After teaching so many beginners to scythe this summer, it was great to see some of them back for my Improver’s course at the weekend. Like any skill, learning to scythe well takes time and practise and it helps to have someone check your progress. For this course I organised few different mowing situations to cover different skills.
We started in the orchard with a clean sward which was short but lying over from the weather. The mowing was deceptively tricky but gave me an opportunity to watch people and work with them on their ‘tai-chi’ style encouraging them to stand up straighter or make more use of their legs while mowing. In between mowing, I gave some help with sharpening and moved people on from the kneeling technique I teach to beginners. Being in the orchard also meant we could also do some trimming around the trees, mulching them at the same time without damaging the tree.
After lunch came my favourite part, a steep bank covered with tall weeds including hogweed, rosebay willowherb and raspberry canes. It’s the sort of thing that looks like awful work but with a scythe and good technique is actually fairly easy, efficient and lots of fun. Adjusting their grip on the scythe and explaining how to cut thicker material meant that the group could work through the weeds without hacking and risking damage to the blades.
We finished off with another session on some light clean grass and it was satisfying to see the lessons from the morning had stuck and everyone’s improvements over the day.
Sunday started with a few of us spreading out the grass for hay before the peening course. This was the usual raucus affair with seven people hammering away to shape their blades. These days are important for me to teach good technique, give people the confidence to peen and take away the fear of damaging the blades. Ali and Ian had some damage to their blades so I took them through the process of filing out the nicks and using the flat anvil to peen out metal into the gap. Once peened, we sharpened the blades with a succession of whetstones before taking them back out to try on the meadow.