On a stroll through the local hills last weekend, I found another pile of pyrolizing rice husks. This was a big one with a new-looking chimney. After taking a few photos, I noticed that there was a man tending the allotment behind it (hidden by some nice brassicas). He told me that this was his first try - he got the husks from a farmer. I shared my valuable knowledge on watering the heap to keep it from burning right down. He said he didn't care - he only had the weekends for his plot, and even if he screwed up this heap, he had a promise of lots more husks from the farmer. Then he said that I could come and take however much charcoal I wanted during the week - "After all, you're always at home, right?" Somebody else who I don't know who knows all about me. I'm always amazed how kind and generous the people around here are. I hope I can repay some of the kindness I've been shown.
So I went back several times during the week, and although the chimney assembly had been taken out, the pile was still burning away. It was mostly grey ash with some black grains left here and there. I wanted to put some water on it, but there was none around. By Friday the pile was down to one third its previous size and was still red hot inside. On Saturday I went to get some for my garden, and the heap was already in bags. My friend offered me the remaining six - I took three.
In the evening, I put one a whole bagful on the bed I prepared for my onions. The ash had a wonderful silky feel, and adding it to the still clayey soil was a joy. (I pulled up the moroheya, okra and shisito peppers and hoed the ash into where the roots had been.)
My carrots, planted two weeks ago were also clearly a miserable failure (again!), so I redid the rows, this time adding some of the black rice husks. The soil looked very rich with the black charcoal in it. I've put half PET bottles over the seeds in the hope that the sprouts won't be eaten immediately by slugs and caterpillars.
I found prints of my neighbour's dog, which roams around freely, all over my new carrot beds, so I spent a couple of hours cutting bamboo in a local bamboo grove and making a fence that I'm confident it can't get through. I'm sure it'll just find another way in though. It does leave little smelly patches of fertility here and there though, which seem to disappear quickly when mulched heavily.