Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winter fuel in summertime

Early morning and it looked like a mucky day for turf. Joe started clearing the shed while I walked the dogs and the sun broke through.
By the time I got home it was shorts weather and Joe was removing the doors. Our friend John Evans helped him build these a few years ago, just after a couple of other friends had helped him build the turf shed out of the old still-standing wall of the cow shed (seen on the right in the photo).

Liam Higgins from Birr was due to deliver the turf sometime after eleven. The first year he came to us we had an extremely narrow bridge for him to cross, but he managed it anyway, tyres only half on the edge (gulp). A few years later, on the day of Princess Diana's funeral, Joe and the neighbour widened and strenthened the bridge. Now it's just narrow, and in whimsical moments known as the Princess Di Memorial Bridge. Here's the lorry coming in:

And crossing the bridge:

This time Liam had a three quarter load for us - previous years we've had half. We would come to feel those extra sods of turf a little later in the day, but for now it was great to see it arrive, and to watch the lorry turn in a small space as though it were a small van then reverse into position. Here's Liam taking off the net while Joe relaxes:

Then the tipping begins:

And the shed begins to fill:

Unfortunately this is about as full as the shed gets from the tipping of the lorry. It's down to us after that. Once Liam has gone we're left with a fine pile:

This photo is deceptive. The ground slopes and the mountain of turf is much bigger than it looks. Really. Much much bigger. You should see it from the other side.

I was on wall duty to begin with, as Joe flung turf towards me. I used the bricklaying method for stacking which seemed to work ok. We've never had to build a wall before in the shed. The last time we did it was when we first moved to Clare and didn't have a shed ready in which to put it. Our neighbour helped us build a reek of turf with proper walls that would allow the turf to dry while the rain ran off the outer layers. Eventually we wheelbarrowed it into the old cow shed adjoining the house at the time.

We'd installed a Stanley range in the kitchen. During our first winter here we began burning turf on it and were delighted with ourselves until black goo started to drip down the outside of the flu.

Joe, being from Dublin, had no experience of turf delivered by the load straight from the bog. Me, being from Cheshire, knew only coal. We had to show our ignorance and ask. The turf, of course, was too wet. We should have known that from the weight of it and its slightly fluffy appearance. It had been a bad year for turf with incessant rain keeping the bogs flooded. Silly us.

This year's turf is excellent. Most of it was cut last year so it's sharp and dry and light, and very black in the Midlands fashion. The shed is now full (admire that excellent wall, though I think traditionally all the sods should be pointing out):

It took about four hours to get it in. Joe was on turf fork duty but I can't do that sort of lifting job. I've developed other methods. There's the back to the turf pile, bend over and sling between the legs trick. Then an arm-swinging from the top of the pile job. The idea always is to have a sort of continuous motion. Joe finished the job. I had to bale out with the excuse of making tea and getting in the laundry. You know. Proper girly jobs.


  1. Very informative blog!! I enjoyed reading your article, many thanks…...

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. That stack of turf is very much smaller now!