There’s a new scythe book coming…..

scything-handbook_plc-3-juneIt’s called The Scything Handbook.

Author Ian Miller is based on a small homestead in Iowa. The American publishers of the book, New Society say:

“Written by a master of the scythe, professionally trained in Austria, and drawing deeply on research into original German texts, The Scything Handbook brings centuries-old scything techniques into the 21st century.

Detailed illustrations cover scythe assembly, perfecting the stroke, blade selection, honing, peening, and aftercare, as well as background on how scythes are forged. Also covered are the basics of making hay and mulch by hand, and how to grow and harvest gains at the home and homestead scale for self-sufficiency.”

The book is being released in the UK from 22nd September. I’m looking forward to having a look, particularly as Ian will be discussing subjects such as hand hay making and harvesting grains as well as scythe set up and mowing. We will be stocking it in the book section of our shop if you fancy a look too.

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Extra Introductory Scythe Course Added

Learn to ScytheDue to demand, we have decided to offer one more chance to come and learn to mow with us this year.

Our last Introductory Scythe Course for 2016 will be on Wednesday 14th September. See this page to book.

We still have places on the Peening and Sharpening Workshop on Sunday 18th September.

This is a great opportunity to get to grips with the art of peeninPeening a 75cm Profisenseg; both if you are looking for the confidence to take a hammer to your blade for the first time or if you would like to improve your peening skills, maybe moving from the jig to freehand peening.

Knowing how to get your blade really sharp can make your mowing experience even better! See this page to book.

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Wind blown windrows

Demonstrating the mowing action on short grass, the arc made by the blade clear in the grass

Demonstrating the mowing action on short grass, the arc made by the blade clear in the grass

Following on from good grass growing conditions in the spring we are doing well with our hay harvest. A heavier crop per acre combined with pushing the making during a good spell of weather in June means that the stacks have been pretty much full for a couple of weeks now.

There is still room to squeeze a bit more on the top as the hay settles and we have begun an outdoor stack (backup animal feed should we have a hard winter and a “mulch store” for the garden). So we are continuing to make hay from the grass cut on our courses, only grumbling slightly that we get to do the work of hay making without the fun of mowing first!

Austrian Scythes

Lunch Time

In fact, one of my favourite bits from Saturday’s course was one of the participants exclaiming that he had come to learn a useful skill, but was surprised to find he enjoyed it so much.

It’s been windy here, keeping temperatures down and making for pleasant working conditions in the field. The wind is great for hay drying but it’s strength made rowing up yesterday evening more challenging than usual, as the wind tried to blow over the rows as we pulled them up!

Practicing mowing. The green to the left is regrowth on vegetation cut in early July

Practicing mowing. The green to the left is regrowth on vegetation cut in early July. The brown haze on top of the vegetation being cut is mainly the flower stalks of Rough Hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus) and grass seed heads.







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A Good Scythe at Work

The Austrian scythe is a versatile tool which we put to many uses on our holding. Here is a nice video featuring Peter Vido, the man who first introduced us to the Austrian scythe, showing some of the types of work a scythe can be put to. Note his relaxed mowing style.

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Scything on Countryfile

Cats-ear.JPGThis enjoyable piece on the Austrian scythe and hand hay making featured on Countryfile last night, with prominent UK scythers Andi Rickard and Simon Fairlie.

Countryfile – Meadows  – The scything starts at 30.35.

The linking shot from the previous piece looks like it could have been filmed over our meadows!

Matt Baker asks Simon if his scything is better than Poldark’s (you just can’t escape him…).  Simon offers no comment, I’ll leave it up to you to judge.

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Peening to Keep Mowing

Peening a 75cm ProfisenseWhilst mowing this morning both Phil and I were sharpening more frequently than usual to keep our blades mowing well – time for a peen. Here is Phil working on my 75cm Profisense ready for tomorrow morning’s mowing.

Permaculture Magazine are featuring an article by us on peening in their latest issue. We want to encourage more people to experience the benefits that peening can bring to mowing, whatever kind of vegetation they are cutting.

A quick hay update. With the forecast relatively settled we are making hay on the Top Field from grass cut on Sunday and Monday, both by us and the Tai Chi mowing course. If we get a decent amount of sun tomorrow (Thursday) we hope to bring in this quarter of an acre in the evening. Otherwise we will have to make hay-cocks to hold it over a possibly drizzly day on Friday.

All the hay racks made from the grass cut on this scythe course have been brought in; taken apart and spread in the morning of a sunny day, then carted in in the evening.

Spreading the tops from the racks

Spreading the tops from the racks, the hay here has a bit of rain damage

Underneath, good dry hay

Underneath the top layer there is plenty of good dry hay.










We have also begun cutting on Cae Mari Jones. The vegetation on this end of the field is a great contrast to that on the top field, fine-leaved grasses and herbs in place of a predominance of broad-leafed plants. The hay mows and handles very differently….

Two morning's worth of mowing spread on Cae Mari Jones

Two morning’s worth of mowing spread, Cae Mari Jones

Hay rowed up for the night on Cae Mari Jones

Rowed up for the night, Cae Mari Jones


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Saving the Hay

National Meadows Day last Sunday saw us spending a fair part of the day out in one of the Trust’s meadows, saving the hay.

This is grass that was cut in the rain on our last scythe course. We would not normally choose to cut hay in such weather, but it is an interesting challenge to save it despite the less then favourable conditions.

The day after the course it rained all day. Freshly cut grass is relatively unaffected by this kind of soaking. The following day, Thursday, the cut area was split into thirds. The following days were showery, but with a useful drying wind.

The bottom third was worked reasonably intensely, aiming to get it dry enough to rack relatively quickly. The area was small enough that the work needed did not take too much time, given other commitments, and we could quickly row it back up again should showers threaten.

The other two-thirds were minimally handled to hold it in a greener state that is less vulnerable to damage from rain, with the aim of finishing it once the first third was safe and so avoiding having to rack all the hay in one day.

Here is the rest of the story in pictures. Click on a picture enlarge it.

The bottom third on Thursday. It was spread in a dry spell, then rowed up into narrow rows in which the hay could continue drying but had less surface area exposed to passing showers.


The top two-thirds on Thursday. The windrows were flipped over to expose the cut stalk ends. This allows the grass to starting losing moisture in the wind and any sun.


Thursday evening. Phil and I worked together to double up the narrow rows for the night, Phil pulling one up and myself following along pulling one down to meet it.


The doubled up rows.


Spreading the bottom third on Friday.  The change in the grass is already visible. The weather reports were closely watched for dry periods and the hay re-rowed when the shower threat was higher.
























All spread.  The racks visible on the right were built a week before during a previous haymaking session.


Saturday, final drying before racking the bottom third. The hay was rowed up over night, here we are flipping over the rows.  Flipping rows is a very fast way to handle the hay and can easily be done several times in a day.


Flipping the rows exposes the greener underside and fluffs the grass to increase wind drying through the row.


The top two third was spread for the first time on Saturday. Although the grass still looks very green, once spread it will dry fast as it has been wilting for several days.



A stack of racks ready for work


Racking up the bottom third, Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, Sunday was a much nicer day then expected and we may have got this hay to barn dry if we had left it down. As it was, we were able to take apart some older racks and get them into the barn in the time in which we would have been hauling this hay (see last photo)


A closer picture of the grass to give an idea of how cured it is.


The bottom third on racks, with the older, paler racks behind. The next third up has been worked in rows for the afternoon. Note how the hay is beginning to look twisted into the rows. To avoid the same green hay staying in the middle every time the row is flipped these rows will need spreading and re-rowing or fluffing up.


Sunday – the remaining hay is spread on the first sunny day this batch has seen.


Sunday evening. All the hay from the course is up on racks and the sky is blue! It poured down the next day. The hay on the ground in the foreground is from the older set of racks that were taken apart and spread in the morning, freeing up the racks for re-use. We were out in the field until 10pm bringing it in, but experience shows that we get the best quality hay if we bring it in off the racks at the first opportunity, especially on this field which has a high proportion of broad-leaved herbs that do not thatch well into long-lasting racks.



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