Carbon Neutral Vacation and Travel?

Do you take carbon neutral vacations?

Do you take carbon neutral vacations?

I hope a recent survey and my own experiences are not representative of what people are willing to invest to reduce their carbon footprint.  Whether one believes in Climate Change or not it is a fact that forests consume CO₂, produce oxygen and help preserve water quality.

Just a note: While many people like to talk about CO₂ sequestration it is important to note that an acre of trees produces, on average, enough oxygen for 18 people.  That means our little 45 acre forests produces enough oxygen for over 800 people.

A Survey

“A new Daily Wire/Whatsgoodly online survey asked 1,250 millennials from all over the country just how much money they’d be willing to personally give this year to fight what the Democratic Party and the left-leaning media consistently reminds us is the greatest threat facing mankind: climate change. The answer is not much, if any.”

My Experience

Anecdotally, my experience confirms the results of the study. After hosting scores of families including many millennials I have not even once had anyone mention climate science or CO₂ sequestration in private conversations, reviews or guestbook entries.

La Casita in Swansboro

La Casita in Swansboro a Carbon Neutral Destination

We do provide a carbon neutral vacation destination.  Our La Casita in Swansboro provides travelers with completely carbon neutral travel and lodging by virtue of our 45 acres of forest.  The carbon neutral character of La Casita is clearly spelled out in our online descriptions on VRBO and Airbnb.

Take a Carbon Neutral Vacation by Staying with Forest Owners

Did you know that over 50% of the forests in the United States are privately owned? According to the Forest Landowner Foundation most forest owners, 95%, own less than 100 acres.  Of those owning less than 100 acres most forest owners own 10 acres or less. It is significant that 10 acres of some species of pine trees can sequester 40 to 70 tons of CO₂ per year. That is enough CO₂ sequestration for most American households.  Please see page 18 of “A Landowner’s Guide to Carbon Sequestration Credits” for more information.

The sequestering of CO₂ by over 360 million acres of privately owned forest is a major impact.  When water

A picture of the author in his forest.

A picture of the author in his forest

quality is included the importance of private forests cannot be overstated.  Coupled with economic impacts on jobs, industry and consumer products private forest owners are an important resource.  I encourage everyone who is traveling to seek out lodging that is carbon neutral by virtue of forests.

I hope the survey and my anecdotal experiences are not indicative of what millennials or any other age group is thinking.  I think people do care.  Remember, your stay at a forest owners home may make a difference.  Your decision could make the difference in having a clean forest producing clean air and water or the forest being destroyed for yet one more development or Walmart.

Think about it.

Building a Green Rubble Road

Some people run.  Some people lift weights.  It’s hard work…hard labor.  I’ve been fortunate to have some folks give me tons of concrete and marl rock.

A prisoner doing hard labor

Hard Labor

I break the concrete up into rubble that is used as fill for ditch crossings, stream crossings, or to construct roads and paths in our forest.

My tools are pretty basic.  I use an 8 pound sledge, a pair of gloves and my old F-350 truck.  I bought the truck back in the 90’s.  In fact I used the proceeds from logging our forest to pay for the truck.  We haven’t logged the place since.

Building a Green Rubble Road

A hand built concrete rubble road

A hand built concrete rubble road

What the heck is a green rubble road? I’ll get to that first let me talk about building the road. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this work.  However, it is very simple and satisfying.  I like to try to work at it about 5 to 8 hours a week.  The process starts at pile huge chunks of concrete rubble where, using the sledgehammer, I break the large slabs up into manageable 20 to 50 pound chunks.  I load these chunks by hand into the truck.  I do so carefully since I’d like my truck to last another 20 or more years.  I reckon I load about a ton or so at a time.  Just enough to get down on the helper springs.

When I get to the forest road I’m working on I lay the pieces down like cobblestone.  I then break the chunks up using the sledge until there is minimal movement.  This makes a rough but good enough surface to drive over with my truck or tractor.  Later I’ll be covering the ‘cobbles’ with a layer of sand/dirt which will help smooth the surface out. Here’s the green part. These paths and roads are great because they are permeable and minimize run off.  In fact they become covered with grass and help filter sediment out of the water. That’s important for keeping the wonderful waters around Swansboro nice and clean.  We are glad to do our part!

Help Me Help the Environment

Do you want to help build permeable roads and paths in my forest.  You can and I’ll make you a commemorative piece of concrete with a name chiseled into it…roughly, cause I ain’t no artist.  The concrete stones will be about 50 pounds and the cost is $25.  Your stone will be used to mark a spot in the trails, a point of significance or provide a piece of a structure.  You bet, I’ll send you a picture.

Order your commemorative stone by pressing the Paypal button below.  Let me know if you want your stone to be a trail marker, a point of significance or a piece of a structure like a wall or pillar or stairs or patio…etc.

I never will work as long as hard as these guys did back in the day…wait until the 1 minute mark for some singing.

Ignore the Large Glowing Orb in the Sky!

Are you a Believer?

Ignore the large glowing orb in the sky! Dismiss historical factoids like the Thames Frost Fairs (Little Ice Age) or Vikings growing barley in Greenland (Medieval Warming Period). That is just recent history in geological terms. 

Frost Fair on Thames 1814

Frost Fair on Thames 1814

Go further back and you’ll find the Sahara was green or that my hometown (Swansboro, NC) was once at the bottom of the ocean as evidenced by the fossilized sea life in the marl beds.  What’s the point?  The point is that the climate changes, sometimes radically, and has done so since the beginning of time.  Some people might argue about the ‘rate of change’.  Just so you know, the average global temperature has not changed in the last 10 years. Yes, I know, in geological times 10 years is as insignificant as 100 years. Never the less, my opinion is that the Sun’s energy output has much more to do with climate than .03% of the atmosphere.  Others tend to agree.  Maybe you don’t.  That’s OK but before you banish me to the outer reaches of the Internet…Think about This.

Before I am Banished…

Let’s skip the politics and philosophy (neither allowed on my property).  I believe in conservation. My wife and I took a leap and purchased a forest back in the 80’s. Why? because I have always enjoyed forests and all of the benefits they provide: clean air, water and wildlife habitat.  Slowly, but steadily development is encircling our little forest.  As this development grows closer the importance of our forest grows correspondingly.  Likewise it is a scientific fact that our forest is a carbon sink.  So, if C02 sequestration is something that you are interested in pursuing…why not buy offsets from someone you can actually talk to who has land you can actually walk on?

You’ve Got to Be Frick’n Kidding Me!

Well as an active small landowner conservationist, I can sell you carbon offsets (yes, I am serious).  Our little 45 acre pine forest was purchased in 1987. The forest sequesters about 270 metric tons of C02 per year.  This makes my family carbon negative meaning that we sequester more C02 than we emit.  Also, guests who stay at our guest house, La Casita, enjoy carbon neutral travel. Both of our homes and our lifestyle emits about 50 tons of C02 per year.  Guest travel averages about 40 tons per year.  This leaves us an excess of, very conservatively, 180 tons of C02 sequestration per year.  What do you get.  Fresh air and if your in Swansboro, a tour of our family forest.  You also get discounted rates on our vacation house!

Got C02 Offsets?

Got C02 Offsets?

Got C02 Offsets?

Use the calculators at Native Energy to calculate your offset.  Like Native Energy, we will charge you $14 per ton of C02 offset.

Individual 6 Ton C02 Offset $84

48 Ton Household C02 Offset $672

So calculate your C02 emissions and decide how you’ll offset. The Paypal buttons provide an option of selecting Individual (6 ton C02 Offset @ $84) or a Household Offset (48 ton C02 Offset @ $672).  If you would like to purchase another amount please contact me.  Once you make your purchase don’t forget to start planning your trip to Swansboro!

A C02 Offset with a Difference

The difference we offer is that you can come and visit your Carbon Offset. Starting in 2018 you’ll be able to walk on the woodland trails, observe wildlife and walk through a forest that ranges in age between 25 and 100 years in age.  It’s hard to do that when you send your money to some nameless faceless corporation planting trees in South America or Africa. Plus when you purchase at least 6 offsets (enough to make most individuals carbon neutral) you will get a 10% discount when they stay with us at La Casita or our soon to be available rustic camp cabin, La Paranza. Read our reviews.
So buy a C02 offset from a real life forest owner.  When you visit I promise not to call you a poopy head and I expect the same from you…after all, there are birds to watch, wildlife to watch, and fresh air to breathe; all with the trees silently and majestically looking on.
Special thanks to Dr. Booker T. Whatley.  I never met him but his little book, “How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres” has always been an inspiration and guide. (You’ll find the book on the shelf at La Casita.

A Legendary Civil War Hero and a Little Iron Ball

lib

A Probable Civil War Cast Iron Canister Ball

Yesterday my Dad gave me some little treasures from his collecting over the decades. In the box were some arrow heads, pieces of spear points, some pieces of Indian pottery we collected at Jones Island in the White Oak River.  Then there was this one piece that he said I had found when I was a child…a small rusty iron ball.

Dad said I had found this old iron ball on the Tram Road when I was a little boy. The Tram road is the lumber railroad bed I’ve written about before that transects the property we now own.  I thought, well, could this be some sort of ball bearing…no it’s really rough and it appears to be cast iron which simply isn’t a good material for bearings.  Dad heard me mumbling.  He said it’s probably a Civil War canister ball.  I said wow.

Holding this little iron ball sparked my curiosity.  So, I measured the ball.  It’s about 1.5 inches in diameter.  Then I got to looking at tables and charts about cannons and ammunition from the Civil War era.  Bumbling along the Internet I learned that some 12 and 32 pound cannons shot a cannister round that contained cast iron balls the same size as the little iron ball on my desk.  Interesting.

Well, I knew that there had not been any great Civil War land battles right here in the Swansboro area…at least not any that I know about…but the Union had captured Swansboro in 1862, had burned the salt works and had destroyed the Confederate fort at Huggins Island.  I wondered if the ships that participated in the siege were armed  with 12 or 32 pound cannons?

So, meandering through the Internet maze looking for US Navy ship actions in Eastern NC

I stumbled across the account of the sinking of the CSS Albemarle in 1864.  The Albemarle was a Confederate Ironclad.  The sinking of this warship opened up the Roanoke to the Union Navy and pretty much secured the rivers and sounds all the way from the Virginia border to just outside Wilmington for the exclusive use of Union forces. The sinking of the Albemarle was a mission conceived, led and executed by W.B. Cushing. Cushing had flunked out of Annapolis and had begged and pleaded to be allowed to serve in the U.S. Navy in the Civil War.  Giving him his commission was fortunate.  The sinking of the Albemarle was a significant personal achievement as well as a strategic blow to the Confederacy in North Carolina.

W. B. Cushing

I had read that the ship Cushing commanded during his Albemarle mission had been armed with a 12 pound cannon.  Since he had personally outfitted this ship specifically for the mission maybe he had experience with the 12 pound cannons in other exploits. Had Cushing had ever participated in any Union actions around Swansboro? He had. Cushing had earned his bona fides right here in Swansboro on a ship equipped with a 12 and 32 pound cannon.

 

“The captured gunboat Ellis” (from The Long Roll)

The gunboat Ellis, to which Cushing was assigned and would eventually command, was assigned to blockade Bogue Inlet and Bogue Sound.  Gunboats like the USS Ellis were equipped with 12 and 32 pound cannons.   Here’s an excerpt from the book, Three Wisconsin Cushings, Wisconsin Historical Commission, 1910.

 

cushing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You see I have a sort of roving commission and can run around to suit myself.  If under these circumstances I can not stir the rebels up in more places than one, it will be strange indeed.”

I can imagine the young Lt at the helm of his gunboat ordering cannister fire in the direction of the homes and businesses.  Being ruthless but still a gentleman he probably didn’t want to intentionally hurt any women or children so he had his crew aim a high warning shot over the town and the little iron balls fell harmlessly in the outlying fields and forests.

A couple of decades or so later it was likely former slaves and their sons who dug the rail road bed for the Swansboro Land and Lumber company.  The little iron ball could have been in a wagon of fill dirt or could have flown a mile into the forest right when it was shot from the cannon…we’ll never know how it ended up on the railroad bed.  In any event the men unknowingly made this little asterisk in the fight for freedom part of the lumber railroad bed.  Then, about a hundred years after it had flown out of a cannon, a little boy playing along the abandoned railroad bed found the now rusty and pitted little iron ball and gave it to his Dad.  A little iron ball that may have been shot from the cannon on a gunboat commanded by an intrepid American hero.

Who knows if there is any truth to my story? Judge for yourself.  Whatever your opinion, I highly recommend reading about the exploits of Cdr W. B. Cushing. There are many books written about him and his exploits.  In one book he is called the “Civil War SEAL”. He was the real deal who fought and won just about a mile down the street in Swansboro.  The stories one little iron ball can tell…are simply amazing.

Water Gardens: Lure and Kill Mosquitoes!

mosquito2

Mosquito Anatomy – Mariana Ruiz Villarreal LadyofHats – Self made based on this websites between others: [1], [2], [3], [4].


Water gardens: Lure and kill mosquitoes? Huh? Yes, build a small water garden for mosquito control. Why not attract the little pest to a lovely little water garden that is also the home to hungry mosquito predators? Building a small water garden is a way to introduce a low or no cost natural mosquito killing ecosystem in a yard, on a patio or even on a balcony. Interested? Read on about creating a water garden to lure and kill mosquitoes by attracting dragonflies, damselflies and creating a home for mosquito fish.

First a little info about mosquitoes

zika

CDC Map of the Range of the two mosquito species which carry the Zika virus.

Mosquitoes are a problem in many parts of the world.  Mosquitoes carry many diseases that are deadly and/or debilitating.  Certain mosquitoes can spread specific human diseases. In some areas of the world mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are such a problem that they significantly impact settlement or development. For example in the early 1900’s the Panama Canal project was nearly derailed because of mosquito borne diseases. During the early days of colonization and exploration places like the Panama and even Eastern NC, where I live, were slow to be colonized and developed because of mosquito borne diseases. The Zika virus is the most recent example of a mosquito borne disease. The CDC map shows the range of the two mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus.

We certainly don’t want to catch a mosquito borne disease. So how about enlisting the support of three new friends: the mosquito fish, dragonflies and damselflies.  Each of these creatures can be quickly introduced into your back yard with minimal effort and at a low cost. How? Construct a small water garden!

Next let’s get to know the Mosquito Killers (your water garden will be their home)

FIrst, The mosquito fish:

mosquitofish1

Mosquito Fish – Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK

These hearty fish can survive in a wide range of temperatures from near freezing to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Additionally the fish can survive in low oxygen environments. The fish are a bit larger than guppies.  The large females eat up to 100 mosquito larvae a day. If you look in a ditch and see a small fish swimming there there is a good chance that it is a mosquito fish.  I have mosquito fish thriving in Dragonfly Pond behind La Casita.

Second, Dragonflies and damselflies:

greendarner

Dragonfly – HaleYadthore, KRNagar, Mysore India, on 13 Oct 2007.

800px-Damselfly_01_(MK)

Damselfly – Mathias Krumbholz

There are many species of dragonflies around the world and they all love to eat insects. The dragonflies can eat the insects on the fly. That’s right, they catch a mosquito or gnat and dine on the little pest while flying.  An adult dragonfly is a vicious predator of mosquitoes, gnats, flies and almost any other flying insect it can catch. More diminutive but no less ruthless are the damselflies. These flying jewels are smaller than dragonflies and eat smaller insects like mosquitoes and gnats. However, unlike dragonflies, damselflies usually ambush their prey from a perch rather than catching and eating their prey on the fly.  So, if you were unfamiliar with dragonflies and damselflies, now when you see these creatures flying you’ll have a better appreciation of these the airborne and waterborne insect assassins. That’s right dragonfly and damselfly nymphs attack mosquito larvae in the water.   For more information, pictures and video I recommend reading 10 Surprisingly Brutal Facts About Dragonflies .

If you build a water garden they (dragonflies and damselflies) will come (the mosquito fish will need your help).

An article from the National Wildlife Federation, Attracting Aerial Acrobats to Your Yard A small pond, coupled with the right habitat conditions, will help you attract dragonflies and damselflies to your garden, provides a good primer for establishing a dragonfly pond.  If you live in an apartment, a condo or don’t want to dig a large pond you might be saying … oh,  just another idea I can’t use.  Don’t distress there are right sized solutions that can be adapted to your patio, balcony or yard!

Use Water Gardens to Kill Mosquitoes!

So, you have a condo in the city and you have a mosquito problem.  What can you do? Simple.  Build a micro environment for your mosquito predators…a pond in a pot.  Two of the predators will love the new habitat while one may just come to visit.

What you will need:

1 – A sunny spot on your porch, patio, balcony or yard.

2- A container that has sloping sides like a birdbath or even a child’s plastic pool.

3- Rainwater, well water or spring water that is chlorine free.

4- Water plants like iris, pickerel weed, water weed, water hyacinth etc.

5- Mosquito fish

Assembling water gardens

1- Find and place your container in the sunlit location. Be creative.  Use what you have. Here are some container ideas: an old cooler, a birdbath, an old bathtub, a small children’s plastic pool, a half barrel… even a milk jug with the top cut off could be your micro environment (the smaller the container the less likely it will be to attract dragonflies).

2- Place some structure like rocks or sticks in the container where mosquito fish the nymphs of the dragonflies and damsel flies can hide.

3- Fill the container with water.  If you are using chlorinated water wait about a week before moving to the next steps.

4- If your container has steep sides consider placing a stick or rock in the container to simulate a sloping edge.

5- Find some native aquatic plants. Plants that you see growing in ditches and ponds in your area are what you are looking for.  Plants like cattails (for larger containers), water lilies or even water hyacinth are good easy to find plants that grow in many locations. Plants that are native to your area may be more likely to attract local dragonflies and damselflies.

Need more ideas?

pondinapot

Water gardens come in all shapes and sizes

Just do an image search on Google.  I searched for “pond in a pot” Here’s a picture of my search results.  As you can see there are innumerable ideas out there to help you build your small water garden which will host three new friends…mosquito fish, dragonflies and damselflies.

Build a Small Water Garden

Build a Small Water Garden

Need even more instructions? Ok, read this nice detailed article from Deep Green Permaculture . Now go and build some small water gardens to construct your own beautiful and elegant solution for controlling mosquitoes.

I’ll be building some small water gardens like these for both La Casita and my home next door.  I already have one…for my Facgardenebook Fans that visit my page La Casita in Swansboro…it is the birdbath to which I added water hyacinth and mosquito fish. Presto…an elegant solution for mosquito control in minutes

A final note: Sanitize, Sanitize

Standing water in gutters, children’s toys, swimming pools, ditches, trash cans, old tires etc can harbor mosquitoes.  Look around your home to sanitize those potential mosquito breeding areas.  Read University of Florida publication Tips for Mosquito Control for more detail on the importance of sanitation in controlling mosquitoes. Sanitation is a top priority! Even a hollow tree can be a mosquito breeding ground. Do you have standing water around your air conditioner?  Just check your yard, neighborhood, gardens etc for anyplace that has stagnant standing water for long periods after a rainstorm.  If those places seem to have water in them for long periods of time consider introducing mosquito fish. Eliminate problem areas and provide small water gardens as described above.  Use your imagination to create your water gardens and let them grow.  Soon you’ll enjoy an environment around your home that is healthy, natural and nearly free from mosquitoes!

 

All the Best,

Jim Hamrick

Sign up for the La Casita in Swansboro Newsletter

yard.jpgSign up for our newsletter to receive information on Swansboro events, recommendations and updates on what the best little guest house in Swansboro offers our wonderful visitors.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




Winter Fun at Redbay Farm…Trail building, Wildlife Habitat Improvement and Timber Stand Improvement

Logs_2

Me sitting on a pile of mushroom logs.

Winter is a wonderful time of year here at Redbay Farm and La Casita.  The weather is cool and the forest is dormant.  It is a great time for trail building, brush pile construction and timber stand improvement.

Trail building: I am planning to open my trails to guests who stay at La Casita this time next year (2017).  The trails will be open for bird watching and nature observation.  There are over two miles of trails that crisscross our roughly 40 acres of forest

A trail at Redbay Farm

A trail at Redbay Farm

 
  • Some of the trails are over 20 years old. Some are brand new. The trails are about 6 foot wide which allows easy single file walking without being in the brush. Trails mitigate but do not eliminate the need to take precautions for chiggers and ticks.
  • The terrain is relatively flat and the trails will allow visitors to experience various habitats to include high pocosinloblolly pine forestpine hardwood forest, succession forest and even a couple of acres of near climax forest (90 to 100 years
    tulippolar

    A flower from a mature tulip poplar

    old). Due to the wet nature of some parts of our forest rubber boots are required especially during the winter months.

  • If you want to learn more about the various stages of forest succession I recommend this article on forest succession from physicalgeography.net .

Brush piles: Brush piles are a byproduct of trail maintenance and timber stand improvement. Actually, a brush pile is a type of wildlife habitat you can build in your own backyard even in a suburban environment.   Learn how to build your own wildlife habitat brush pile by reading this article from the Humane Society of the US and watch the accompanying video. 

  • Simply crisscross your larger pieces of trimmings from pruning and keep adding layers until you have a pile that is a few feet in diameter and two or three feet tall.
  • A brush pile will create small shelter habitat which will attract sparrows, amphibians, box turtles and small mammals like rabbits and chipmunks. Build your brush pile away from your home but within view so that you can observe the attracted wildlife.
Timber stand improvement: Developing marketable wood products requires management. Timber stand improvement (TSI).  

After

After Timber Stand Improvement (TSI)

  • Before

    Before TSI

    TSI is a multi generational project.  The results of my efforts may not be realized until my grand children are my age.

  • TSI involves removal of diseased/malformed trees and thinning of trees to encourage the growth remaining trees.
  • The primary TSI focus at Redbay Farm is loblolly pine production.
  • Some byproducts of TSI are firewood, charcoal, mushroom
    woodpile2

    Firewood

    logs, poles and small saw logs.

That’s it in a nutshell on trail building, building brush piles and timber stand improvement. Winter is a great time to create habitat, explore forests and make forest improvements.  I hope you have as much fun exploring your local forests and improving wildlife habitat as I do!

 

 

News from Redbay Farm and La Casita

Thank you for carolina bays and pocosins?

What?  Don’t know what a carolina bay or pocosin is…then I recommend you read through this document published by the US Geological Survey titled “The Ecology of Shrub Bogs (Pocosins) and Carolina Bays: A Community Profile.”

La Casita, our guest house, is part of the development of Deer Run here in Swansboro.  Once the wetlands survey was done on the land where the development is located the developer learned that they could only build a limited number of homes on the few high places on the land that was once owned by the C.T. Russell heirs and referred to as the “Little Plantation”.

Deer Run is characterized by a dozen or so very large lots that accommodate the Small Wetland Communities characterized by pine flatwoods, pocosin, vernal pools and small carolina bays. Deer Run averages about 32′ in elevation and is relatively flat.  One accepted definition of a pocosin is “a high swamp”.  Carolina bays are eliptical ponds, lakes or depressions which are oriented northwest to southeast. Two small Carolina bays are located in Deer Run.  These are ephemeral ponds meaning that they dry up during most summers. The carolina bays are important fish free breeding bodies of water for amphibians.

Marginal Land for former Slaves?

Redbay Farm, was part of what was called the “Little Plantation” and about half of our forest is high pocosin and flatwoods pine swamp.  It is land that is very marginal for farming.  However it is amazing wildlife habitat. It and the land which surrounds it was land that was occupied at one time by the local African American population. While I don’t know for sure my guess is that the name “Little Plantation” was a bit of a throw back to the post Civil War era when I speculate former slave owners “gave” their former slaves land…albeit usually the most marginal land on their plantations and apparently in some cases “lifetime” non transferable rights.  The “Little Plantation” lies just outside the old city limits of Swansboro which fits with the racist characteristics of society at the time.  In my forest I have found numerous indications of a variety of homes and small farms (farm implements, plow points etc, trash piles etc.).  When I was a child I even remember John Moore harvesting corn using a mule cart.  In old house ruins on my property I have found remnants of newspapers from the early 60’s.  During the 60’s the houses were abandoned which corresponds with African American migration to the west and north.

Yet great habitat for wildlife!

At Redbay Farm we have superb wildlife habitat.  We have a large deer herd, coyotes, bobcats, raccoon, opossum, and many other mammal species.  Yes, we have reptiles too! Plus, many types of amphibians.  Stay at La Casita in the spring and the frogs can sometimes be so loud you have to yell for someone to hear you.  The habitat also attracts a wide variety of birds.  We see many birds.  Some are residents and some are just passing through.  Some are predators.  Unfortunately, yesterday a very large Red Tail Hawk killed my old rooster, One Eyed Willy right behind La Casita next to Dragonfly Pond.  He was very alert even in his old age.  But I Imagine the hawk came up on his blind side.  He was a good rooster.  I’ll miss his low soulful crowing in the morning.

Living here is a blessing.

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings on history, ecology and wildlife.  Gotta go.  I need to find the girls outback a new beau.  Have a Merry Christmas!  See you next year!

Make Lump Charcoal

Why buy charcoal if you can make charcoal that is of high quality with wood from your own forest or wood you can get free (pallets, tree trimmers, sawmills etc)?  You want to make lump charcoal don’t you?  It’s an easy process that can be done by almost anyone. Why do you want to make Lump charcoal?

Reason #1 – You Know What is in Your Charcoal

According to Everything You Need to Know About Charcoal, from Briquettes to Binchotan written by Sam Dean...”Technically, charcoal briquettes aren’t actual charcoal, but a combination of charcoal and other ingredients molded into easy-to-light lumps. Kingsford Charcoal, for example, by far the most popular brand in the US, is made up of bits of charcoal, coal, starch (as a binder), sawdust, and sodium nitrate (to make it burn better). For the same reason that SPAM is cheaper than a whole ham, briquettes are cheaper to make than all-wood charcoal.” I guess if you like using coal to cook your food go by yourself a bag of Kingsford…its safe, so they say.

Reason #2 – Ash is crimping your cooking style

Charcoal briquettes while handy create a lot of ash.  Burning hardwood lump charcoal does not create as much ash. Therefore hardwood lump charcoal is great for using in some grills like the kamado syle grills like the Big Green Egg.

Reason #3 – Making lump charcoal is easy…it really is!

However, If you live in the suburbs I wouldn’t recommend making charcoal using the method I am going to describe…or almost any other method because of the large amount of smoke made during the charcoal making process. Anyway it is super easy to make hardwood lump charcoal.

What you’ll need…

  1. A 55 gallon steel drum with a lid
  2. A tool (saw or drill) to cut holes in the bottom of the barrel for ventilation
  3. A supply of hardwood.  Preferably for the best lump charcoal it will be seasoned hardwood cut to no more than about 4″ thick.
  4. A place to make charcoal where the smoke won’t bother the neighbors
  5. A shovel, gloves, pieces of thin rebar about 3 ft long, a couple of flat bricks or rocks, some gloves, a dust mask and some containers for charcoal.

Steps in the process…

  1. Prepare your barrel by cutting holes in the bottom. I just used my saw to cut some 4 triangles about 3 inches long X 2 inches wide ( make two cuts and knock triangle Charcoal barrel filled.into barrel about an inch with a hammer…this protects the hole from getting clogged with coals).  This isn’t scientific so just make sure your holes are evenly spaced.
  2. Place your barrel in the place you want to make charcoal.
  3. Set the barrel on the ground open end up. Start digging a hole around the barrel using the barrel as a guide.
  4. Dig out the hole so the barrel will set in the hole about six inches below the surface
  5. Dig a trench about six inches deep and six inches wide starting at the edge of the round hole.  Dig the trench so Retortfilledthat it is about two foot long.
  6. Level out a earthen shelf all around the edge of the hole. This shelf will support the barrel. Make certain that air will be able to flow from the trench up through the holes in the bottom of the barrel.
  7. Place your barrel in the hole with the vented side down and make sure it is well supported and the barrel is fairly level.
  8. Begin placing your wood in the barrel.  I recommend a thin layer of kindling.  Then a Starting the Barrellayer of seasoned hardwood, then a thin layer of kindling and so on until your reach the top of the barrel.  Build a fire on top of the wood in the barrel.
  9. Let the fire burn down to the bottom.
  10. When the fire is good and hot take your shovel and tap the barrel all around to settle the wood down.  You could buy a fancy pyrometer to check the temperature but I just use a spray bottle of water.  When you spray the bottom of the barrel and the water instantly vaporizes the temperature is hot enough to move to the next step.
  11. Lay your piece of thin rebar across one side of the top of the barrel and then put the lid on close uplid on the barrel.
  12. Put a rock, brick or something else not combustible on the bung hole (if it is not plugged with a steel plug).
  13. Watch the smoke which will be white (water vapor).
  14. 2 or 3 hours the smoke will turn a translucent blue (nearly all of the water vapor is removed).
  15. Pull out the piece of rebar.
  16. Close the lid tightly.
  17. With your shovel fill in the trench next to the barrel to shut off the air.lid on distant
  18. Wait 24 hours (if the barrel is warm wait longer) and then carefully remove the lid. The lid will likely be stuck because of tar and creosote. To remove the lid I use a piece of thin rebar bent into an L shape and hook the lid though the bung hole to pop it off.
  19. Turn the barrel on its side.
  20. Use your shovel to empty the charcoal from the barrel and to put it in containers…make sure the charcoal is completely cool if the containers are flammable.  You may find wood that has not completely carbonized.  No worry.  Just toss it aside and place it back in the barrel for the next batch of charcoal.
  21. You are finished! Fire up the grill it’s time to cook! Lump charcoal light easily with lighter fluid or better yet a fire started with some kindling and tinder (for the purists).

Finished ProductConclusion

That’s it.  It is not hard at all to make lump charcoal.  Making lump charcoal is a great way to use those small hardwood trees that would just get burned or ground into mulch.  Plus, having a large supply of lump charcoal  is a great asset. Check out this article for 10 uses for lump charcoal. But, you may not want to use lump charcoal for anything but cooking after you use your product to roast a chicken, turkey or grill steaks.  Go ahead an make some lump charcoal.  When you use your own homemade organic lump charcoal you really can taste the difference, you get great satisfaction using a fuel you made to cook your food and you know exactly what went into making your charcoal.  Enjoy!

Do you want to learn more?

The technical term for the transformation of wood into charcoal is pyrolysis which simply means using heat to cause chemical decomposition.  Pyrolysis is a process used across a wide array of chemical applications from the oil industry to cooking a chicken in your oven.  If you would like to read technical information about the use of pyrolysis to transform wood into charcoal I recommend reading the article “Industrial Charcoal Making Technologies” produced by the Forestry Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

We sell limited quantities of organic lump charcoal

At La Casita we now offer our guests the opportunity to cook on our Weber grill using organic lump charcoal made from the trees in our forest.  If you are coming to visit just let us know that you would like to cook using our charcoal grill.  We also sell our organic locally produced lump charcoal for $1.25 a pound plus sales tax. (limited availability)