When to use a scythe
A lot of people buy an Austrian
scythe because they want to replace their weedeater and/or
lawnmower with a hand tool. Why use gasoline when you don't have
Although I agree with
that logic to some extent, Mark has turned me into a realist when it
comes to homesteading tools. If a hand tool takes a significant
amount more muscle than a power tool, I might choose the power tool.
On the other hand, I
also factor in the long term effort involved. If I'm afraid of
the power tool, can't get it started easily, or can't fix common
ailments myself, I might find it simpler in the long run to use a hand
tool. That's why our
tool kit contains a mixture of power and hand tools, into which the scythe slid
So which power tools
does the scythe replace, and when? Pros use their scythe to mow
the lawn, but I have to admit that I find the lawnmower much easier in
that respect. On the other hand, the scythe is great on rough
terrain or when cutting tall weeds that would bog down the mower.
There, Mark would turn to the weedeater, but that tool fails all
three of my power tool tests, so I stick to the scythe. (Despite
being scared of the weedeater, I wouldn't try to use my scythe for the
tasks Mark turns his ninja
blade to --- really
heavy duty brush is a job either for power tools or for slow and steady
work with loppers and a hand saw.)
Even if you like your
weedeater, you might find a scythe handy in certain situations.
Scythes cut right where you tell them to without shredding the severed
plant to bits, so they're great for harvesting grain and cutting
comfrey for mulch.
My scythe also makes it easy to mow with more discernment, a boon in my
complicated forest gardens and pastures, where I might want to leave a
berry plant to finish fruiting, mow red clover at six inches but
ragweed right at the ground, and be able to feel that I'm hitting a
fallen branch before damaging my tool.
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(I can't say for sure
that a weedeater can't do all those things --- I've hardly used
one. But I can tell you for sure that it's easier for me to
scythe my complex pastures than to explain to Mark how I want them cut.)
Now for the downsides of
the scythe. You need to commit more time to learning the craft,
paying special attention to sharpening the blade. On the other
hand, while you can just start a weedeater and let her rip, you'll
still have to take the tool in for a tuneup from time to time if you
can't figure out how to clean the air filter, change the spark plug,
etc. In the long run, I think that
a scythe requires less knowledge to keep the tool running at its best
than a weedeater does, unless you're already an expert at small engine
I was also disappointed
to discover that scything is very wrist intensive. I'm prone to
carpal tunnel flareups, which is why Mark splits all the wood around
here. While not nearly as bad for my tendons as splitting wood,
half an hour of scything is really all my wrists can handle before they
begin to protest. This is a problem because scything is extremely
addictive and fun, and it's hard to make myself stop once I've started!
I'm sure I'll discover
additional pros and cons of the scythe as I use it more. I
haven't quite put in the eight hours required before I need to peen the
blade yet, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Maybe other
scythe-users will chime in with the times they choose to (and not to)
use their scythe.