Archive for category Life

Streubel Update – One Chapter Closes and a New One Begins

On May 7, 2011 an 11 year journey ended as I was presented my doctoral hood at Washington State’s commencement ceremony.  The chapter of formal education in my life has final come to a close after 4 degrees.  This conclusion, I have been told, has resulted in the only ordained Assemblies of God minister with a PhD in Soil Science.  (If there are others please show yourself we need to talk).   As the person who said they would never continue their formal education beyond a church ministries degree this truly was a divine helped and inspired journey.

One question I consistently receive is “why”? The simple answer – I believed I was placed on this earth for a purpose and that purpose is to bring hope to people, both spiritually and physically.  For a more detailed response read

As you may have assumed or my friends already know – I don’t always fit the normal standard curve.  My journey has been a strange one, where at times there no place for me to fit, no model to follow.  I was continually caught in a state of limbo.  There is no divisional lunch at Network Council for soil scientist pastors with a heart to feed the world.  My small group has been rather lonely (and Mary’s even smaller) HOWEVER my creator had a plan….His purpose was just around the corner.

In true irony two years ago when I was at my lowest – my God was orchestrating the beginnings of my new chapter by preparing a unique puzzle piece at a faith based disaster relief organization (Convoy of Hope) suited for someone who didn’t always fit the mold.

The week after graduation I was presented with two job offers – one academic (WSU tenure track faculty) and Convoy of Hope.  As I sat around the table with leaders in the children’s feeding initiative everything started to come together for the first time.  All the unique experiences from tilapia, chicken, goats, senior pasturing and even anaerobic digesters started to make sense and fall into place – as if my designer was saying “see I told you I could be trusted – you’re not crazy”.

So in the next three weeks Mary and I will be pulling up our roots in Washington and leaving for Springfield, Missouri to work with Convoy of Hope’s children’s feed initiative to development models for sustainability.  We will be working with area farmers and children educating them on best management practices that work locally so Convoy can ultimately by their food from local suppliers plus by building the local capacity Convoy can focus on other geographical areas of need.

It will not be easy, there will be frustrations, it will take time, there are still lots of unknowns but most importantly…

I WAS MADE FOR THIS…and now the new chapter begins.


Are You Done Yet?

Numerous of our family and friends have ask about my progress and when they get to call me Dr. or when I can afford to take my wife out to dinner. So here is the latest update:

The last six months have been full of set backs, rescheduled dates, and experimental reruns which ultimately shattered any hope of a December 2010 graduation.  I am currently in the writing process submitting drafts to my committee chair and then rewriting, rewriting, rewriting….you get the picture.  In a research based PhD publications are the key and required by the department at WSU (at least 1).  They are how your committee and chair get a return on their investment of time and money.  In most cases a graduate student finishes their dissertation and then publishes the outcome after graduation or a combination.  My committee chair however wants everything that can be published already submitted prior to my defense.  The difference between dissertation and publication ready are VAST, as I have found out in the last 4 months.

My PhD dissertation encompasses 4 major chapters (it was 3 until Friday afternoon).

1)      Literature Review

2)      “Influence of Biochar on Soil pH, Water Holding Capacity, Nitrogen and Carbon Dynamics. ”

3)      Characterization of Biochar made from dairy manure fiber and its ability to sequester phosphorus from dairy lagoons

4)      The impact of phosphorus recovered from dairy manure using biochar on soil characteristics and crop yield.

Progress: Chapter 1 – 80% complete but will be in revision until defense

Chapter 2 – DONE Accepted to SSSJA

Chapter 3 and 4 – Writing and rewriting


So it boils down to this – we are not setting any dates for my defense BUT it must happen before April 1, 2011 and I will walk in May.

Thanks for the prayers!

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A Little Self Promotion – Front Page Tri Cities Herald

Scientists see biochar as promising fuel source

By Kevin McCullen, Herald staff writer

Scientists in Eastern Washington are at the forefront of research into an ancient practice that shows promise as a clean fuel source, a way to improve soil condition and to capture carbon that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere.

Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the federal Department of Agriculture’s research station in Prosser and Washington State University have been integral figures in studies of biochar and its potential uses.

Biochar, a charcoal-like material, is produced when biomass — including wood, plant and animal waste — is burned in the absence of or under low oxygen conditions so the material doesn’t combust.

This process, called pyrolysis, thermally decomposes the waste into biochar, bio-oil and syngas. Biochar and bio-oil show commercial promise and syngas offers a power source that can run a pyrolyzer.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has estimated that if the United States were to pyrolyze 1.3 billion tons of various forms of biomass annually, it could replace 1.9 billion barrels of imported oil with bio-oil. That would represent about 25 percent of the annual oil consumption in this country. In addition, USDA estimates the country could sequester 153 million tons of carbon annually by adding biochar to soils.

Although widespread research on biochar began less than a decade ago, debate already is brewing on whether its prevailing commercial use will be for fuel or for soil and carbon sequestration.

In January, UOP, a subsidiary of the Honeywell Corp., announced it had been awarded a $25 million grant from the federal Department of Energy to build a demonstration plant in Hawaii to take waste feedstocks of wood, agricultural products and algae residue to produce bio-oil. The oil then will be refined into aviation and diesel fuel with technology developed in part by PNNL, a junior partner in the project.

Biofuels, including bio-oil from char, “can’t replace all petroleum,” said Doug Elliott, staff scientist with PNNL’s Chemical and Biological Process Development unit. He has been researching biofuels for three decades.

“But U.S. production of biofuels could replace one-third of our total petroleum products annually and on a continuing basis,” he said.

Could create jobs

Or the use of smaller portable pyrolyzer units one day could be deployed in forests to clean up wood waste piles, produce lower-grade fuel, generate power and create jobs in rural communities. The Forest Service is funding research of a small demonstration project in a small Northeastern Oregon community.

“There’s all kinds of things that are potentially usable as a fuel source. You can make this work on a whole lot of things that don’t have a value and actively have a cost,” said Eric Twombly of BioChar Products, who is conducting the forest fuels project in Halfway, Ore.

Twombly fired up his mobile plant in December at an old lumber mill site about eight miles from the Idaho border. He hopes to produce at least 500 tons of biochar and at least 300 gallons of bio-oil using chipped wood waste.

A farmer already is buying some of the oil to use in his orchard heaters, and Twombly uses the syngas to power the plant. It now employs three people, but Twombly envisions one day creating at least a dozen full-time, family-wage jobs.

And ongoing research by soil scientist Hal Collins and his team at the USDA’s vegetable and forage crop research unit in Prosser is looking at how dairy waste could be transformed on-site into a product that could be added to the soil, used as an energy source and to eliminate the environmental concerns of waste ponds.

Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at PNNL who has extensively studied biochar, and others say it isn’t a panacea that will resolve the nation’s energy and environmental challenges. But he says its potential use in storing carbon and as a soil amendment is promising.

“You are basically taking a biomass that would be back in the atmosphere in five to 10 years and converting it into biochar that will be in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years,” said Amonette, who contributed a chapter to Biochar for Environmental Management, considered one of the definitive reference works on the topic.

“It is one of the few ways you can pull carbon out of the air and generate energy at the same time,” he said.

Different products

The process isn’t new. Researchers have found areas in the Amazon basin where people centuries ago deposited charcoal, leaving behind areas with rich soils and lush plant growth. Scientists aren’t certain how they created the charcoal, said David Granatstein, a sustainable agriculture specialist at Washington State University and a co-principal investigator of a study published last year.

Scientists subsequently have found that different methods of pyrolysis — fast and slow, which are distinguished primarily by the rate of temperature increase in the pyrolyzing unit — produced different amounts of finished product.

Fast pyrolysis takes place in seconds, with temperatures that can reach up to 1,000 degrees. WSU researchers and Collins found in their study, released in 2009, that higher heating produced more bio-oil and less biochar from the same amount of biomass, while slow pyrolysis with slow heating rates yielded more char and less oil.

Amonette said research of the two methods in general has shown that a ton of biomass subjected to slow pyrolysis can produce up to 750 pounds of biochar, while the fast process yields 300 pounds of char.

Pressure to produce bio-oil could grow as oil prices continue climbing. UOP has said it expects to start fuel production in Hawaii no later than 2014. The company estimates it could produce gasoline and diesel for about $2.50 a gallon, Elliott said.

Others, however, tout the potential value of biochar for use in soils and in controlling greenhouse gases. Production of biochar locks up carbon from the biomass that would otherwise rot or be burned, and therefore decreases the amount of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere, according to researchers.

“By finding ways to keep this carbon out of the atmosphere for longer periods, we’re making better use of the service provided by plants when they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis,” Amonette said.

Soil scientists also have found biochar is good for storing carbon because it takes a long time to decompose, Collins said. It also has shown promise in retaining phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium — helping prevent them from leaching into lakes and streams — and retains moisture because it is porous.

But research by soil scientists thus far suggests biochar isn’t a magic elixir for all types of soil. It may work best in tropical and highly weathered soils — such as in the southern U.S. — where minerals have leached out of soil.

“It’s not a nutrient. It imparts some characteristics that improve soil conditions,” Collins said.

His team in Prosser now is looking at transforming dairy wastes into a fuel source and reducing environmental issues with the waste. The researchers are taking manure run through a digester at an Outlook dairy, running it through a pelletizer to change it to pellet form, and then subjecting it to slow pyrolysis to produce bio-gas or bio-oil.

Biochar produced in the process is being applied to dairy waste water to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus, which could be sold as a fertilizer.

“We think it shows a lot of promise,” Collins said.

Research will yield more clues into potential applications of biochar and bio-oil. Economics also will play a key role in how the technology is developed, said Jim Bartis, a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corp. who specializes in energy.

“We know we can implement (the technology) now on a small scale,” Amonette said. “We can’t wait 50 years to get all the bugs out.”

* Kevin McCullen: 509-582-1535;

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Run, Walk, or Crawl – Just Finish

This phrase is not original to me but I have used it during my last few marathons to justify walking after a major battle with cramps around mile 22.  When I first started running marathons 10 years ago the thought of walking was in my mind an Epic Failure only reserved for “the lesser”.  Ten years older and wiser I now realize the power of the marathon comes in the completion.  Yes, I strive for PR’s and the ever present goal of qualifying for Boston (before I hit 40) but at some point I realized that when you cross the finish it doesn’t really matter how it looked in the middle…I finished.  I strapped on my Brooks – moved forward – didn’t quit. 

Philippians 3:13-14 says Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.   The last month has been one greenhouse failure after another causing stress, frustration, heart ache and perhaps a graduation delay, but it is the past.  Now I start the process all over again, with yet another lesson learned through trial and error, but with more knowledge comes a greater chance for success.  It’s like the marathon, it doesn’t matter what the middle looked like in the end, it is finishing that counts.  Although it might not be pretty, whether I receive my doctoral hood in December or May will not matter 10 years from now…I just have to finish. 

Off I go to a committee meeting, then to prepare for replanting the greenhouse, and clean out the manure tanks.  I am straining toward what is ahead – pressing on towards the goal – to finish the race, because I have to Prepare the Soil for Harvest

Tightening up the running shoes (Brooks of Course)  I will Finish – Running, Walking or Crawling.

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God and the Long Run

Have you ever wondered why God brings certain things to your mind from scripture? In the last month 2 places have repeatedly been imprinted on my daily thinking process.
1) Ezekiel 37
2) 2 Samuel 23:20-24
I have been camping (as some would say) on both of these stories. What does the valley of dry bones and chasing a lion in a pit on a snowy day have to do with me? The answer is still unclear and I believe it might take a few more weeks of pondering, however here are at least a few responses.

1) When Ezekiel was taken to the Valley of Dry Bones God ask him what he saw – His response was “Only you know O Sovereign Lord” Can the bones live? What a tremendous question – can our shattered lives, dreams, situations be rescued? Ezekiel allowed his answer to be based on what God saw not his own vision.

2) We were called to trust God and living dangerously and recklessly, trusting God’s Word is not an option and this is the beauty of the long run.

The beauty of the long run. No music in the ipod just you with God. At mile 8 my mind starts to relax and open. It is then that God begins to reveal the issues. The things he wants to address in my live. The scriptures he wants me to dwell upon, the run is never easy, the pruning he prescribes is hard to swallow but I look forward to the next lonely stretch of road where God will refresh my dry bones.

When was the last time you went on a long run? If you haven’t done it lately go beyond the 8 mile marker.

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Intentionality @ 35

Turning 35 a couple days ago did not send me into a tailspin of regret, depression, or worry but rather it confirmed the drive to be intentional in all I do. If you know me, there is no doubt I am a driven person with a certain goal in mind

“ I exist to restore hope to my generation, anywhere I go, anyway I can, anyone I meet living dangerously and recklessly trusting God’s Word”

My grandfather always told me he was given 70 years and anything else was a blessing from God. If 70 years is the standard then I have 35 years to finish the race as to win the prize.
The prize…what are my intentional decisions focused on?
3 kids that become independent responsible Christ following adults
Fulfilling the destiny God has for me i.e.
A doctorate in Soil Science
Teach science at NU and then travel to different projects around the world showing Christ love in a particle manner which will open a door to message of Christ’s hope (simply go through the doors he opens so I can do whatever he ask)
A marriage of 46+ years and these are just a couple…

With 30 days until my first comp exam (closed book 3 hrs – Soil Microbiology) I am reminded that every decision of time, effort, money and sleep must be done with the goal in view. I press on one hour at a time remembering the words of Bonhoeffer, “when Christ calls someone he calls him to come and die” and PRE “ To give anything less then your best is to sacrifice the gift”

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Unstoppable – Rabbit Tales #1

vwThis morning I was empowered – I was unstoppable by any form of human intervention. The world had nothing on me as the super poopsmith himself opened the shop door, what had previous housed a broken van, now housed the master piece. The stuff legends are made.

As the door was opened a cloud of blue smoke rolled through the alley revealing the 11th wonder of the world in all it’s sputtering glory. It’s dull grey and rusted shell trying to not stop because of lack of compression. Then in a heart beat (seemed like an hour) the fuel, pistons, glow plugs and injectors all started to work as an almost fine oiled machine. I hopped inside and pulled this grey mini beast into the street gloating in my awesomeness. Playing one of the only two English channels receivable on the radio I almost hit 55 on this beautiful sunrise of a day. It didn’t die at the stop signs, didn’t need to be plugged in at work, and no need to lock the doors I feel safe no one will steal my beauty.

Not a truck, not a van, not even a DeLorean (however going down hill I might hit 88 MPH) but a 81 VW Rabbit with 332,325 miles on the engine. This champ has been passed down from Bruland to Bruland and now to me…The girls won’t ride in it, the boys think they have died and gone to heaven.

Thus begins a series of post describing the world of the Rabbit…until it won’t start again at least. However today the beast was UNSTOPPABLE!

Written while sitting in a mandatory seminar on Organic Intercropping Systems.

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For the Record…

Since 1999 I have recorded my thoughts for the new year as a way to at least think ahead on purpose. Although if you look at last years list I failed at my goals but I was at a 50% so I won some and lost some.

For the record…

Read through the Bible

Take my wife on a date at least once a month

Play a game with each of my kids once a week

Pass my Preliminary Exams

Complete 2 chapters in my dissertation

Run 650 miles

Run marathon 6, 7, and 8

Stay within budget

Reduce my consumer depth

Upgrade to Extra class license (Ham Radio)

Make 100 different contacts

Read 1 book for pleasure

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My Plumbing is Backed Up

imagesNo, I am not talking about my “personal plumbing” but rather the house.  I spent most of Thanksgiving and the 2 days following under my house replacing pipe and trying to move a mass of something towards the mainline.  Late Friday afternoon as Thanksgiving dishes were still piled high in the kitchen I had to admit defeat and call in the professionals (who in returned broke my pipes), but by Saturday night Thanksgiving dishes and clean up were complete…


While under the house trying to free the mass I found myself getting bitter, angry, frustrated to the point of wanting to throw the wrench at the furnace.  The bitter, angry, frustrated not so handy man came out of the crawl space with me until I got to work this morning to find the internet down – which I needed to finish homework. 


Now it is 9:30 and after reflecting on words from Amanda Hamar and Ephesians 5:17-20 I think it is time to grow up – inflate the ball (sermon illustration she used) – and be wise with my time and get an infusion from on high.  The weekend is gone and today has just started.  It is time to live not as unwise but wise…


Just like the drain I think I just needed to consult with the professional.  It is a continual discipline I need – without the continual discipline the spiritual outside and inside look a little off color. 


Have you had a good chat with the creator lately?   



Another Secret

beware-of-ham-radioAnother Secret – No Phosphorus


Any given time I can only handle so much manure, phosphorus and statistics.  I can’t do much about it until I get my degree but in the mean time I have to have an outlet.  Most people know I run – if you read the blog you can trace my progress, but we have a hidden secret in our home…it is one we don’t really talk much about because it sets up apart from really most people that we know through work, church and school….our secret?


No – Mary is my first wife – the kids are all ours – I have no record but we are a Ham Radio family. Mary (KE7UUF) and Macuen (KE7WIC) have all passed the FCC exam for the technician’s license and I (K7VNG) have my general license (2 tests).    From the corner of the living or boys room we talk to the world via repeaters and HF waves.  We are learning Morse Code, slowly, as a family and meet on a regular basis with other hams in the area to talk sunspots, wiring and antennas.  Yes there are strange wires coming out of my house but my antenna farm is very small compared to some (KC7OE).  There now you know…we really are a little odd.  


My Rig: Yaesu 7800R for 2m and 440 and a

Yaesu 707 for 10-80 meters with a 80 dipole, tuning with a MFJ for 20meters.  

Icom 706 coming in December from an OM N7LH. 




If you are interested in more details we can suck you in!           

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