8 It's occurred to me that I'll frequently mention the bogs and you might be bewildered and wonder whatever is a bog when it's at home...
Bogs were once large areas of vegetation...plants and shrubs and herbage...and just a few larger trees. Over time those plants have rotted down and become what we in Ireland call turf and anyone with any sense calls peat...
Turf layers can go down to fifteen feet before a bog is considered to be 'cut out' and no longer of any use...they are simply left then. Grass grows and small shrubs reappear...especially the bog myrtle which smells delicious...there are mosses and lichens and insect eating plants like sundews...yellow flags or irises and bog cotton. And in spring and early summer there are the orchids...dozens and dozens of wild orchids.
But the bog holes remain...deep and dark and ominous...constantly refilled with rainwater, they pose a threat to straying cattle and horses and the occasional drunk.
Most bogs are criss- crossed with rough pathways...ideal for walking the dogs and picking wild raspberries and the dark purple whinberries which stain your fingers for days afterwards...I pick the lichens to dye wool and hunt for the elusive sundews and cajole Himself to venture into the soggy bits to cut me some false bulrushes...
Time was when all the bogs were cut by hand with short spades...these were the days when virtually whole bog bodies were found and sometimes chunks of ancient oak trees...the wood is highly prized for making ornaments and such like and many like to display half a tree in their front gardens. Of course should you find a piece yourself it'd be free for the taking but to buy a gee-gaw made from bog oak is expensive...it is almost black and has a deep glossy patina when it's been cleaned and polished.
Old coins and arrowheads...animal skulls and ancient deer antlers...parts of swords and amber bead necklaces...I've never found anything so interesting. Though I did find some 'fairings' those little ornaments which used to be sold at the fairs or you could win them I think, at the coconut shy.
The Guards are called automatically when a bog body is found...just in case it is recent and not 4,000 years old...there have been cases where a body was that of a relatively recent murder victim...once it has been established that it truly is ancient then it's taken to the museum for further investigation...even the stomach contents are often still in situ as it were. Last meals of honey and soft wheaten cakes washed down with milk...meat was a luxury and rarely eaten even by the chiefs of the tribes about to meet their demise...herbs and fruits and breads...honey from hives and nuts from the forest trees with fish and shellfish caught in the rivers and Loughs were the foods most often eaten.
Feasts and celebrations were the excuse for roasting an ox perhaps or a scrawny old sheep but our ancestors were almost vegetarian.
There a few elderly people who still cut by hand...and they build themselves a little shelter...a bender...out of branches and bracken. Inside...if you peep...there'll be a small stool to sit on and a kettle and a mug...a little fire to boil the kettle for the tea.
But mostly the turf is cut by feckin great machines nowadays who zoom over the bog like dinosaurs cutting and rolling...and this is why the bog bodies recently discovered are often cut to bits before the driver notices...
Turf is the main fuel source in the west...it burns on ranges and open fires with a sweet nostalgic scent of times past and the warmth of home...some is sold to companies who compress it into neat and tidy blocks...still used as fuel but without the addition of bits of heather and such like...the turf which is from the lower levels of the bogs, is transported to Holland where it's cleaned and sterilised and put into bags before coming back as potting compost...
There's a couple of photos...a machine cutter...a man cutting the traditional way and the beautifully manicured hands of one of the bog bodies...he stood six foot six when he was alive, which is quite impressive.