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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Superior Properties

They say that changes come on the wind. I certainly have seen it happen enough in the past to know when the spirit of change is nigh. this is one of those times.

My Grandaughter exhibiting my coat of many colors...well half of it anyway. I am working on a book describing the story that goes with every patch on this jacket, What would you pay for 180 stories? That's enough to read one a day for six moons!
 We have discovered property on Lake Superior! This takes us one step closer to having a Northern ECO-Tour Resort. We have also found a property that is less than two hours by bicycle from the shoreline property that is nearly forty acres and includes the headwaters of a creek. It has been heavily impacted on about ten of the acres and will provide plenty of opportunity for reforestation, ECO-Agriculture and aquaponics. Donations for these properties can be made through our normal Paypal account or by sending direct to ECO-Tours at 1445 Porlier street Green Bay, Wisconsin 54301 USA.
 We were talking of the ways of the winds not very many days ago. You see, they come this time of year. Brutal and sustained, they speak to our souls of winter beginning to push back summer and they echo the insight that will be gleaned by breathing the frostbitten air of the long dark nights to come.

We also now have a You tube video that explains a bit about our work and the Leave No trace Ethics that help guide tourists to not only be respectful stewards, but to leave the natural world in such a way that others can enjoy it in the same condition as they found it. This visual ECO-Tour shows several places that we have planted and gives sound information on some of what we do. One caveat, at 0:45, (forty-five seconds in) the video says we are a 501(c)3 org. We are a state registered not-for-profit, but the costs of federal registration have been too great for our current budget. We are looking to register with the federal government in the future, but for now, we are only a state institution. We will be making a video of our biochar process soon and hope to create videos featuring benefits of ECO-Tours for guests, landowners and folks who donate soon.

Essentially, ten hours of sustained, twenty mile an hour winds, brings the air that was over Lake Superior  last night, fresh to our morning lungs. Some of the least disturbed, and consequently least polluted air on the continent, and my spirit is blessed with it. This element of change that the winds represents makes one restless and energized, no matter what time it is, day or night. Some things need to be done. With gusts of fifty, the north shore of Lake Superior has come to my lungs. Biochar made at this time would help capture some of that northern influence, inoculating it with whatever bacteria, fungi and spores it carried with it. The unique Breath of the North might well be used to best effect on north slopes and cooler wetter sites, I would imagine, because they most nearly replicate where the air brought them from.

Immeasurable thank-yous go out to Brenda Huisman for her video capture and editing, as well as the voice over for our first video. In spite of horrible conditions, extremely limited resources and having very little time to spend on it, she, of course, did what she does best, and her efforts are deeply appreciated.

To "finance" the northern acreage, we are looking for ten folks who can put $1K into "Deer Camp" it would allow you to stay during the 10 day deer gun season for a Cultural Heritage Encampment, Northern Folk School. This is not only a traditional deer camp, but living history encampment with fall chores being part of the gig.

Great Spirits passing frequently bring high wind events, and when we honor the ancestors, their spirits too, are disrupted. rustled as it were, like sheets in the wind. They know that we humans will once more re-live passed grief, and try to cast off shackles that we have created in our own minds; that there will be attention paid to them constrains them in ways that they cannot express yet, it has reigned them in at inappropriate times, the rest of the year and probably don't want to be bothered. That is why it is essential to make peace with the past and it is such a blessing to be blessed with what the dead have given us. In these nights of Sowen, What we unburden ourselves of will return to the Earth with those echoes that trace infinite, passed, other lives. We literally breathe the same noble gasses that the dinosaurs did, and in the night huddle together for warmth, and the blessed return of the Sun.

One more order of make the Shoreline property a reality, we need ten people to step up and pre-pay a week rental on the beach, also $1K. We are having a beautiful and sustainable time with our Air B&B listing and will be running all three properties to make the payments, that is why we can offer such awesome rewards for your participation. Redemption of your "gifts" can take place at any time and will come with as much programming, or lack of it as you desire. From full-blown ECO-Tours and guide services, to utter solitude, you only get what you come for.

Tonight, as I breathe the air of restlessness solitude, that lives over Lake Superior, Part of my soul is tied to her breath. This is one of the parts of my soul that I love to share through ECO-Tours. If you can develop your own affinity for place in the world, we have done our job. Letting go of our old souls and stepping into fragile territory, like an insect shedding it's protective cover, we are vulnerable at this time too. Treading on ice for the first time each winter, we are hyper-cautious, but without great sacrifice, great rewards will never come. If the Sowen season cannot allow your shackles to be shed, Lord and Lady help you make it through 'til next year.

Focalizing is a process of allowing collective will to express itself, by sacrificing your own idiosyncratic intention for what works for everyone.  This concept is at the heart of ECO-Tours. Every adventure that we orchestrate is the result of what participants bring with them, what they choose to leave behind, a spirit of revelation that distills the essential abundance around us, and perfecting the ritual and art of the give back.
There are things to do, arte to be made, miracles to participate in. When you are ready to, join us for your tour and learn about a place inside your self as well as all that surrounds us and that many of us forget to enlist in our grappling with the distractions of a modern world.

May the Dark Lord and Lady Bless you.
Peace, and BE Good STEWARDS!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Char "Meltdown"

My char retort in action. Made from a simple stainless steel vessel. Before use, I removed any plastic or rubber parts, replacing them with steel and copper. 
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is hard to capture exactly how awesome this burn was. I had trouble finding time to create this batch, because financial pressures and the rapidly closing tree planting window has required me to spend all of my time elsewhere. I had to burn some wood and decided that the char could wait no longer. Here is a bit of context to help understand what you are looking at. I reduced five gallons of very dry sawdust to char in about two hours. My last burn, with fresh sawdust which took over five hours to "cook". That burn created massive amounts of steam during the first of those five hours. This was another animal altogether!

One consequence of the speed at which the dry material liberated hydrogen and oxygen is that the pressure inside the vessel went way up. As you can see by the flame, we had some fear that material inside the vessel might fly up and clog an outlet creating a massive and rapid increase in pressure that would be catastrophic. Luckily, the removable lid had enough blow by to allow the hot gasses to escape. You can see the flammable gasses escaping around the lid (where the wing-nuts are) This burn was so fast, and so hot, that when the process was finished, the lid had partially melted. The next upgrade to the device will be to make a new lid of steel rather than aluminum.

The other thing that the image cannot convey is the sound. It was like we had a rocket engine in our yard. The clean burning flame was about two feet long for the duration of the burn and the fiery jet was almost unimaginably persistent. It became reduced slightly a couple of times, but by simply jostling the container a few times to "stir" the contents, the flame continued as the material inside was charred. Because I live in a state where wood products are a major industry, I have been experimenting with charring the sawdust. It helps to reduce waste and can easily be scaled up to industrial levels without the time (and energy) consuming process of crushing. Even though I have a great method of crushing the char from wood, it is still a bit messy and as long as clean sawdust is readily available, I will continue to use it. After seeing the efficiency of this burn, I may have to commit to using dry material for making char instead of the fresh stuff.

Wood may seem dry when you buy it, but this sawdust had aged for about a month in the open air of my garage. I suspect that it lost over half of the moisture that had been contained in it. I may have to weigh two samples, before drying and after drying to get a better idea of how much water is in the fresh sawdust. My retort and I are available for demonstrations and during my half-day presentation I will demonstrate and discuss a variety of options and methods for producing or procurement of char, grinding methods and optimal size of char for agricultural and garden use, inoculation, water holding capacity and the biology of organisms that inhabit char. All speakers fees and honoraria will help to enhance our programs and offset costs of our school of sustainability.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tree Planting

We have been planting trees for forty years. In the early days, we were a small group of friends, but registering as a not-for-profit in the Wisconsin, our efforts have mushroomed. We continue to seek efficiencies that allow us to plant more trees at lower cost and increase word of mouth advertising that secures the best and most loyal ECO-Tourists (guests) and supporters (donors). with protection, watering, weeding and aftercare, our seedlings cost about ten dollars each in monetary value, but we frequently cut that number significantly by planting tree seeds, which typically cost a bit less, but require a bit more effort. We have had years where we got over a million seeds at once that were perfect for planting large areas and we have had years when we were only able to plant a few hundred acorns, maple seeds or walnuts. Much of this is due to time availability and what tree seeds we do find. Some years are naturally better than others and this year has been about average.

We have recently found a supporter who cannot afford to make donations, but who has time to stop out at the City Compost Facility on a somewhat regular basis. He has found us many, many tree seeds, which are far easier to deal with in piles than they are when they are spread across the ground under a giant old tree. He has become a great source for seeds and seedlings that find their way into the Earth without draining our bank account. The reason that I explain this in some level of detail is because I see the need for doing this sort of work nearly everywhere. Trees can transform the landscape and with a bit of effort, many places that humans have deforested the land can be recovered.

When the Russians first invaded Afghanistan, their first attempt at making the population beholden to them was to cut down every tree in every courtyard of every compound, leaving the locals without any sort of reliable, albeit tiny, source of food in their immediate vicinity. Additionally, their shady retreats were turned into nothing more than parking lots. My idea for U.S. intervention there was to give each of our soldiers one thousand fruit and nut tree seedlings that they would have been responsible for, and when they could find places to plant them and people who would care for them, their "tour" would be over. In a scenario like this, there would have been no shots fired, no assaults on our people and no unnecessary casualties. People can tell the difference between those who want to exert power and control over them and those who want to lift them out of a difficult situation.

I recently heard that in cities across the U.S., there is a push to create Million Tree Pledges, creating plans for reforesting our cities. Here at ECO-Tours, we have expanded our area of operations steadily outward, first working in the watershed that we live within, then planting in areas that flow away from our city, ultimately expanding to plant in the watershed of two of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Superior. It is becoming harder and harder to find areas that have not been ransacked by the power and control freaks, stripped of vegetation and paved over, many of these areas may never recover, unless we humans stop abusing the landscape. I applaud the Million Tree idea, however, if cities continue to plant non-native populations, or limit themselves to just one or even three species of trees in their planting mix, we will soon find that the efforts are for naught. We have been down those roads before.

When I was a child, there were many millions of elm trees, planted along nearly every residential street in America, (at least every place that they would grow) before I was ten, a pathogen came through and nearly eliminated the population. It spread like wildfire and within a few short years, the street trees were gone. Neighborhoods that had looked like giant living cathedrals of green were turned into harsh, hot, dry landscapes that made playing out in the quiet streets a thing of the past. The cities across America that had lost those giant elm trees seem to have learned nothing because they all seem to have rushed to plant ash trees in their place. The ashes are being wiped out, a bit more slowly, but because of the same type of monoculture planting.

In recent years, city foresters are seemingly beginning to understand the need for a mix of species, but only time will tell whether their efforts will be enough to change the balance of species enough to build a resilient forest where our cities have most ravaged the natural environment. I regularly see trees that have truncated lives because the wrong species got planted "too close to a house", or "too close to a street". They are taken down because they are "Too messy" or because "the birds that sit in the branches shit on my car". I have seen trees that only wanted the moisture that would normally be there for them, but that died because the drains in the street had turned that patch of ground into a desert, or trees that had found a way to survive in spite of human interventions killed when the street was widened. I have even seen trees killed because humans deemed one afternoon of entertainment to be of more value than the trees, that had been there for decades, quietly making the air just a little bit cleaner, making that area just a bit more habitable, and invisibly taking what they needed from the planet without harm to a single living being.

When I first began planting trees, I thought that the process would one day become boring or that at least I would tire of doing the work. This has not been the case. When I gently spread the filamentous root system of a tiny shoot into the ground, I get as much satisfaction today, at age fifty-something as I did when I was twenty, or ten. when i breathe my carbon-filled breath into the hole or say a prayer of blessing into the tiny sprig's leaves, my spirit mingles with that of a living be-ing. It releases all of the goodwill and hope that one can muster into the tissues of another entity. I have seen birds show up, where none had been before, within minutes of planting a small tree. They fly in alight on one of the branches and I have seen them immediately transform the newly planted tree into an ecosystem in and of itself. See, frequently birds, as part of their pre-flight check, defecate. This nutrient rich shit not only helps fertilize the tree, but also builds the soil with much needed organisms and organic matter. Having a hand in this transformative process is always powerful, always amazing and always increases the feelings of intimacy that one feels for the world around them.

I understand that some people don't like to get their hands dirty. I do. I understand that for the uninitiated, it sounds like "too much work", but in my experience, there is nothing better than fresh air to breathe, wild berries to eat when one is on a walk, and clean water to drink. The trees we plant today will one day provide for us in ways that we may not be able to fathom. My goal is not to help myself to the benefits of all of the trees that I plant, but to offer them as hopeful messengers that speak to the spirits of all those who will enjoy their shade over the years. If it is only for the birds, it will all be worth it.