Don’t Waste the Peat

“If you ever want to hide a body the last place to do so is in a bog” said Charlie. He helped restore a 17th century thatched cottages in Cnoc Suain Conamara. In this beautifully rich green country, I have noticed areas with brown dirt like blocks stacked in the shape of tepees. Wondering constantly what they were, I learned it was called peat; they come from ancient bogs that for centuries that have been dried and burned in homes. Bogs form from sphagnum moss. The moss grows at a rate of 1 millimeter a year, but it never dies down.  

Céide Fields

My first true lesson on peat was at Céide Fields, known as a natural bog blanket. Anthony, our tour guide that day, filled my brain with knowledge. The bog blanket is well-known for peat protecting the remains of an ancient community. It preserved stone walls and houses. Witnessing how the bog blanket preserved the walls was breath taking. If someone had told me I would not have believed them. Bog blankets are squishy. They allow researches to examine how the people used to live in their old days.

Tom Nee, the farmer at Killary Sheep Farm, showed us how to block cut the turf. You have to use a tool called a Sleán. You place the Sleán right into the soggy wet peat and scoop it up. The shape is a rectangular cube. Tom, among many others in this country, use peat as a source of energy for heating homes. Ireland saves a reasonable amount of money for electrical heating. Bogs are everywhere and the people are able to harvest their own peat right in their backyard.

Peat however, only will burn for short amount of time. Families normally have five pieces of peat in the fire pit at once. Unfortunately, this means Ireland burns a lot of peat. Bogs only take up 3% of the worlds lands but hold about 30% of the world’s CO2. When the peat is burning it releases CO2 into the air. This energy source is close to home and is the most accessible.       

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