There is not much left of the house now - many of the stones have been used in other projects over the years, and the original layout has been lost. Originally it would have been a long low building with a thatched and turfed roof - built to withstand the weather - thick double stone walls, packed with earth and turf in the cavity. One end of the house would have housed the animals and the other end was where the family living space and normally a separate sleeping room were. The peat fire was in the middle of the floor in the living space and the smoke would drift up and disperse through the thatch - it was kept burning constantly and never allowed to go out. Every year the straw from the roof was renewed and the old peat smoke infused thatch was spread on the fields before the crops were planted. It was a very functional and sustainable way of living.
I just remembered this picture of Kenneth, Louise and James in front of the fire at the Arnol Blackhouse. (well worth a visit). This has a stone floor, but I think our one would have been of beaten earth. It is such a pleasant, cosy fire - and really not as smokey as you would think. I wonder what stories were told, songs sung and conversations were had around the hearth here. Children would drift off to sleep, lulled by the glowing peat embers, and soft Gaelic voices. The people who lived in these houses were, in the main very healthy. It was only when the Health Officials made them put fireplaces and chimneys in that TB became a problem. It was found that smoke blackened thatch actually had antiseptic properties. Creosote had been widely used as a disinfectant before carbolic acid was discovered to do the same, and the roof thatch and timbers were saturated in creosote residue. So once the bug killing smoke was removed up a chimney, its bug killing properties drifted into the atmosphere. (Even then the authorities thought they knew better.... I've just been watching Farmageddon and getting mad - and don't even start me on horse meat!!)
There seems to be three "rooms" or areas here, but it is hard to tell if the layout has been changed. The family would have moved out into the more modern White houses which began to be built sometime in the early 20th Century, and this would have remained as a storage space cum barn. It may have been modified to suit changing purposes, but now it is tumbled down, used as shelter by the sheep.
Oh - but it is still a great place to poke around - imagining how the family would have lived. Hoping to uncover a small forgotten treasure left behind - maybe hidden in a hidey hole somewhere!
And wondering what they would have seen, stepping out of their door. Of course the land would be the same, but there would have been a string of blackhouses running all the way down to the loch - and all the way up to the hill - the remains of the original" street" can still be seen in every croft. It would have been a busy scene - people fetching water, tending livestock and working in the fields, children running around and hens squawking.
You can still see the rigs where the crops were grown. This is a sheltered south east facing slope, and would have produced a good crop of barley or oats - corn, as we call it here. An elderly neighbour has told us that not so long ago, he could stand down near where that white house is, and see fields of corn all the way along here.
Looking to the South - there is such a wonderful view of the Cailleach na Mointeach over on the way down to Harris. The landscape is much more open here than up at the house - it is a lovely place just to escape, or take in a different perspective, for a wee while.
Today, I found a large stone with a hole ground into it. Who made that? Why? With what? It is just a small cup-shaped hole - not big enough for grinding grain, I would imagine. Maybe it was part of a gatepost - a latch hole perhaps? Always something new to wonder about.
Sitting here, musing on my discovery, I hear a scrabbling. Sally, our pet lamb from last year clambers over the wall to say hello, although I suspect she still harbours a vain hope that I might have a bottle of milk with me.
But time is getting on now, and I need to get back to some work. Lets head back up to the house. See- told you it wasn't far - only about 150 years! xx
I am linking up today with The Magic Onions for Friday's Nature Table. Do visit and see some very inspiring nature- themed posts.