I've used a number of different scythes over the years -- most were borrowed and used mainly to cut vegetation in places where I couldn't manuver the tractor and mower. Some of those scythes were heavy and clunky, but worked nicely at whacking back brush. Others were light and almost flimsy -- those worked well for mowing grass. What I hadn't realized is that every one of those scythes were fit to snaths (handles) that were too short for me and in many cases not adjusted properly. My very first custom-fit scythe arrived in the mail last week and has so-changed my comfort level with this tool that I am now quite certain that I can hit my hand-made-hay tonnage goal this year. If you are ever tempted to mow or make hay using hand tools, be sure to spend some time at the Scythe Supply website -- lots of good information there and great prices on first-rate Austrian scythe blades and Maine-made custom snaths.
Not having to stoop makes it easy and relaxing to swing the scythe in the proper 180-degree arc. I'm by no means an expert, but for the first time ever, I have less trouble keeping the scythe level through the entire swing. It's fun when you don't have to fight it.
Thanks to the folks at Scythe Supply, I learned that the scythe is supposed to slice the grass, not whack it. Once I had the blade's hafting angle adjusted properly, the scythe literally sang its way through the grass.
My custom-fit scythe package came with a copy of The Scythe Book by David Tresemer. This work is full of lore, history and techniques for getting the most out of your scythe. If you don't believe you can do it, read this book and you will not only know you can do it, you will want to do it.
My homemade hay rake comes in handy whether collecting freshly scythed forage for the pigs or sun-dried forage for the haystack.
The dogs like to rummage around in the hay meadow when I mow and I love their company. As with any mower, tractor mounted or not, you need to keep track of these little guys because a well-honed scythe will slice off their legs as quickly as a discbine -- and they won't hear the scythe coming when digging after some varmint or another. Pearl is more precious to us than any amount of hay or pig food.
In spite of the 102-degree heat yesterday evening, we ritualistically headed out to cut grass for the pigs and knock down more hay. We got the pig food loaded into the trailer just as the sky opened up and droppped 0.65 inch of rain on the farm in 15 minutes. It felt good to shiver and to postpone the hay mowing for another day.
Photos: Courtesy Karen Keb.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.