Scott at the Huntington Gardens gave me a quick lesson on the Austrian Scythe, setting me l
oose to whack a stand of summer weeds. The scythe is to the weed whacker what the fixed gear bike is to the ten speed. Or, for you motor heads, it’s what a non-synchronized manual transmission is to an automatic. The scythe is all about technique, not technology and like riding fixed or “ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive“, it’s the considered life, an exercise in attentiveness . . . and frustration.
There’s definitely a learning curve and after a few minutes of ineffectual flailing I traded the scythe for a hoe. Still, the act of swinging this tool is infused with symbolism. Someone hand me a black robe! With a little practice I’d be knocking down weeds and getting some exercise, never a bad thing in our sedentary modern world.
Like all journeys into the “manual” life there’s a fair amount of maintenance. The blade must be sharpened frequently and periodically “peened” (the term for using a hammer to smooth out nicks).
Scythes come in European and American styles. The European configuration is ergonomic and the American style is clunky and uncomfortable to use. There’s also several different blades for weeding and harvesting and, like a bicycle, it’s crucial that your scythe fit your height.
Scythe use is intellectual for me since years worth of mulching, a dry climate and a very small yard means that I don’t have any stands of weeds to knock down or wheat to harvest. But, if I had a large yard and grass to deal with, I’d dump the weed whacker in a heartbeat.
For more info see Scythe Supply’s Scythe faq
Drawing from www.thescytheshop.co.uk.