More peats….

Yes, all these posts about peats may become a little tiresome – but just imagine how it feels going out there all the time!

The script out there just now, is filling bags with peats and piling them into the trailer!  I think the trailer takes about 30-33 of these 25kg bags, that originally held sheep feeding stuff.

I filled a few bags, but didn’t help with loading them onto the trailer, due to my broken/dislocated finger.  Instead, I got to annoy my father and brother by taking pictures of them!

Think that’s four loads of peats home, maybe another two or three to go.  Getting them home within 3 weeks of them being cut is impressive – I don’t remember us ever doing that before but the weather has been very good and the peats have dried quickly.  They should all be home by the end of the week!

And if you’re going to leave me smart-alex comments about how we could fit more in the trailer, should be using a tarasgeir etc, etc – don’t bother!

No work for a while!

As well as the day job and the croft, I also play in goals for the district football team, Ness F.C.  I had been out injured for a few weeks, having suffered a whiplash injury after landing heavily while making a save.  Due to the way the fixtures worked out, I only missed one game so was quite happy when I made my come-back on Wednesday night.  It didn’t last too long though, I had to go off after half an hour with a dislocated and fractured index finger on my right hand, after an opposing player caught me with his boot.  This is the 3rd time I’ve dislocated a finger and the 8th bone I have broken, so something I’m quite used to!  If it had happened a month or two ago, it would have been a disaster, because I would only have been able to do a fraction of the work that was needed.  It’s frustrating but I’ll only miss out on a few odd-jobs with the sheep and I’m not too fussed about missing out on taking the peats home!!

This is my finger as it is tonight.  Needed 2 x-rays and I was on laughing gas while waiting for it to be popped back in at the hospital!

After lifting the peats last week, the good drying weather means that some of them are ready to take home.  This means that the tractor and trailer will be in action, so the ‘doubles’ had to be put on, before heading out onto the moor.  The ‘doubles’ are just doubling up the large rear wheels, by attaching a second set.  Here are some pictures of my dad and brother Innes fitting them.  Obviously I couldn’t help out!

Next was hooking up the trailer.  My father was driving, with Innes maneuvering the trailer into position

So after getting everything set up, the obvious thing to do was go bring home a load of peats!  Here is Innes and our cousins Iain & James heading out in the trailer.
I was long gone by the time they returned so no picture of that!  Myself and Innes also helped a guy up the road load his wee fishing boat onto it’s trailer tonight, ready for putting to sea for the summer.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures!  All I was needed for was putting my shoulder into it and pushing!

a’ togail. Stage 2 of the peats.

For those of you unfamiliar with peats, they are left lying flat on the ground for the first stage of drying, and then built into the wee houses to dry the other side.

Two weeks ago, our peats were cut ( here is the blog posting) and with two weeks great drying weather, they had dried sufficiently for the next stage – lifting.  With the traditional tarasgeir-cut square peats, it’s quite easy to build wee ‘houses’ out of them, to allow the rest of the peat to dry – not as easy with the sausage peats!

I was off work on Friday, so headed out on my own for a while in the morning.  You can see the peats towards the right hand side.

My dad and my brother Innes had been out a couple of evenings during the week, so half of the peats had been lifted.

‘Lifting’ consists of making these wee teepees out of the peats.

Innes working hard.

We didn’t work in silence though – my nice wee wind-up & solar powered radio!

I came across an ants nest under one of the peats.  Ants are not common here, I’ve never seen them anywhere apart from out in the peats.  In this picture, you can see the white eggs/grubs grouped together in the middle.  The ants were busy moving them to safety after they were disturbed.

Didn’t take us long to get them finished.  All done by mid-morning Saturday.  I am relieved by this, because the lifting is my least favourite part of the peats!  If this good weather continues, some of it will be coming home next Saturday.  I don’t mind taking them home because I’ll be on tractor driving duty!

Nice night for a walk

I got home around half 5 this evening and it’s been busy!  Firstly myself and my brother Innes took a 3-piece suite to the community charity shop from a house at the other end of Ness, before I moved some sheep and did some of my last bits of ploughing.  I wasn’t going to bother ploughing anything else, as it’s a bit late, but nothing has been growing until now, so I thought I might as well do it!  Anyway, I went for a walk in the croft with Bud (the puppy) afterwards and I took my camera with me!

This is half-way in the croft, looking west towards the sea.

Bud was with me on the walk

He was totally freaked out by this dead hedgehog!

The sun thinking about setting at around 9.20 (still very light here after 11pm)

Heading back home, my mother’s croft is the one I’m walking on, mine is on the right. I use both.

Some lambs.  These are 5-6 weeks old

This is some of my ploughing

The workhorse – I must point out that the headlamp was an incident my father had – not me!

And I thought I’d end with a picture taken from my back door at 11.05, just to show how light it is!

Veg plot take 2

With the weather forecast to improve over the weekend, I took the opportunity to get some of my vegetables planted.  It’s been very cold here and nothing has grown in the past few weeks.  This is how I had left the veg plot:

I got busy on my hands and knees for an hour or so, first into the ground were 20 Brussell Sprout plants.  It’s been recommended to me not to bother with seeds for some plants, because they won’t develop as they should.

Next into the ground were the Leeks, and then the Lettucs (below).  I’ve had neck problems for the last week or two and it was starting to play up so I left it at this for the evening.

I still have broccoli and cauliflower plants to get planted, probably at some point on Saturday, or Monday evening.  I’ll then get more of the seed into the ground.  The final thing I did was cover the plants with a fleece.  Hopefully this will protect them from the cold over the next week or so – as well as preventing pests from getting to them too.  And yes, I had to anchor the fleece down – it’s rather breezy here just now!


Peat-cutting in the 21st century

Peat was traditionally the fuel that kept island homes warm throughout the long, cold winters.  Families, neighbours and, sometimes, whole villages, would go out to the moor together and cut their peats, using their taraisgeirs tar-ash-kerr (the much more interesting sounding Gaelic for peat iron) to cut each 12-inch square piece of peat by hand.  Things changed a lot in the early 90s, when lots of homes installed oil heating systems.  With heating oil costs having trebled (now around 60-65 pence per litre), many homes are going back to peats.

Our family have always had  fire of some type, but for the last 5 years or so, we’ve switched to machine cut peats, rather than hand cut. My father used to be a fisherman but an accident on his boat in 2005, and also lack of time for many of us, mean that it is the preferred choice for us.

Anyway, the reason for this post is that our peats were cut over the last 24 hours.  A man in Ness spends many of his evenings at this time of year out on the moor with his tractor, harvesting our winter fuel.

Of course, it’s a Lamborghini that we use for our peats in Ness……

The peat-cutting machine is mounted on the back of the tractor.  This picture was taken at the fank in North Dell, with the village in the background

The chain/blade is angled downwards into the earth and works a bit like a chainsaw/conveyor belt.  The blade cuts into the ground and carries the peat up into the rest of the machine.

The peat is the forced out of the other end of the machine, into long sausages – hence why we call them sausage peats!

The peats will be left to dry for a few weeks, and I will blog again on the next stage, once we reach it.

The vegetable plot

Last year was my first attempt to plant some vegetables.  I didn’t really know what I was doing and just bunged it all into the ground without much though or care.  This year, I decided to take things a little more seriously.  First of all, I ploughed the land, with my beloved Massey Ferguson 135

I had a new companion with me for the ploughing, my new puppy Bud – who seemed quite at home next to me in the cab!

Once the ploughing was done, it was time to get some shelter erected.  The Western Isles are well known for the strong winds here, and Ness is regularly top of the charts when it comes to wind-speeds, so a shelter is important if any veg are going to survive.  This is my brother Innes and Uisdean, a boy that comes to help me on the croft, sheltering from the snow and wind while erecting the first of the sides of the shelter.



Next up was getting the land rotovated.  Fortunately there is a guy in Ness that has a nice, big, tractor-mounted rotovator, and he did the vegetable plot and the potatoes for the pricely sum of £7.  The earth was like sand once he’d finished


I’ll use this as an excuse to post another picture of Bud, who travels in style, every time he comes in the croft with me


Myself and my father finished off the shelter this week, and the first of the vegetables have been planted.  I am holding off from planting many just now, though, as the weather has been quite cold.  It’s due to change this weekend, so I’ll hopefully get some done early next week.  I think the plot is looking pretty darn good now though!

Seaweed Collection

This year, I decided to try and use seaweed on my potatoes & vegetables, after talking to one of my mates about it.  The seaweed washes up on Traigh Dhail (Dell beach), about a mile away from my house.  We both went down with our tractors and I took home two loads of seaweed.  I filmed it on my phone and you can see a wee video of how it was done here:  Collecting Seaweed

His tractor has a grab, which allows the seaweed to be gathered in a matter of minutes.  It would take probably an hour to fill it by hand

The seaweed has been sitting on the croft for nearly two months, allowing it to rot a bit.  Over the past 10 days, we have planted the potatoes, using the seaweed as fertiliser.  I will use some on my vegetable plot as well.