Over the past few week, a number of readers have been asking specific question regarding our peat. To answer them, and to give y'all an overview of how peats come from being part of a peat bank out in the moor to being burnt in our kitchen stove, I've put together a series of photos which will, I hope, make it all clear to you.
Before going onto the photos and our peats, a wee overview may be helpful. The Isle of Lewis is mostly moorland. In practically the whole island, all the people live along the coasts, and all of what is between the west-coast homes and the east-coast homes is moorland.
Moorland - as far as the eye can see.
You can see the Atlantic Ocean in the distance, and the Ness houses can be seen following the coast.
Here again, on the far right, you can see the sea and some of the houses.
In late April, the peatbanks are turfed. This means taking the top layer - the ceap - off, and so exposing the peat underneath.
The turf - na ceapan - are placed on the ground, in the broinn - the inside of the peat bank. Later, you'll see the peats that have been cut being thrown either into this lower part of the bank or on the upper part.
This top part is cleaned to give a smooth surface, free of heather roots.
The peat iron is then used to cut the individual peats. They're cut in 'slices', as you can see from the photo. Each one is cut,
and pushed out.
Then the person who's throwing (although these photos show the Builder doing both the cutting and the throwing, that's not how it happens 'in real life'. My multitasking abilities don't stretch to taking photos and throwing the peats), takes that peat and throws it on the dry heather round about.
Here, you can see Big Brother turfing - further back in the photo. The Builder is using the peat iron - an taraisgeir - to cut the peats, and DR is throwing them: some are on the top of the peat bank; others are thrown on the lower ground - the inside of the bank.
Nice throwing action, DR ;)
This peat bank has now been cut. You are able to see the top layer - the ceap - lighter in colour, and full of grass and heather roots. Then you have the two layers of peat that were cut out.
And can you see similar looking peat banks in the distance?
The peats are left to dry for a few weeks. When the top part is dry enough, they're 'lifted' into wigwam type shapes. This allows the wind to blow through the little pile, drying them all over.
Some time later - the length of time depends on our weather - they are ready to be gathered into bigger piles - dùintean - ready for taking home.
When the tractor comes for taking them home, the peats will be thrown directly from these piles into the trailer.
And so to taking them home.
The tractor drives slowly along the peat bank, and each pile of peats is thrown into the trailer.
Because many of peats break up, or at least bits break off the peat, we put the little bits - na caoranan - into bags.
The bags come home on top of the load of peats.
The Builder had made a 'platform' for the peats - simply so they wouldn't sit on wet ground.
The loads are dumped here - here's the first load -
and they're stacked into a peat stack.
We only cut a very small amount compared with what used to be cut when we were growing up. We only have one small stove, but when we were growing up, all the cooking and baking was done in the big kitchen stove, which was burning peat all the time.
In the evenings, the open fire in the Living Room was lit. All in all, this amounted to a lot of peats!
For us, we have the delight of our lovely-smelling peat,
giving a wonderful, cozy flame in our kitchen area.