Using readily available biomass keeps energy bills down.

wood burning stove
Back in 2014

Using readily available biomass such as cut logs can help keep your overall energy bills down. If you are lucky to access to woody biomass which you can harvest sustainably

or access to wood residues like off-cuts it makes sense to spend time and energy collecting and processing these.

As it is on a small scale it is environmentally friendly and does not require huge amounts of energy to produce unlike wood chips or pellets.

During the winter months we use a lot more heat energy to stay warm. This can be in the form of gas central heating or electric underfloor heating or stand alone gas or electric heaters. In either case they are expensive to run. If you like your hot bath and showers in the winter this can add significantly to your energy bills. Using readily available biomass such as wood can help keep your overall energy bills down.

How much money can be saved using biomass as a form of heating.

Here is my own example. Metrics help separate fact from fiction. I like my hot showers and baths during winter. However the cost of electrically heating water at current energy prices is not trivial. [/lang en]

wood burning stove
2020

Let’s look at the cost of heating a 100 litre tank from 18ºC to 50ºC.

The specific heat capacity of water is 4200 J per kg per degree Kelvin. This is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 degree Kelvin (or Celcius).

The temperature change is 50ºC – 20ºC = 30ºC

100 litres of water is 100 kg

The energy E, in joules required to heat the water is given by E = mass x specific heat capacity x change in temperate,

So , E = 100 kg x 4200 Joules x 30ºC => E = 12600000J (Joules)

1 J/sec = 1 Watt (W)

Hence 12600000J /(3600s) 3500 Wh or 3.5kWh

The actual time it takes for me to electrically heat the tank is 2.5 hours.

I have a 1000 Watt heater.

Therefore 1000 x (2.5h ) = 2500Wh

This is equivalent to 2.5 kWh (kiloWatts)

It would appear I use 1kWh of electricity less that estimated. This maybe be due to the fact the water sinside the tank remains at a higher temperature that the estimated 20ºC

when I start heating electrically.

I get my electricity from the energy co-operative, Coopérnico .

This is their 2019 tariff for bi-horário.

So heating the water during off peak hours (vazio) costs 0.0987 cents per kiloWatt hour (kWh)

So 0.0987€ x 2.5kWh = 0.24675€

(7 days x 4) x 0.24675€ = €6.909

With IVA (VAT) at 23% = €8.4981 is what I can save a month.

I have a hot bath by boiling a pot of 5 litres of water on my wood burner. Doing this 2-3 times a week during winter is worth my while. Besides boiling bath water I can also do a little cooking on top of the wood burner to make further savings.

Our Olive Oil from the Algarve, Portugal

Locally produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Algarve, Portugal

Locally produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The olive oil we made came from a variety of olives. These olives grew  and ripened under the Algarve sun in southern Portugal.

The black varieties included Cornicabra and Galega gave us extra virgin oil of 0.7 degree.

Galega olives, Algarve , Portugal

Galega olives

The green varieties of olives produced extra virgin oil of 0.5 degree. These olives were more of a spherical type and some of them were huge with diameters exceeding 3 cm. I have yet to identify these varieties. Most of these trees were grafted by the Portuguese over 50 to 200 years ago.

For an explanation of the degree of olive oil see the previous article.

Cornicabra olives, Algarve Portugal

Cornicabra olives image credited to viveiros da bairrada

The healthy benefits are of Extra Virgin Oil are much vaunted .

The verified facts are:

  • Rich in anti-oxidants so a good nuero protector.

  • Unrefined olive oil is best as it is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins.

  • The antioxidants contained in Extra Virgin Oil oil do not break down on heating. This is great as as it means you can cook with extra Virgin Olive oil without loss of the antioxidants. This brings me to the myth of cold pressed olive oil. What temperature is this “cold” exactly? Because room temperature varies from 18ºC to about 24ºC depending on the individual. Unrefined Extra virgin Oil starts to congeal at temperatures below 16ºC so you would get very little oil pressing at these temperatures in the cold season of October to December. For this reason olive oil presses have to supply some heat during the extraction process. It does not affect the beneficial properties of the olive oil nor affect the oil’s excellent taste which should be peppery ans grassy. Some Extra virgin oils are slightly bitter.

  • Cooking with Extra Virgin Oil helps prevent the break down and loss of beneficial nutrients like vitamin C in vegetables.

  • A diet that includes regular amounts Extra Virgin Oil oil has been proved to reduced bone fractures and loss of bone in the elderly.

Facts not completely verified are:

  • Reduces the risk of Stroke and Heart Attack. This could be true as the Extra Virgin Oil would replace other fats in one´s diet responsible for cholesterol and restricted flow in the blood vessels.

“Where can I get some of this fine Extra Virgin Olive oil of yours?”

If you are in Hillingdon, West London or High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, we have a limited stock of this Portuguese unrefined Extra Virgin Olive Oil in 1 litre bottles. Email  jdsouza@lineone.net for details.

Sources:

11 Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil That You Can’t Ignore

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28143667 (refers to bone loss)

http://www.viveirosdabairrada.com

My route to producing some Olive Oil.

2014 April , I had just been on the property for a couple of months. These early days were filled with wonder of all the trees that were on the property. The size of the property was and still is 1 hectare.

Mature olive tree, Oliveira, Luz de Tavira

Mature Olive tree

With a tiny cottage which was incomplete. No floors for one. Amongst the trees were four mature olive trees. The tallest and these was 5 m or more. In addition to these, were over 100 wild olive trees which I hardly noticed at the time except for the ones that were in heavy bloom, like in the photo below.

Wild olive tree in bloom, oliveira, Luz de Tavira

Wild olive tree in bloom (2014)

Quite naturally, I tended to show off the four mature olive trees to visitors then as there wasn’t much else besides the wild terrain. All four of these mature olive trees were in dire need of pruning and clearance around the base area of the trees. They now are in a better state but there is definitely room for improvement.

Then I had no idea about all the different olive varieties and what was involved in producing olive oil. And today, I still haven’t identified the variety of these four large mature trees. They were grafted a very long time ago. I say this , because new branches that grow off their bases give a smaller black olive (Galega?) rather than the larger green ones.

2019, five years on. I mentioned black olives earlier. A good few of the wild olives trees produced round black olives in 2019 for the first time. The olives were of a decent size. Usually wild olive trees produce tiny oval olives that haven’t much weight. From this excellent guide , I think they maybe of the Galega variety.

Thus I have over the years been learning about olives and producing a little olive oil. I also conserve olives for the table but did not prepare any this year as it is a time consuming process.

As you can see, I have been planting about 40 very new olive trees on my property.

young olive tree, oliveria, Luz de Tavira

young olive tree

It will be some years before they produce anything but I have the patience. I am not sure what varieties they are. The guy with whom I did this joint venture said that they were Cobrançosa and Picual. I am doubtful about the ones purporting to be Cobrançosa as the leaves are short and wide rather than long and slim. From this very excellent Portuguese guide, I think they may be Arbequina. This variety is also popular is Spain where the cuttings came from. The Extra Virgin olive oil of the Arbequina is sauve and of excellent quality. So we will see. For table olives I have a four young Maçanilha and the green olives from the four mature trees are well suited to preserving in bottles.

Picual, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, azeite, azeitonas, olive oil

Could be Picual

I would love to have a micro olive oil press to experiment with all the different varieties. I don’t have this option at the cooperative press I use. Out of necessity we(my neighbours and I), have to mix all varieties together to exceed the minimum half tonne required per pressing.

Properties of olive oil.

Percentage Free oleic acid.

This is what gives an oil have it greasy property. The percentage of free olive oil is also represented as a degree between 0 to 1.

The The percentage of free oleic acid of Extra Virgin olive oil must be less than 80% or 0.8 degrees. The oxidation process of olive oil will increase as the oil is exposed to air and sunlight.

This is why it is important to store olive oil in a cool dark place and in air tight containers.

Standard olive oil has almost no taste or fragrance as it almost 100% free oleic acid and is like any other vegetable cooking oil.

One of the principal health benefits of Extra Virgin olive lies in the fact that it is rich in antioxidants.

Sources:

https://www.aceitedelasvaldesas.com/en/faq/preguntas-aceite-de-oliva/acidez-del-aceite-de-oliva/

Towards Christmas and the end of 2019

s, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira

Olives

It has been a busy November with the olive harvest, what. And now they rains are with us. This year was a really good for olives. The trees were loaded. I wasn‘t able to harvest all of the olives on my 0wnand a neighbour’s plot because it takes along time especially if you are working alone. I did manage to get about 65 litres of oil in the end. We had three grades of oil 0.5 º , 0.7º amd 0.9º which are measures of the oleic acid in the oil.

The 0.5º was the best quality. Extra virgin gourmet. The 0.7º was extra virgin too. Both were from our own olives and pressed by the Cooperativa Lagar (olive press) at Santa Catarina. The 0.9º was pressed at a different lagar , Alberto Rocha at Santa Catarina. This oil although blended and probably not of from own olives is also good virgin quality and better than the standard stuff you can buy at Portuguese supermarkets.

This season I have had quite a few of olive trees that have appeared magically bearing olives. These are round black olives mainly. A couple are of a more elongated shaped olive. I will prune them and hope for a better crop from these next season. I confess I am dubious if there will any olives next year. The trees usually rest every other year.

Picking Olives, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira

Machine at work

Olive picking is hard work. Even with a machine. But the machine does help. I had one good helper this year. It was a pleasant experience picking olives together.

picking olives, Luz de Tavira, Portugal

Picking olives

I have a a number of guava trees that are growing well. They seem to have fruited a little late this year. But this did not stop me.

guavas, Belnonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve

guavas

Since the guavas are not that good to eat I made some guava cheese (perad). There is still something of a Goan left in me. 🙂 It turned out quite good. A little on the soft side so I cut it up and put the pieces onto paper cups.

guava cheese (perad) nade in Portugal

guava cheese (perad)

I don’t think I will be celebrating Christmas but things could change. I will put up some lights if I can find them. In any case this old barrel stove is keeping us warm.

wood burning stove, Juan Panadero No.3

wood burning stove

I use it to boil water which helps cut down on electricity and gas bills. The batteries of my solar system aren’t working well. Five years, so they are probably exhausted. Replacing them is a costly affair is not an option at the moment but like I said this could change too. 🙂

The hazard of using Web Browser Extensions

Extensions for Web Browsers FireFox

We all probably use Extensions in our web browsers without hesitation as they make our life easier.

Popular web extensions include Ad Blockers which block adverts, Video Downloaders which help us download Youtube videos and more .

There is a price to be paid for this convenience as you are literally handing over your life to some other parties. This is especially the case with using free apps out there as not every has good intentions. It is best to start from a point of mistrust until the position of an application such as an Extension or Plugin can be proved otherwise.

Let‘s look at the popular video downloader extension, Video DownloadHelper for the FireFox and Chrome web browsers.

hazard of using browser extensions

Video Downloadhelper

 

Besides the web browser extension, Video DownloadHelper now insists on installing an Companion Application onto your device (where device is desktop or laptop. I have never installed it on a smartphone). All this so that you can download Youtube and other video clips with a couple of mouse button clicks.

However, if you take a look at the permissions this Extension and Companion Application require to run you nay as well hand over your computing device to someone with all your passwords and data including government business and banking details. 

permissions that sign your life away

Permissions!

 

Have a look below and the permissions list and you will see that this extension with it’s Companion app can record and send your every action performed on your device to other parties.

I advice checking the permissions that Extensions and plugins require very carefully before you install them. This includes Advert blockers like AdBlock Plus.

You can get around the problem of downloading videos without signing your life away, I recommend using VLC Player which is a genuine open source project created by the good :). 

VLC Player

VLC Player

 

Here is a link to how to download videos using VLC Player.

Have fun browsing but remember to stay safe. Make a text file of sites and login info you needneed and then periodically clear your cookies and historic data stored in your browser.

September 2019

I know it is already October but I am a bit behind.

So here is what has been happening with me in September.

Been earning a little money which is always useful working in the agricultural/gardening sector for a handful of people. It has been going okay.

Oh no, I failed my bike test again on another technicality. I have my own bike but I cannot insure it myself as only have a learner license and nobody in Portugal will insure you with this. So I am looking for a solution to this particular problem.

avacado tree - fuseta - algarve

Outstanding Avacado tree

On the home front it’s been going so so but I need to do more.  Bonji and Pipoca look after the place while I am away 🙂 The olive trees I planted along the borders are growing well. The avacado and fig trees are suffering due to infrequent irrigation. This with the exception of one avacado tree which looks marvelous. I really need to run a pipe.

When life doesn’t give you lemons – use limes. 🙂 . The lime tree is doing well this year.

lime tree - luz de tavira - algarve

lime tree

The mango tree has managed to survive and is growing slowly in a pot.

Picked my almonds! No easy to do for me. I sold three quarters of the crop.

alminds - fuseta - algarve

Almonds

Lettuce in pots under the alfarobeira (carob) grew very well in August and September. The shade really helps.

Physallis Peruviana (cape gooseberry) were a disappointment. The berries were few and mostly shriveled. I think it was due to it been extremely hot and not having sufficient water made available.

Diospero (Persimon) One of them is now three years old and has filled out and has two fruits! All of them have some of infection of the leaf. The leaves have a black dusty coating I think it is a fungus or a microscopic mite I will try soapy water.

diospiro - luzde tavira - algarve

Persimon/diospiro

 

I have 5 young pomegranate trees. Three of them have fruit this year. I have been irrigating them a couple of this a week which helped them during the heat of summer.

pomegranate - fuseta - algarve

pomegranate

I have a few grape vines but only one gave me grapes this year. My fault as I neglected them. Dona Maria variety. They are sweet when the ripen properly.

dona maria - fuseta - algarve

Dona Maria

 

I have apples this year! Not many but still – Yay! This is their second year in the ground, I am pleasantly surprised as they are not supposed to do well in hotter climates and the heat during summer was intense.

This about wraps it up.

apples - luz de tavira - algarve

Apples

Vortex TWA electric bicycle (type scooter) Lithium ion Battery modification.

Vortex TWA electric bicycle (type scooter)

Existing batteries: 5 units of 12V 20Ah sealed gel lead acid.

Replacement battery: 60V 18Ah lithium ion battery pack made up of 18650 lithium ion cells of 3.6V each. I have assumed of maximum 20A discharge rating of these 18650 cells (to be confirmed by lipotek)

bat2

Findings:

The 60V 18Ah lithium ion pack was unable to work on its own with the motor and controller on the Vortex TWA and kept cutting out. This is probably due the 18650 cells unable to maintain a constant 60V under heavy load conditions.

Solution:

My solution is to use the lithium ion pack in parallel with the sealed lead acid batteries.

I have fitted a switch to allow each set of batteries to be charged independently. The obvious overhead with this that you have to charge two different batteries with two different chargers (not shown in the diagram). The lithium ion 60V battery pack has to be charged at a very specific constant voltage hence you cannot use

the 60V acid battery charger and the reason for installing the switch to isolate the two batteries from each other during the charge process. See diagram below.

lithium ion battery modification

Note: I tried a 10A diode before I installed the switch. It worked in principal. However on one long journey to São Bras do Alportel it became very hot and exploded. I was not best pleased with the walk home. Fortunately there was a lot of downhill bits so this helped. It maybe possible to use a diode that has and integral heat sink but this would have to be mounted on part of the metal frame to conduct the heat away. The switch is a simpler solution and doesn’t have any internal resistance once the contacts are closed.

I think it is possible to install much smaller lead acid batteries as they are only necessary to prevent a sudden voltage drop under initial load take-up. My current 20 Ah lead acid batteries are chemically exhausted and the bike can only run 3 km on these. I intend to replace them with 5Ah lead acid batteries and save on the weight.

In conclusion , the lithium ion battery pack weighs less than 7 kg. Each of five 12V 20 Ah lead acid batteries weigh 7 kg. each. With the 18 Ah lithium battery pack I can easily do a 30 km trip. So I am overall very pleased with this battery pack built by lipotec.

A Handful of Coins

BitCoinThe 2014 Mtgox saga has re-emerged after a lull of several years.

The Japanese administrators of Mtgox Exchange have invited customers to submit claims for BitCoins, other cyptocurrencies and fiat currency (money) lost.

https://www.mtgox.com/

Claims must be submitted either offline or online and reach the the Mtgox administrators no later than the 22nd of October 2018.

I think it pretty decent of the Japanese government to try and make reparations to customers of the Mtgox Exchange which was setup and run by a french national, Mr Karpeles.

This is in contrast to the american government which periodically undermines alternative currencies by using law enforcement instruments to grab hold of BitCoins. A good example of this is the BTC-e exchange. The US government (Government of the United States of America) claimed the owner of the BTC-e exchanged was involved in handling stolen BitCoins and money laundering among other crimes. While all of these maybe be true the US Government made no attempt to verify whether customers of the exchange had obtained their BitCoins legally and has made to attempt to return any of the impounded BitCoins or fiat currency to genuine customers of the BTC-e exchange. This as far as I am concerned is robbery by the State.

After having read this article → https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43291026

some of us night be returned BitCoins we already owned and then bought again. It’s alleged that stolen Mtgox were traded on the BTC-e exchange. It maybe be wishful thinking but just maybe the US Government will give the Japanese government the impounded BitCoins so that the Mtgox clients get their BitCoins back , BitCoins for which they have paid twice 😀

Back to the Mtgox saga, the Japanese administrators are offering to refund customers either BitCoins or fiat currency when this becomes possible, however customers maybe not be able to dictate preference and ultimately will have to accept what is offered. It is interesting to note that the fiat currency (money) being offered is about a tenth of the current value of BitCoin but as they say – it is better than a poke in the eye with a proverbial sharp stick 🙂

Lemon Marmalade Cake

Receipe for Lemon Marmalade Cake.

This cake is very easy to make. lemon marmalade cake, bolo de lemão, Algarve, Fuseta, Tavira

Ingredients.

  1. 250 grams self raising flour.

  2. 250 grams sugar (I used soft yellow sugar but I am sure white sugar will do).

  3. 2 ripe lemons

  4. half a teaspoon salt

  5. half a teaspoon baking soda

  6. Lemon marmalade

  7. 4 eggs

Method.

Use a sufficiently large bowl where you can mix everything together in using a electrical cake mixer/egg beater.

Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda into the bowl. Break four eggs and add them in (holding back the shell of’course 🙂 ).

Take each lemon and using a fine grater grate of the rind of both lemons. Add the grating to the cake mix. Cut the lemons and squeeze and collect the lemon juice. Remove the seeds. Now add the juice to the cake mix.

Using the electrical beater, beat the cake mix until it is light and fluffy. The better you beat it, the lighter the cake will be. If you want a lighter sponge reduce the amount of flour by 25-30 grams .

Put it in the oven at 200 ºC for 40 minutes.

I prefer to use a round tray with a hole in the centre as I find this gives you   a more fluffy cake. You can use a standard 8 inch round baking tray too.

After the cake is ready pop it out, let it cool and then slice it into two. Apply a layer of lemon marmalade to the bottom part and then sandwich the cake back together. All done!

I find the cake tastes better from the second day onwards after the marmalade permeates it.

This is the receipe I used to make lemon marmalade. I only used 200 grams less of sugar per kilogram of lemons and add some pieces of cinnamon sticks and s few cloves.

https://snapguide.com/guides/make-lemon-marmalade/

All done!

As an aside here are some picks of water chilli pickle and some of my olives I have prepared. The olives are decent to eat :).

piri piri conserva, chilli pickle, Algarve, Fuseta, Tavira

olives, azeitonas, Algarve, Fuseta, Tavira

I just used a few slices of lemon, a couple of garlic and a bit of wild thyme. I got a lot more to marinade. Até logo peeps! Vesão em portuguese vai breve 🙂

An Electric Quad Bike for Work and Fun

Due to the large distances that needed to be traversed in the while carrying out harvesting and land management activities, I decided I needed some sort of machine to move about. Having to haul a loaded wheelbarrow an average distance of 2 km is not really my idea of fun. Adult electric quad bike, electric ATV

I wanted an electric vehicle that would be in keeping my overall renewable energy strategy. I began searching for electric quad bikes. Initially all I could find were quad bikes only suitable for children and very expensive adult size quad bikes available and assembled in Europe.

Once again the Chinese came to the rescue with a solution. For the past three years I’ve been very pleased with the Chinese designs and built direct drive electric scooter. I now found a model of quad bike that seemed to be both affordable and capable.

I ordered it through a Portuguese company based in the north of Portugal. Now that I know the model, I know I could have saved over 100 euros if I had imported directly via a distributor based in Germany. However I am happy with the technical support I have received from the Portuguese company to date.

The Model: HB-EATV750M

The bike arrived partly assembled. I had to put on the wheels and the handle bar and not much else.

The bike is adequately suitable for a medium sized adult and can carry a maximum weight of 120 kilograms. It has a two speed controller and a reverse mode which is very useful for getting out of trouble. I find that the 1000 Watt motor to be sufficiently powerful for what’s needed. It runs on a voltage of 48 Volts. If you open the throttle fully from a stationary position it will rear up and do a ‘wheelie’ 🙂 I won’t be doing these intentionally as it is an unnecessary risk. This model is a chain rear wheel drive. The bigger front tyres do make a difference in clambering over obstacles.

The bike is not road legal and can only be used on private property. This does not affect me too much as I was banned from driving years ago. I have a bridle path I can go up and down and have created a corridor through a couple of Portuguese neighbours’ properties. electric quad bike, ATV, Fuseta , Portugal

It has a rated maximum speed of 25 km an hour and a range of about 20 kilometres on full charge. It is not recommended for use in wet conditions as the electrics have not been protected in waterproof housings. Fortunately we don’t have many rainy days here in the Algarve, Portugal.

Work capability.

It’s early days yet but almost a month of usage, I have to say I am really impressed with the quad bike.

I was intially going to buy a trailer. Besides the expense I think what’s available is inadequate. I have found a wheel barrow attached with a couple of elasticized luggage straps are adequate for my needs. This allow the the wheelbarrow sufficient diagonal play required during turning, I am going to modify the wheel barrow by cutting down the stands for additional ground clearance and fitting on some sort of extension to carry larger volumes of brush wood. 1000W adult electric quad bike, ATV, Fuseta, Algarve

I haven’t used it for recreation at all but I will keep you posted . 🙂