Vermont Hand Mowers Gather

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After making plans for years to go to the Addison County Fair and Field Days (Vermont) to be part of the gathering of scythers, only to see those plans thwarted by work, this year finally the stars aligned. And I am so glad they did.

Blades

Years ago, I spoke to Lucien Paquette, who founded the fair in 1948. He also originated the fair’s hand mowing competition. During that conversation, he encouraged me to head north to Vermont and participate in the contest. Finally this month, I was able to attend, meet and see him in action, and also meet a large group of his disciples, admirers, family members and friends. All share in common two things, their admiration for him and a love for scything.

IMGP2676Lucien Paquette sharpening his scythe

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Mr. Paquette is a sharp 100 years old, with the energy of a man of 70. We had the honor of celebrating his birthday and cheer on the historic number of participants who would test their skills at the competition. Men, women and children—around 30 in all—endured the midday, 100-degree heat, and mowed for the joy of it and to honor his legacy.

IMG_0794_resizedMowers and volunteers

Every category had great and experience mowers.

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The equipment also was impressive. I saw a great variety of blades, snaths and handles: old and new, American and European, and snaths straight, curved, wooden or metal. There was even a handmade anvil apparatus made by Mark Shattuck, a local welder and great mower, who also made attractive aluminum snaths. It was obvious that human creativity and imagination have no limits.

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The contest is based on an individual performance rather than a group race. I found it interesting and friendly to the mower so that during the action, you didn’t have to worry about the others at your sides. Some observers like to see all mowers racing next to each other at the same time, but then the event lasts only a few minutes.

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The judging system was very impressive to me.

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A 25-foot bar positioned along the length of the windrow, with a measuring tape nicely (and transversely) affixed to it every 5 feet, was used to measure the width of the swath at different points along the “road.” In addition, the judges measured at several points the height of the stubble as well as the general and consistent look of the cut area. I am not used to such precision. However I like it, since it is very transparent to all.

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Most of all, the Addison County Fair’s mowing contest may be the friendliest ever.

IMGP2730.JPGI was blown away by the welcome I received,

IMGP2729the openness and enthusiasm of the organizers, volunteers and participants; and the warm camaraderie among mowers, even to the point of warning a newcomer like me of obstacles and ditches that would otherwise have slowed me down. I can’t believe I haven’t participated in the contest before. And I can’t imagine missing it again.IMGP2660.JPGchecking/graduating the angle

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do you see someone patrolling the area?

Stay sharp my friends

Better Safe Than Sorry

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Scythes are like newborn babies, they come without instructions or warnings.

Perhaps I waited to long to dedicate a few lines and recommendations about safety while handling the blade. Safety is a concern when attaching the blade to the snath, mowing, sharpening, peening and even walking.

The name “blade” is already by itself kind of scary, the “scythe blade” even more (for its looks and for its most commonly known user, the Grim Reaper and his harvest of skulls).

IMGP2018However for those of us who look at it with different eyes and intentions, it shouldn’t be creepy. But at the same time, we should keep in mind a few do’s and don’ts while handling the tool.

Here are a few situations where our hands or our friends are at risk if we don’t pay close attention.

Attaching the Blade

scythe safety5.jpgAt this moment the top end of the snath should rest on the ground. Firmly grab the blade by the rib or spine with one hand. With the other, screw/unscrew from the back of the bevel as seen in the illustration.

Mowing

20150725_100928Mowing does not normally represent danger to the mower since the blade is attached at the far end of the snath and the circulating motion does not allow it to come close. However, it can be very dangerous to others around us, other mowers, dogs or even over-friendly livestock such as lambs, goats, kittens, chickens. No one should be closer than 12 to 15 feet from the blade in motion.

Sharpening/Honing

 This is a dangerous moment since it requires our hand to be near the bevel and alternate fast movements at both sides of the blade.

When we are getting ready to sharpen the blade, the experienced scyther will brace the end of the snath almost vertically on the ground, bringing the blade to chest level, but away from the body. With a hand full of grass, we remove the grass and possibly dirt sticking to both sides of the blade from the back, near the tang, to the tip. This is not recommended to beginners, but is necessary. Otherwise the stone will ride on sticky grass at some sections and will not do its job, which is to thin and sharpen the bevel by removing material (metal) from both sides.

Once we have cleaned the blade with the grass, we pinch the bevel between the thumb and index finger then slightly and very carefully pass along the bevel to check the edge. This is very important as we can feel for imperfections in the blade—a dent, bend or crack—that needs immediate attention with the stone. Again, this is not recommended to beginners since is a dangerous move.

The most common mistake while sharpening or honing is trying to reduce the amount of strokes by prolonging or advancing too much. In other words, trying to sharpen the blade with very few strokes. By doing this, the hand goes forward a long section of the bevel, instead of in short, quick, downward strokes. A straight stroke on a crescent curve leaves the fingers vulnerable where hand and curve meet, and does not succeed in sharpening the blade.

Peening

 During peening we have to be careful not only with our hands but also with our legs since the blade rests on both sides of the anvil on both legs. Wearing shorts is not recommended during peening. If you must, throw a blanket or old jacket over the legs.

Peening is safest at the middle of the blade when it rests on three points:

peening safety.jpg two legs and one anvil. It is at the beginning and at the end of the peening when the risk is higher because the blade is entirely at one side of the anvil, resting only on one leg and it requires stronger grip.

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peening safety3.jpgIt is also during peening when most accidents happen because we are concentrated on the spot we need to hit next with our hammer and we don’t see our surroundings.

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Again children playing around us, puppies, and other animals coming to us at this moment are at big risk. (Photo with the white goat by Ashley Vido)

Walking

scythe safety6Personally I find it very safe to walk with the snath on top of my right shoulder either with the blade pointing to the sky (in a big open area) or pointing to the ground if it is a trail with low-hanging tree branches. People walking with you should be parallel to you. If the trail or road doesn’t allow for that, then they should go either ahead of you or at least 12 feet behind.

scythe safety7Ideally the blade should be covered by a sheath or wrapped in an old cloth.

When not in motion, the blade should be hanging from a tree up to the tang and well above the ground.

IMGP1911.JPGIf there are no trees or other structures (like a fence), the blade should be rested tilted against the wall, blade tip down and leaning at the tang. If we are in a flat field without trees or sheds, as a last option, we should put it on the ground with the cutting edge (bevel) facing the ground.

IMGP1910.JPGOne last recommendation, especially for beginners, is to wear a good, flexible (not bulky) pair of gloves.

SCYTHE AND CATS

Stay sharp my friends

 

 

Mejor tarde que nunca…

 

 

IMG-20150828-WA0011Una de las ideas iniciales de este blog era hacerlo bilingüe. Pero pronto me di cuenta que eso llevaba mucho más tiempo del que dispongo aunque el tema sin duda mereciera la pena.

De todas formas y como todos sabéis, una imagen vale mas que mil palabras y algunas fotos y vídeos aqui expuestos asi lo demuestran.

En el futuro, trataré de intercalar algo mas de texto en español. Hoy me  gustaría empezar, por mostrar a través de este enlace, un poco de la historia de la guadaña en el norte de España, incluyendo la fabricación de las hojas de guadaña (Bellota, Patricio Echeverría).Hasta no hace mucho, al igual que los complementos o herramientas para el mantenimiento y afilado como son el martillohammers y la yuncla.

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( yunclas. De izda a derecha bellota, la del medio hecha a mano y sin marca y rinaldi a la derecha)

A pesar de que los fabricantes van desapareciendo, irónicamente la actividad de la siega a mano perdura sobre todo en paises emergentes y también en Europa donde existe una nueva concienciación por preservar el medio ambiente que es apoyada por algunos Ayuntamientos en paises del Norte de Europa, sustituyendo las  máquinas corta césped por segadores, a los que se les instruye en el arte de la siega como antaño.

Actualmente son muchas las competiciones de siega  que se celebran en pequeños pueblos del Norte de España, principalmente en Asturias, León, Cantabria y en las vascongadas.

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León y  Asturias son un buen ejemplo de ello, aunque sin duda el acontecimiento más significativo de este año ha sido la Competición Internacional Europea celebrada en Loiola donde se dieron cita alrededor de 90 segadores de distintos países. 

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no despierten al paxarin

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Do You Think Scythe Blades Are Expensive?

For those of you who are wondering how blades are made, take a look at this videos.

Enjoy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbQjHj-6mcM&index=2&list=PLd0IFphj5Du-mV3-sjJKhrHUVwZpuIGnU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdUvfsWP5G8&list=PLd0IFphj5Du-mV3-sjJKhrHUVwZpuIGnU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar46X1xZGMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BCCKkkrI0k

Those 2 coming are two creative ways to make a snath:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i0bLLMKP_M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ0-BKO5sUM

 

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Pita pinta breed, delicious meat ! or you can keep them as a pet too.

Stay sharp my friends