Monday, 16 July 2007

Gathering Winter Fuel

It only seems like 5 minutes that I last entered something on my blog.
But there you go life on the Croft has been so busy that I do not have as much time as I would like to dedicate to putting thoughts down.
So I have a bit of catching up to do with myself.
We were cutting Peat in the late spring on the Croft it is a great alternative to coal & oil for us in the winter.
It is hard work but rather rewarding in the end, just imagine on a cold winters night you sitting in front of a raging fire with a distinct smell that only peat gives out wafting around the room.
Peat cutting is almost extinct in our neck of the woods, I think there is only one other Croft doing it, the chap is in his 90's and still cuts peat, a hardy character and not many of them left.
Peat gathering used to be a great annual event for the crofters, everyone used to help one another gather but no-one seems to bother much now, maybe they find it to hard work for very little gain, why bother when they can buy fuel from a merchant instead without the hardship.
The tool used is called a toirsgian (pronounced treshcan) it is a Gaelic word which I believe means peat knife.

We have been rather fortunate with the weather this year and managed to get the peat dry rather faster than usual.
Peat as I said earlier is cut with the toirsgian which is a long wooden handled tool that has a thin metal blade on the end of it, on the left side of the blade as you look down on it there is a right angle piece of blade pointing outwards away from you, there is a small notch on the right this is used rather like a spade, you use your right foot to push the blade into the peat which is a little strange to get used to as we all tend to use left foot to push a spade into the ground.
It is far better if two of you gather peat as it is quicker and easier.
Firstly you have to remove the heather and other plant life from the top of the peat.
The toirsgian is pushed into the peat, the toirsgian cuts a brick shaped block of peat about 10" long depending on the size of the blade you have, the user then passes the block of peat over to the collector who uses a fork to pick the peat up and then place the peat in a gathering area, it is spaced out to dry for a short while turning it every so often so that it is dried on all sides, then placed into
stacks which are shaped rather like huts.

Once they are dried out the shrink to about half the original size, they are gathered up and stored away in our old byre for the winter.
We give a few bags to some of our older neighbours as they love the smell of peat, and as I said it has a distinct smell, the older folk reminisce about bygone days and old friends passed.
I too love the aroma especially at Christmas time it makes the season feel more festive.

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