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Notes of Music, organic gardening, eco-building, Permaculture designs and explorations along this Path in Life.

2016-04-30

Feeding a big stove beast

In these days I am getting properly geared up to start feeding the biggest Elsa stove that I have ever built... piles of grapevines branches need to be efficiently chopped up and cannot wait anymore to become biochar and return to the soil that grew them.


Yes... that's a regular volleyball ball next to the main parts of the stove that still need to be put together. Not really sure now how to handle this baby as a cooking stove... but I guess that I'll figure that out later on, if I find a proper size pot to put on top of it!
There's a simple but handy trick that I am going to focus on now: it's about how to use efficiently a hand tool to produce large amounts of chopped out biomass, like branches and big leaves... you could use this trick whenever you need to process large amounts of biomass to add to your compost piles, like I did before.
So, check this out.

It's not about the hand tool we're using here (a big pair of gardening scissors). It's actually about the main tool we're using every time we move and do something: it's our body! The way we balance our strength can minimize the effort and maximize the output.

Chopping with one hand and one foot... waw! It's not as hard as clapping with one hand (giggles) but there's a proper way to do this and everybody can realize the purpose of it, if you ever want to give it a try.
First make sure the handles of your scissors do not close completely in case you squeeze your hands when you close the blades (usually handles are made to stay apart even when the blades are fully close). If they do close against each other then... learn not to pinch yourself!
(1) Keep a big piece of cardboard on the ground or whatever other kind of sheet that can function as a tray to collect easily the small chopped up pieces you're going to be making. Don't use anything you cannot afford to ruin (just in case you do).
(2) Kneel down.



(3) One hand is going to be holding the bundle of biomass you want to chop. Hold it on tight and make sure to use safety gloves at least on this hand.
(4) The other hand is going to hold one of the handles of the scissors.
(5) One foot is going to press down the other handle against the ground, making sure that it's not going to slip sideways and that you're going to be able to reopen easily the blades of the scissors. At the same time keep the lower tip of the scissors lifted up, so that it's not going to poke in your cardboard tray. Practice just opening and closing the scissors before engaging some real cuts.
(6) Chop it all up!

You can use all your body weight against the ground! You'll be impressed of how much strength you can put in every cut... try to hold both handles in your hands and chop the same amount of biomass (that something or somebody is going to have to hold tight for you). It's going to be much harder!
Eventually you'll pick up speed as soon as you feel confident of yourself and learn how much biomass you can chop in one time: depending on how hard the biomass is, how sharp your blades are... and how strong you push...
Here in these short video clips I demonstrate a few cuts using bundles of dry branches (yes they're hard!).




Simple but effective moves.
For smaller stoves I would chop it up in smaller pieces but in this case it's not going to be needed since the mouth of the stove is so wide. 

I am really looking forward to have it all ready and start making biochar again very soon.


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