On Sunday and Monday, Golden Ears hosted a scything seminar. Chuck Hayes shared his knowledge and experience; with a bit of coaching thrown in during the actual scything. Sunday focused on the blades -- reconditioning old blades, comparing Chuck’s old, well-maintained blades with newly made blades, and sharpening (we’ll get to that later). Different snath (handle) styles were also discussed, with American ones having a curved aluminum shaft with two handles and European ones having a straight shaft with either one or two handles.
Jigs were set up so that when peening (hammering), the impact was placed adjacent to the edge of the blade. This helps to make the blade thinner, which, in turn, makes sharpening easier. Each participant worked with a peening kit, complete with sharpening stone, that they took home with them. Who knew that blades need to be sharpened with a wet stone every 5 to 6 minutes? It makes sense when you think of the acres of scything that was done years ago -- a sharp blade meant less struggle and fatigue.
A huge thanks to Alexander at scytheworks.ca for getting us the peening kits in a speedy fashion, just in time for the seminar!
Early Monday morning, the group went out and scythed a 1/4 acre section of barley. It was crisp and dewy -- perfect conditions for a clean cut. Chuck provided feedback on posture and motion to improve efficiency and endurance. An ‘echelon formation’ was used to work through the patch -- each person used a staggered start (so the person in front of them didn’t lose their ankles!), and once they were finished their row, they sharpened their blade and cycled around to start again. It was great to watch the flow of it, and it was easy to imagine that once a crew was well-practiced, it wouldn’t take long at all to get through a lot of grass.
In only an hour, the section was mowed down; ready for raking and stooking. This grain will probably go to our cows before the pigs are moved in. For half the cost of a weed whacker, you can mow your grass with no fuel input except for a bit of elbow grease (and practice)!
Photo credit: Martín Bustamante