Monday, September 13, 2010

The Scythe Chronicles

We are preparing the fields for Fall sown cover crops, and for next year's sheep and goat pastures.The scythe is our tried and true trusty tool for the job. It is a favorite job at our favorite time of year. The slow and steady rhythm of the scythe makes for contemplative work...the air is starting to cool, and the sound of the blade "scithing" through the grass is rustic poetry.
Farmer Shane believes the first thing to be done when endeavoring to scythe a field is to find yourself a pair of good ol' "Scything Socks". Old timers believed that a sturdy pair of socks not only secured your legs from the whipping grasses and grain heads, but also put the fear of God into the field.* Farmer Shane endorses "Ring of Fire" Scything socks...guaranteed to quake any grass.
We use a European Scythe, with the straighter snath. It is much easier on the back. The blade does all the work, and the tip of the blade must be scrupulously maintained with a wet stone every twenty cuts or so. All the effort is in the swing of your torso-not your arms. (It's good practice for aspiring tennis players)

The windrow is the fallen grass left behind as the scyther progresses through the field.

Next year we plan to scythe the cover crop as we prepare successive beds to transplant our CSA veggies in, and then use the fallen crop as mulch.

In days past, whole teams of men used to scythe fields of grain for Fall harvest. They would work in a line, 4 or 5 abreast, and steadily cut the grain. Apparently large amounts of "the juice of the barley" were consumed on such days...and a good scytheing man was measured by how straight his windrows matter the quantity imbibed. Gives a whole new twist to "the straight and narrow".

*l.f.f. tall tale


  1. Shane should be on the cover of Men's Journal with his socks and scythe. I'd buy a copy of that issue and post it on my office wall for inspiration.

  2. We are also in the process of developing our own brand of Cologne. "My Nure" for Men.

    "There is nothing quite like the irresistable allure of "My Nure"- for men."

  3. Hi guys, I'm not sure if those photos are actually representative of what you're doing or not, but in typical mowing the scythe blade should stay on the ground for pretty much the entire arc of the cut, back and forth.

  4. Marshall,
    Yes, you are correct. The photo you are referring to was taken on the upswing. (Largely so that the blade could be seen!) But the general motion is close to the ground.) The motion Mr. Farmer makes when cutting a half acre of oats is much less photographable because the blade is near to the ground for the cutting...and the motion is more subtle then the picture indicates...