Category Archives: Sustainable Living

September 2021- autumn underway

Bougainvillea,Win turbine, Renewable Energy, Algarve, Portugal
Bougainvillea and Wind Power -my renewable energy dreams are still very valid .

Night time temperatures have begun to fall, definitely a sign of the onset of autumn.

Still haven’t fired up the stove as it’s still above eighteen indoors during the night.

I haven’t been doing much outside the past month and a half. Been busy doing a PHP certification course as well as learning javascript and such. Needs must etc.

Gathered and sold my own carobs and those of a friend. I don’t mind picking carobs, carobs, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarveit’s easy enough to do. Almonds are another matter. A mixed blessing as this year’s almond harvest is looking to be poor. Almonds are great chopped up and added to your oatmeal porridge. I also throw in some chopped or grated seasonal fruit I have to hand. Like apples, plums, peaches, pears etc. The dogs love this too.

Picking almonds

My own carob harvest was poor this year. About half but what I had last year but I really didn’t mind. Transportation for me is a still an issue. Something I haven’t managed to resolve.

figs, Tavira, algarve, Portugak, Lampa Preta varidade
Lampa Preta variety of figs

I have had a decent amount of fruit this season. The plums were very good. Early June right upto mid September. I think I picked the last of the Santa Rosa variety today. I have had some decent peaches , a good number of nashi pears and a few melons.

At the moment I got some Persimmon (kaki) trickling through. They are delicious when properly ripe. I also had my first figs. Lampa preta (black lantern) . I had planted this way back in 2016. It finally managed to grow and is a properly established tree now.

melão, melon, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Zephyr Rodrigues, Sustainable Living, Renewable Energy
Melons

I have snd have had , a fair amount of grapes for the table. I have 4 fruits vines at the moment. 1 red (Italia) and three white (Dona Maria Branca).

My first grow bed is working very well.I have lettuce, beetroot and sweet potato growing in it. As well as the edible weed purslane.

Uvas, Grapes, Dona Maria Branca, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Ria Formosa, Algarve.
Grapes, Dona Maria Branca

I have not been cockling much. The new inflatable was cleverly punctured. There are some very dodgy foreigners about. It was busy where I had to make land and they were waiting for me to come in. They came with their dogs too. Poor Bonji was kept occupied. I left craft and Bonji unattended for less than a 5 minutes. I will be more careful next time.

Well that’s all for now! It pruning and the olive harvest next.

Early Summer 2021

Has been rather busy. I have been kept occupied with land management, prep-ping for a programming certification and the three dogs.

Land management is mainly irrigation now. Everything is turning dry. I am doing a bit of pruning here and there as well as cutting the grass as it pops up. It’s mainly clear so I don’t have to bust a gut. My motorised scythe has broken down again. The Bosch electric strimmer on the other hand works fantastic. The handle parted at the weld joint. I don’t know any welder here so I think I will have to try some nuts and bolts.

Plums, Algarve, Portugal

Been trying to grow a few vegetables. Bought a dozen salad tomato seedlings – 9 have survived the attention of the dogs and snails. I have this year a few melon plants grown from seed. They are of the tennis ball size variety.

The two new canine additions, Chubbs and Conan are a handful but adorable. They are water dogs and love splashing about in the Ria Formosa. It’s a bit more difficult to take them to a nice beachy area as my kayak was stolen. Some people here obviously didn’t want me having fun on the sandbar catching cockles. I got an inflatable kayak to serve in it’s stead. It’s a cheap and cheerful Intex Explorer K2.

Intex Explorer K2 kayak - great value for money!

It is however very difficult to row. And unsuitable for boisterous young dogs with sharp claws. Their mother,Bonji on the other hand is fine in it. I am working on a plan to fit an electric trawling motor. Another option I am toying with is poling along the shallows. But it hasn’t got a solid floor that would support one standing. I have wrapped a tarpaulin around it so that I can drag it over ground – for just a little way 🙂

I had a good amount of apricots but lost about 70% of them to worms. I currently have a decent about of plums. I have – by luck – varieties that ripen at different times. So it’s been plum juice, plum cake and plum compote. The trees were ,and still are ,infected by a tiny white fly whose larvae eat up the leaves. and I think, the fly damages the fruit. I sprayed them thrice this year with some pesticide which saved the leaves and ensured a decent crop of plums. No ideal but necessary. Speaking of cakes,if you are in the supermarkets around here you must try the cake Folar de Erva Doce. It’s not much to look at but melts in your mouth. It’s sort of a sponge cake. 400g at under €3, It’s goes down very well with the afternoon cup of tea.

Folar de Erva Doce

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My Almond toffee. Made this afternoon 30/06/2021. And very good it is too 🙂

I have built my first grow bed. 🙂 I have just sown spinach and put in some sweet potato cuttings.

My solar power dreams are still alive and well. Besides running the 1000W Bosch strimmer I can also boil hot water in a 800W 0.5 litre electric kettle – during the day. Not at night as it would quickly run down my small battery bank. My solar array is quite small 720W at 24V. It is adequate for my current needs and works well. I am not sure if the law has changed. Back in 2014 you were permitted a solar array of a maximum of 1500W output for self consumption.

Ufesa 800W electric kettle

That’s all for tonight 🙂

Picked Olives, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal, small holding, defender of - my meu girrasol creed :)

January

Is all but over. Weatherwise we have had a couple of cold weeks where you had frost and frozen pipes. But is has warmed up this week and some of the almonds have bloomed. It been a mixture of sunshine together with cloud cover and light rain.

almond trees, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve

LE300 wind turbine from Leading Edge, AlgarveThe little LE300 wind turbine has been helping keep the lights on during periods of poor insolation. I have been pruning my own trees around the property. I have been taking my time with this. It’s going well and I am not going anywhere. I had my first avocado thus year. Of the Hass’ variety. Organic avocados, Hass variety, Algarve, Portugal

.fico em casa , over here , Algarve, Portugal oruned olive trees, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal

I have been experimenting with making cookies. The almond and lemon ones turned out decent. There weren’t many olives to be had last year but I managed to pick a few for pickling from the Belgian neighbours’ trees. Picked Olives, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal, small holding, defender of - my meu girrasol creed :)

I currently have 5 dogs in the house. True four are still only puppies but they are driving me insane. 🙂 I really hope I can find good owners for them and soon.

organic farming, sweet potato, Algarve, Portugal, real transition lifestyle
Another first for me. 1 kg of sweet potato. Grown in a large pot. The ones in the ground didn’t do well in the heavy clay soil.

Text to Speech

Cold January days so more time for reading, Due to my particular situation I can’t read books. As you can see I can read and write quite well well on the computer using standard ‘Accessibility’ tools and by improvising using different font/illumination settings.

Google-text-to-speech engine and a good read, the war on horror

I recently discovered Google Play books on my Android smartphone. It can use the Google text to speech engine which surprising works offline and works rather well. I ‘read’ “The War on Horror” which I found to be quite a good read. This is a free ebook. Brits would feel equally at home with the various themes explicitly presented or alluded to in this book. It brought back to the fore of my mind how we usually manage to achieve just mediocrity when aiming for excellence. If we started out aiming for just mediocrity the results are guaranteed to be dire.

Evie ebook Reader and Google Play Books on Android smartphones

I discovered an excellent ebook reader on the Android Download store, Google Play. The name of the application is Evie. It is a really good ebook reader! It has style and elegance and superb functionality. I am not sure who the creators/developers are but well done to them!

Evie, ebook reader for Android devices
Screenshot of Evie on my smartphone

Evie can use various text-to-speech engines including Google’s text-to-speech engine which surprisingly works offline. The voice of Brian (British english) is rather good. I use it to read .pdf books from my former degree courses, and technical manuals amongst other ebooks. You can change the engine. Amazon has gone the 100% cloud way. Their text-to-speech engine, Amazon Poly works only when you are connected to the internet. There are other text-to-speech engines that work offline. You can download and use these with Evie. Most of these require to be purchased but many offer a try-before-you-buy option.

Bonji and her Pups

Dogs, puppies, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira

We had Petit Gervais who was killed by poisoning in October. But there is a silver lining to this cloud. Bonji, my other bitch has had a litter of four pups. It was my fault I confess. I let her have a bit too much fun – with the boys. I had meant to sterilise her but the vet whom I use, – Sarah at NovaVet – in Tavira was off on maternity leave. She has had twins! Congratulations to you and the twins, Sarah :).

Bonji had the pups on the 5th of November so they are under a month old. Their fathers are various. I know not who. I only saw her couple with one – and he was a strange looking chap.

The pups have started a eating a bit of dog food but depend mainly on Bonji to keep them fed. Bonji finds this difficult. They are hungry little things. Their mother eats almost double her pre-pup diet but still finds it hard to feed them sometimes. And now they have some teeth so I imagine it must be even more uncomfortable.

Bonji was orphaned when she was a pup. She used to scream a lot and was a very angry pup. Her mother Roxy was also killed by poisoning along with a few other dogs of some of the neighbours . These puppies are very calm and happy and sleep a lot of the time. So we have peace and quiet. I dread when they will be able to clamber out of their makeshift enclosure of plastic pots. This occupies the living room floor. Bonji has the sofa.

She does a sterling job of keeping them clean. They are developing their own characters :). There is 1 girl and three chaps. I have named them Chubbs, Topman, BlackBoy and Conan. I hope to find good homes for them. I will keep one and am sending one to my niece.

Thanks for reading . This is it for now.

Petit Gervais (Pipoca)

This is a tribute to my excellent dog, Petit Gervais – She was the runt of the litter and started her life as Pipoca (Popcorn) . She was the last pup of the litter up for adoption. She was a lively and inquisitive little dog if nervous. Pipoca suited her looks but not her character. I renamed her Petit Gervais after watching the excellent BBC production of ‘Les Miserables’ in Portugal on RTP2.

She didn’t have very a good sense of self preservation. Two weeks after I agreed to adopt her a terrible event befell her. I think she was hit by a car causing her hind leg to be irreparably damaged. I never saw either the event or her – as she crawled to her old home where my Portuguese neighbours found her and rushed her to the vet. When she returned home she was one less leg. Being three legged did not help with her nervousness. But she slowly overcame this and just before she was killed she trusted me completely and would always come when I called her and even learned to position herself so that I could lift her up onto the electric quadbike. By the end of her life she finally worked out my limitations and knew how to make her presence known to me to avoid being stepped on.

Her three legged gait prevented her from walking on a lease as she bounced up and down. One english friend suggested I name her Ping Pong. Bust she could run as fast as my other dog, Bonji.

This year she learnt to kayak with and loved it! She loved being on the sandbar whilst I picked cockles. She also became confident in the water and learnt to swim very well with her three legs.

Petit Gervais was a very good guard dog – of the alerter type.

This is probably one of the reason she was killed by poison on 5th October, (Bonfire night). Poisoned meat. From the security cam video footage, it was fast acting. Twenty minutes from when she came in to when she died. When I found her she has only two minutes left. I have a good idea why she was targeted. There are certain people who wish to pass through and around my property undetected. Hunting activities being one such a reason. The other is localized politics which does partly but not entirely encompass the hunter/gatherers mentioned. There are some very evil people here. I am not a good person but Petit Gervais was an innocent animal. I even used to keep her locked in at nights so that she wouldn’t disturb the hunter/gather types.

I buried her in her blanket under the carob tree behind the house. Farewell Petit Gervais , Peeps, Pipoca. She was just two and a half. I now keep poor Bonji mostly tied or locked up.

Other stuff going on in October. It’s been pretty quiet. I stay at home mainly, pruning my trees etc. I replaced the batteries of my Solar P.V system but I have yet to finish the full installation. They are working fine as they are at the moment.

olive trees for sale, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira

I have had a trickle of fruit coming through this month like apples, guavas and persimmon. The Persimmon was just one tree and I ate the last one today :). I have sold a few olive trees and aim to sell some more.

apples, kaki, persimmon, guavas, Belnonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve

Over and out.

September 2020 Scribble

It’s the end of the month and definitely the end of the summer. The temperature at night is pleasantly cool and it hasn’t been unbearably hot for more than five-six hours during daylight.

The end of September has been quite bereft of fruit for me. I only have a few apples that are ready now. As for vegetables, not doing so great either. A few tomatoes coming along and got the usual cabbage (Cove Galega) and potted lettuce. The Cove Galegas are dying off this year and I will have to replant next year by the look of it. The plants can last a few years if you take off the floral stems as they begin to grow.

I have planted some sweet potatoes and am planting more. Will have a dig next month to see what’s there from the first batch I planted. It apparently takes four months for the tubers to form.

Been in the Ria Formosa catching cockles about twice a week. Today was for the last time this year. For me anyway. I am not sure if there is a closed season for cockles in Portugal. According to this bulletin from the DGRM (not sure what this stands for but it covers the Portuguese Fisheries Department) there doesn’t seem to be a closed season.

And I managed to pick up this good size clam – I think it is an Ameijoa Boa 🙂

Over 5 cm in length and only the second one I have found. Also tested the electric trawling motor with the lithium ion battery pack. The worked well together. I haven’t been fishing as yet but I intend to as soon as I find some suitable bait.

Have got any olives of my own this year worth mentioning. But I have been picking up some decent sized ones off the trees of my Belgian neighbours as I prune along. I have managed to get a sufficient amount for pickling.

That’s about all for this month. I have mainly just been on my own property so haven’t been affected by the COV!D-19 restrictions as they are. I have a lot that needs to be done around the place so it’s fine. 🙂

Mid summer’s June 2020

At the Ria Formosa not far from home with Bonji and Peeps.

Ria Formosa, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal, nature reserve
Ria Formosa, near Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, East Algarve, Portugal

It has been very hot this week and we have had some proper mid summer nights. Very warm and humid. I have just been camped at home but it’s fine as I have enough to do. The dogs keep me busy as well.

I don’t usually bang on about Permaculture and sustainability.

physallis peruviana, cape gooseberry, almonds in porridge, Belnonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve, Portugal
Healthy oatmeal porridge

I like to think I do what I can but I don’t think it is possible to be anywhere near 100% self-sustainable. We can make a difference to our daily lives if we make an effort to grow our own. Here is what goes into my oatmeal porridge. Almonds which I have from last year and physallis peruviana berries. This is also known as the Cape gooseberry. It is truly a permaculture plant – with a bit of compost and a decent supply of water it produces berries 8-9 months of the year and provides me with fruit when there is nothing else. Thank you Martin Maracapino for the seeds that started me off. Now the plants self-seed so all I have to do is transplant the seedlings regularly.

plum leaf eaten by pest, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira , Eastern Algarve
Badly eaten plum tree leaves.

I have half a dozen plum trees. This year my heaviest cropper the Roxo (purple), is doing poorly. It was attacked by plum curl (a fungus) and an insect that ate all the leaves. This pest only appeared last year. It deposits eggs which hatch into tiny white larvae things which I assume eat the leaves. Look at the state of the leaves.. . I’d really like to know what this pest is actually called.

plums, red and yellow/ green plum varieties, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, East Algarve, Portugal
Plums!

I used some pesticide for the first time. It smells a bit like the stuff we used to use back in Kenya for cockroaches. I am really happy that there are no cockroaches worth mentioning here :). They are horrid things! I mixed the pesticide with soapy water and vegetable oil. It proved to be effective but it was too late for the fruit whose growth were severely stunted.

Back to the plum trees. This year, I have just the two trees bearing fruit. A red variety and a yellow/green variety. Both varieties are very good.

The grapes are coming along.

Grapevines. Dona Maria Branca and Italia varieties, Belmonte, East Algarve, Portugal
Grapevines. Dona Maria Branca and Italia varieties.

The pumpkins are growing slowly and some are struggling. I put them in heavy clay soil that bakes rock hard due to a current lack compost. Most have flowered but I am still waiting to see an actual pumpkin develop. I have a few tomatoes growing well. I should have really planted more in this spot. I put some elsewhere where the compost and water were insufficient and this turned out to be a mistake.

Pumpkin plant and tomatoes.

Oh apricots! In early June I had a good number of apricots. Made some jam – tastes fine :). The flowers are osteospermum. They grow very well here and are pervasive.

Apricot jam

I made my first apricot cake and preserved some apricots for the winter. I have been busy 🙂

apricors, damascos, Belmonte, Luz de TAvira, East Algarve, Portugal
Apricot cake and preserved apricots

The battery bank that supports my solar P.V system is exhausted. The batteries are not holding charge so I don’t even have solar powered lights once the sun goes down. The batteries are of the flooded lead acid variety and I used them hard so it was to be expected after 5 years. They paid for their cost but are now junk O_O. I have to come up with a replacement plan but I am not keen on more lead acid which I will have to scrap eventually. Nickel Iron batteries appeal to me even though they drain current characteristics is much lower than that of lead acid batteries. Lithium ion are good but expensive – and will have to be replaced in 10 to 15 years.

Well, that’s all from the eastern Algarve, Portugal. Hoping to push the canoe out soon!

May and roll on Summer!

I have been recovering from the Covid-19 virus this month and been taking it easy.

This week I have been making an effort to clear grass and weeds that have regrown. We are required by law to do this by the end of this month to help reduce the risk of fires. Summer is definitely here with inside temperatures of about 27ºc max. Here the dogs Bonji and PG are cooling down inside.

To help me I have been using some light machinery. I don’t have a tractor and don’t really need one now.

I use a strimmer to get to the difficult places and to cut over the irrigation pipes.

Been using this battery operated 36V Black and Decker strimmer quite a bit all over the property.

Black+Decker 36V battery operated strimmer ,  England

It cuts really well for what it is. It has 2Ah battery and runs for about 20 mins at full tilt. I really need another spare battery. The motor’s power is quite minuscule. It’s not rated. But if it runs for 20 mins.

Then (20mins/60 mins) x 2Ah = 0.667 Amps Hence the power of the motor is given by I Amps x V volts 0.667Amps x36 Volts= 24 Watts .

I am quite shocked. I am surprised at how small the motor is in terms of power has because it does an outstanding job! It cuts through some tough weeds. I changed the standard 1.5mm gauge line to 2.4 mm. It doesn’t auto feed with this but helps me cut through the thicker weeds. I bought it on amazon.co.uk who shipped it over. I bought the battery separately and modified so that I can use an external battery pack if I need to. I tried 12V 2.5 Ah lead acid batteries x3. Still quite heavy on your back at around 6kg. The machine Black and Decker Model GLC3630LB-XJ weighs just 3 Kg (with the lithium ion battery ) and is a delight to use.

Correction: Those lead acid batteries are 5Ah and weigh 5.4kg on your back. I had to press them into service today after the lithium ion battery charger gave up the ghost. 6/062020

The real work horse has been the Italian made BNF 502, motorized scythe. The american built Briggs and Stratton 190cc petrol engine. It now takes me about 8 hours to clear my property with it. Look at the teeth. 🙂 I grease and oil the blade before making a run. Shame to have had to cut all those wild flowers.

On the growing front. Harvested the fava beans this month. I get a handful of Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry) berries every other day. And now I have some sun ripened apricots which are very good. No worms so far.

Still growing my lettuce in pots which as you see works well for me. I need to plant another batch soon.

alface, favas, Belmonte, Luz de Tavira, Algarve

The irrigation pipe to the young olives on the western border was a good investment. It saves me and didn’t cost the earth. I have palnted a few pumpkins next to thes young olive trees. We have to see how then get on.

olive, olive oil , Belmonte, Algarve

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!

Spring 2020!

Spring 2020 Algarve, Portugal

Spring it definitely here! It’s the last day of the month so I though I better post a blog for April.

I am not feeling very well today but best foot forward. I think the dreaded virus , the one that begins with the letter “C” is having a second go. I didn’t manage to quite shake it off after the first bout and it was still lurking within.

So with the lock down here I haven’t been doing much in April. In the agricultural sector anyway. Look at my poor excuse of a vegetable garden. horta, algrave , Portugal

You can see a few tomatoes plants I planted a few days back. The spinach is really struggling. I sowed the prepared patch densely a month ago but the results have been poor.

But look at the cabbage. Portuguese staple variety – “ Cove Galega”.

Cove Galega

I planted a couple next to several fruit trees and it has worked out well. I planted a few broad beans too. Just for myself. I didn’t bother planting extra for the people – ‘o Povo’ this year. favas, Algarve Portugal

Olive trees. I transplanted a few and have put in some irrigation so hopefully they should grow well if slowly.

olive oil, extra virgin, Belmonte

This is such a nice stone wall belonging to property just opposite to me. Hand crafted stone by stone – by craftsmen and labourers for the very wealthy here. A lot of sweat and some blood goes into building these walls. The craftsman and the labourer are not necessarily the same. But without doubt, both bear me a grudge. This being as I neither pay their wages nor work for their bosses.. . Ce la vie. In the foreground you can see one of my young pomegranate trees which is doing well due to plentiful amount of rain had here in the Algarve this spring.

Sweat and blood and a pomegranate tree

Indeed, you can see here the almonds on the almond trees growing niceiy ad the almonds plumping out. I have some plum trees but they seem to have been attacked by fungi (peach curl leaf) and some parasite that is eating the leaves. So most of the fruit has dropped of. I will give them an second spray with some insecticide this weekend.

almonds on trees, algarve, portugal

The guava trees are still in their red winter livery and the apple trees are still nude of foliage. This is because it still cold at nights. guava tree, algarve, portugal

Here is a fine apricot tree. Hopefully the black fly won’t ruin the fruit. I am trying to trap.

And here is a fine persimmon (sharon fruit) tree. it is still young just three years old so may not bear any fruit.

Finally a the bottom of the spread where self seeded olives and almonds are growing. And no, I don’t live in that caravan normally. 🙂

Portugal, East Algarve, Belmonte, amendoiras, oliverias , azeite, extra virgin olive oil
The spread 🙂

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.