It can also be a challenge because many organisms will find it difficult to stick around when the soil routinely goest through extreme wet and dry cycles. This also can mean huge variations in surface temperature as well, especially if mulch cover in not maintained.
Silt provides much more surface area which can be available for the soil microbiome to flourish upon and although it drains more slowly and provides more opportunity for life to thive than sand can, it can also be threatened by tilling or not enough nutrients. Most people hate clay because mor ethan likely they inherited poorly managed clay, as I did. It had been seriously compacted through consistently poor management and in large areas it was just lifeless. Although clay can provide the most habitat for soil microbes of all the soils, any land manager who has to deal woith them needs to understand their limitations as well. Most often the limiting factors are the ability to get air and water down into the soil. If water can't even penetrate the soil, it can only run off and it will take some clay particles and nutrients with it as well. The best thing in all three cases mentioned above is to add either compost (or other organic material) for organic carbon or mineral carbon with microbes in the form of biochar. I make the distinction betewwn the two because material that was once living releases most of its carbon over the course of about four years, ninety percent leaves the soil. Mineral carbon is not a food source for any soil organism, nor will it break down if eaten and excreted by soil dwelling creatures. It remains unchanged for hundreds of centuries, continuing to provide habitat for soil organisms. This small but vital part of soil, organic and inorganic carbon are what allows soil to be healthy, well-drained and able to withstand drought. The living and dead roots, provide some large structures that increase porosity, but it is the living organisms and th edead organic meterial they eat, as well as what they excrete that make soil vital and healthy. In soil the tiny percentage of living organic material does most of the work feeding the plant roots and providing smaller structures that allow air and wate rto be available enough under the soil surface to create a rich habitable zone within which millions of other life ofrms co-exist. The most true nature of soil is to be the ultimate team player, providing opportunity and the synergy that comes from diversity and abiding by terms of the give back or give away. When soil is treated badly enough, it often just goes away.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Shameless Plea

We are getting ready to preserve nearly two acres and transform it, like we did our last two properties, into a permacultural wonderland of native, edible and medicinal perennials, pollenator gardens and habitat for a variety of creatures. On our second walk-through at the property, we frightened a muskrat who looked fat and happy but for the fact that he was awakened and had to run a long way for cover. We would definitely improve that critter's habitat! Our earlier goal of saving 80 acres remains our ultimate goal, but this property has an established caretakers home and two greenhouses. We would have to raise four times as much money to build in all those improvements on 80 acres. Not to mention the infrastructure needed to even set up such a facility. As an added bonus, instead of being 3-5 hours from major population centers, there will be a million people within bicycling distance! Talk about offsetting carbon footprints!Even more interestingly, we will be just of fth eIce Age Trail and will be able to offer no trace camping to through hikers!
Trouble is, I'm not going to sugar coat it, money. Due to covid-19, it has been two full years of less than half my normal professional gig that allows me to fund the work that ECO-Tours has done. We are adept at soil restoration and teaching about how to make and use biochar. Spreading seed and re-establishing native cover. There have been many events where contributions have covered gas or lunch, but often not both. We can afford to operate on exremely small budgets, whether we are tree planting, seed collecting and dispersing, teaching classes or doing intrerpretive programs because our labor and management have always been 100% volunteer. It took us our first ten years to do, but we planted 60,000 tree seedlings across Northeast Wisconsin and we raised less than six thousand dollars a year during those years.
We were able to do it because we got creative. One of us would wait around, until after pick-up hours at the annual Department of Natural Resources tree seedling distribution event, many years hundreds of trees came home with us that otherwise would have been thrown into the compost. In fact, the year before the first year we put in our order, I had been walking past the greenhouses at the County Extension Offices. Out back I found over 2,000 tree seedlings in their compost. We took them home. potted them up and it took a while, but we got nearly all of them set out into permanent and appropriate places, their forever homes, within that first spring and fall. After I found that treasure, I went and asked why they had thrown them out and they said that every year, when they did the DNR tree seedling sale, some live plants would not get picked up and they didn't have any way to store them or hold them for later pick up, so they just put them in the compost pile.
I made sure after that to always show up at the beginning of the day to help set up, then to fill my order as late in the day as possible, so I could help after they shut down. After two or three days of getting people paired with their orders for pick up, everyone woul dbe pretty tired and the idea of taking a hundred or a thousand trees home ot plant is too much for anyone to think about, unless you are someone with friends who will help pot them up and eventuqally come help plant them out on another day, which we did. Inevitably there would be at least a few dozen left over seedlings. Most times there were many hundreds and once or twice over a thousand free trees to help keep our costs down. The real value was in all the loving hands that helped pot them all up and those loving hands that came later and lovingly placed them in the ground. Indeed, the loving hands of those who pulled competing weeds were also necessary to have the thousands of sucessful trees, spread across many hundreds of acres that would have never grown without the participation of many hundreds of people who care.
The reason that I mention this is to point out that rather than contributions being eaten up by administrative or fund-raising costs, our dollars flow with power and immediacy to what needs funding, not advertizing and gala events for megadonors. Give what you can. If you would like to stay in the loop about our events, which are mostly centered around Wisconsin let us know at: or if you would lik eot purchase a class, We can teach you everything you need to know to make top quality biochar in just a few hours by phone or online through zoom or fblive. Any contribution of fifty or more gets you a class if you would like to start sequestering carbon forever. If you are having trouble with our paypal link, you can go there directly and use our account number, or, you can go to our gofundme page and contribute to "Save 80 acres of Wisconsin for outdoor school".
These trees were some of the first we planted and this image is from ten years ago. The last time I was past the farm, they were taller than the house! They are also large enough now to shade the west side of the house from summer sun and winter wind. The energy savings alone is like offsetting carbon use that is now unnecessary. In very real ways, we continue to prove that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is today!
Again, please contribute what you can.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Imbolc Blessings

The proverbial back of Winter has been broken this week. The Sun is on the way back to our hemisphere. The "Flaming Arrow" of our shared human spirit is on her way back from the underworld. This spirit, more recently described by the name Brigid, has a corollary in Persephone. Fertility, renewal, inspiration and crafts all flow from the burnig fires she brings forth after she has been impregnated in the dark. Her feminine aspect going, during the dark time, to the deep, mythic subterranian realm. As the days quicken, nights grow shorter and the sun angle continues to rise, higher and higher, the promise of Spring's arrival, no matter what a select rodent might think, will come in about six weeks. In the Celtic Calendar, this was the New Year Celebration a feast day, a night of bonfires, reflections on th epassing of last year's struggles and re-commitment to what is coming so quickly upon us. In preparation for Summer's flush, the season was determined mostly by the birthing of young livestock, the coming in of the milk for the herds. Modern humans may not want ot admit that they feel these stirrings, but we had an unbroken rhythm to our lives back to our earliest ancestors that ran by the intricate workings of th eseasons, not just a mechanical clock and a raster of days. The punctuation of life was that every six weeks or so, throughout the year, some sort of reason to get out, be amonst the neighbors and to celebrate were the touchstones of time.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Conscientious Vandal

I made a copy of the Earth Charter. It is a meaningful enough document that I wish everyone would read and understand it. You can jump to their site by follwing the link In any effect, I copied the document and cut each section and subsection into small slips of paper. Each of the tiny slips of paper had one recommendation from the Earth Charter on them. Then, when I wanted to leave a mark, I would just glue one onto a bathroom stall, a sign post or bus stop, picnic bench, tree or table etc. Wherever people are stranded in one place for a minute or three, they can at least read up about positive steps we each can take to live in harmony with the planet. After showing a friend my idea, he branded me Conscientious Vandal. We had been joking about how odd it is to see so many breasts and penises rendered in spray pain in public spaces. Interestingly, some of the most profound words I ever read were scrawled on a wall in Milwaukee. "Death is the greatest trip of all, that's why they save it 'til last." was what it said. The older I get, the more I hope those words are true. I've had so many great trips in life, I truly hope they are topped by my exit. I remeber back when I was a young man in highschool, I had gotten a contract to help paint a mural on a local, concrete structure that held the mountain back, so it would not collapse into the street. Like a massive terrace, the three sided structure was trapezoidal, having two giant triangles on either end and a broad, more than twenty foot wide central portion. The triangular ends sort of buttressed against the weight of the hill, pushing back against gravity's pull. When you stood back even three or four blocks, looking across form th eother sid eof th evalley, you could see the giant wall. Looking back, maybe that's why I feel like I have had my fill of painting on concrete.
I tried to get a friend to help with the painting, a giant pod of whales with one whale appearing to swim right out of the wall, my friend, who has passed away now said he would not deface concrete because some craftsman made that wall, over a hundred years before and that the guy who finished the concrete had done such a great job that he could feel th epride he took in that surface. His legacy was perfect concrete and it woul dliterally last forever, if left alone. He felt that our artwork was stiull graffitti, degrading it for the sake of a fleeting moment of proving your own passing. I suppose both interpretations are valid. The local arts council had money to spend though and it kept us from getting into trouble. About a dozen people all pulled together and painted it over the course of several weeks and it certainly brightened the neighborhood. Where there had been a dingey gray slab, a pop of color and destination for people to recognize was created for not much more than the cost of the paint. I think the regional artist who designed it got a grand for his art, and for transferring it to the wall in a line drawing and the two leads they chose to guide the volunteers got 250 each and we were primarily there to paint and make sure that different areas of color, as laid out by the atists matched the original work of art. I suppose, even back then I was being a conscientious vandal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022


This is where things get tricky. Life requires several things and to be healthy it needs all of them in relatively equal measure. Habitat is a biggie because there must be several things for optimal growth and reproduction. The char provides that. Like a condo complex for soil microbes, the habitat is there, all fourteen acres of surface area per handful. Resources include food and moisture, a place to be safe, to reproduce, to consume nutritious materials and to excrete waste and exchange gasses. The more air and water you can keep on and in the char, the better. Again, without pooling water and ideally, warm enough for microbes to multiply. When conditions are right, it will keep you busy stirring the material three or more times a day. When weather turns cool, you may only need to mix the material once a day, or even less if things freeze up. Some bacteria can colonize and exponentially grow and reproduce in a matter of hours, and folding them through the vast surface area in char requires presenting many hundreds of chances for the surfaces to be jumbled. Since microbes are pretty much immobile on the scales that exist in the char, you will be required to spread the microbes physically turning and mixing the material. The fastest I have been able to transform char into biochar is about six weeks. The conditions were optimal and it was during summer when I paid close attention to it several times each day, stirring, adding more minerals, adding compost and/or moisture and other nutrients and micronutrients during the maturation phase. The key is getting the right materials in the right quantities as well, but the bottom line is that it takes time to populate the char with microbes, and the more balanced the mix of inputs, the more rapidly you can colonize the char with microbes appropriate to your site. In situations where people don't want to pay much attention to the process, I have seen them just put a layer of moistened and mineralized char in their compost pile and mix it in the following spring. I don't garden on those sites, but the people who do say that it has been effective too. It just depends on what your situation is and what you want to accomplish with your particular application. My own uses are for gardening mostly and we have alkaline soil, so I typically mineralize with granite dust to help buffer the Ph toward neutral. If you have acidic soils, you might want to mineralize with lime, just remember that changing the Ph is not always practical and if you get soil microbes who cannot handle the conditions of the soil you introduce them to, you will be killing off the microbes you sought to introduce. As my biochar gets closer to ready, I typically add a few, up to ten percent local soil, to help buffer the mixture between the mixture that I jade and the existing conditions. That way, when I finally till it in, it is not such a shock for the soil microbes. I have had beds enriched with biochar that continued to improve both soil tilth and production for several years after being amended the first time and beds that, although they have been amended do not really come into vastly better production for a few years. Perhaps this is in part based on how "ready" I had gotten the biochar before adding microbes. Obviously, a full dose of well made char is best for production right out of the gate, but if there are less than spectacular results in making it, moisturizing it, adding minerals or nutrients, adding microbes or maturation, nature tends to fix them pretty quickly. Keep in mind though, quickly for nature could be several years or a decade. I typically don't like to till the soil very deeply, or very much in fact, but if there is biochar in them and they are not producing optimally, I do try to tousle the material several times to help spread it through the existing soil microbiome. One old-timer told me that his family would burn, and immediately incorporate the blackened and charred, woody material into the soil. The following year, nothing would grow, but after there had been a year or two of poor production, those soils would improve drastically. Nature will always take her course, but my interest is in making good things as fast as is practical. Maturing the char into biochar requires time and the energy of turning the material. you don't want to stir it like a blender would, or violently stir it either, just folding it in and on itself, lifting the bottom layers to the top, etc. as you become proficient in biochar making, you will feel the material change. At first, when it is just a collection of resources, it will feel like you are stirring a container of wet glass shards, but when the microbial community is well-developed, it will feel fluffy and soft. Because we inhabit a range of scale that takes for granted our large size and ability to zip across the globe, it can be difficult to think in the scale of the char maturation process. When tiny bits of char, under 2mm maximum size, as you can see from the SEM images, are like a thousand straws, each can be thought of as a cave in which a bacterial colony might inhabit. In fact, even though these tubes are microscopic, many different microbes could exist and thrive within a single tube! To them, the housing is very roomy. In a cube 1cm on each side, about a third of a sugar cube, of pure char, there is as much square footage as a soccer field. I have tried for years to understand this, but I find that it is virtually unimaginable.
When the char has fully matured, it loses the clean, crisp smell of something absorbing everything it can. It gets the rich fecund smell of soil, that is one way to tell it is done. When you stir it, it feels very light and "airy". Almost like you were stirring a lighter version of marshmallow fluff. In my initial flyer, covering all six parts of the process of making biochar, I wrote, about maturation, "Biochar can be made by adding char to compost heaps, animal bedding, or other agricultural wastes. In fact, many large industrial agriculture operations use char for odor control, however, when we wish to create a balanced, healthy, ecosystem, using organic components, keeping the material moist and aerated, adding organically derived nutrients as well as minerals and allowing nature to take the lead in maturation creates a product more valuable than gold, the best biochar. Because char has such vast surface area, it is like a 3-D petri dish. Allowing time for microbes to multiply, diligently stirring them through the material repeatedly and taking care to maintain an optimal moisture level, speeds the processes that, in nature could take many years. Growing and distributing microbes throughout the char cannot be rushed." Once again, let me say, I love and care about everyone and that is why I share these, most recent posts. I have said many times that biochar is more valuable than gold. Every person that has worked with it agrees, biochar has worked for them as advertised. One even said that if our culture collapsed tomorrow, this might be the most important technology to know about, understand and utilize in an attempt to survive. One friend who is a grower, completely reliant on her soil for her living, calls it her "secret weapon". she has said that it is the only thing keeping her in business. Collectively we can use biochar to literally heal the Earth, sequestering carbon for geologic time, doubling crop production, conserving both surface and ground water, reducing the need for irrigation and off site nutrient inputs. We also would grow far healthier plants and be able to eat healthier food if we used char on all productive soil. We all know what happens when you do that! Some of us still remember when they taught us in school that "You are what you eat." It is time for us to learn that important lesson. Making soil healthier makes us healthier as well. Please share this info. With anyone you might think would be interested. Anyone you know, who grows any crop at all, can benefit from this simple ritual. It is part of our birthright as human beings, your ancestors developed it, share it! How do you measure the value of doubling production forever? when you begin to understand what it means to you, please send me something of value as a thank-you. My Paypal account number is: if you want to contact me directly with questions or concerns, please do so, my e-mail is the same... To help one to understand the truth behind the saying "Think globally, act locally.", check out my other blog,, specifically... Get an Apple...


Again, we need to start with an object lesson. Imagine a cow and her calf, on an acre of healthy soil. Science has calculated that the microbes on this same acre of soil have about the same mass as Bessie and her calf. I have heard the claim that billions of organisms live in a tablespoon of healthy soil as well and I'm sure that the scientists are right, even though I can't see things that small and I will never be able to see a germ, flagellate or bacterium no matter how good my eyesight is! In my "initial contact" flyer, I have this to say about microbes, "The biochar ecosystem provides all that soil microbes need, security, moisture, air and healthy food. Microbes can be added by using compost, or healthy soil. Waste products of microbes that live in soil, often as many as billions per teaspoon, actually feed healthy plant roots." Microbes can be added by including some compost or compost tea in the mix. Some commercial mixtures are available that tout themselves as compost starter, etc. but the truth of the matter is that spores and bacteria are on the wind. It may be difficult to get a representative sample large enough to really get the char to transform into biochar, but in theory, time is really all that is necessary to get the microbes to take up residence there. I typically start to see insects hanging around my char after it gets minerals and nutrients added to it. Whether they are trying to eat some of the bits of rotted food, or harvesting smaller organisms that I cannot see will have to remain a mystery. I certainly don't shoo them away, because I see them as vectors for getting more beneficial microbes into the mix. To make compost tea, you just need an air pump, like you would find in an aquarium, some tubing you can weigh down with a rock , a five gallon (20L) bucket of water, and a quart or so of compost. Set the bubbler up so that there is a constant stream of bubbles in the bucket, then add the compost and let it go, bubbling away for 24-48 hours. The air is essential to getting a healthy representative sample of microbes. Adding some of the resulting water to the char after it has been made, micronized, moistened and mineralized will allow the microbes direct access to the territory that has been prepared for them. Of course, there are far more idiosyncrasies and special circumstances to deal with than a short post can include, but for the most part, in the vast majority of locations, you can utilize local resources to make highly effective biochar. Jumping back to the previous post, "Minerals", nitrogen, an important soil constituent, can be added to char through the use of many different ingredients. Some of the best char I have ever made began as 75% grass clippings by volume and 25% char. Another excellent batch started by moisturizing it first with pure, fresh fallen snow. Once material breaks down or concentrates, less is needed. Most of the nitrogen in the batch I mentioned got a lot of moisture and loads of nitrogen from moist grass clippings. Additionally, I added urine every time it dried out enough to soak it up. Nitrogen can come from blood meal, bat guano, fish emulsion, urine (urea) and virtually any manure or offal. As you can imagine, the bacteria which break down these materials are typically present, if not common in soil. When needed, they proliferate quickly and die out after their food supply disappears. Remember though, even dead microbes feed the next generation, it is the cycle of life. Whether you make biochar with manure or urine is not as important as the fact that microbes can grow on either, or both. If animals are fed anti-biotics, this is less so. The goal is not so much to culture a specific set of microbes, but a flourishing, diverse community that utilizes all wastes, from all the different microbes, their predators and competition as well. In diversity there is balance. I often think about how much better off we would be as a civilization, if we accepted this, or at least understood the need for diversity among our human population also. Char itself helps to moderate extremes as do the organisms who live on and in it. So does the water that it holds. Mitigating and ameliorating change is helpful for the whole soil biome. Instead of trying to give crops what they need for just one season, or rotating crops periodically to help the soil stay healthy, utilizing biochar requires us to take a much longer view of soil health and conservation. Once we put all the time and effort into healing the soil, building up the soil biome, we are loathe to abuse it or let it blow away. My county here in Wisconsin Brown County, holds the state record for the most soil lost to erosion each year in our entire state. Perhaps if people decided to value this finite resource, we would get true conservation started. Understanding that healthy food leads to healthy humans is perhaps a stretch for some who sit behind the wheel of a tractor, but we can't continue living as if it did not matter or we threaten our very existence. Just as we have become aware of the micro-biome in the human gut, we need to also become aware of the science behind the micro-biome as it relates to soil health. Estimates of the value of the gut bacteria in our health range up to claims that 80% of our immunity comes from the gut. In soils, there can be billions of microbes in a tablespoon and millions of types and strains can live in close proximity to or atop one another. Like the unbroken forest that we hear, used to cover the Eastern United States, in which a squirrel could travel branch to branch, without touching the ground from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Mississippi River, microbes inhabit healthy soil, cheek to jowl upon each and every soil particle. Biochar exponentially expands the amount of surface area upon which they can thrive. Microbe habitat waiting to happen. Atmosphere is automatic, moisture allows life to flourish, organic material, minerals and nutrients are needed by all life, even microbes. Meeting their needs is paramount to growing healthy soil. Remove just one necessary resource and life gets stunted or fails to thrive. Boutique biochar, such as I teach people to make, transforms soils immediately and lasts for geologic time. Valuing a technique that more than doubles crop production, forever, has an infinite value. What is this knowledge worth to you? Please remunerate me for my efforts and sharing with capital. You can send money through Paypal at account number: which also happens to be my e-mail. If you would like to contact me that way, I have brochures that you can use to spread the word about this ancient miracle in your local community. I can even Skype in on fire pit parties where you would teach others the same sort of class that I do. Humans must emulate natural processes and seek a state of peak evolution by mimicking nature's way of stacking function, producing nothing considered waste, just recyclable materials anxiously awaiting their chance to face the crucible of change. In soil, every trophic level can serve as top predator. This layers multiple levels of living carbon, inhabiting these surfaces, covering them with a micro climate that is warmer, because of metabolism. That warmth is held because soil air has a bit more carbon dioxide than the air we breathe a result of microbe metabolism. All good things for the rest of the community. Just as we have 75% water in our bodies as newborns and it slowly dwindles as we age, down to fifty percent water when we are elderly, microbes have a high percentage of water within them as well; like us, over time, they begin to desiccate, even though the cell walls try to hold on to moisture, it inevitably reduces with time. Up to 75% of the water in soils can be bound within the cells of microbes. This moisture allows metabolism within the cell, but also makes the exchange of gasses possible, helps stabilize soil moisture and moderates temperature. Building the base of the soil food web invites heterotrophs and macro-invertebrates. Microbes that can not be seen with the naked eye are difficult to explain or understand, but the most important thing to remember is that less desirable ones tend to make dank, musty or off smells. The less desirable microbes also are more tolerant of conditions that have limited amounts of oxygen. 85% of bacteria are either innocuous or helpful to humans, many lend their aroma to healthy soil. You probably know what good, healthy soil is supposed to smell like, so too our body is able to sense bad organisms by smell too. With the pathogenic ones, typically you can overcome them with creating conditions favorable to beneficial organisms. Being careful to not let stagnant water develop, aerate more, stir the biochar more often and be careful to balance the amount of nutrients available and the amount of minerals and detritus as well. some less composted material is not bad either. Typically, I have found that in making good char about ten times more nutrients, especially nitrogen are needed by weight when compared to the amount of other minerals. If there is too much moisture, dry powdered minerals can help absorb it. Worm castings can also help absorb excess moisture. Balancing the moisture level so that the biochar never dries out, but never gets too wet is something that you will develop a feel for. The typical make up of soil, as stated in previous posts, is 25% Air (soil atmosphere has more CO2 in it, from microbe respiration) 25% water, 40-45% minerals, 5-10% organic matter. Subdivided, this last 5 to 10% is 80% humus and ten percent each of roots, (both dead and alive), and organisms. Adding biochar, even at 1%, would provide habitat for more organic matter, most of which would be living creatures. These organisms are only 10% of that tiny 5% sliver of soil that is referred to as "organic matter" typically. The carbon matrix upon which biochar is designed and the pyrolysis process rendering it vitreous makes it both mineral, but immune to break down and able to foster microbial life indefinitely, growing habitat for these beneficial microbes, perhaps exponentially. This burgeoning microbial habitat helps stabilize soil moisture, holds minerals and nutrients and creates micro-biomes of better drainage, stucture and retention of moisture when it is available. It also raises soil temperature slightly as a result of microbial metabolism. All these benefits and carbon sequestration! This is where all of the water that passes through and by me, into the Great Lakes wants to flow. The microbes life, health and well-being depend on moisture. Just like we humans how much water they have inside their cells will determine how well they can function.
I realize that the discussion is currently about microbes, but the amount of habitable surface area the char provides depends on making the char a fine powder (see "Micronize") with the largest pieces being smaller than 2mm. About the width of Eisenhower's ear on a dime. The structure inherent in char unleashes massive amounts of surface area, the smaller you crush it, the more available surface area, the smallest powders we are typically able to produce are still cavernous for a microbe. Sorry for the repetition. There is much for us to learn when we build soil this way. One of the most important things to understand is that all soil microbes are interdependent. When any overpopulation occurs and death of one group of organisms occurs, it is not a horrible loss, because others pick up the slack and pitch in to return the soil food web to balance. This interdependence and alliance of all in the community to work for the betterment of conditions for all other organisms is something human creatures need to take to heart as well. The complex interdependent relationships that occur naturally in soil need to be emulated and used as templates for layering functions withing our own lives and the human community as well. I wish you all a future of security and abundance and when we realize that it is unnecessary to deprive some "other" to take care of ourselves, many problems, many traumas and untold destruction will be avoided.