Tag Archives: mowing

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.

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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

GTech Cordless Strimmer – Product Review

The lovely people at Gtech recently sent us a cordless strimmer to review, and typically, it’s rained ever since. Thankfully we had a break this past weekend so finally got to road-test it, let’s just say it had it’s work cut out – here’s how S got on with it.

Assembling the strimmer out of the box was very easy – there were only a couple of pieces which clicked together easily, and which didn’t even require instructions.  My first impression was how light it was.  The battery had been charging before this point and even after pushing that into place at the head of the handle it made no difference to the weight and feel of it.  The cutting blades were also amazingly easy to fit – no cartridges needing plastic wire threaded through here – instead, just a small plastic blade which you pop into the head.

 

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Yes, that’s really how bad it got!

 

So, with that, I was very keen to try it out.  I was wanting to level out a small patch of lawn, which had got very long and thick (20+ centimetres in bits).  Starting it up was easy, with the safety switches not requiring you to change your grip on the handle at all.  It performed very well, there was plenty of power and, because it is so light, was very easy to precisely cut through to the right length.

 

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S in full strimming action

 

While using it the blade pinged off a couple of times (and had to search for it in the long grass), but that was due to getting too close to a rock on the border.  However, there is no worry at all about the blade getting broken and jammed in the rotating head – it just can’t happen.  I got through a couple of blades, although did not do too much experimenting with how much life you can get from one use.  The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

 

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That looks better!!!!

 

I used it for about 45 minutes in total until the battery was used up, but that was plenty of time to do several passes over the surface, cutting down to the right level, and through some pretty thick and long grass.  I didn’t try out the option to rotate the head for edging.  That wasn’t quite so straightforward to push the sides in to allow the rotation.

In conclusion, I’ll be using this each time, since it is so light, easy to use and handle and makes doing the chore much more appealing!

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 To find out more about GTech’s range of cordless garden equipment you can check out their website here