SAVING THE TURF

Turf, which is dried out peat sods, has been and still is commonly used as a source of fuel in rural Ireland. Peat, which is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation, is thousands of years old. Peat forms predominantly in wetland conditions and one of its main components is Sphagnum moss. Peat is a fossil fuel.
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Inniscarra does not have its own peat bogs but its needs were satisfied from the nearby bogs in Nadd. Turf harvesting was a very labour intensive operation in the past. It was however an annual outing or pilgrimage for many people.
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Food, in the form of sandwiches or home made brown bread and cold meat was supplemented with boiled eggs and water for the tea. The boiling was done on a fire specially made in a safe, sheltered place near the action. On occasions the cooking was a little more adventurous, a good fry-up was something special. The tea breaks were very welcome indeed as they also gave a very well deserved rest to the meithal. Backache and sunburn were the scourge of the workers but the craic made it all worth while. Saving the turf depended very much on fine weather.

Turf was cut from what was known as a bank, approximately a yard wide and up to four feet deep. Firstly the bank was stripped by cutting away the top layer with a hay knife and spade to a depth of about a foot. This was undeveloped and wouldn’t burn. It was dumped into the bog hole left at the bottom of the last year’s bank to eventually form a field. The turf was then cut out with a slean and tossed out onto dry ground where it was neatly spread out to dry using a hay pike.
After a few days when the topside was dry it was turned to allow the other side dry. The next task was to foot the turf i.e. stand it upright resting against each other to allow it dry completely. When dry it was drawn out to an accessible area for transport and built into reeks awaiting collection. It was then transported home either in a lorry or horse and crib and put into a shed or reek ready to keep the home fires burning for the winter. Drawing the turf home was very special indeed with the satisfaction of a job well done.
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