Making biochar….

As an olive farmer, the perceived wisdom at this time of year is to prune your trees and hard. The trees have given their all, and now we cut them to within an inch of their lives.

After this wholesale slash comes the burn, and 200 trees produce a lot to burn. Two fast people could get through 200 trees — ours are quite large — in about a week of cutting, but the burning is another thing altogether.

I hate it.

There must be almost no wind, and the burn zone needs to be well away from any other trees, and there are restrictions as to when one can burn. We have now evolved a system where I will prune one or two trees at a time and feed the prunings to our three goats, who eat the leaves. This should last them three or four days, and then it is time to cut another tree. Nice and simple, and no need to hurry.

The goats leave the branches behind so I have to find as use for them. So far we have bundled them and built wind breaks (successful), tried to chip them (unsuccessful). Eventually, we burn them, and cook on the embers.

Still not as eco-friendly as it could be.

Following a course on making biochar — Finca Slow — we decided to experiment. Whilst it was not going to be foolproof, and 100% effective, the method used had to be simple, fast and worthwhile. Constructing a burner out of some sheets of steel and a surplus door, we were good to go.

This is actually post-burn, but you get the idea.

We amassed a large amount of the goat-processed branches and burnt them — it took an hour — and then 100 litres of water later, we have about four wheelbarrows of charcoal to charge for the veg gardens and trees. The charging part is easy — soak the charcoal in water 5./5. with some well rotted chicken manure that we have lying around. Leave it for a week, pee on it every now and then, and then apply to the garden.

Well worth the effort, and far better to not release all that carbon into the atmosphere.

Win — win

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