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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...

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