Sunday, June 18, 2017

Drew Veg Project - Volunteers Needed

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. The Drew Veg Biochar project is different. Instead of burning the slash to ash, we will make biochar with it.

We need commitments from at least ten workers who can work several full days making biochar in our kilns. The work will take place sometime in October 2017.

Click Here to Volunteer Your Time

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:

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!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

New Forest Service Research paper

Researchers at the US Forest Service have just published a paper that includes some information about UBET's work:

Methods to Reduce Forest Residue Volume after Timber Harvesting and Produce Black Carbon

There is a picture of our Oregon Kiln, a quote from Don Morrison, and a link to the UBET website. 

It also confirms our notion that we can make a good bit of biochar just from correctly constructed burn piles. We will get to prove this concept with our Drew Veg Biochar project next fall. Please contribute!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What We Have Been Up to...

UBET members have been active! Here are some pictures from events and activities so far this spring:

IVHS Careers Field Trip:
On Thursday, March 23, Kelpie Wilson and colleagues in Takilma, Oregon led a field trip for Illinois Valley High School students to the Page Creek Project, a forestry collaborative that is sponsoring projects on public and private forest land to improve forest health. Biochar is one of the forest products we have been making. We talked to students about job opportunities in forest restoration, resource management, wildland firefighting, and tourism. We also had a great time romping in the woods, playing in the creek and making S'mores over the biochar bonfire. What a great bunch of kids!

Lookinglass Garden Club meeting:

We had a great presentation at Neil Hadleys on Thursday March 16th. We fired 2  flame cap  kilns and demonstrated the art of making biochar to the Lookinglass Garden Club at Neils wonderful digs.  UBET members: M.A. Hansen, O.J Romo, Neil Hadley, and Gregory Flick participated in the demonstration.  All good. - Greg Flick

UBET member Mike Burke has been out checking on the biochar field trial plots at the Duchess Sanctuary. Here is his report: 
A spring time view of the Jim Long Biochar Plots at Duchess Horse Sanctuary, Douglas County, Oregon.  The grass is starting to grow, up 2 to 4 inches.  Some plots show more clover than others with other broad leaf plants coming back to life.  Definitely no shortage of rain this year, since 10/1/16 to date at our place there has been 49.27 inches, 30 year average from 10/1 to 9/30 is 42 inches.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

UBET Members Giving Biochar Presentations All Spring!

From Scott: On Saturday, I made presentations to “Spring into Gardening” OSU Extension one day course. The first was building healthy soils and the second was techniques for producing backyard biochar. Steve Renquist, Extension Agent, was instrumental in both classes. The effort confirmed the idea of going to the interested audience where they live. We had vigorous discussions from the students who had deep gardening experience. I expect there are a few wheels turning as I write this. We had 28 students for the first class and 12 for the second.

More upcoming presentations:

  • Neal Hadley will present to the Lookingglass Garden Club March meeting on Thursday, March 16 at 10am. Call Neal at 541-530-3953 for more information.
  • We have Tree School on March 31 at Phoenix School. This is presented by OSU Extension. Don Morrison and Scott McKain will make the presentation.
  • Kelpie Wilson will teach a biochar class, Backyard Biochar: From Woodland to Farm, for the OSU Extension Living on Your Land – Tree School Rogue conference on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at RCC in Grants Pass from 1-2:30pm. More info here:
  • The UBET display will be at the Earth Day Celebration on April 22 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Scott and other volunteers will be there.
  • The Master Gardeners Plant Sale is May 6 at the fairgrounds. Gani and Scott will have the display there.
  • On May 12 and 13, Kelpie and UBET members will be demonstrating our kilns and open burn methods at the Southern Oregon Firewise Expo at Jackson County Fire District 3; 8333 Agate Road in White City. Join federal, state and local fire, forestry and emergency partners on Friday, May 12th and Saturday, May 13th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fire personnel from multiple local agencies will facilitate several interactive demonstrations that will highlight how you and your family can better prepare yourselves and your home for fire season. This is a great opportunity to reach the general public. Friday is the day that a lot of school children will be there.

Josephine Soil & Water Conservation Symposium

On Feb 25, Kelpie Wilson gave a presentation and biochar demonstration at Pacifica Gardens in Williams for the Josephine Soil & Water Conservation Back-to-Basics Series for Southern Oregon Growers. 
Kelpie emphasized the value of biochar as an ingredient in container mixes. Biochar can substitute for perlite and peat, both of which are energy intensive and polluting to extract, manufacture and transport. Using one of the UBET kilns, Kelpie showed participants how they could make biochar from their own materials, on site. 

Report on Soil Health and Drought Resistance Keyline Design Workshop

From UBET Member David Maesulec:

I attended the “Soil Health and Drought Resistance Keyline Design” Workshop presented by Owen Hablutzel in Hesperus, CO from April 2-4, 2016. Over the course, Mr. Hablutzel covered a wide range of topics ranging from keyline design integration to permaculture to holistic management.
In addition to keyline design, we also covered permaculture and resilience science. These teach us that we must remain adaptable or transformable because there can always be change and uncertainty. In order to be resilient, we have to develop the capacity to react to disturbances to create a positive outcome.
Here, we must ask ourselves what the nature of our environment is. What will nature permit here? Most importantly, we must ask what nature will help us do. Too often, nature is pushed then broken. We see the effects of this in modern industrialized farming. Nature works best with human intervention, provided that we respect its boundaries.

Click here to read David's full report on the workshop. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Plant Growth Assay Reports Now Online

Plant Growth Assays testing different biochar compost materials made by farmer participants in the Conservation Innovation Grant are now online. You can read them here:

Growth Test #1 - cattle manure with and without biochar

Growth Test #2 - worm castings with char; composted biochar

Growth Test #3 - alpaca manure compost with and without biochar

You can see clear differences between alpaca compost with biochar (L) and without (R).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Report on Turning Shelterbelt Biomass to Biochar

Wilson Biochar Associates has completed a feasibility analysis on turning dead trees that were planted in shelterbelts throughout the Great Plains into biochar. The study was funded by North Dakota Forest Service and NDSU. You can read the report here:

The techniques discussed could also be useful for orchard removal. We relied a lot on the work of the Sonoma Biochar Initiative in developing the biochar technique called the Conservation Burn. You can learn more about SBI's work at:

Pictures: upper left - a typical burn pile in the Dakotas; lower left - a pile of vineyard prunings in Sonoma, California; right: Sonoma Biochar Initiative conducts trainings for farmers who want to learn the Conservation Burn method of converting burn piles to biochar.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

​From Mike Burke on January 12:
Here is latest picture of Duchess Plots as of this morning.  There is deer damage to fencing that I was able to mend with twine, but there is a hole in need of 4'x4' patch.  Not sure who has any of this material left over from when we put it up?