Inspired by our meeting in the orchard at Sprint Mill, I organised a stand at this year’s Apple Day at Acorn Bank near Penrith. One of the organisers, Sara Braithwaite, told me that over the years the event has grown into more than just apples and, sure enough there was all the workings of a country fair when I arrived. I had a simple stand; just myself, a scythe with a selection of blades, hayfork, rake, peening anvil and some information on the current UK scythe ‘scene’ and my mowing workshops. Everything was organised a bit last minute so there wasn’t a great selection of grass but in the end there was only time for two short demonstrations in between talking to people.
It’s always interesting to meet people at these events, listen to their stories and hopefully answer their questions. The stand attracted a range of folk from those who have a scythe and wanted advice on how to improve their technique or sharpness, total beginners keen to put away the strimmer to those with memories of their fathers mowing in the fields.
As much as the scythes there was lots of interest in the other tools, particularly my Austrian rake. Whereas most rakes you see have the tines perpendicular to the handle, this one has them set back at about 50º towards the handle. As soon as you start to use it, it makes sense. The angled tines slide over the ground as you work rather than catching and chattering. I have it as an example of good design to use as the basis for my own rakes. I was especially pleased that it got the seal of approval from Miss Kathloon Peart from Bishop Auckland. As well as explaining her preferred shape for the tine points she described how, aged 3, she’s been thrilled to receive a hayrake for xmas and had been making hay ever since on the family farm. A gentleman doesn’t ask but I should think that adds up to almost half a century of experience and I’m hoping she’ll join us next summer to pass on some of her haymaking knowledge.