I have heard for years of the miracle soil amendment that is biochar and wanted to try it for myself. The intent is not to write yet another article explaining what biochar is, the history of biochar or what it could potentially do for your soil and animal health but to show how I make it and one of the ways I use it that I have not seen widely tried. If you do not know what biochar is or want more information about past and present uses, try the documentary The Secret of Eldorado.
I put my charcoal mixed with a bit of molasses into a plastic feed pan under the salt block for the cattle. The cattle lick the block and drool salty minerals onto the char. The sweetness of the molasses mixed with the saltyness of the cow drool makes it more appealing to the pigs. Why feed charcoal to pigs? Wild hogs foraging in a natural forest environment would encounter and eat charcoal from the regular forest fires which occur minus interference from man. From an anecdotal perspective, I take activated charcoal on a regular basis for gut health and detoxification and can feel the positive effects it has on my health. By having the pigs ingest the char, it is changed to biochar in the pig's digestive tract by becoming charged with organisms from the healthy hog's digestive system. It is then evenly distributed with manure throughout my grazing system by rotational grazing. The structure and huge surface area of the char acts as an "apartment complex" for beneficial soil microbiota thus improving soil health. There is a picture and a video below which are both pertinent to the article.
In this part I talk about the landscaping and the back berm, show the progress on the mass wall, explain the foam and vapor barrier, describe the bond beam and banding, water and moisture control, and some future aesthetics.
Instead of using the stove in the kitchen this year to heat water for scalding birds, I wanted to do the entire butchering operation outside. I do not like using propane tanks for heating or cooking because I don't know of a reliable method to tell how much is needed or when the fuel will run out. I decided to make a simple clay fire box with chimney, basically the core of a Rocket Mass Heater, to use some of the firewood my Dad and I cut and stacked. I am so pleased with it's function that I will likely invest in the fire brick to make a more permanent version next season.
I did end up using it for Turkeys just before Thanksgiving and it worked great. Very little wood was needed and it easily kept 15 gallons of water at scalding temps for the 3 hours it took me to process 9 turkeys. The following videos show the building and use of the Rocket Scalder.