Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Takilma, OR
By Daniel Dalegowski

Today the Dome School biochar students did regular course work while Kelpie and Joe ground the biochar. Lori brought them out in small groups to watch the compost shredder at work. It was very messy and loud. Batches of urine, kelp, and fish -based biochar were produced. These finished biochar amendments finally became the subject of a worm avoidance test begun today.

Grinding the Biochar

The biochar grinds best in the compost shredder if there is some water in with it. This removes the dust that would otherwise fill the air. In this case the char has been soaking in urine, fish emulsion, or liquefied kelp, all mainly composed of water.

Joe assisted Kelpie to run the compost shredder. Small quantities of char must be added at a time to avoid jamming the machine. Joe tried to break the large chunks of charcoal. If they broke, it meant that they had completely gassified. Chunks that could not be broken still had wood inside and sure to jam the machine and not serve as biochar.

Students came in groups of three with Lori to watch the process and ask questions. The remains of the students' buckets were dumped onto the Dome School compost pile. When a student was present for the final blending of his or her char, that student got to carry the bucket to the compost pile and dump the contents in.

Worm Avoidance Test

Three trays of dirt are prepared for this test. Cardboard dividers separate one half of each tray from the other. Each tray contains one half potting soil and one half potting soil amended with biochar. There is a tray each for urine, kelp, and fish -based biochar. Worms were added to each tray exactly on the cardboard divider in the middle of each tray. The worms will avoid bad soil and gravitate to good soil. The number of worms on each side of each tray will be counted on Friday.

The worms may prefer the biochar, be indifferent to it, or dislike it. Kelpie said that "worms vote with their feet" to which the students protested that worms don't have any feet.

Biochar myth by Dome School student showing paper puppets.

Kelpie cleans the compost shredder as students look on.

Bucket of finished biochar.

Closeup of finished biochar.

Joe ensures that the large chunks of charcoal are adequately gassified.

Kelpie and Joe shredding biochar.

Kelpie cleaning the compost shredder.

Closeup of the compost shredder from above.

Student adding left-over biochar to the Dome School compost pile.

Mixing soil for the worm-avoidance test.

Compost shredder blades.

Dissassembled compost shredder.

Biochar to be shredded and a portion ready for the shredder.

Student adds left over biochar to compost with Lori's help.

Student adds biochar to compost pile as Lori demonstrates.

Students examine biochar with Lori.

Students discuss biochar with Joe.

Kelpie and Joe shred biochar as students look on.

Students observe Kelpie change the biochar buckets.

Worm avoidance test.