Friday, July 9, 2010

Maximilian does his thing

Some time ago I took a deep breath and bought a scythe from I ordered a brush blade, since there is a piece of my property (I suspect is was once a goat pasture) that was badly overgrown in alder and junior birch, to say nothing of weeds. The scythe came with a custom-tailored snath, or handle, in the European pattern, a book (David Tresemer's The Scythe book) and a peening jig, not to mention a whetstone complete with waterproof sheath (keeps the stone wet). I ordered a brush blade with it, made in Austria and so I named it Maximilian after a deceased Austrian emperor.
With Maximilian, I cleared more brush last year than I had in the previous three years. I have used every cutting tool you can think of, one of them motorized. But Max is far, far superior. This year I don't have so much brush, but I'm cutting weeds and some clover left in the pasture. Max makes no noise, uses no gas, and cuts through 25mm alder with ease. Of course, it takes time to learn how to use him. Once, long ago, I did Karate. It is much the same thing as a horse kick in Karate. Right knee forward and bent. Swing the hip -- arms shouldn't do much. The thing must be kept razor-sharp. You whet frequently, whenever you think of it, in fact. If whetting fails it's time to peen. This takes less than 10 minutes with the jig. When you get it right it's zen.
The stroke carries most of the cuttings over to the side. This makes a neat windrow, to which you apply the bull rake later. The results are
You can see the "before" on the right of the pic. I don't pretend to be an expert scythesman. But I improve with practice. I must get a grass blade. Maybe I could mow the "lawn" with it. I find it much less exhausting than pushing a lawnmower. There is something to old tech after all.

The cuttings go straight into the compost heap. A lot like haying without the hassle. If my "hay" spoils, so much the better; it has to decompose anyway!

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