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Getting work done at Burra's place, and visiting Portugal.  RSS feed

 
gardener
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I arrived in Lisbon too late to catch the last train on Wednesday, so I had to stay in the city. Birds on the runway had delayed my departure from Paris. I went to the McDonald's until it closed and then I walked about the old part of the city which is done in really neat tile on building walls and sidewalks. The part of town where there's a courthouse and other  official buildings, has sidewalks made of marble and other very smooth stone. The underground system is really good.

 After looking at all that, I got my ass to the train station to catch the 5:30 a.m. train. The ticket office was closed and there was no one to tell me which train. So I went around to each one and finally talked to the right conductor. I had to take one train and then another. At the connection point, a man who was also traveling and had very little English, looked at my ticket and led me to a spot where there was a big chart. He determined which train I needed and I thanked him.

 Even the people I met at 3 a.m., who had been drinking we're very pleasant. A group of taxi drivers we're playing music and singing. Some girls came to wait for a bus at 4 a.m. when the bar closed, and two quite rough-looking street guys got out their mandolin and performed many songs, some of which must have been traditional folk songs, because the girls sang along. Every young person I talked to was conversant in English. Very handy for a guy who knows 3 words in Portuguese.
........
Arrived at 9:45 a.m. Thursday

After examining the many things that need to be done, we decided the most important thing was to get rid of a row of large eucalyptus which are a fire hazard and would only become more difficult to deal with in the future. Eucalyptus coppices well. We are producing enough firewood to last for quite a few years, so by the time it runs out these trees will be ready for another thinning.

We have a brand new 37cc chainsaw. It's a no name brand but certainly not the worst saw I have ever used. Burra's son Alan is a diligent worker, who is naturally organized and safety conscious.  He kept debris out of the way and serviced the saw anytime I stopped for a drink or for some other reason. We got started yesterday afternoon and we are getting close to the halfway mark. I woke up before dawn. I have probably kept the chainsaw running at Full Throttle for 70 or 80% of the time. Speed between cuts is more important than having a great big saw that cuts really fast. I've been going quite small with the firewood, right down to the stuff the size of my wrist. Alan is dragging all small branches and bark to a big pile that will be burnt in the winter. Portugal is a tinderbox in the summer because of the huge amount of eucalyptus and the naturally dry Mediterranean climate. If we manage to get through all of the eucalyptus by the end of tomorrow, that will be the single biggest project out of the way, and both me and Alan will need a rest. I expect that there will be at least 2 weeks worth of work for Alan to do after I leave, just in processing this large batch of wood.

Further updates will show up as we move along.

We ran out of gas and oil just about the time it started getting too hot. I'm tired and lying on the couch, so there's no pictures which is very unusual for me. :-)
 
Dale Hodgins
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I ate 5 eggs and peanut butter and honey on bread, and had a shower. On the way back from the shower house I decided to take some pictures.

There are trees on both sides of the dry stone fence. I didn't do the damage that you see to the fence. I think something fell on it in the past. The tops of these trees are quite tangled together, so it can be difficult to predict which way they want to go. A tree can be leaning one way, but a large branch from a neighboring tree can be pushing it in a different direction.

These trees shed massive amounts of flammable bark. I do a little bit of cleanup around each trunk before dropping the tree. We have also cleared up ground debris so that there is always an Escape Route.

Because this wood is difficult to split I'm cutting all of the large rounds at about 1 foot long.

The trailer or caravan as they call them here, was in the way and there was no trailer hitch, chain or shackle to be found. So we tied it to the tractor with a large nylon strap. It's a rinky-dink system but it worked. Burra has an amazing array of tools of dubious quality.
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Re: eucalyptus as firewood....about 50 years ago my family lived at the edge of about 30 acres of eucalyptus trees and we used the branches that blew down and various thinnings as firewood.  My father later told me that when green it was some of the wettest and heaviest wood he had ever handled but it cut and split very easily.  However, once it dried it was like trying to split a rock.  Very hard and burned very hot.  So be sure you work it up before it dries out. 
 
Mother Tree
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Dale Hodgins
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I'm back in Lisbon and will catch my plane to London very soon.

We weren't able to determine the length of the Firebox of The Walker Stove. At first, I started chopping things up at 16 in. long, but then went to about 1 foot long. If necessary, Alan will use the chop saw to further reduce the material as it is used. Chainsaws like wet wood but the chop saw likes dry wood.

They get a hot dry summer. This wood will be largely dry in a month. Alan plans to split it all, over the next few weeks and to get it in the shed long before the winter rain. There is unlikely to be any significant precipitation in July and August. The wood is sitting on pebbly rocks that get quite hot in the sun. When I mentioned not picking the wood up until it's dry, Alan mentioned that Paul told him the same thing. They cut some firewood there at the lab and I'm pretty sure it laid in place until most moisture was gone. It dries much faster laid out in the open sun than it would if it were stacked in a shed. But most importantly, it loses lots of water weight.

There are many more little projects that need to be done at Burra's place. I had imagined getting involved in several little projects but instead took on this one large project. She has others coming to help, who would not have been comfortable dropping big trees.

In five or six years, this row of eucalyptus will be ready to cut again, but they won't be nearly as large as they were. It should be fairly easy to maintain them, if they are never allowed to get more than 8 inches in diameter.
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Dale Hodgins
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The frogs at Burra's place are incredibly loud. They have so many different vocalizations that I thought I was listening to other types of animals at first. High pitch, low pitch reverberating ... these guys have Freddie Mercury beat. They are in the Lily Pond and in every other body of water including a big well that used to be pumped by a donkey walking in a circle. I think that's what went on, I forgot to ask.
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Burra Maluca
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I want to say a huge, huge thankyou to Dale for turning up here and not only doing a ton of work but also being mega supportive to both myself and my son at an exceedingly difficult time in our lives, just two weeks after losing my husband having spending months caring for him round the clock while essential chores on the farm were simply left undone.  I ended up with grass taller than me in some places, which is a mega fire risk, I had eucalyptus which I'd wanted cut down for years towering dangerously near to the exit gate of the farm risking blocking our escape if they catch fire, and so much mess to clear up from half-finished projects that I hardly knew how or where to begin.  Dale rolled in, took some time to assess what most needed doing and where best to channel his expertise and energy, and took on the biggest, heaviest job, leaving me much safer and with several years' supply of firewood to boot

I have a couple more friends due to arrive soonish, and other projects such as building one of Matt Walker's Tiny House Cook Stove and Heater are likely to be done as a bit of a team effort.  I think I get to take photos, supervise and pay for the materials while the boys build, but I'm not complaining!

It was a total pleasure to have you here Dale! 
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:The frogs at Burra's place are incredibly loud. They have so many different vocalizations that I thought I was listening to other types of animals at first. High pitch, low pitch reverberating ... these guys have Freddie Mercury beat. They are in the Lily Pond and in every other body of water including a big well that used to be pumped by a donkey walking in a circle. I think that's what went on, I forgot to ask.



Those water lilly's are plain beautifull...

Great job Dale! You're the man.
 
Burra Maluca
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Dale Hodgins wrote: a big well that used to be pumped by a donkey walking in a circle. I think that's what went on, I forgot to ask.


Yup, that's what used to go on.  We no longer have a donkey though, so there's a pump in there these days.

Here's a working 'nora', complete with donkey.



 
João Carneiro
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I think i know exactly what that donkey feels like... going around in circles... and every time i do, i end up at permies.com, lol...

well, i do come here on many other ocasions, one of them is checking up on you fellow permies and i'm sorry for your loss Burra.

Looking closely i'm now with a bit of envy looking at those logs, i need to get hold of a nice cheap local supplier to materialize some ideas.

spring's up!
 
Burra Maluca
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Dale Hodgins wrote:We weren't able to determine the length of the Firebox of The Walker Stove. At first, I started chopping things up at 16 in. long, but then went to about 1 foot long. If necessary, Alan will use the chop saw to further reduce the material as it is used. Chainsaws like wet wood but the chop saw likes dry wood.



Matt has just reported that the ideal size is up to about 16" in length, and under 6" thick.

So you got it right Dale!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Back in Canada. My return Odyssey from London took a total of 66 hours from when I popped out of bed in London until I was back in a proper bed in Victoria British Columbia Canada. I was beyond tired. It involved six planes and 4 continents. I'll explain that when my head is working. My belly hasn't been right for 2 days.

We had a very productive time in Portugal and it was good to meet Burra and Alan. I trust that Alan is still splitting wood. We watched the video of The Walker stove and went on faith that the wood was more than a foot long. Most of the stuff has been split small enough to fit, although only 15% or so was done by the time I left. I do not envy Alan. But he'll get there.
 
Burra Maluca
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Hey Dale, you left  your collar behind!

Mine's bigger than yours. :)
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Dale Hodgins
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Yes, I realized it was missing the same day I left. Do with it what you will. Maybe someone else will need it when they leave your place. I found it uncomfortable around the neck, so I used it under my ass when I had to lay on hard surfaces at bus stations and airports.

The other day someone said they had a splitting headache and I thought, I'll bet Alan has a splitting headache of a different sort. How has he done with all of that wood splitting? Have any other projects been completed or at least begun? I've been on a work frenzy, and haven't been following your progress.
 
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When were Eucalypts introduced?
 
Dale Hodgins
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It appears that they have been there for a long time. Some stumps have many former trunks. I think it's this way in much of the world where eucalyptus will grow. When I was in Kenya, the most common tree outside of national parks, was eucalyptus. They are in California, India, China and many other places. They produce lots of wood but also reduce the water table, present a huge fire hazard and they don't produce anything that is useful to Wildlife.
 
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Ah, the lily pond. My shoes remember the lily pond fondly.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I got so focused on the job at hand, that I didn't make it to the back of the property until early in the morning the day I left. There seems to be lots of potential.

This area of Portugal has very inexpensive properties that contain stone work that has been done over generations. It seems like a great area for a group of people to move together, so that you would bring some of your home culture with you.

It would have to be a somewhat self-contained community, because it's hard to sell farm products to people who already have plenty of their own. I'm pretty committed to where I live currently, but could see buying a place sometime in the future, to be used in the winter.

The eucalyptus are a plague that have taken over vast areas that used to be farms.
 
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Burra, I havent kept up with Permies well these last many months, so i am very sorry to hear about your loss.

Dale, hats off to you for going in to help.  You rock.

The reason you see so much eucalyptus in Kenya is because it was marketed as a get-rich timber scheme.  Fast growing straight trunk trees with a "guarenteed" market to the Kenya power company as power poles.  Every farmer jumped in, planting eucalyptus.  And now Kenya power has switched over to cement poles, so that market has crashed.  It still has value as building timber, but it has ruined countless hectares of productive farm land.  It is extremely allopathic and I have heard that even if you rip out the stumps it can take a decade for the allopathic chemicals to get out of the soil.  There are much better alternatives, such as biblia, but it doesn't grow as fast.  My husband of course insisted on putting in a stand of eucalyptus at the old farm.  Also the way they plant it here, sometimes as dense as a tree every two feet, it is totally sucking off the water tables.  The famous "crying stone" in Kakamega no longer cries, presumably because of the surrounding eucalyptus plantation.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I was at that stone. It seems to me that the eucalyptus in Kenya is at least taking pressure off of whatever native stands remain outside of the parks. Almost every native tree that I see, has some sort of twisty shape that does not make it a great candidate for building poles or much else beyond charcoal. I suppose it's possible that there were many nice straight specimens, but only the dregs remain. Even in the dense growth of kakamega forest, many of the trees would not be suitable as poles. I hope they can leave this Natural Area alone. Every change of government, promises further environmental destruction. One party is promising to allow settlers to take over some of the forest.

I think it makes sense that they switched to concrete power poles, both for uniformity and because it's not something that charcoal makers will cut down. The concrete poles also make it more difficult for anyone wanting to steal electrical wire.

I have friends who bought land, so that they could turn it into a eucalyptus plantation. I have been trying to show them the benefits of fish farming, instead. Many people are working with outdated information, and there seems to be a natural stubbornness, particularly when it comes from an outsider.
 
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