You Can Scythe in the Rain.

Unlike mechanical mowers a scythe is perfectly happy cutting wet vegetation

….which is lucky really, considering the weather we have been having.

The view out of the window may not be very enticing, but sometimes you just have to get out there and mow!

In fact, damp drizzly days can be an ideal chance to catch up on some mowing jobs.

Through the window, a wet garden.

Mowing in the Rain

Damp seed heads standing above greener vegetation in the Top field

Phil was out this morning mowing in the top field. We hope the next few days will be dry and we can snatch a bit more hay up onto racks. Most of our July / August hay making has been like this, attempting to grab any little break in the weather to make a bit more hay.

Which is where the ability of the scythe to cut in the wet really helps. We don’t need to wait for the vegetation to dry out before we begin. Instead we can get a head start on the forecast drier weather by starting mowing in the tail end of the rain.

It is not just hay mowing that we will start in the rain. Damp drizzly days can be the ideal time to catch up on mowing the lawn, trimming tracks and edges or tidying up around the garden beds.

More time to mow

Rain extends the amount of day in which it is comfortable and easy to work. It is cooler, so you don’t over heat, the grass is damp and the mowing is easier.

On a sunny day, similar benefits can be found by starting early in the morning while the dew is still on the grass, or even late in the evening. On drizzly days it’s easy to mow at any time.

Damp grass is easier to cut

It doesn’t seem to be entirely clear why, but damp grass is easier to cut. It could be that the moisture on the grass helps lubricate the passage of the blade through the swath.

On hot, sunny days, the sap pressure in the grass rises as the day progresses which also seems to have an effect on the ease of mowing.

The blade stay sharper

Mowing at midday on sunny day is significantly less easy then mowing at 7am on the same day or in the drizzle. The grass is dry, stiff and hard. The noise the blade makes as it passes through the grass has a saw like edge to it rather then just a gentle swish.

The effect on the sharpness of the scythe blade is noticeable. We will find ourselves having to stop and sharpen much more frequently.

Approaching the mowing

Rain is not a universal benefit. Later in the mowing season you are more likely to be faced with vegetation that has been laid flat by a combination of age, rain and wind. While this is trickier to mow then the lush, upright growth you might find in May, it can still be effectively scythed.

When setting up an area we want to start mowing such that the grass is laying away from us and towards the right. This way the scythe blade meets the vegetation at the correct angle to cut it rather then push it over.

If you try to mow vegetation when it is leaning towards the left the blade will tend to push it over rather then cutting it.

If the vegetation is leaning towards you it is sometimes possible to cut it but it is trickier. The base of the stems that need to be cut are further back then the tops and the tops tend to tangle around the snath.

The area we are cutting is, in the main, pushed over in one direction by the prevailing south westerly winds. In other areas, where various patches of the grass are lying in different directions, it might be necessary to alter the direction of mowing as we progress.

Scything Technique

Scything technique can also be used to help cut laid over vegetation. In this short video you can see how Phil is lifting the heel of the blade at the start of the stroke.

In fact the blade is staying in contact with the ground, but Phil is putting the downward pressure through the tip of the blade rather then further back into the body. This ensures the tip “sneaks in” behind the laid stems of the grass. The rest of the blade follows through and cuts, rather then tending to ride over the backs of the laid stalks.

The amount that Phil will do this varies depending on the shape of the blade he is mowing with and the condition of the vegetation.

Some things don’t mind the rain

Whilst we could really do with a bit of dry weather to finish off the hay, the last damp few weeks have brought one nice surprise. I have found more waxcap fungi on the hay meadows then ever before at this time of year.

Waxcap fungi and associated species are considered to be an important part of the ecology of undisturbed grassland (more information can be found in this Plantlife leaflet.).

They are also very beautiful and I have become increasingly fascinated by these colorful, slimy fungi.

Hygrocebe Calyptriformis (Ballerina Waxcap)