“You´ve got your first disciple!”
Obdulio´s comment caught me off guard. He is a businessman. His business is his ministry (buying and selling the artwork of his people), and he practices what he preaches. He is one of my mentors… aware that we all aren´t called to be preachers… and doing everything wholeheartedly.
Obdulio was referring to my recently turned 15 year old neighbor, Erik, who had just planted a garden for his family, similar in size and form to my garden, with seeds that he got from me. He´s already appeared in several of our blogs. We´ve fixed the water system together, explored new water sources, planted trees, and we´re just starting a project to graft fruit trees. We also read scripture together. Erik teaches me the names of plants, animals, insects, and birds, when to plant, when to harvest, and he gives a fairly accurate weather report. He dug a well for us next to the creek when the water system was not working, and he contributes significantly to our diet with gifts of avocado, sugar cane, lychee, banana, plantain, coconut, and more.
Erik has also been subjected to my ranting on charcoal and its potential as an agricultural amendment, and being the typical 15 year old pyromaniac, he is glad to help with any and all experiments that involve burning stuff. We´ve done smothered charcoal pits, chimneyed charcoal pits, and in-between charcoal pits with varying degrees of success and pollution.
Shortly before leaving the U.S., I saw a program on the History Channel about whiskey which included the Jack Daniels how-to for making the charcoal they use to filter their famous bourbon. It goes like this: 1) Make a big pile of loosely stacked wood… like a sacrificial pyre. 2) Light a small fire on top. 3) Let it burn down. 4) Douse with water. Simple, right? By starting the fire on top all the gases are drawn up through the flames, effectively burning up all the smoke… a smokeless, ”clean” fire! The jury is still out with regard to what is best charcoal for agriculture applications, and this process does not allow for the capture of wood vinegar, nor is it a very efficient conversion, but the surprise for me was how clean it burned and how little work it involved. The International Biochar Initiative is a good place to start research if the topic interests you.