This dark material: the black alchemy that can arrest carbon emissions

Not only does biochar trap carbon when it is created, it is heating homes in Sweden and feeding cows in Lincolnshire


It traps carbon in the ground for centuries, boosts plant growth, provides a sustainable heat source and could even reduce methane emissions from cows. Biochar may not be a silver bullet to combating the climate emergency, but it certainly ticks a lot of boxes.

A form of charcoal created via a special chemical process, biochar is not much to look at, resembling the aftermath of a particularly good barbecue. But it is already heating homes in Stockholm, feeding cows in Lincolnshire, and nourishing trees near Loch Ness.

“When you look at the range of benefits it has, it is quite phenomenal,” says Marc Redmile-Gordon, senior scientist for soil and climate change at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). While stressing that biochar is only part of the solution, he adds: “If we stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we’ll still have a lot of carbon dioxide removal to be doing, and this is one of the most effective ways we can achieve that.”Quick guide

Following biochar’s recognition in the IPCC 2018 report, earlier this year Redmile-Gordon launched the society’s first trials to see how the material could improve plant growth. He estimates planting 10-20kg of biochar in your garden could offset the carbon from a five-mile return commute in a car for a month.

Biochar is a form of charcoal produced when organic matter – for example wood, leaves or dead plants – is heated at high temperatures with little or no oxygen in a process called pyrolysis. The normal burning or decomposition of these materials would release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Instead, creating biochar traps this carbon in solid form for centuries; it becomes a carbon sink that can be buried underground.

This is nothing new – in Stockholm they have already developed technology to trap the heat generated in the process and put it to use, so now the focus is on what benefits biochar can bring once it is in the ground. Although results vary depending on the type of biochar and soil used, Redmile-Gordon says this stuff can “alleviate some of the stresses that come from climate change”.


The fold (herd) here at the farm is being cataloged and photographed. Wwoofers here have been working hard to document the growing farm. Here is a photo from the day:

Kira and Milli photograph by Emma
May 2017

Updates and Current projects underway: First week of May

-Passive solar water heater under construction

-Garden is starting to sprout! sunflowers were the first!

-Ordered guinea hen chicks!

-Ordered Thornless Honey-Locust, Chinese Chestnut and Pecan trees

-Bonni (the little calf born April 7th) is doing great! We are bottle feeding her since she was unable to feed from her mother

-Major rain down pour brought intense water shed, but property managed it well, swale system saved garden and barn site

-South side of barn is finally closed in, sunroom/laundry room attached to barn is under construction

-Fly barrels built to help off-set the horn fly population this year

-Bird houses are full! Bluebird population growing!

Outdoor summer solar shower built

Over one day, we had a project to complete. Outdoor summer solar shower. Using a black 55 gallon food grade barrel, repourposed wood, stone, tin and bambo.

Started with the barrel, picked a spot just below the water source and just above the location for the shower, added a 1/2 inch gasket to the bottom of the barrel that will havea line running downhill to the shower. The black barrel will heat up in the sun for the shower.

The shower is built on a slope, base first, then post to hold shower head. The walls were the last part to go up. It currently drains towards the crik but planning to drain into some planted vegatation or trees.

All pretty basic and a fun project to complete with the family and volunteer here.

The shower is open to the sky and a beautiful view of a valley and big pheonix

Photos soon

Astra and the water collection system

To install and complete the water collection system we molded flashing to fit the irregular shape of the building

“Astra” our lil mouser