Sunday, 13 June 2010

Summer's work - Winter's fuel

From the middle of May to July or even later the cutting and saving of the turf starts. It is an annual ritual for a lot of families in rural Ireland today, even though other fuels are used such as oil, coal and electricity. It is turf that is still the main fuel in the countryside and the rural towns.

The turf bank in the background & Bog Cotton.
In the last century it was quite common for these flowers to be
collected and stuffed into pillows.

The freshly cut machine turf drying in the sun, each piece
has to be turned frequently by hand before it can be stacked.

There are many different styles of stacking the turf
from the large heaps (that remind me of ancient beehive huts)

to these small stacks that are called footings.

In a wet summer the heap will dry qicker than the footings
because of the way in which it is built , it allows the rain to run off.
Constructed in similar style to the beeehive huts that are built
out of dry stone which is angled upwards, preventing the ingress
of rain into the chamber which remains dry.

When the Turf is brought home it is stored in a shed or built as a
large freestanding heap called a clamp in the backyard.


  1. I was a aware that peat bogs were harvested, but I didn't know that it was done in such a modern fashion - spoken in a relative manner.
    To burn, do they get set in the fireplace like a log of wood?
    Are there different qualities to turf harvested in different areas?
    And what about the odor - it must smell different than burning wood, even as different woods have their distinct scents.
    I am quite fascinated with this, as we use wood for heat. We head up into the backcountry during late summer and fall in order to cut our firewood for the colder seasons.
    Thanks for all these little tidbits you send our way! Although I might not comment on every post, I do read them.

  2. What an interesting post Mel. I've never seen peat stacks like that. Lovely that even though the peat is cut by machine, so much of the process is still done by hand

  3. Dale: Turf has a very distinctive sweetish odour, it burns in an open fireplace, although most people use it in wood type stoves. There are variances with turf, depending on the type of tree material vegetation that rotted to become peat. The blacker and denser the turf the better it is. The colours range from dark red thro' brown to black.
    It is very comforting to sit at the stove on winter nights to feel the heat and smell the turf!

  4. Wonderful piece Mel, is'nt the bog cotton so beautiful to see? I recently bought a celtic cross made of bog oak. Thanks Mel!

  5. This was most interesting. I have what looks like part of a peat cutting tool somewhere - from when it was permitted local to me. For how many centuries I wonder has the peat been cut, stored and burned thus.

  6. Mel, this is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL! post...
    my Heart is warmed by it!
    WoW... stirring a complex feeling of In-spiration!

  7. Lovely pics Mel, have you seen the heap locally?

  8. All of the pictures of the turf were taken at a Bog outside of Clonaslee in Co. Laois

  9. What a lovely post we are so blest with our wonderful boglands and the diversity of flora and fauna they house, we appreciate them so little its lovely to see it spread out like that , Thanks for warming our hearts again

  10. Hi thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Your post is very interesting,I hadn't realised that peat was still cut and burnt. We burn logs, nothing beats a fire with a real flame on a cold winter's night :-)

  11. This is one of the most interesting posts I have read! I have never known about it and am so glad I do now. I love the ritual of the preparation. Thank you for posting this! Kim

  12. A wonderful article. Thank you!

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Mel - fascinating - thanks for sharing

  14. Very interesting, and great pics.

  15. I loved reading about this- so interesting, and thank you for adding the photos to make it even more concrete. I learned a lot.


  16. Interesting post especially since I went to a talk last week about the history of the moors round here (Peak District)and learned that local people used to cut peat for fuel, I've always associated peat fires with Scotland and Ireland and never connected them with our local peat moorland though it makes perfect sense when you think about it.

  17. Thanks for sharing the photos and story, i knew absolutely nothing about thins until i read this post

  18. This is amazing and so informative... I never realized the kind of preparation that was needed to harvest Peat.. Thanks!!


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