Tuesday, 23 February 2021

"What's the worst thing about using a Scythe?"

...some-one asked me the other week.

I tell you -  using a scythe is a constant attraction to other people, they just can't stop coming up and asking questions!

So, what's the worst thing?

Well, if you'll excuse the expression, it's all the hippy-shit that goes with it.

I use my scythe because it is the right tool for the job, it's quick, it's quiet, it's nice to use, and I hate strimmers. Not because I want to be in tune with nature, or because I am rebelling against the totalitarian state ("what?") or, what was it now? "as an expression of your rejection of being repressed by our industrialisation process". No, I didn't understand what she was on about, either.

I like the satisfaction of using my own muscle power to get the job done, rather than just tiring them out holding some heavy, whining piece of machinery.

I love being able to still hear the birdies singing, and being able to have conversations with passers-by, while working bare handed and not muffled by layers of protective clothing.

I even quite like the reactions of passers-by: no-one (so far) has laughed at me, and I get some interesting comments. Some people are quite taken aback at first, then when they stand and watch for a while, and talk to me, they realise that I am actually completely modern, and fairly normal (using "normal" as a general term...).

 Here's a very nice little meadow, which I scythe every year in July: the grass gets well above knee-height, so the Client's mower won't go near it.

So, I spend one afternoon a year with my scythe, and he spends about one hour a year raking up my neat piles and windrows (which is what we scythers call a pile, only long). 

No fossil fuels, no stinking up my car, no leaking oil etc in all directions: just me, swishing away, silently sweating. But nowhere near as much as I would do, if I were wearing full PPE in order to use a stinky strimmer!

Certainly I am not any sort of eco-warrior, despite being a long-standing member of the local canal restoration group (and a former folk singer, but we don't talk about that *shudders theatrically*). I eat meat - lots and lots of meat - I drive a car (ok I keep my cars until they are between 9-14 years old, based on the last two, but that's because I am sensible, not because I am eco-mad), I have a solid business background, short hair,  and I don't wear open-toed sandals. Did I miss any blatant generalisations or cliches?

Within a year of buying my lovely modern Austrian scythe, I sold both my strimmers.

This says it all really: now that I have a real scythe, I no longer need my strimmers, and I quickly realised that I would never, ever, ever use them again. So I sold them. Yay! (and I used the money to buy myself more MEAT to eat!) (Sorry, Max, and all other confirmed vegetarians out there...)

Diversion: in conversation with a Client, and discussing vegetarians - we talk about all sorts of things, my Clients and I - the question arose:

Mr Client:  "What do you call someone who is definitely not a vegetarian - that is, someone like you, who eats meat?"

 Me:  "Normal."

End of diversion, please drive on. 

So, getting back to scythes:  a fellow gardener, Susan Cohan, wrote this on the ThinkinGardens site a couple of years ago - she was writing from the USA, but the point is valid here and now:

"I don’t support the use of small backpack, gasoline powered trimmers of any variety, but wonder why with the current movement for all things handmade and artisinal that gardeners haven’t taken up the cause with more hand driven pruning?  Is it lack of skill or interest?  Did lopers and hedge pruners and rakes get forgotten?  Is it because it takes time to learn the methods and when to put those into practice?"

That's a very interesting question, I thought: she's right, what with everyone cracking on about pollution, global warming, CO2 etc etc etc etc etc, why am I still the only professional gardener I know, who uses a scythe? 

I'm not quite the only one who runs half-day training courses on how to clip topiary with shears, the old-fashioned way (left: halfway through...), but there's not many options to learn this skill.

Finally, a point which I read somewhere, a while back, which I think is such a valid comment, that I might even get myself a T-shirt printed, with the following slogan:

"There's a massive contradiction between fostering a wild-flower meadow, and the brutal savagery of a stinking, angry-sounding strimmer."

How very true.

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