Art of Proprietation

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Manual Mowing

I have heard people call it "scything" but that sounds funny to me. There must have been a time when if you said mowing, you couldn't mean any other way. I guess now you could say manual mowing to be clear there wasn't an engine involved.

I bought a scythe this spring. A friend had let me borrow his brush scythe and snath. I bought a 30" grass blade and tried it on his snath. I found it a great combination for what I wanted to do. Pictured is the grass blade on a snath I made from hemlock (and reinforced some) with a broom handle stem and nibs I whittled from odd bits. I patterned it after a purchased one.

In a few minutes I can easily cut a day or two's fresh grass to help with my rotational grazing. It allows me to cut grass from paddocks ahead of my parasite rotation. That allows me to get the benefit of the growth without exposing the paddock to parasite eggs.

I also frequently use the scythe to true up a paddock after the goats have been through it. I take down any weeds left standing. I particularly want to control poison ivy and black swallow wart or anything else the goats don't care to eat.

I ended up buying a 20" bush blade to go with my grass blade. The bush blade is much stouter, but it's shorter length allows it to maneuver in tighter quarters. The stronger blade allows me to cut light woody material with more confidence. Using the bush blade for blackberry canes and this year's saplings saves me a lot of banging on the grass blade. It is excellent for cutting paths through the wild berry patches. The bush blade does a lot of work keeping the electric fences clear and is excellent for cutting under the fence. I can even reach through the fence to get the opposite side. And a wooden snath doesn't carry current. I know I cut more volume with the grass blade, but the bush blade gets more frequent use.

I am very happy with my first season of use. It's probably right up there with a shovel for usefulness and I think I probably use one more often. I think I am as fast with a scythe as I am with my fancy string trimmer. And since my string trimmer engine is in never ending need of adjustment or repair, maybe faster. The scythe is easily as capable. I have a sickle bar mower that I have used for under the fences, but that was always dicey. I had to loosen the low wire and tie it up out of the way but I was still worried about cutting the wire. And I needed to turn off the fence to cut. And I feel a lot more confident about cutting around the new fruit trees. And the string trimmer burns mixed fuel while the sickle bar engine needs new rings. I am saving all that particulate, too.

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Friday, September 10, 2010


My neighbors down the way let me pick up their windfall apples for my turkeys. There were probably between 75 and 100 lbs of apples. I am hoping the apples will help finish the turkeys this year. Last year our first turkey was a little on the dry side. We slaughtered the first about mid September as a test bird. Given that turkey had virtually no fat, we started adding cracked corn to their grain ration. It had the desired effect, the subsequent turkey's were much more moist. This year I am hoping we can fatten the turkeys on apple, at least in part. Apples are a crop we have on our land and our neighbors. And I hope apples add something special to these turkeys.

Last year was our first with turkeys. We did ten, mostly for ourselves. This year we have twenty, enough to sell some. They are looking pretty good, we'll probably be able to slaughter a few by October. The plan is to have one or two on the table for our harvest party in October.

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