Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cutting a swathe

This may be blasphemy to many Aussie blokes, but I hate petrol powered tools. They're smelly, noisy brutes that scare the chooks and belch carcinogenic fumes into their operators' faces. In many cases, they're simply unnecessary for the modest workload on hand.

In our backyard, we find a cordless electric 'Enviromower' from Victa more than adequate. It even has a nifty edging attachment to keep the edges neat and tidy. Not that the chooks have left much lawn worth mowing.

Up at the Patch, it's a different story. The Victa would struggle to mow 300 metres of couch and blanket weed on one battery charge, and I'd rather not have to cart it back and forth anyway.

So, I've gone for a low-tech alternative: I've got in touch with my inner Grim Reaper by acquiring and learning to use a scythe.

The mainstay of farmers before mechanised industrial farming, the scythe has become a fairly specialised tool. Mine was imported from Austria. It has a hand-carved snath (that's a handle to non-scythe users) and a variety of hand-forged, razor-sharp blades, including a wicked 65 cm job. It came with an instructional CD featuring a family of barefoot, scythe wielding Canadian farmers who made scythe mowing look really easy. In one memorable scene, a 15-year-old girl with a scythe raced a burly bloke with a brushcutter and won. Her hay was even neatly piled in a row ready for collection; his was just mashed and scattered across the paddock.

Well, I've got a long way to go to match that barefooted scythe girl, but getting started is really quite easy. It's very gentle exercise and that 65 cm blade cuts through swathes of long grass with a satisfying swish. Despite Susan's initial fears, there's actually no danger of cutting your own feet off. Other people's feet, maybe.

Before too long, Jill and Mike may even be able to distinguish the areas of grass I haven't mowed from the ones I have. We live in hope.

Not-so-grim reaper with his new toy

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