The Grimy Reaper

First of all, here’s a review of Margo Jackson’s ‘The Mark’ on the US Amazon site. It’s a good first review!

I think I have Dirk Vleugel’s next book ‘Tales from Under the Drinking Tree’ about ready to go. Just trying to catch every possible glitch before CreateSpace start playing the ‘no, do it again’ game.

Today though, today was gardening day. Gardening means getting grimy and if you don’t need a hose-down or at least a wash when you come back in, you’re not doing it right. Today was perfect – a day when it actually didn’t rain! The scythe arrived and after a bit of setting up and adjusting, I set about reaping many nettle souls and a lot of other weeds that the strimmer can’t deal with. The blade is almost glowing with all those souls now!

If you’re thinking of trying one, don’t just buy the scythe. You need a whetstone and water sheath (to keep it wet) and a peening kit to periodically bring the blade back to evil razor sharpness. The cutting edge is very fine and wears in use, so you have to give it a quick sharpen with the whetstone every five minutes or so – basically, when it starts bending things rather than cutting them. The scythe is the biggest expense so the accessories are not that much extra. Leaving them out is a real false economy because you’ll soon have a blunt scythe with no means to sharpen it.

I was surprised at how easy it is to use. I expected hard work but just a casual swing and the nettles fall. I have the ditch blade with the stone point – a nail-like end rather than sharp all the way to the end. That’s important for me because I’m cutting in the woods where I might encounter all kinds of hidden hazards. The pointy end hits the hazard first so the sharpened blade is protected.

I found two rusted frames for school desks in the undergrowth. I doubt they can be re-used so I’ll let the farmer add them to his scrap metal pile. They are, technically, his since they are on his property, but I suspect he doesn’t know they exist. They’ve been in there a very long time.

There is an extensive rabbit warren under the nettles. When they emerge they are going to survey the devastation around them and wonder if the local fox has deployed nukes.

The scythe isn’t the simple primitive tool it appears to be. You need to set the handles so the swing is easy and consistent, set the lay (blade angle on the ground) and the haft (angle between blade and shaft) and when you have all that just right, using it is so easy you’ll wonder why these things ever went out of fashion.

There is still a place for the strimmer. There are places the scythe can’t get into, especially near fences and around what I euphemistically call a ‘rockery’ although it’s actually just a pile of rocks. It can’t get between trees and fences and it doesn’t work well among densely planted flower beds. Well it would work there just fine as long as you don’t mind turning the flower bed into a monument to Tunguska.

One big win for the scythe is chopping the nettles around things like pampas grass. If a strimmer hits pampas grass it won’t cut it, it’ll wrap the leaf around itself until it’s tied up tighter than a tart in a bondage brothel. Pampas grass yields to the scythe.

I can’t mow lawns with it yet but then it has only been in my possession for less than twelve hours so far. Maybe I should get a second blade for lawns. You only need one snath (shaft), you can change blades easily.  I actually prefer the lawn cut I get with the hand-pushed cylinder mower that I got for £30 from Aldi. It cuts really close and has a roller so it leaves those attractive lines. Now the lawns are pretty much clear of pine cones it’s working well. A pine cone, and especially a fallen twig with ten cones on it, will stop that mower dead.

The petrol mower cleared the cones. It cares nothing for pine cones nor even fallen branches, it mashes them and throws them into the grass basket. As I don’t fancy picking cones off a razor sharp scythe blade I’ll still need that mower. Especially at the start of the year when the cones have been dropping all winter.

Also, a summer like this one with daily rain leaves the grass long and wet when you finally get a chance to cut it. The push mower can’t cope with that. Maybe the scythe can, we’ll see. It got so bad at one point that I had to use the petrol mower without the grass box because the grass was so long and wet it was choking the mower. This meant a lot of raking up afterwards which was a pain.

There’ll be raking up afterwards with the scythe too but when the grass is long and wet, raking will happen anyway.

It’s resting now, with the other tools. Munching on nettle souls and waiting for me to set up a proper wall mounting for it. Hanging it like that will mean resetting the blade because it’ll shift relative to the shaft.

I hope it’s a fine day tomorrow, There are many more nettle souls to reap.

 

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12 thoughts on “The Grimy Reaper

  1. Those cones. Collect and store them somewhere dry and come the winter you have wonderful fuel for the wood burner. Yes I know you have a limitless supply of scrap wood but as the cones have to vacate the lawn anyway.

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    • Pine cones used to be an integral part of a shooting estate’s economy, you know.

      The problem was rabbits. They make a pretty decent sporting target, but only if they can be persuaded to stay topside and not to dive down burrows at the first opportunity. So, before the annual vermin shoot on many estates, an evil plan would be put in motion.

      First of all, collect a large quantity of round dry pine cones, and place these in a large oil drum. Add one can of (now banned) Renardine, top up with diesel and waste engine oil. Stir well and leave to fester for a week or two.

      Next, drain off the oily mix and collect the now-stinking pine cones using gloves. Go around all the rabbit warrens on the estate chucking these stinky pine cones down the most-used burrows; do this at least a week before the day of the shoot.

      What happens is that the stench of diesel, kerosene and Renardine quickly saturates the rabbit burrows, and forces the occupants to find new lodgings. Left to their own devices, the bunnies would eventually dig new warrens but this takes time; done correctly the rabbits can be stunk out of their warrens but left too little time to dig new ones.

      Then, on the day of the shoot, the spaniels will have a whale of a time putting up rabbits from every available bit of cover, and a fun and useful vermin shoot will be had by all.

      The pity is that Renardine is now banned, mostly because it was the only thing that would consistently prevent badgers from going into places, so of course it had to be banned forthwith.

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  2. I think I need a scythe, too. There are some on eBay for £32. Would it be a waste of money to buy the cheapest? (Is this a silly question?) I need to clear about 2000 square feet of 4ft-high assorted very healthy weeds, on a regular basis. There are few obstacles.

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    • As long as it’s in good shape and the blade can be sharpened (and doesn’t have cracks or big dents in it) then it should work okay. Actually that’s not a bad price for the handle, even if you had to buy another blade. Just as long as the handle is adjustable – if it’s not set up right, you’ll do your back in!

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  3. Does your scythe have a shoulder strap so that the weight is taken by your back and shoulders rather than arms? One of the old boys I used to know back in my teens told me there’s a particular rocking motion which makes cutting large areas fairly easy. Of course he was in his 80’s back then (1970’s) and could remember harvesting before machinery got to his dads farm back in the 1890’s.

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    • No, the design is Austrian so the blade rests on the ground with a small upwards angle on the cutting edge. The weight is mostly on the ground, all you have to do is slide it sideways.

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