During the winter I worked on a friend’s farm planting up some areas with a mix of hardwood trees. This week I’ve had two interesting days of work clearing the vegetation which has had all year to grow up in between them. For this kind of work a strimmer is a pain because the long stems get wrapped around the string case and a scythe is perfect. I used my ‘stoneblade’ (Hahnsense) which is a tough blade with a lot of curve to work over the uneven ground and a stonepoint to protect the edge if I hit a stone.
The weeds had certainly grown, with the nettles standing over a metre tall. The scythe was cutting well but the hard work with this kind of mowing is moving the stuff out of the way as it’s too heavy to windrow directly as with grass. Still, it was very satisfying to clear my way through it and by the end of the day the trees were a lot easier to see and none of the guards were damaged even though I cut right up to them.
In amongst the nettles were a few good-sized hogweed plants as well. When cutting thicker material there’s a tendency among folk to want to hack or to think they need a ‘bush blade’ but actually most blades will cope with this sort of work if it’s sharp and you concentrate on using a slicing motion. These weren’t the giant hogweed variety but I’m sure the scythe would deal with those just as efficiently. Also, since you’re far away from the actual cut and it’s a smooth slicing action I think there’d be less chance of being affected by the sap which can cause the skin to be photosensitive and burn. I’ll talk to some conservation groups about giving it a try.
For the second day I was in a different, wetter field mowing rushes on possibly the wettest day of the year. Again the rushes are very heavy and lie flat over the sward. I found it easier to mow under them and then periodically move them out of the way with my foot rather than use the scythe so as not to risk putting excess pressure on it and to not strain my back and shoulders.
On courses people always ask about cutting other things than grass and how to deal with ‘difficult situations’. It’s a shame some of them weren’t around to give me a hand!