Welcome! The Voyage Starts…

A documentary video website of how people can bring some big ideas down to action in their personal lives.

The first “Big Idea” is Terra Preta.  This is not as exotic as it looks and in fact it links practical and available solutions to 3 global problems:

  • Climate change and global warming
  • Hunger and starvation
  • One of the 4 main causes of death for children under 5 years old — and often their mothers — through poisons from indoor-cooking smoke.

 

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The Story of Terra Preta

Before we start on our adventure, let’s watch one, a movie made by the BBC about El Dorado,  the Lost City of Gold in the Amazon.  Sit back and watch the show in full-screen by clicking the small box on the extreme right side at the bottom of the player.

To give some perspective on the scale and location of terra preta sites, here is a link to a map of sites.

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Terra Preta Today

As of now, terra preta has come out of the closet of history and scientists and has been recognized as a mitigant for climate change and for enhancing agricuture.  A growing list of links and resources is on this website. 

Significant current research on Terra Preta is conducted at Cornell University by a team headed by Dr. Johannes Lehmann.

An example of biochar on the farm:

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It Wasn’t All Preta…

At a recent workshop on biochar at the Pony Farm in Temple, NH, one of the presenters, Hugh McLaughlin, gave some history and ideas about the actual formation of the Black Earth.  First, most of it was not black.  There was Terra Mulata, a brown earth.

Hugh refers to the book, 1491 – New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. It is worth the read!

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Burning Smoke: Gasification

Gasification may be an unfamiliar term for many of us but it is central to understanding the efforts to produce smokeless and safe stoves for cooking with biomass fuels as well as making biochar.  

This gasifier was built by Dirk-Jan Rosse to evaluate the grass pellets he produces and to assess how much slag and ash they produce.  It was kludged together with some scrap parts he had lying around his shop and is certainly not a production model.


As I wanted to make a video that would illustrate how gasification actually burns “smoke” in order to produce heat, we ignited the fuel through a port at the bottom of the stove to generate
lots of smoke and then lots of heat.  If we had lit the fuel from the top, it would have been smokeless. This same stove works in two different ways: as a TLUD and as a BLUD.

Pronounced “T-LUD”.  The fuel is ignited from the top and is essentially smokeless.

BLUD: Bottom Lit Up Draft.  Pronounced “B-LUD”. The fuel is ignited from the bottom and up until a certain point generates a lot of smoke.

The TLUD has the advantage of producting biochar while used as a cooking stove.

Here is a diagram to help with some of the terminology of the TLUD.

A diagram by Paul Anderson of the TLUD gasifier stove.

 


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The Biochar Workshop at Pony Farm

This is an introduction to the Biochar Roundtable at the Lodge at Pony Farm in Temple, New Hampshire, on May 9, 2009.

Before we move on. let’s watch Hugh McLaughlin demonstrate some TLUD stoves he makes with scrap tin cans…

If you want a more graphic illustration of how the TLUD does not burn the fuel but rather the gases that have been driven off the fuel, here is a video I made showing lots of smoke being burned off.The next demonstration produced charcoal with a retort made from a recycled Cornelius keg.  I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that most people looking at this site would not be familiar with the Cornelius keg. In the following video, Hugh explains what it is and how to convert one as an excellent and affordable retort.

The kegs have been discovered by the home brew beer set and they might be driving the price up.

And now for the keg in action as a retort for making charcoal from wood scraps.

You will see more videos of the Cornelius keg because Hugh gave me one to experiment with.  I can hardly wait!  This more fun than the old Gilberts…  (if anyone remembers!).

Dr. Thomas B. Reed is going to show us his technique for making charcoal with inspiration from Jack Daniels.

Really.

Watch.

Tom modified the Jack Daniels “rick” for a technique for making a home brew. Of charcoal, of course!

Wonder if it works?  Check this out:

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Hugh McLaughlin’s Stoves

The next demonstration produced charcoal with a retort made from a recycled Cornelius keg.  I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that most people looking at this site would not be familiar with the Cornelius keg unless, of course you are part of the home brew beer fraternity. In the following video, Hugh explains what it is and how to convert one as an excellent and affordable retort.

Now let’s see it in action!

There will be more video about the Cornelius keg because Hugh gave me one to experiment with and I can hardly wait!

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