Biofertilizer: Fermented remineralizing superphosphate

Screen shot 2011-11-23 at 12.33.25 PMBiofertilizer is one giant solution towards regaining farmer independence from expensive and destructive fertilizer companies.  It is essentially all things good for the underfoot, unseen universe of soil and plant life. Better and cheaper for you and your soil food web.



A two month fermentation process of this tasty brew allows your yeast (fungi) and lactobacillus (bacteria) to digest the molasses (N), rock phosphate(P), wood ashes (K). Basalt dust is added for its high silica content and ability to increase the paramagnetism of soil.

For more on paramagnetism and the wonderful world that it opens look into Phil Callahan’s books and Dr. Arden Anderson’s.  In addition it is high in B vitamins and simple carbohydrates and like all fine brews it gets better the longer it is aged.

This barrel is the momma bird for your plants. It predigests all the materials before we finally pop the cork, dilute it, oxygenate it through flow forms, and spray it as a foliar spray for trees, grasses, and crops.

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Matthew out spraying the biofertilizer. Thanks for spraying those final barrels. Looks like its time for a rebrew.


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Building the Keyline plan

P.A. Yeomans, developed a farm irrigation plan in the 1950′s on his farm Yobarnie, in Australia that he dubbed the Keyline Design. Each site’s unique topography and geography inform the proper Keyline site layout and planning.

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Yeomans’ big idea: Keep the water as high as possible for as long as possible, through a system of interconnected ponds, level on-contour berms, and diversion berms that pull water out of valleys and onto ridges.

From January to March of 2013, Doyle Moore and his crew from Central Texas Excavation  aided Upcycle in building 120 acres of Keyline Design to harvest the approximately 4 million gallons of potential runoff that this acreage looses every year given an average of 34 inches of precipitation.

All total over 3 miles of water harvesting earth berm were built, approximately 1 meter tall by 2 meters wide, and 6 ponds of varying sizes were nested into the hill sides.

January 2013                                                        May 2013


January                                                                    May


Before                                                                       After


Before                                                                      After



4 inches of rain fell in a day and provided us with proof existence of the operations of the Keyline plan. Water remained onsite to slowly infiltrate through soil layers to hydrate soil and raise the water table.


The Keyline plan is an elegant solution to building healthy soils. All in all it took about two weeks of surveying and then the machines arrived. The Keyline plan has great potential to rehydrate our arid lands and reverse the desertification processes. The cost of earth works well pays for itself a hundred times over as it is a regenerative relic that will last for generations.

Thank you to the many great friends who came to help with the tedious days of surveying and to Doyle, Justin, Jonathan, and Jay for all your great work with big beautiful machines.


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Start with small simple solutions: Water harvesting

Water. Slow it. Spread it. Sink it. Save it. We began by building an old school, yet effective bunyip level to make sure our berm spillways were lower than our berm crests. DSC04175


Rock boomerang berms around the sad, thirsty fruit trees. Add carbon source: mulch, biochar, old blue prints, paper, cardboard, and junk mail make for great sponges!



Earthen boomerang berms around the pecan trees.


Apparently they were not quit burley enough for Central Texas rains. 


Lesson learned. More compaction + more mulch.


Pomegranates are happier than ever. Simple. Slow it, spread it, sink it, and save it.


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Biochar: building a foundation of carbon

With all these solutions, where do we begin? Biochar. This foundational time tested technique is essential to have in the old quiver of regenerative soil building techniques. It creates topsoil that grows nutrient dense food, sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and keeps it in the soil where it belongs, and it makes for a great conversation around any fire.

Build a fire that you would feel comfortable burning the remains of a Viking Warrior on. Construct it tight, and uniform, like a pyramid with the top lopped off, like the picture on the back of a one dollar bill.

Light it from the top. This way it draws more air and burns hotter to burn out resins and saps. It should sound like a jet engine due to the amount of air moving into the flame and it should be smokeless. Top Lit Up Draft (TLUD) is what we are aiming for. Once all the wood is glowing, put it out completely with water.

Pyrolysis is what we are shooting for. This video should explain pyrolysis. Mostly…

The goal: Burn the gasses that are in wood and retain 50% of the carbon. Store that carbon in soil. With an incredibly high surface area biochar works like a coral reef for soil life. One of the worlds leading ecological designers, Geoff Lawton stated that charcoal is “a high density housing commission for soil bacteria… one Tablespoon of dissolved charcoal can have the surface area of ten acres.”

If your interested in efficiency then look into a biochar kiln or two. The design options for these are endless and can be built out of recycled materials. Mostly…

Here is a friend hard a work on the Adam’s Retort recently constructed at the Tierra Learning Center.




A lot of trial and error. Once it is in the soil, spray it with a heathy dose of compost tea, biofertilizer, bokashi, or just pee on it. Urine is high in nitrogen and will provide the necessary starter for billions of amoebas, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes.

If you build it they will come, right? And they did in the Terra Preta soils of the Amazon, where the richest soils on earth have been found to exist due to human cultures burning and burying charcoal in this manner. High heat, 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot! Turns out we humans can do some pretty beneficial activities to enhance the environments that support us.

More carbon in soils = more water in soil = increased life in soil = more nutrient availability in soils for plants to access = more nutrient dense plants = healthier happier people burning fires and growing food.

Is there such a thing as good Biochar and poor?  Yes. Here are two simple tests past on by Peter Hirst from New England Biochar shared on a spectacular day walking the sandy ridges of the Chumstick Valley behind Tierra Learning Center in Leavenworth, Washington.

       Rinse Test – If you can rub the charcoal on your hands and wash it off with water, then you have good Biochar. If you need soap and water to clean it off your hands, then it did not burn hot enough and there is still to much sap and resin in the wood. Learn something and try again.

       Worm Test -  Mix your finished charcoal with compost. A ratio of 50% Compost : 50% Biochar. Place that mixture next to 100% Compost and pile a handful of worms in the middle of the two mixes. If the worms head into 50:50 Biochar Land then you have a green light. Go! Mix it into the soil and your ready to plant. Biochar is the perfect replacement for perlite in potting soils.


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Mentors and Road Maps.

In order to understand the whole of our organization here is a glimpse at the sum of our parts. Our work is an ongoing synthesis of the application of the below innovators, biologist, designers, physicists, farmers, alpinists, and friends. They have moved us to form so as to spread their knowledge and regenerate our landscapes.

Make yourself comfortable and click on the below to get to know some of the greats who are changing our world and challenging our understanding of our roll with in it.  Some have past, but most are still fighting to find how to best live within our planets limits and under its laws.

We can get to where are are trying to go, but only with the right map to follow. So open it up and let’s move forward.

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