Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making Hay

Our hayfield is fairly small (c. 1.5 acres) and as it is located next to a large creek at the bottom of a hill, it stays quite moist. I decided last year to try to cut the hay with a scythe. Not that I'm a glutton for punishment, but I like the idea of being able to do our small bit of haying without machinery if necessary. Should gas be in short supply or prohibitively expensive, it's nice to know we can still harvest some winter meals for our buffalo. My scythe is a European-style scythe from the Scythe Supply Company in Maine. Its design is much more ergonomically friendly than the traditional American scythe, requiring less effort to get the job done. This particular scythe was custom-made to fit me (taking into account my height and the length of my arms) and has a right-handed blade. Were Jim to get one, he could get a lefty blade.
It takes a bit of practice to get the motion right, but once you get the swing of it, it's really not nearly as taxing as you might think. Mostly because swinging is not involved. You really glide the scythe across the ground and let the very sharp cutting edge do the work. Still, it does get tiring, particularly when working with very dense patches of grass. Fortunately, about the time I need a breather--roughly every 15 minutes--it's time to sharpen the blade with the whetstone conveniently holstered on my side. 30 seconds later I'm back at it.

I've worked up to doing about an hour's worth of scything at a time. If I could go for 8 hours, I could get the whole field done, but what fun would that be? On days when the grass is ready to cut and the weather promises to be dry for a day or so, I try to scythe early in the morning while the grass is still wet. I go about my other chores while the cut grass dries in the field. Depending on how wet it is, I may go back mid-day, rake in hand, and turn the cut grass over and spread it out a bit more to encourage rapid drying. If all goes well, late in the day, I can go back and start raking up the now dry hay before the evening dew sets in and gets it all wet again. All the hay is loaded into my trusty garden cart and hauled up to the old corn crib where it is loosely stacked. An hour's worth of scything translates into about 4 cart loads.

So, is it really worth doing this manually or should I just bite the bullet and buy a hay mowing attachment for our walk-behind tractor? Tune in for the next installment on scything versus mowing.

3 comments:

  1. Whoa - I told my physical therapist about you doing this yesterday and she, being a horsewoman herself, was absolutely amazed!

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