Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long shadows on the peat hill, and a fundamental flaw

It's late, too late in the year to be on the peat hill at all. If I say that these peats are actually last year's, belatedly bagged and howked home after a 12 month or more weathering on the moor, many will look askance at my right to wield a tushkar at all. As it happens, I didn't. Lornie cut them, Susan and me did the rest. You can learn to live with shame.

And with bright ideas that go wrong. I had the notion of ordering a hundred or so forestry firewood sacks, those pink, net-like things you get logs in at garages. They're made of polypropylene, and I thought they would give our somewhat soggy peats a chance to dry. Better than the traditional recycled fertiliser, salmon feed or sheep sustenance sacks.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! Those log bags are ultra-violet sensitive, and the endless days of the Shetland summer turned them into brittle, useless plastic straw. That left me with the task of re-bagging what peats had not crumbled (due to being left out too long) into a solidified lumpy gravy of half-carbonised vegetation.

Today (cool, autumnal, sunny) saw the final part of that dirty, tedious process, and the last trailering home of peats before winter sets in. We burn oil at hideous expense for hot water and central heating, but the solid fuel German stove in the kitchen takes the edge off the quarterly fuel bills. We're hoping to install a big peat-fired boiler at some point, and that will probably mean ordering in machine-cut peat (not as anti-green as you may think; Shetland's peat bogs are almost limitless and at least it doesn't have to travel far to get here). We're looking wind turbines. Heat pumps. Micro-hydro. Or we may just wear thicker jumpers.

Anyway, here's to recycling feed and fertiliser sacks, to the coming winter and to the fabulous reek of peat as it burns, reminding me of...jings. Isn't it about time for a dram?


Ecossaise said...

I so sympathise. Not peat here in Central Scotland, but I have been out this afternoon sawing away at limbs of wood wherever I can find them on the estate on which I live, to keep the multi fuel stove going. I won't have oil as can't afford it! As someone pointed out to me years ago & this will also apply to bagging peat I suppose, you are twice warmed when cutting firewood - once when you cut it & again when you burn it. I sweatefd buckets this afternoon!

EyeOnDubai said...

Micro hydro has to be the way forward. If you've got a 1 meter head of water, you can generate substantial amounts of power, and you're not beholden to wind or sun. Expensive initially, but powerful and reliable when you need it most.

Anonymous said...

Tom, ever thought of getting a heat pump? Given the cost of oil these days, it would probably pay for itself in the first year.

/Kati in Sweden