Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Home made charcoal

I was reading about making charcoal and it seemed pretty straight forward so I thought why not? There are usually clean up fires of branch limbs from cleared land and firewood burning in late winter and early spring while the ground is still wet, so a few experiments took place.

Pieces of grape vine were wrapped in double layers of heavy foil and placed near the edge of the first fire. It got too hot and they disintegrated as well as the foil more or less. We always learn from our mistakes, so the second batch was wrapped in foil again and placed in the ashes of the fire was it was dying down. The is a lot of heat in a large fire and it still is hot the next day which was when this bundle was retrieved. And it seems to be a pretty good success. Some pieces are not completed carbonized but for the most part, they are quite usable and are what I would class as 'hard' charcoal.

I'm not sure how to create the different levels of softness in charcoal. Is it the type of wood used or the length of time it is carbonized I wonder? I have lots of willow on the property which is what I will try next and there are still grapevine cuttings that I'm keeping for future burns.

My sleeping patterns vary and I'm usually up very early which was probably lucky for Tripod, the cat this morning.

I was sitting in the dining room writing and having coffee. The cat wanted out at 5am and around 6 I heard strange sounds outside. It sounded a bit like the geese in the pen in the woods but like they were a bit hoarse. I ignored it for a couple of minutes then it continued so I got up and looked out of the living room window and saw Tripod who started coming towards the house when he saw me.

Then I saw the fox. This was the sound I had been hearing, the fox barking.

This was a large fox and pretty skinny, but he had the cat on his radar big time. He was in a crouch almost the same way as a cat about to pounce on its prey. His lips were back showing his teeth and his nose wrinkled up in a snarl. For a split second I didn't know what to do then reacted, racing outside - still in pj's and starting waving my arms and shouting at the fox and, stupidly, telling Tripod to stay still, as if he would.

The fox looked at me and backed up about 2 feet, but was still intent on Tripod who was coming towards me and the safety of the house. I moved towards the fox again, and part of me wondered 'what if this fox is rabid?'. The fox moved off a few more feet and we kept up this game right up to the meadow when I resorted to caveman tactics - throwing rocks at it.

He finally ran across the meadow into the woods and I was left in the field realizing it was cold and wet out. The cat was none the worse for wear, but telling me all about it in no uncertain terms as he ate his breakfast.

This fox has been around for a few months and has become a nuisance. It attacked the Embden geese last month, killing the large male and badly injuring another, then also attacked BD and Buddy, my favourite Muscovy ducks leaving Buddy limping and uncertain of his fate for a week. Foxes don't usually act like this. They are noctural and should be very wary of people, scooting off at the first sign of one. It makes me wonder if something is wrong with this animal.

I can't prevent the cat from going out nor the geese or ducks, but its always a worry when things come out of the woods. There is always something trying to eat something else on the farm.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I go to Toronto for some meetings, then off to Ottawa on Sunday to stay with a friend for a few days. I will have my laptop with me, but I don't know how much time I'll have to make posts. I will be hunting down whatever art supply stores while I'm there and will of course have my sketchbook with me. No matter where, there are always drawing opportunities - and space in my suitcase for more art supplies.

Posting will resume on Thursday if not before.


"JeanneG" said...

Now I have something else to worry about. Tripod. When you get back home, please let me know that Tripod was safe while you were gone. Travel safe and have a good time shopping, but I will be glad when you are back to protect Mr T and give me my daily read.

Rose Welty said...

Jeanette, you continually astound me...brave enough to take on snarling wild animals, clever enough to make homemade charcoal...and these just scattered in among your other talents!

I hope you have a good break and lots of fun shopping and talking, with the occasional drawing thrown in. Looking forward to your return.

Jeanette said...

Tripod will be fine Jeanne, I am sure. After living wild in the woods for two years, he's more than capable of holding his own.

Thanks Rose. Instinct takes over when confronted with anything wild, from animal to human. :)

Billie Crain said...

amazing what we'll do to protect someone or something we love. even if it's facing down a vicious animal. no wonder Tripod chose you for his 'person'.

making your own vine charcoal...clever, clever, clever, Jeanette.:D

Cathy Gatland said...

Hope your cat, duck and geese stay safe - life looks pretty hair-raising over there!

Laurel Neustadter said...

Wow. Making your own charcoal is very impressive. You will have to let us know how it performs. The fox incident sounds scary - I'm glad Tripod is safe! (Beamer) said...

I'll have to try the charcoal thingy. I have some pomegranate wood laying around. I wonder how it would work?

Lets hope the fox isn't rabid.


Brian said...

I have managed to make charcoal in a barbecue fire: I put the sticks into an empty tin can and fill it up with sand so as to exclude oxygen. I then put it in the fire for an hour or two. When you take it out you have to let it cool down first, because otherwise the charcoal sticks promptly crack into gazillions of splinters. When it's cool you simply pour out the contents of the tin, brush the bits of sand and debris off and voila: charcoal.

It produces workable charcoal, though not exactly high quality stuff!