We have spent many more months preparing for the cold of Winter than for the warmth of Spring. Throughout Autumn I collected in some of the logs cut from the chestnuts over the past years. Getting the wood into shelter before the rains came and keeping it dry were major tasks.
Meanwhile inside the house the central heating system of
radiators running off a wood burning stove was being completed. We knew that we would need wood from our trees for the 3 months of possible frosty nights and temperatures below 10 degrees during the day. Some of the olives had been pruned about 18 months ago and there was plenty of fallen chestnut. We estimated we might need 4000 kg of wood to keep us humans warm through a mild winter by some standards. Maybe this is one large tree or several smaller ones. Our Finca of over 200 chestnuts and many other types of trees should allow us to have a sustainable system. Whether trees can really provide a sustainable source of warmth for the human race seems to depend on how well forests are protected and used for this purpose. It seems that quick growing wood and dense forests reduces the biodiversity that a truly mixed forest can offer.
Another source of our heating is butane gas heaters, expensive and quite effective for direct heat and warmth but heavy to carry! The wood burning stove with tank and radiators was part of solving the problem of heating in the winter. Many people we speak too with a lot of experience know that it is a challenge in our area. Our system looks a little complicated with lots of valves and pumps but it has supplied some heat and lovely hot baths BUT it needs a full time wood gatherer and then wood stoker to keep the fire burning!
However we still don’t feel we have managed to achieve an efficient system. We are often given advice on the type of wood we are burning and ensuring it is split. Mixing the woods seems key. I have also been under instruction to read The Wood Burning Stove Handbook and I of course find a poem written by that old codger Anon and with words of wisdom about the art of burning different types of wood.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year
Chestnuts only good they say
If for long it’s laid away
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up fast and do not last
Elmwood burns like a churchyard mould
Even the very flames are cold
Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume
Oak and maple if dry and old
Will keep away the winter cold
But ash wood wet and ash wood dry
A king can warm his slippers by!