You might recall, about a week ago I wrote this post asking you to guess what was happening based on two pictures I shared. The answers were pretty awesome and while some people came close, no one was spot on with their guesses.
Today I am going to tell the story about the other picture.
It all started with this post I wrote a while ago about an article I read discussing how the ancient inhabitants of the Amazon area made their own charcoal and worked it into the soil to enrich it and provide nutrients. Thus over the years the Amazon river basin came to have some of the richest soil in the world.
As is often the case, my buddy Mike and I were sitting around one night drinking. The main difference with this occasion was that we were each at our own houses because of the whole social distancing thing and we were texting each other.
One thing you can always count on when Mike and I are together drinking is that one of us will have a crazy idea and the other one will have everything we need to try it out. That was the case this time.
Mike and I were talking about grilling when I texted him and said "hey, we should make our own charcoal". Knowing the traditional method that I read about online and @wesp05 outlined in this totally awesome recent post was going to be too complicated I found a video on Youtube that did something similar using barrels.
I shared the video with Mike and next thing I know he sends me this picture.
Turns out he had the barrels he needed already. He also lives on about twenty acres of wooded land, so the necessary fuel was readily available.
The next morning he texted me this picture:
And then the one you see at the top. He said he needed to try it a couple of times because at first he wasn't able to get the wood to keep burning. It kept going out.
Finally he got it going and eventually he added the second barrel to the top and covered it up to keep the oxygen out. Uncapped the wood would just continue to burn down to ashes instead of becoming charcoal.
He let it burn for a full day before he removed the top and the upper barrel.
As you can see, he did get some good charcoal. It wasn't the big lumps that we were hoping for, but it still did the trick.
He also ended up with a bunch of wood that didn't quite do what we hoped it would. I am going to share his thoughts on the whole process now:
On his first attempt he felt the wood was sticking too far above the top of the barrel and because of that the lid did not fit on properly. He knows that was a huge mistake. To fix the situation he had to cut some of the logs while they were still burning.
He says the second lesson he learned is that the wood needs to be seasoned before trying to make it into charcoal. He feels that some of the wood he used was much too wet and still too green. That is probably a big part of why it didn't work out for him.
There is a different way to do this where you lay the barrel on its side and build the fire around it with a stand pipe sticking out of the barrel. I think if he were to try it again he would probably do it that way.
In the end, he used some of the charcoal he did get to grill brats the next week and he said it worked out really well. We are still on the fence about whether the time is worth the saved expense, but it was a fun experiment to try!
All pictures were taken by Mike and used with his permission.