I’ve been making wooden hay rakes for several years now. To make the rake teeth, called ‘tines’, a cleft ash billet is knocked through a sharpened steel tube called a tine cutter. As the wood is split from a larger log, the fibres run along the tine intact making each one very strong.
Recently I’ve been thinking about my rakes and that I would like to have a tine cutter to make slightly smaller tines. While I was at Beamish Museum the other day, I mentioned this to Bill who was helping on another stall. The very next day he turned up and gave me a perfect new tine cutter which he’d made the evening before. The generosity of makers never fails to amaze me.
During the summer I picked up an unusual little plane at a show and gave it a first trial this week.
All planes make shavings but with a spill plane, it is the shavings which are the product rather than the piece of wood being planed. The shaving, or ‘spill’ was used to transfer a flame, for example from a fire to light a candle before the age of matches. This model produces beautiful, tightly curled spirals which I think would also look fantastic as part of a flower arrangement.
I moved to Manchester earlier this year. Lots of people wondered why I would be so mad as to relocate from the Lake District to the city. There’s lots of reasons but one of them is the excitement of bringing what are seen as rural skills and activities into an urban environment and introducing city dwellers to craft work.
This week I was at the Home cafe in Didsbury, part of Emmanuel Church when my eye caught a familiar shape in one of the stained glass windows. It’s lovely to know there are already scythes here.
Roadside verges are often fantastic wildflower habitat and keep their rich species mix when the meadow inside the farm wall is ‘improved’ with the use of fertilisers. Austrian scythes are a perfect tool for managing these wildflower verges as they can work in small areas and, unlike with strimmers, there’s no risk of a stone being flicked out into a passing car.
Yesterday I travelled up to the beautiful Nidderdale AONB in Yorkshire to teach a group of volunteers how to use Austrian scythes for managing their wildflower meadow areas.
I taught a Learn to Scythe course for some of the other volunteers here last year and it was terrific to see how the vegetation has improved from being well managed. This makes the scything easier so the team quickly got into formation and cleared a huge area together.
Photos from two fantastic days teaching beginners from eastern Scotland how to use Austrian scythes on courses hosted at Burmieston, a beautiful venue near Perth. Keejse & Olly really looked after us with a fabulous homemade lunch and refreshments throughout the day.
I’ll be teaching beginners scythe courses at Burmieston and other venues in 2018 so if you’re interested, sign up to my newsletter to receive details.
I was very excited to be teaching my latest Learn to Scythe course as the venue was Hullard Park in Trafford, Manchester just 10 minutes from my new home.
Lots of people have asked why I moved to the city and assume that it’s all concrete but there are actually lots of green spaces around and brilliant communities of actively engaged people looking after them.
The wildflower meadow at Hullard Park has been a bit neglected for the last couple of years so it was tangled in places but with loads of plant species in there I’m confident that it will soon become a beautiful meadow. I’ll be getting involved as a volunteer as well as teaching people how to scythe and hopefully we’ll start to make hay from the meadow in the future
Many thanks to Polly for organising the day and everyone who attended.
I’ve been scything in Lancaster city this summer, cutting the grass and other vegetation from the earthworks around the Castle. Some of the areas have been seeded with a wildflower meadow seed mix, others are rank grass and some like in the photo are rougher. Here I was scything a mixture of brambles, hogweed, rosebay willowherb and other tough weeds on a slope. Hopefully you can make out the clock on the church tower- 1 hour to clear the area.
Just the Job is a charity and social enterprise empowering adults with disabilities to achieve their potential by doing valuable work in the community. This weekend I travelled up to their site in Richmond, North Yorkshire to teach some of their volunteers how to use an Austrian scythe.
It’s great to work with groups like this as they can immediately start to support each other learning the skills by doing them together.
Sharpening was next. We were joined by Emily who is just about to start studying conservation at university so I hope she will continue using her scything skills in that.
Their wildflower meadow hadn’t been cut for a year so was overgrown and tangled in places but I showed the group how to work through those difficult areas using the scythe with less effort. We left the burnet to continue to develop its seeds while mowing the rest of the meadow.
We then ended the day with a session on how to peen an Austrian scythe using the peening jig. It seems like Steve and Trevor will be taking on this task for the group so I made sure they got some hands-on practise with it.
Just the Job are keen to develop links with other people using scythes in their area so get in touch with Steve or Bridgette if you’re interested.