The Scything Handbook – Book Review

I’ve recently been studying differently agricultural methods and a no-till approach where crops/vegetation are harvested or cut back but the remainder of the plant is left to decompose back into the ground was one method that I was particularly struck by – so much so, that I’ve actually done this using a sickle (a shorter one-handed version of a scythe) in our vegetable beds to over-winter. I’ve taken this a step further by using the vegetation as a mulch and covering with compost and sowing green manure seeds as well.

So I was delighted to receive a copy of Ian Miller’s The Scything Handbook to review, it felt rather serendipitous. Whilst I may not have a large meadow to mow or grain to harvest and the lawns are definitely Sandy’s domain, I’m very interested to see how a return to more traditional gardening methods can benefit both the gardener, the land and the wildlife around them.


The blurb: 

A book about how to use the scythe, why one should use it, and what it can be used for. A scythe is one of the most elegant and efficient hand tools available. it is ideal for harvesting many types of crops and beats a strimmer hands down in time tests. There is a graceful, rhythmic quality to scything that once mastered can provide the ultimate mind and body workout.

In this book, Ian Miller teaches you how to scythe from scratch. You will learn about assembly, perfecting the stroke, uses and blade care. A scythe can be used for mowing the lawn, harvesting small grain and cutting back wildflower meadows without disrupting wildlife. The hay and straw can be used in the garden for mulching and composting or for food and bedding for household pets while small grains can be used for making bread and feeding poultry.

This book will delight all gardeners, allotmenteers and smallholders who are tired of their noisy, heavy, fuel-dependent machines and looking for better ways to take care of themselves and their land.

  • Quiet, efficient way to cut grass and grain
  • Ideal for awkward spots that machinery can’t reach
  • Fuel-free and environmentally friendly
  • Rewarding mind and body workout
  • The first new book on scything in 35 years

Ian Miller was a professional musician before exchanging life in a punk rock band for organic farming. He has a degree in environmental science and was introduced to scything while interning on a biodynamic farm in Austria. He took a class at the Austrian Scythe Association and it’s been a big part of his life ever since. He has worked for the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa where he looked after rare cultivars of vegetables, grains, legumes and flowers and managed their historic orchard. He is currently building an off-grid homestead inIowa where he will continue to use a scythe for hay-making and harvesting grain.

How did I get on?

Whilst this book is neatly segmented into chapters that will allow the reader to dip in and out as required, this is a book that I’m going to read cover to cover. It’s full of lovely little nuggets from the Tolstoy quote at the start to the sourdough recipe at the back and all the other little gems in between.

It’s pretty comprehensive with plenty of diagrams and methodologies and all written in a simple easy to follow style that anyone can pick up. Not only that but it’s a truly educational piece from the history of scything through to it’s relevance in modern day agriculture on a domestic or larger scale.

I think I have a little bit of a lifestyle crush on Ian Miller and am very much looking forward to losing myself fully in his world.

The Scything Handbook on Amazon

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