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A bit of a burn up

by Rod Kebble

A line of dark cloud announces another shower blowing in from the west across Shed Field

Another shower from the west blows in across Shed Field.

The conservation volunteers gathered again on a showery 6th September and the front half of the education room floor was cleaned and given two coats of slate grey floor paint, while outdoors more rhodie stumps were injected with glyphosate.

The most fun was had by those who crowded around the new charcoal kiln (delivered back in March) for a lesson in packing and lighting it and instruction in what to do next. The kiln — which for some reason is always described in feet and inches across and in metric for height — is five feet in diameter and a metre high (1.524 metres x 39.37 inches) and takes a while to fill.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer, Martin Boag, dries the rain off his clothing as the flames pass head height. Now the contents of the kiln were well alight, it was judged the to be time to put the lid on.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer, Martin Boag, dries the rain off his clothing. Now the contents of the kiln were well alight, it was judged to be time to put the lid on.

Fortunately, on this occasion the volunteers benefited from the labours of a troop of scouts who visited the farm recently and who had been prevailed upon to fill the kiln but who had been denied the pleasure of lighting it.

The trick is to leave a space in the centre of the kiln into which hot embers can be dropped onto a pile of kindling, mainly charcoal from a previous burn. Needless to say, a heavy shower showed up just as the fire to produce the embers was being lit but failed to prevent ignition. A few shovelfuls of hot embers later, the kiln was blazing away and it was time to put the lid on.

Brian Lavers does his bit with a spade to block with earth the gap around the lid through which smoke was escaping.

Brian Lavers does his bit to block the gaps through which the smoke was escaping.

Much of the wood in the kiln was “green” (ie. not seasoned) and it produced satisfyingly large quantities of steam. As the water content is burned off, the wood shrinks in volume and becomes lighter in weight. At least, that is the idea. When the lid is taken off at the next meeting of the volunteers, it will be revealed whether the burn was a success or not.

After about 24 hours, the chimneys were removed and the inlets blocked and the kiln left to cook for five days.The sun came out, the white smoke (actually mainly steam) was channelled through the four chimneys and all was right with the world.

The sun came out, the smoke (actually mainly steam) was channelled through the chimneys and all was right with the world. After about 24 hours, the chimneys were removed and the inlets blocked and the kiln left to cook for five days.