The croft and the crofting life are unique to Scotland and it is a way of life that is becoming increasingly rare. Taigh Granaidh is situated on a working croft where sheep are kept with Harris Tweed being woven from their wool in the loom shed beside the house. For visitors from a more urban background spending a holiday on a working croft is an ideal opportunity to get an insight into what goes on in the life of a crofter. As well as getting to see the tweed being woven the visitor can gather eggs from the chickens for breakfast or feed the pet lambs on the croft when they are present. There are pet lambs on the croft most years but there are occasional years when no pets are present. Visitors will be surprised at just how strong the pet lambs are, and at how keen they are to get to the bottle and consume its contents and for this reason feeding them is better suited to bigger children, the smaller ones might get knocked down in the rush to the bottle.
Another crofting chore which is becoming less and less common is the traditional cutting of "peats" to fuel the winter fires. Traditionally each croft was allocated a peat bank, or number of banks, from which they could cut the peats. Going back 4000 years to when the standing stones were errected at Callanish there was no peat on Lewis as the climate was 3 degrees warmer than it is today and so the peat was unable to form. However as the climate has cooled since this time the dead heather and sphagnum moss which makes up much of the Lewis blanket bog has given rise to peat which has grown to a depth of around 6 feet in some areas.
The partially decomposed matter that makes up the peats is cut from the front face of the peat bank. On Lewis cutting peats usually requires two people with one cutting the peats and the other throwing the cut peat onto the moor to dry. When it is cut at first the peat is very wet indeed and nothing makes the Lewis peat cutter more happy once the peats are cut than a good spell of dry, sunny weather with a brisk breeze. When the peats have dried enough to have formed a good solid "skin" then it is time to head back to the moor to stand them up in order that the wind can circulate and dry them even further - the peats are often stood up in little three sided "houses" with another slap of peat across the top as a "roof" and this arrangement has worked for many generations of peat cutters.
If the weather is kind the peats will dry out at about the same time as the moor starts to dry after the winter. In the past the peats were carried off the moor in a creel, almost always by the women, but this was backbreaking work and if the peat bank was a long distance from home, or the nearest road, it could mean walking many miles with the creel in order to gather enough peats to keep the family warm for the winter. In more recent times the peats are commonly taken home using a tractor and trailer and the visitor will often spot a range of very old tractors, often with double rear wheels added, sitting around on crofts on Lewis. The knack with taking the tractor out to the peat bank is to know when the moor is dry enough to support the weight of the tractor, tailer and the load of peats and after a dry spell in the late spring or early summer it is common to see tractors in the village pulling their loads of peats home to warm the house for winter.
When passing through the villages the visitor should keep an eye out for the "peat stack" where the peats are piled up awaiting use during the coming winter. These peat stacks are often a work of art and the edges of the peats are often arranged to form an interesting pattern. What is not so obvious is that they are cunningly constructed such that the water will run off the stack, it will not blow over in the January gales, and air will circulate sufficient to keep the peats dry.