Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Biochar Along Takilma Rd Today

Here's a link to today's biochar pictures We had a crew 6 of working at Art & Jude's. Jeff, Kristin and Monty worked along Takilma rd and made 3 batches - a bit less than 3 cubic yards of biochar. Art, Jude and Chas took the tractor kilns over to the back pasture and made another 2 cubic yards. Wood was a bit wet and smokier than we would have liked, but still not too bad. We will be back by Takilma Rd just north of the Page Creek turn off tomorrow if people want to come by and see what we are doing. Next week will burn several days at other nearby properties, making biochar for the landowners.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Conservation Innovation Grant Progress Report

On November 9, Don Morrison and I travelled to Salem, Oregon to present our work on the Conservation Innovation Grant to NRCS officials. Here is a link to the presentation:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Big Win at Drew Biochar

One of the big winners from our Drew Biochar Project is forest soil organisms of the present and future. The standard alternative to our approach of burning forest slash material in kilns is to pile and burn it in place. Hundreds of small burn scars can really have an impact on forest soils and their inhabitants. The picture below tells the story: From: Slash from the past: Rehabilitating pile burn scars. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 15. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Gregory's Video of Drew Biochar Project

Monday, October 23, 2017

Biochar Expo Oct 28

Our annual Biochar Expo will be October 28 at 10 am at the Westside Community Garden. This is behind the First United Methodist Church on Harvard St. The Expo will be concurrent with the Umpqua Valley Farmer’s Market in the church parking lot. I would recommend accessing the Expo near Fremont Junior High, 850 W Keady Ct. to unload equipment. There will be signs! There is also plenty of parking off Keady Ct.

There is a little dry cordwood and wood chips there. If you have some dry feedstock please bring it.

Being in the city limits we have to keep it small. I will bring a 30 gal TLUD and the Weber barbecue. A small Oregon kiln would be appropriate if someone has one. There is water available.

We will leave the char we make at the garden for the gardeners to use. This will be the start of a long term (600 years?) soils demonstration.

There are lunch opportunities at the Farmer’s Market.

I have notified Master Gardeners of Lane and Douglas Counties. Also with the recent publicity this could be well attended. The weather looks good.

Monday, October 9, 2017

All Systems Go for Drew Biochar Project

If you have been thinking about coming up to help out with the biochar project outside of Drew, Oregon, we want you to know that we are still on for October 16. Some of us will arrive at the site on Sunday, October 15. We will camp out there that night so we are ready to start lighting piles and loading kilns in the morning.

We welcome your help, but ask you to please register here:

See the post below for details on how to get to the site. If you camp on the site, you need to be completely self-sufficient and bring your own food, water, and camping gear. The site is pretty rough with no developed camp sites.

We are looking forward to a productive couple of days, making as much biochar as we can from the material on the site. We will be tracking labor inputs and biochar outputs so we can better understand the economics of this work.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Need Workers for Innovative Biochar Forestry Project Starting Oct 16.

As of today (September 24) the Drew Biochar Project on the Umpqua National Forest is scheduled to start on Monday, October 16. Recent rain has made conditions safe for controlled burning. The only thing that could get in the way is if we get very heavy rain. Light rain will not stop us. If it looks like we will get rained out, we will post a rain date at

We need your help. If you are free the week of October 16, and can travel to the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon, please come and join us. You will learn how we use several types of biochar kilns and top lit open burn piles. We have about 100 tons of biomass to process and expect to make somewhere between 50 and 75 cubic yards of biochar. We plan to spend at least three days at the site, doing the work. Anyone who helps will be compensated with biochar to take home.

Many of us will camp on the site. If you can join us, you will need to provide all your own personal equipment, food and water. The nearest hotel is about 50 minutes away in Canyonville. There is a FS campground nearby, but there are no showers there. See Three Horn Campground: 

The site is about 12 minutes from Hwy 227, which is the road that follows the South Umpqua River from Canyonville to Trail, OR in the Rogue Valley. The gravel road to the site is in good condition. There is no cell phone service at the site or on most of Hwy 227.

If you are interested in helping out, we would really appreciate it if you could register so we have your contact info:

Feel free to call Kelpie Wilson with your questions. You can reach her at 541-218-9890. Or email:

NOTE: You will be required to sign a form releasing us from liability before we accept you as a volunteer.


There are two ways to stay informed about the schedule as our plans finalize:

1. Visit our website at
2. Sign up for the UBET mailing list here:!forum/ubetbiochar


Here is some more information about the project: 

Logistics – materials and supplies needed

The US Forest Service will provide:
  • Drip torches for lighting piles
  • Water truck and hoses for quenching piles and kilns
UBET volunteers will provide:
  • Kilns
  • Propane torches for lighting
  • Supplies and tools
  • Tractors for loading char into dumptrucks and bags
  • Bags
Volunteers must bring their own:
  • Heavy leather work gloves
  • Good sturdy boots
  • Hardhat with face shield if you have it
  • Fire resistant clothing such as cotton or wool
  • Food, drinking water, personal needs
  • Camping gear if staying overnite
Items we need more of. Bring if you have them:
  • Hard hats
  • Shovels, rakes, McClouds and other fire tools
  • 2-way radios
  • Sheets of metal roofing to place around piles for holding in heat
  • Bags for holding char (especially large 1-2 cubic yard tote bags)
  • Dump trucks for transporting char

Maps and Directions 

Drew Veg Biochar Site GPS Coordinates: 42.866271, -122.863688

 Project Background

Can we turn our forestry burn piles into biochar?
Can we add carbon to soils, where it belongs as we remove it from the atmosphere?
Can we make this restoration activity pay for itself?

These are the questions the Umpqua Biochar Education Team will answer with the Drew Veg Biochar Project. We hope that you will help us find the answers by volunteering to help.

Drew Veg Biochar is the name of a fuel reduction project on the Umpqua National Forest, near the town of Drew, Oregon. The US Forest Service conducts many such projects on National Forests every year for the purpose of reducing fire hazard by removing dense stands of younger trees, mostly in plantations and areas that were previously logged.

Some of the wood may be big enough to sell to sawmills, but much of it must be piled and burned onsite. This burning produces large amounts of smoke, and the numerous piles burn holes in the forest duff, sterilizing the soil.

We have a better idea and we want to prove it.

Please Come and Join our Drew Fest on October 16, 2017!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Covering the piles at Drew Veg Biochar

We caught these piles just before the rain on Sunday! We are all set for the big October Char Fest. Hope you can come and join us. Right now we are on track for starting the biochar burns on Monday, October 16. We will be on the site at least three days.

Watch this space for more info or subscribe to the UBET mailing list:!forum/ubetbiochar

 If you are pretty sure you want to come and help, we would appreciate it if you could register so we know have your contact info: 

Here's a video of our pile of piles:

Friday, July 14, 2017

JulyAdvert (1)

Please help us get the word out about the upcoming Utah State University Learn at Lunch Webinar:

Date: July 25, 2017, 12 pm (MDT)
Speaker: Kelpie Wilson, Wilson Biochar Associates

Biochar is made by applying heat to biomass in the absence of oxygen. Flame carbonization uses the flame itself to exclude oxygen. Flame carbonization methods can produce high quality biochar from low value biomass waste found in fields and forests without investing in expensive equipment. Kelpie Wilson will explain the theory and design principles for using flame carbonizing techniques in various applications such as forestry, farming and urban tree care.

Kelpie Wilson is a mechanical engineer and analyst with 30 years of experience in renewable energy, sustainable forestry and resource conservation. Since 2008, she has focused on biochar as a tool to move excess carbon from the atmosphere to soil, where it can improve soil health and sequester carbon. She consults with farmers, private industry, and government agencies through her company Wilson Biochar Associates. She serves on the board of the US Biochar Initiative, works with several local groups in Oregon promoting sustainable forestry and agriculture, and presents many classes and workshops on small scale biochar production and use every year.


SAF or ISA continuing education credits are available to those that watch this webinar live.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

NRCS Site Visit

Todd Peplin of NRCS came down from Portland to see some our Conservation Innovation Grant work. We had a great time visiting with project participants and learning about the other important conservation practices they are doing in addition to biochar. Here are some pictures:

Todd and Troy talk cattle

Troy made a biochar kiln out of an old round bale feeder and some roofing tin

The big pile of high carbon boiler ash that Troy uses. Troy told us that in the winter the cows like to hang out on top of the pile because it is dry and warm

Barbara Fontaine shows us the biochar field trial in her pasture

Barb and Don do a lot of forestry on their 90 acre property. Here is a recent thinning operation.

Barb and Don put some small logs and brush in the stream to slow winter flows and improve habitat for fish.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Farm Kilns Complete

Umpqua Community College Welding Department has been fantastic! They have made every kind of kiln we have asked them to, and done a beautiful job. Here are the latest kilns. These are heavy duty versions of the light-weight forestry kilns. They have fork pockets so they can be moved around with a tractor. They will be most useful on a farm or other large property where brush piles are dispersed, but reachable by a tractor. A farmer can bring the kiln to the brush pile, char it, and then pick up the whole kiln full of char and take it to where it will be used.

New heavy duty kilns. All four kilns have fork pockets, and one kiln also has a tilt-dump mechanism and a "milk carton" spout for pouring

Bottom of a kiln showing drain and fork pockets

Hinge mechanism on the dump kiln

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Duchess Field Trial Harvest #2

Biochar field trials are challenging because biochar often does not show its full effects in soil right away. It's best to follow a trial for more than one year to see the results. For instance, this important study from Australia - Biochar built soil carbon over a decade by stabilizing rhizodeposits - monitored a biochar trial for ten years to learn that biochar not only added carbon to soil, it helped to stabilize additional soil carbon.

At the Duchess Horse Sanctuary, UBET volunteers helped to establish a long term field trial with researchers from Oregon State University. The trial is now in its third year and our team showed up to harvest biomass and take soil samples from the plots. We will share the results once the OSU researchers finish analyzing the materials.
Taking a soil sample at the Duchess Horse Sanctuary biochar field trial

Biochar in the Rabbitry

Grant Scheve and Oregon Biochar Solutions came through for us again! Grant donated another tote of biochar to use in Don and Judy Atchison's rabbitry. Don and Judy raise prize-winning Rex Rabbits. We hope the biochar will improve the environment for these beautiful animals by absorbing ammonia from their manure. John Livingston of Tierra Buena Worm Farm uses the rabbit manure in his worm beds. We are testing his worm castings for potential pathogens, and we will see if adding the biochar to the manure helps reduce fecal coliform bacteria in the worm castings.

Monday, June 19, 2017

More Biochar Barns

At Michaels Ranch, the winter barn was cleaned out about a month ago, and the manure was piled. Last year, we made two piles, one that was plain manure, as usual, and one that had high carbon boiler ash (about 40% char) mixed into it during the cleanout. When we measured the pile temperatures last year, we found that neither pile got much hotter than 90 degrees F. So the manure did not really compost properly.

This year was different! This year, the high carbon ash was added to the barn at the beginning of winter, so it was well mixed into the manure by the action of cow hooves. It was also in place to capture nitrogen from urine that might otherwise have volatilized and been lost to the atmosphere. Lo and behold - the piles are getting hot! We measured 130 degrees F - definitely thermophilic compost.

Manure pile with high carbon ash well-mixed

Piles are getting hot - 130 degrees F.

The consistency of the pile is very nice - it is well mixed and nicely granular. It should flow well through the manure spreader.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Willow Witt Ranch goat barn cleaning day

Today was the day for cleaning out the goat barn at Willow Witt Ranch. The farmers had been adding small amounts of biochar to the bedding for odor control during the winter, but there was not enough biochar (about a half a cubic yard of biochar made last year) to make a big difference, although the workers reported it did help with ammonia smells. Due to the extreme wet winter, we were not able to make much biochar this year. Luckily, our friend Grant Scheve of Oregon Biochar Solutions decided to donate a 2 cubic yard tote of biochar to this project. Not only did he deliver the biochar, Grant even helped out with the barn cleaning!

Some of the biochar available from Oregon Biochar Solutions
Grant Scheve helped us shovel out the old manure pack. When you walk into the barn, the ammonia smell is not so bad, but when you start digging up the pack, a lot of ammonia is released and the smell can be overwhelming.

As we dug up the manure pack, we sprinkled biochar on top and the effect was immediate. Farm workers told us that in the past, they would wear respirators while doing this job, but the biochar really made a difference and we could do the job without respirators. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Biochar for Arborists and Tree Service Professionals

One of the objectives we have for developing the Oregon Kiln is to see if it can work for arborists and foresters working on private land. In our region, many people have trees or small forests on their land that need management, including thinning and brush disposal. Often, professionals are hired to do the job. How can tree service businesses use the Oregon Kiln to make money?

Here is a list of things to think about if you are wanting to start a business turning people's burn piles to biochar:
  • Price for chipping - $200/hr
  • Price for biochar burning - $200/hr
  • Separate firewood from small branches & brush
  • Customer gets biochar made from small brush, valued at $250/cy
  • Arborist gets the firewood to sell
  • Or you could do it the other way around - maybe the customer wants the firewood and has no interest in the biochar - then you could take the biochar and sell it.
  • No expensive chipper to maintain
  • Burn permit is required
  • No smoke to bother the neighbors
  • Customer gets biochar carbon sequestration bragging rights

Biochar carbon sequestration bragging rights: 
  • Half of the carbon in the wood will be sequestered in the soil as biochar for thousands of years. 
  • If the wood had been left to rot on the ground, most would be back in the atmosphere as CO2 within several years if it is small branches, a little longer for bigger branches. 
  • Wood chips decompose even more quickly. 
  • Biochar is a great way to sequester carbon from wood long term. 
  • The only other ways to sequester carbon from wood are to use it in buildings (but there is a lot of sawmill waste) or sinking large logs in water or burying them deep underground.

Jeff Meier processes brush on a job, using the Oregon Kiln

Jeff made about one cubic yard of biochar in two hours. With another kiln, he could have made twice as much.

Steel fabricator Brian Vicklund (L) sold a kiln to Michael Burns (R) who will use it in his brush disposal business

Finished kilns in Brian Vicklund's shop in White City, Oregon

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Field Trial Results

Four biochar field trials are now established as part of the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant. Three of them are pasture, but one is a 60-foot bed of bok choy. The first harvest was on Friday and the produce was sold at the Cave Junction Farmer's Market.

Captain Charcoal at Glide Elementary

Here is Don Morrison at the Glide Elementary Plant Sale. The event was at the school garden where each teacher has a raised bed. We built a compost pile with biochar from Oregon Biochar Solutions. It was a pleasant morning talking with interested folks.

Oregon Kiln Travels to Utah

On May 17, Kelpie Wilson delivered four Oregon Kilns to Utah State's extension department. She also gave a workshop including 90 minutes of classroom information on biochar followed by a hands-on demonstration of the Oregon Kiln. This simple kiln design is starting to catch on and we are excited that Utah State will be training forestry workers and firefighters in how to use the kilns. The kiln is an open source design and we hope that people will make many of them and use them to make biochar from forestry and fuel reduction waste.

More info on Utah's program and pictures here:

Here is a video of the biochar demonstration:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Field Trial at Daisy Hill Farm

Field Trial at Daisy Hill Farm. This is a pasture establishment, converting from an old vineyard. We rototilled and planted with a diverse polyculture.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Success! Thanks to All Who Contributed.

We did it! We raised the money needed to prepare the slash piles for making biochar!

A big thank you to all who contributed. If you would like to purchase some of the biochar in advance, use the donate link below.

Can we turn our forestry burn piles into biochar?
Can we add carbon to soils, where it belongs, as we remove it from the atmosphere?
Can we make this restoration activity pay for itself?
It's a big job, but somebody has got to do it. Please join us!
These are the questions that UBET will answer with the Drew Veg Biochar Project. We hope that you will help us find the answers by contributing time or money to support this innovative pilot project. About half of the work has been done, but we need to raise money to pay a contractor to pile some of the material and we need gas money for farmers who are donating tractors to help do the work. Please pitch in and we'll give you access to some biochar in return!

Click Below to Donate Funds or send checks to UBET/SURCP, 34620 Tiller Trail Hwy, Tiller, OR 97484

We need commitments from at least ten workers who can work several full days making biochar in our kilns  Click Here to Volunteer Your Time

Drew Veg Biochar is the name of a fuel reduction project on the Umpqua National Forest, near the town of Drew, Oregon. The US Forest Service conducts many such projects on National Forests every year for the purpose of reducing fire hazard by removing dense stands of younger trees, mostly in plantations and areas that were previously logged. Some of the wood may be big enough to sell to sawmills, but much of it must be piled and burned onsite. This burning produces large amounts of smoke, and the numerous piles burn holes in the forest duff, sterilizing the soil.

We have a better idea and we want to prove it.
Below are some more details about the Drew Veg Biochar Project:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Southern Oregon Firewise Expo

UBET members demonstrated biochar kilns at the Southern Oregon Firewise Expo at Jackson County Fire District 3 in White City, May 12-13. A large group of federal, state and local fire, forestry and emergency partners sponsored this event. On Friday, May 12th about 800 middle school students attended and learned about firesafe practices. They also visited the UBET biochar booth where they learned how to make biochar from "Captain Charcoal" (Don Morrison), while UBET president Scott McKain explained how to use biochar in soil. 

Kelpie Wilson guided an activity to explore charcoal properties by handing each student a small paper cup of biochar and adding a drop of water to it. The hissing sound that results is the sound of water bonding with biochar surfaces and expelling air. This works best with biochar that is very light and porous, like activated carbon. Oregon Biochar Solutions provided the biochar for the activity. A big thanks to OBS and Grant Scheve!

Firefighters demonstrate why you should not plant flammable shrubs like arbor vitae next to a house. UBET demonstrated how you can turn unwanted shrubs and other material into biochar using simple kilns.
Captain Charcoal entertains the kids.

Scott McKain explains biochar

We presented a science lesson on biochar properties

Kids listen to the sound of biochar

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Worms and Biochar

Wednesday, April 19 was a biochar play day at John Livingston's Tierra Buena Worm Farm. John has set up a complete system to recycle organic wastes into worm castings. He also has a well organized biochar production center. The UBET crew made 46 cubic feet of biochar in about 3 hours, using 3 kilns. And our wood was kind of wet, although dry pallets helped to get it going. Kelpie forgot to bring the propane torch so a lot of ingenuity was needed to light the piles. As usual the UBET crew rose to the occasion.

UBET's collection of biochar kilns at work.
John taught us the secrets of worm wrangling.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Burn Piles: Biochar and Conventional

Here are some pictures of burn piles on the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest, burned in December 2015. Some were done the conventional way, with the objective of incinerating as much biomass as possible. Others were top-lit and then extinguished with water in order to preserve the charcoal. You can see that the conventional method burned the organic soil layer down to mineral dirt and rocks. Nothing grows there now, and where the piles were on slopes, erosion has started.

In contrast, biochar burn piles have new sprouts of ferns, wildflowers and other plants.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Field Trials Established!

As part of UBET's NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, we are establishing field trials to test biochar compost on several farms. The first field trial was set up last fall at Michaels Ranch. Now we have two more, Don Morrison's pasture and a new pasture at Daisy Hill Farm planted with mixed forage species for pastured poultry. We managed to grab a few sunny days between rains to get these field trials established. Here are some pictures:
Don Morrison's pasture gets a biochar treatment
At Daisy Hill Farm we mixed a biochar compost with some plain biochar

Applying the biochar compost mixture

These bins have alpaca manure with different amounts of biochar. They will be used in a veggie bed field trial at Siskiyou Alpaca. We will be planting 60 row feet of bok choy next weekend. Get ready for stir fry!