Monday, July 7, 2008

A Scythe of Relief

My new lawnmower cuts a ten-foot swath and runs on organic vegetables, fair-trade Java and a massive quantity of dairy products.

Let me introduce you to my new hobby: mowing. Hand mowing, that is, with a scythe. Since this spring I've been filleting the weeds and grass on our 40 acres with what has to be one of the most beautiful hand tools ever.

Now this isn't the old heavy, curved-shaft contraption with the mass-produced stamped steel blade that broke the spirit and back of your grandfather. No sir, this comes from the mountain valleys of Austria, where folks hand hammer layers of steel into a finely curved blade as delicate and light as pastry crust and as sharp as a carving knife.

Then, good people in Maine pair them with ash handles (called snaths) that are custom fit to customer's dimensions. The whole kit, with a whet stone, holder, instructions (who needs em!) etc. comes in the mail. You assemble it, and then you're a mowing machine.

Well, not exactly. Seems those instructions are useful after all. But after a while you begin to find the rhythm of the scythe. It's often described as dancing, as the mower weights one leg, then rocks to the other leg as the blade sings in an arc, finally laying the mowed grass to one side as the process repeats.

It's a beautiful, meditative thing. It provides exercise and hay to use as mulch in the garden (I've snuffed all the weeds and fought off two frosts already this summer) and does it all in peace and quiet.

Plus, it gives me yet another wacky thing to write about!