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Wednesday
Feb262014

earth. air. water. fire

According to the Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI): 

Biochar is simply a specialized form of charcoal that is suitable for use as a soil amendment (typically combined with compost) to increase agricultural crop yields and conserve nutrients and water. Biochar is able to fulfill these functions because of its unique physical structure, with literally millions of tiny pores that hold the nutrients and water for the plants’ roots to access and enjoy. In many ways it’s akin to a coral reef in the ocean, acting as a natural attractant, sanctuary, and incubator by creating infrastructure for billions of organisms to thrive.

This is our second year experimenting with the production of biochar, and this year we have quadrupled the size of the pile we are working with.  A supber form of recycling/upcycyling, we have taken the debris and unusable elements from our forrest restoration effort and created the ultimate carbon sequestration and long term soil amendment.

Again, to quote the SBI:

Biochar is made by heating woody waste materials (of many different types) in the absence of oxygen, in a process called “pyrolysis.”  The wood is not burned, but at temperatures of about 450 to 700 degrees C  gasses are produced that feed the pyrolysis process, leaving behind essentially pure carbon with its millions of microscopic pores. This is “biochar.”


photo and quotes from Sonoma Biochar Initiative website.

Under the wet safety blanket of the blessed incoming rainstorm, we have ignited the pile.  Some people have been working on mobile commercial applications for producing biochar at multiple sites, but here at our own burn, we have opted to take advantage of a large hole lefover from the removal of some douglas firs that were shading out the farm to act as a “container” for the fire, adding to its anaerobic nature.  While the fire does not technically need a “container”, as the SBI website demonstrates, it is a decision we made based on our own experiments last year, and I will, of course, let you know how it turns out.  

As you can see from the video, or maybe you can’t, there is very little actual smoke coming off of what is a pretty sizeable fire--most of what you see is steam releasing from the earthen banks.  Check out the size of it when Juan walks by the pile--The flames are over 20 feet tall (the pile was just ignited prior to this filming).  It will die down and soon glow like an ember.  At the end of the process, what we are left with is a blackened version of almost it’s original self, more or less melted down a bit.  The gasses cook and escape while the majority of the plant matter remains in the pile, much like the product you encounter after vaporizing as opposed to smoking.  This carbon pile is then crushed and mixed with compost.  As the SBI photo above shows, the microorganisms in the compost pile have plenty of surface area to latch onto in the porous biochar.  This not only sequesters a huge percentage of the carbon usually burned off in brush piles, but it turns that debris into our most valuable resource:  long term soil quality. 

Standing in the pasture, where we will be producing high quality fruits and vegetables for our guests in just a couple year’s time, it was really powerful to witness the metabolic forces of fire, and time, and compost, and soil playing out on such a grand and dynamic scale.  The water soaking in, the air and the smoke swirling overhead, the soil beneath my feet, and the spirit of it everywhere.  

Thank god for the rain.  Its’ slick lubrication has been missed by all the cogs and gears of the forest. 

The creeks will rush today.

Thursday
Feb202014

on the passing of friends

Ten years ago today I woke up in the early hours of the morning to incomprehensible news.  Two friends, back from their own awful discovery, awoke me from a drunken collapse and told me that two of our best friends had driven into a tree and died. 

Never before had a shadow fallen into me so deeply as this time, but what sprang from the well of this sorrow has been the most unbelievable string of discoveries-my evolution, really.

I think about them all the time.  Usually in the form of, what lesson would they want me to learn right now?  What would they think about this?  Or, they would love this.   They would be so proud of me for this. 

In their absence, they give me so much, and yet I miss them so dearly.    

Friday
Jan312014

state of the moment, or dear spring mountain

January 31, 2014

Dear Spring Mountain,

The rains have barely come, but thank GOD they have. 

Milky white orbs floated in like the macy’s parade, and like a tourist on 6th avenue we just stood and gawked at your mass and glory. 

I pulled my hiking sneakers inside for the first time in a year, and pulled the tarp over the woodpile.  I swear it; the pasture grew half an inch just as the first rain clouds billowed over this mountaintop--overnight. 

And to you clouds, filled with the life force of a thousand seas—you with your wet and your way.  With a visible inhalation, the open field surrounded by towering trees inflated it’s ribs to await the in-breath of your moist arrival.  Like the downward squat of the hawk before it takes flight, it poised.

The lake is a bit low, with small collections of woody debris wherever its coastline ebbs, but it is still impressively clean and translucent.  At least ten feet of clearance as you peer down from the shore.  The air temperature has been quite low at night, and I can’t imagine the water temperature is much above mid-forty, but I continue to plunge through the winter, for the experience is most worthy of the effort. 

There are squirrels everywhere, and generally in groups of a few.  Both grey and red, they walk the same path across our front deck multiple times throughout the workday.  Surprisingly, the two dogs have learned to ignore it.  The neighbors reported a mountiain lion in their vineyard a week ago today, although we have yet to see it.  coyotes, bobcats, foxes, deer, turkey, and a few more, are, however, safe to cross off the list.  

The magnolias are in full bloom an entire month early as a result of the drought, and the apple blossoms have opened as well.  

Thank god for the rosemary’s dank blue kingdom, said the honeybees.

The smell inside of a cloud is remarkable.  From the sea, over our neighbors in west county and the santa rosa plains, and smack dab into the peak of my nostrils; spring mountain, 2300’, facing west towards the sea and north towards infinity. 

We dance in gratitude of your arrival with reverence for all that is.

Love,

Jared

Proprietor :: Be Here- Farm and Nature Sanctuary

photo by lisa

Wednesday
Dec182013

the moon

Full moon, solstice moon,

you turn the night into an old timey film.

Flickering away, flickering away,

reel after reel,

night after night.

 

I stare out my winwow,

I stand on my deck,

And I wonder.

Tuesday
Dec102013

mother honey

"It is interesting to consider that the bees preparing for winter have never been through the cold season, nor will the summer foragers be alive when the stores are consumed." –Jason Grace, Napa Valley Bee Co.

And like that, with a casual observation left in the notes from our beekeeper’s “Fall Summary”, my mind was blown wide open.  Working the bees has been a true pleasure.  For me, working is a pretty loose term.  The way it works:  the beekeepers come over and open up the hive, assess each frame, search for pests, and larvae,  and keep notes of the findings.  I generally stand there, ask questions, hold a thing or two, take a sting for the team, and so on.

It’s true magic.

It’s only been half a year since the bees first came to our land, and we had not anticipated tasting any of their honey until the flush of this coming spring.  Unlike the hustle bustle of commercial beekeeping, we do not see the harvesting of honey and replacement with high fructose corn syrup as a fair trade for the bees.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone could think that with even a moment’s consideration, let alone that be the commercial norm. 

Due to the elevation and isolation of our site, and the abundant garden and multiple hundred foot long rosemary hedges which surround the bees, our two colonies are both presently extremely healthy, and most importantly, well "set up" for winter.  As plain of a thing as that may sound, in present day bee world the ability to prepare and survive a winter is anything but guaranteed. 

And then it happened.  Knowing that the bees had healthy stores of honey, and that we would not be causing them much stress, we heated up a knife and sliced a small square out of one of the frames. 

The scorched knife cuts easily through the bee-made wax, with its’ lightly capped honey cells ensconced within.  Pierced, now, and honey bleeds down like a tear of blood--a small bit of attention is drawn to the scene.   Before a moment’s time, it is over, and the hive is closed, our sacred square of wax and dripping honey safely inside the glass jar.  It feels like quartz crystal in my freshly stung hands, throbbing like the cosmos throb.  golden divinity.  

And so each day, for as many as it lasts, her and I have taken minute little tastes of both wax and honey as a morning ritual.  Ecstatic.  Loving.  Eternal.  Magical.  Approaching orgasmic.  These are the adjectives of it’s flavor.  It is truly supreme.  Like nothing I’ve tasted.    

The seasons, and the flow of the sun, the rhythm of the rain—the bloom of the forest.  These things and more are processed through the unique perspective of the bee and the result is god’s honey.   I have said magic a few times throughout this entry, but when it comes to mother honey, I’m not sure what else is even at play.

_____
happy Terra Madre Day 

Thursday
Nov142013

seed the pasture, feed the soul

It’s as true as time.  Your grandfather’s grandfather didn’t know anything different, and as certain as the leaves are falling out my window the seeds are being sewn in the field.  It’s human nature. 

four guys from two countries, all of similar ages, reached into a bag of seed and touched eternity.  The language barrier vanished as only a veil could do.  it's just us and the field. 

There is almost nothing sweeter, nor nothing more gratifying, then the soft feathering of seeds leaping off your fingertips.  as beautiful as any water cascade you have ever seen—it’s a seedfall.  You can almost make out their joyful cheers as they soar towards the broken earth beneath—it’s a resounding “YEEEEESSSSS!!!!!”

Incredible.  Seeds + water + your humanity = bounty.  Abundance comes from presence.