Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Magic of the Scythe

After an abortive attempt to begin cutting the "weeds" in the back fields yesterday with my new scythe (I had under-estimated the time involved when the instructions said to "trial-fit the handles and then mow a bit to ensure they are in the right position before gluing.) I glued the handles and -- chomping at the bit -- waited impatiently for the Titebond to cure 24 hours before "stressing the joints."

So today after breakfast I donned my trusty Tilley and went out back with my "new toy" as a friend called it yesterday. I decided to start cutting where the former owner had power-mowed a path around the plot she used as a garden, attacking many tall "weeds" -- a lot of goldenrod and some milkweed (which has, thankfully, finally done a major drop of its seeds).

I can report that it is easier than one might thing, so long as I remember to twist at the waist, rather than using my arms. My mowing doesn't look pretty, and I am not yet very good at keeping the tool riding on the ground as it should, but with the kind of weeds I am attacking, this is ok. I suspect that K will make a pass later once he gets the power mower working, as a way to cut up the large pieces I have mowed down, to make it easier to compost, and that my having mowed once will make it much easier and faster for him and the riding mower to do the next pass.

My book said something about "paying attention to the grass" and indeed, it is obvious as you mow that if the grass is leaning you mow against the lean. Some of the other less woody weeds -- small vine-y things, are giving me some trouble still... but we will work through that.

I also determined that it is very easy to cut close around a plant that you want to leave standing. This was one of my main intentions with the scythe... to mow the back but leave any "volunteer" trees and bushes there, as a start for the windbreak. In the part that I did today, I found one birch looking bit of growth, about 3' tall (same height as the weeds which is why I had not noticed it before) and a couple of bushy things of undetermined species. They may stay or may go later, after they have been identified. Like the demonstrator at the Common Grounds Fair said, you do know exactly where the point of that blade is, even when you cannot see it in the grass, and can put it right up next to the "keeper" and cut unwanted growth away.

I also learned that you do not bend over when scything. No, nothing to do with the tool itself, but you carry a whetstone in a holder on your belt (or since I don't wear one, with the belthook tucked over the waistband of my jeans, on my back hip out of the way). That holder contains WATER... necessary for keeping the stone clean.. and... well you get the picture. It was a little chilly out for a wet hip, even though I had doffed my sweat shirt half way through my bit of work. About the same time the one joint that I had FORGOTTEN to glue came loose, so I am done for the day.

Probably a good thing, as even though it is realtively easy work, it does involve motions that the body is not yet used to doing, repeatedly, for protracted periods.

2 comments:

Robin said...

Today's trivia: Wet grass mows easier than dry.

mustangsherry said...

jj -- can you post a picture of your scythe? I love reading of your adventures in your new home -- I'm so envious of your being able to follow your bliss..

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