Excerpt from Introduction page 1 & 2.
Years ago I bought a scythe at the local hardware store. I bought it to keep the dandelions, milkweed, lamb's quarters, couchgrass and so on from going to seed. There were to many to pull up by hand and too few to justify the hiring of a farmer's mowing machine. I had watched powerlessly as their flowering and seeding progressed. I wielded my scythe a few hours and then hung it up. It was awkward, it left me sore and the grasses laughed at my efforts by bending over and bobbing back up after the blade had passed. I concluded that our ancestors were made of stouter stuff than I am!
I learned later that the scythe I had used was the traditional "American" type having a heavy bent ash snath and a narrow hard steel blade. Five years ago I was introduced by Eliot Coleman at the Small Farm Research Association in Harborside, Maine to the "Austrian" style scythe which has a light blade and snath. My first use of this scythe was in happy contrast to my earlier labors with the "American" scythe. The experience was marked by the same observations anyone can make on discovering a good tool:
- It fits: The scythe complements the contours and dynamics of my body firmly and comfortably and feels like a well-designed extension of my hands and feet;
- It doesn't hurt: There is no excessive strain on any one part of my body as I use the scythe and I can use it for hours at a time without abusing myself;
- It works: We work together; my energy is efficiently translated into the desired effect without waste of effort. I can tell I have found a good tool when I hesitate to let it go. With the Austrian-style scythe I went on mowing and mowing.
I use a scythe to mow a few acres of hay which I use to mulch my gardens and to feed the small livestock population I keep over the winter. I also harvest with the scythe a variety of small grains for bread and pancakes. With a very modest expenditure of time and effort I am thus able to raise my own hay and grain. With the scythe I keep the marginal areas of my property free of weeds going to seed and have thus reduced the weeding problem in my gardens by at least the time taken in the scything. I have found that a scythe can perform a moderately sized task in the same amount of time it would take to fetch attach adapt and repair a mechanical substitute. Maintenance of the machine means money spent; maintenance of the human body means health gained. It is not impossibly strenuous or difficult to wield a scythe; both my experience of mowing and the tool itself are resources of enduring value.
Copyright by Alan C. Hood & Company Inc.