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

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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Looking Out

From the warm cozy of my home, I look out to the dozens of thirty foot tall trees that we planted when we moved in. I see dozens more that are smaller, but that have potential to be around long after my demise. In spite of the recent attacks on the culture and civilization that used to embody the feelings behind the word Wisconsin, there are things afoot that will change the course of history for the better, whether our legislators realize it or not. The tens of thousands of protesters that flood the Capitol steps and the millions who are learning of the protests are being inspired to take the reigns of our lives and steer in a different direction, no matter what silly laws they try to enact. Trying to keep this blog a-politcal is not even possible under the "leadership" of the most recent cadre of corporate tools. The groundwater laws, which friends of mine and I pushed for, researched for and gave dozens of years to enact have been gutted. The air emissions limits that would have protected human health have been flaunted, destroyed and hung out to dry. Lack of ethics has turned many recycling facilities into defacto hazardous waste dumps. The places we look at day in and day out are still dying the slow death that results from fossil fuel addiction. It seems like each time we mandate higher efficiency cars, people just step into them for more hours, drive them more hours, or select less efficient models. There are days when it seems that nothing we worked for as far as environmental protection has been worth a hill of beans. However, anyone who has witnessed the power of beans, especially magic ones, a hill of beans is really not to be dismissed. Seeds and beans hold the mystery of life and creation. It was the sprouting grains on many a freighter that took their vessels to the bottom of the sea. A little moisture and nothing can stop their rapid expansion. The same is going on currently with human awareness. Our minds soak up knowledge like so many sponges and the people bent on keeping us stupid are having a harder and harder time trying to keep us in the dark. The portal to which we devote our interest is a worldwide lens, bringing us facts and information that could never had made it across a publisher's desk just a few short years go. Each of us has the power to self-edit, or not at will. It has seemed chaotic, but as we gain our feet in the new realms of news and documentary, I believe that evolution cannot help but occur. Just as I was a friend of those using the term visual literacy as the video revolution was in full flush, the new bioneers of the future will be learning more from the internet than they ever did at school. What will the use of any "education" be when we all have a Siri at our disposal? Well, today, I got an answer to the question. I asked if anyone was bored and had a smartphone. Of course I got a volunteer at work right away. We asked, How much is an Australian dollar worth? Siri said, One Australian dollar is worth one dollar, in Australia." When we choose to look outward, the world reflected back can be as cold and sterile as Siri, or as warm and friendly as having a good laugh at yourself. I guess we will always have a choice as to which way we choose to lean. We can either become irate at Siri, or realize that in looking out, we often mirror our own prejudice and intent.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3-3 continuation of 1-3 0n 3-1

It troubled me slightly that in the last post I had ignored part of the question of what to do with the Solstice tree. In the book, 365 Ways To Save The Earth, they mention buying a potted tree and putting it in the ground after the festival is over. I felt that there needed to be a more in depth description of this process and that it would require an entire post to describe how to do this successfully. If you live in a climate like mine, planting your tree is a great idea, but in practice it can be a bit more difficult. First, if you go outside to plant the tree around the Solstice, you will find that the ground has become solid and that it is not possible to dig a hole. This can be solved by digging your hole in the fall and making sure that it is large enough to fit the root ball of the tree you plan to bring in to your home to decorate. Ideally, you will also need to keep the dirt indoors so that once the root ball is installed in the soil, you have some workable soil to surround the root ball with. When planting a tree in winter, special care needs to be taken that plenty of water is available for the roots before the root ball freezes. Moisture loss continues throughout the winter and conifers are most often lost due to dessication because they continue to lose moisture throughout the winter and by the time you see browning needles, it may be too late to rescue them from the desiccating effects of the dry winter winds. Second, if you do get them in the earth with enough moisture, having loose soil around a tree can be a bad idea, especially if it dries out, because burrowing creatures love to be able to dig easily, especially if the rest of the ground is frozen. Water the tree in well and perhaps even flood the soil around the root ball a few times as it freezes up to keep critters at bay. Mulching the earth as well is a good idea because once the fill freezes, it needs to stay frozen and not go through freeze-thaw cycles which can heave the root ball back up out of the surrounding earth. Third, and perhaps most difficult is, when you use a live tree indoors in winter, the root ball has to stay frozen. If the roots thaw then re-freeze, the tree can be killed by breaking dormancy, then being re-frozen. The landscape artisans that I know urge people wanting to try this method to insulate the root ball and only keep the tree indoors for a short time. The shorter the better. If you have watered the potted tree well in the fall, as it was freezing, keeping the root ball insulated can keep the roots ball from thawing somewhat. Putting the whole shebang in a cooler, or wrapping it with several inches of cardboard or newspaper will also help, but even with plenty of insulation around the potted root ball, you can only keep the tree indoors for a couple days before it starts to thaw out. Getting it situated in the hole you dug the previous fall needs to happen relatively quickly, so this is going to limit your enjoyment of the tree while it is indoors. One thing that can allow you a bit more time is if you have an unheated space like a breezeway or if you would be able to put the tree just outside a window, where you could enjoy it from outdoors. In any case, remember that the stress of going through a freeze-thaw cycle is difficult enough for a tree, but that if the ground is not prepared or the tree is not put into the soil quickly, all of your extra work may be for naught. In any case, good luck with your tree if you do attempt to do this. If you pay attention to these important steps, your efforts will be rewarded.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

1-3 on 3-1

This is amazing and funny. "Compost your X-mas tree." First off, there are several things to understand before the "last word" is to be had. Our Solstice tree is usually brought in on the eve of solstice, she lasts indoors until Imbolc, then makes her way into the yard, where she attracts birds, embracing them in her protective boughs and concentrates their feces as rich nitrogen laden soil amendment. Each bird seems obligated to poo a little, as part of their pre-flight checklist/ritual(perhaps to make them lighter and more maneuverable.)and strategically placed trees can have benefits that charge the soil's battery with nutrient dense material plus, you get the beauty of a tree that slows the wind and moderates the climate, even though it is no longer actively growing. The tree can be propped against a fence, post, or a tall stake that you put into the ground (in preparation before the ground freezes, somewhere around Sowen). If you have room, you can even lay your tree down and wildlife will enjoy the cover it provides. Decorating with birdseed and suet cakes can provide both food and cover for the birds.

If you have forest trees or garden beds nearby that are acid loving, you can eventually chop the tree into smaller bits and add it to the soils around your trees or garden plants for mulch. This can eliminate the need for trucks to haul them away. It helps to remind humans not to step in the delicate soil, so that beneficial microbes and other plants can survive and flourish as well.

Alternately, you could reduce the tree to char by burning it in a TLUD (Top Lit Up Draft)unit or in a retort. This process creates syngas, which in most TLUD units is vented and fuels an afterburner which in turn draws the air up through the material being charred, that can utilize approximately 50% of the energy that the wood contained, while the rest of the energy becomes pure carbon, a miraculous soil amendment. ECO-Tours offers biochar seminars where we discuss not only the creation of char, but the colonization of char and nutrification processes to actively build soil, increasing yields and reducing the need for fertilization and chemical inputs over the long haul. If you do burn your tree, it is worth making sure that you only turn it to char, the other way of burning produces only white ash and is unhealthy for soil by comparison.

Imagine char as a massive condo complex for soil microbes and beneficial fungi. It actually creates a sort of battery of energy based on and in nutrients that persist over time made available to plants through symbioses of millions of organisms living as a culture, much like yeast inhabits bread. These microbes also contain water in their cells, by the billions, stabilizing soil moisture by their very existence. As you can see there are many reasons to "recycle" your tree.

As a last resort, take your tree to the yard waste center in your community.