Monday, October 5, 2015

guest post: ireland - cliffs, mountains, & peat

part two of my mom's trip: the cliffs of moher, slieve league, and the peaty bogs of ireland. enjoy!

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We saw both Slieve League and the Cliffs of Moher. Both are sheer sea cliffs. Slieve League cliffs are 1,972 feet high, the highest in Europe; Cliffs of Moher are 702 feet high but are more well-known. Although the Slieve League cliffs were actually higher, the Cliffs of Moher seemed more impressive and photogenic to me. It was overcast the day we visited Slieve League, and the tops of the cliffs were actually obscured by clouds, whereas we had a beautiful sunny day for our visit to the Cliffs of Moher, so that might account for my impression. We did get to see heather up close and walk on a peat bog at Slieve League, which was very interesting.





Bogs are a big deal in Ireland. In western Ireland, we didn’t see many trees, and, historically, trees became scarce by medieval times. So the Irish burn “turf” (also known as peat). Each small household would have, as part of their land hold lease, access to a section of bog where they could cut turf. The turf is the black “dirt” of the bog. It is spongy and waterlogged. The farmers dig it out of the bog, cut it into small bricks, set it in piles in a field, and turn it periodically until it is dried out (consistency is similar to the peat moss that we buy in garden centers to add to soil). Those bricks then are burned like wood.  We drove by acres of bog, and saw many fields where men were cutting and drying turf the traditional way, but turf is also harvested mechanically on a larger scale.

 


And now we know why Irish crystal and pottery is so expensive! It’s all made by hand. We visited the Belleek Pottery Factory, which is known for its pottery baskets. Each is woven freehand from thin ropes of clay. At the Celtic Crystal Factory, all of the facets in the crystal are cut freehand. The craftsmen for both companies have multi-year apprenticeship periods in order to learn their craft.


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