Negotiating Obstacles With a Scythe

In my experience, as a mower who focuses and values more the quality of the mowed area than the amount of area mowed, the “graduation” of a scyther comes when he or she negotiates with ease a stony field or a rugged, steeply sloped area, leaving those stones—usually close together and irregularly shaped—perfectly naked and manicured.

IMG_0016 IMG_0104 IMG_1611 IMG_0099The same holds true for mowing around, trees, fences, gates, even stone walls, which sometimes must be mowed vertically!

stone wall


stone wall after

To mow grass on a flat, clean area is a wonderful luxury and joy, but to look back on a rocky area that has been mowed and cleaned is supreme satisfaction.

One curious thing about mowing those stony areas is that, somehow, the same way that a dart player can land three darts next to each other without hesitation or much thinking (muscle memory) is how the experienced mower remembers the way, order and direction that those stones were approached in the past. Literally, he or she knows their way around. (I have thrown a lot of darts… I guess I like pointy things.)

In this situation, it is better to have a very well-honed blade than a recently peened one. A blade that has been mowing for at least half an hour prior to introducing it to that rocky area becomes a little dull and will see less damage after that almost inevitable and unfortunate encounter with a stone.

Lesson to remember: Always approach obstacles from their front, facing/closer to you, never from their back.

Why We Mow Hay Early In The Morning

The early hours are by far the best to mow hay because the grass is wet, heavier and softer. Because of that, the grass provides less resistance to the blade and is easier to cut.

From the human point of view, the early morning is cooler, the scyther is rested and the cut grass has the rest of the day to dry.

Ideally, in order to not waste precious morning time, the scyther should prepare the blade the day before and have ready all the equipment needed for at least 6 hours of mowing. That includes honing stone, stone holder, peening kit (anvil and hammer), shims or a piece of leather to adjust the angle of the blade to the snath or to secure the blade if it becomes loose.

It is important to observe whether the grass is standing straight or lying down towards one direction. If the latter, we want to cut from the back of the stems—in other words, we are mowing in the same direction that the stems are bended. It is very difficult to mow the grass when the stems are pointing toward the mower.

Why the Scythe?

The scythe is more than an ancient hand tool. More than an iron blade. More than a curiosity or caricature. And its growing renaissance is long overdue.

The revival worldwide of the scythe is not an accident. It responds not to the demand of powerful landlords who harvest fields of hundreds or thousands of acres but to those who, with less land, want to do it right. The scythe cuts cleanly (no smoke comes out of it), quietly (no disturbing noise either) and efficiently (does its job). It adapts to basically all types of terrain and contributes greatly to your health since it is a great rhythmic and relaxing exercise.

With this site, I would like to take what I have learned over the decades, scything grass and hay in Spain and the United States, to a wider audience who might appreciate its nuances, its “green technology,” its connection to the earth—and in particular, to share in the Washington, D.C., area (including Maryland and Virginia) my passion for and knowledge of this ancient tool.

The scythe is more than a simple curved blade. It is a tool perfect for maintaining land, body and mind. When you mow, you exercise almost every muscle of your body. You establish a meditative rhythm, the arms and scythe as one, cutting swaths with a gentle whoosh, revealing newly manicured green. And with no gas exhaust produced, it is just you and the smell of cut grass. The process is pure joy.

alfonso scytheGas mowers bombard our senses, produce noise and air pollution, and damage vehicles when they launch stones and gravel like missiles. They are also hard on grass, by breaking rather than cleanly cutting each stem. Scythes, on the other hand, do not damage plants, vehicles, sidewalks, corners of structures or your senses of hearing and smell. It has access to narrow and uneven places that a mower does not. And there are almost zero maintenance costs since one blade properly maintained lasts many years. Indeed, around the world farmers and city managers are rediscovering the scythe for manicuring public and private spaces cost effectively and efficiently.

The scythe’s origins may have faded into history. But the tool is as relevant today as it was before gas-powered machines were built to mow.

Feel free to visit this site regularly for new information, instruction schedules and random musings as the mowing season begins.