Category Archives: Chestnuts

Wood, wood, burning bright. The poetry of kindling the right flame with the right wood.

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.

Kindling the flame
Kindling the flame
Algarve Feb 2015 143
Stove from China, tank from Czech Republic, radiators from Spain

Meanwhile inside the house the central heating system of

Pollarded old chestnuts supply lots of fallen branches.
Pollarded old chestnuts supply lots of fallen branches.

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!

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More mushrooms and one for the pan

I can see Autumn will be a busy time as the chestnuts need to be collected and wood too for the winter. The gallipierni or apagador of the macropiolete family was edible. It found its way to the frying pan and we survived. But the very rose shaped red mushrooms, possibly from Russula family , like all rather red ones are best avoided. Lots of smaller mushrooms and these possibly are hallucinogenic and hard on the stomach!
Back to work now for the final chestnuts of the season on a glorious sunny November day.IMG_3208.JPGIMG_3209.JPG

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Meet the chestnuts: Part 1- January 2014

My first project this January is to survey all the chestnuts  on the Finca. The majority of these were planted in orchards over 100 to 200 years ago. In order to start the process I have decided to name the different parts of the Finca: Navasola East, Navasola Central, and Navasola West. Some might  prefer more romantic names rather than similarities to Hounslow on the Piccadilly Line! However, this has worked for me as I have now explored and counted all the major chestnuts of Navasola East.

Let’s meet some of these elderly but prolific producers of chestnuts.
HereAncient chestnut trunks  are some of the ancient trees or ancianos in Spanish in the field referred to as la parcela afuera de la cancela.  This is the plot of land just  outside the main gate. Many of the trees have had branches fall this winter. In the past the trees  would have been managed but in the latter part of the 20 th century  have been neglected and it is now a task for us to decide how to continue. However, the trees do their best to survive inclement weather and  produce new growth.

Many branches have fallen from these elderly chestnuts but new ones spring up too.
Many branches have fallen from these elderly chestnuts but new ones spring up too.

Each tree has a different shape and quality and sometimes very clear facial features! More of these later………. The trees can be of varying heights but many are squat with more spindly crowns of branches reaching for the sky.  In January, without the leaves, the shapes are  fascinating, and the trees create a stillness as all is sleeping within, dormant but getting ready for the spring. From May to December the trees work hard and for their age  still produce an abundance of chestnuts. The trees work to survive  and will produce new growth from what sometimes seems to be a trunk that has rotted away on the inside. More on the chestnuts of Navasola  in future  posts.