Scythes for the Kitchen Garden - New Toys from a Bygone Era

August 2008 - The Kitchen Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson

 

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August 2008 - Scythes for the kitchen garden - New toys from a bygone era

It seems we've joined a subculture of people who think a lot like us. We'd never met any of them before and we've always wondered where they were. There were the two woodworkers who camped here on their way to a pole-lathing conference. I'd never even heard of pole-lathing before. These two made the most beautiful furniture, carefully turning the wood by hand. These weren't old men either, they were in their 30s at most. Then, there are the straw bale and cob builders, the thatchers, growers and tenders.

 

One of the most surprising things for us here is the number of scythe users we've come across. I don't think I'd ever thought directly about scythes before coming here. There would a picture of one in a book from time to time, a detail from a larger picture in a history book, maybe, but that was about it. Now we have one each (from The Scythe Shop), Austrian Schroeckenfux scythes. We each have two blades, one 50cm long for cutting rough stuff like nettles and longer ones (75cm for me and 85cm for Karl) for grass and flat areas with no stones or junk on the ground.

 

At the new garden, they are so useful for cutting under the trees and along the border edges and grass paths. So much nicer to use, and to hear, than a strimmer.

We've used them for making hay, cutting weeds and even trimming lawn edges. This has got to be one of the most satisfying tools I've ever used, it's brilliant. So long as you sharpen the blade often, it slices through stems like a hot knife through butter and you see huge great swathes of nettles, docks or grass falling, silently, to one side. Cutting long grass is good - your steady progress forwards, the hush of the blade through the stems before you, the rasp of metal across the ground on the backstroke and that most pleasing line of cut material that gathers to your left. Then, at the end of the day you can stand there and look at it all and think 'Bloody hell, I did that, me, under my own steam'.

Scything nettles

Scything nettles

Get it right and there is a sort of martial grace to the movement and you find yourself after a while in an almost meditative state of mind. The swing of your hips, the circular sweep of the blade from right to left and the regular shushing sound of the cut, they lull the senses. And it is such quiet work, you can still hear the grasshoppers and the birds in the hedges, there is room for your thoughts, not drowned out as they would be if you were using a mechanical strimmer. You smell fresh cut grass, not fumes.

One of the best things is that it's such an amazing workout. It doesn't feel like it's that hard work, but you sweat an almost unreasonable amount (I've taken to keeping a small towel tucked into a belt loop), so something must be happening. At any rate, I can't remember the last time my figure was so trim. As far as exercise goes, it's the business.

Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2008

 

 

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