I was cycling home recently when I saw someone trimming a verge with a string-stimmer. It looked like hot, slow and tiring work – the strimmer could only take small bites of the rank grass, it was obviously quite heavy and the user was wearing long sleeves and trousers and a mask in the hot afternoon sunshine to protect himself from flying vegetation. My first thought was, that job would be much easier and more enjoyable with a scythe!
A couple of years ago Philip made us a Trimming Scythe from commonly available scythe parts. It is a really great tool which we use a lot. It really shows off the versatility of the scythe – it can do so much more then mow hay meadows! Below is a description of some of the ways it which we use it and how it was made.
The Trimming Scythe
The scythe it’s self is made from a child-sized (extra short) snath, with a long handled lower grip (see photo). It is equipped with a short trimming blade. The longer handle on the lower grip brings it further away from the snath and allows the user to stand up fairly upright and mow a narrow swathe. Combined with the short blade, this is a very nimble tool, capable of detailed work around obstacles.
The Trimming Scythe in Action!
So what do we use the Trimming Scythe for? Well, pretty much anywhere you might otherwise use a strimmer. I used it recently in our neighbours garden to mow back some long lush grass that would have been beyond the average lawn mower. Because of the agility of the tool and the connected nature of working with it, I was able to notice and trim around some patches of flowers, leaving them for the humans and insects to appreciate for a while longer! I also used it to trim around some plants and bushes.
I went on to cut some narrow paths through some longer vegetation. This is where the set-up of the trimming scythe really helps, enabling you to cut narrow paths quickly – no need for a wide swathe as with a meadow scythe. The narrow swathe is easy to cut as you are never carrying much weight of grass from one edge of the swathe to the other, so the work is not overly physical, certainly no worse then using a strimmer.
The trimming scythe is useful for trimming the grass under the electric fences we use with our sheep. It is a easy job to walk along the fence and trim the grass underneath and prevent it shorting out the fence. Other jobs include cutting down green manure plants on garden beds (often left in place as an instant mulch) and trimming around bee hives (no noisy motor to disturb the bees).
And what to do with all the clippings so produced? The nature of the scythe means that the clippings are naturally gathered together in windrows to the left of the direction of mowing. These are easy to collect up and make a great mulch around plants or on the vegetable garden, suppressing weeds and improving the soil.
Sometimes we mow in such a way that we can leave the clippings where they fall as a mulch around the plants along the pathway. Mow anti-clockwise around a tree and you create a mulch “doughnut” around the base. No grass moving at all!
For us, the scythe is at work ten out of twelve months of the year, and certainly does not hang idle waiting for the haying weather to come.