Celtic Festival Duel

MD, Celticfest demo

Every year in early summer, a friendly, cultural, sportive and fun event takes place in Maryland. It is the Mid-Maryland Celtic Festival. It is growing steadily.

Music, Scottish sports competitions, herding and obedience dog demonstrations, Celtic groups proudly representing their heritage, dancing etc… and hand mowing demos. It makes me happy to see that every year there is more interest in hand mowing. People of all ages, genders, professions and backgrounds, showing their interest.

This year, the organizers wanted to take the scything demo to a different level and have a contest. Scythe blade vs gasoline-powered machine, and there we go!! My competitor was a strong, enthusiastic young man more willing to work and win than his own weed whacker.

I did watch such a man-to-man combat before. But no one else had, (according to their testimony) so no one knew what to expect.

I began by explaining the benefits of the scythe that we all know too well. It doesn’t polute, is silent and ergonomic, doesn’t smell, is inexpensive to acquire and to maintain, is beneficial to your body and mind since it is like practicing yoga or meditation, it gives you time to see and avoid creatures or nests hiding on the ground, and on and on … The blade itself is a piece of art.


As I was explaining this, I could see in some eyes already some favorable expressions towards my scythe. At the same time I was feeling bad for my competitor, who deep inside was realizing that his machine was not doing any favor to the environment. Nevertheless, my respects for him.

The videos here clearly illustrate what every tool is capable of doing–also not forgetting the quality and cleanness of the cutting.


Maybe next year we can change tools and I have no doubt he will win.

After my victory I thought I would do a little fishing…

big trout. My best catch

Until next time stay sharp my friends


Vermont Hand Mowers Gather


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


The judging system was very impressive to me.


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.


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


do you see someone patrolling the area?

Stay sharp my friends

Better Safe Than Sorry


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.


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.


 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.


 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.

peening safety2.jpg

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.


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)


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.


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.


( 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.

IMG-20150829-WA0010 (1)

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. 


no despierten al paxarin


Do You Think Scythe Blades Are Expensive?

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






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





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

Stay sharp my friends


Thank you, Ms. Major


A few weeks ago I received a nice email from a lady who lives in Vermont. Ms. Major (her name) wanted to find someone who would use her father’s one hundred year old American scythe. I accepted her generous gesture and assured her that I would put the blade back to work in a very productive and effective way.


The story goes back almost 100 years when Ms Major’s father, Russel, returned from World War 1 and started working on a farm in Glenmore, Pennsylvania. He then purchased this scythe, and based on the perfect condition of the blade today, he must have known how to use and maintain it.

20151205_161425_resizedThe plan is to incorporate, this coming Spring, this particular blade (with its original snath) into my workshops to teach those interested in green gardening how to take care of their lawns and gardens without polluting more air and wakening up the neighbors with those noisy gasoline machines.

20151205_204308_resizedAt the same time it will be a good opportunity to show the difference between the American scythe and its cousin the European, which is still in use in many countries. However , the heavier American–which is better suited for taller and rougher grass–is now rarely in use. Americans blades are not being made anymore in this country. The previous photo illustrates both blades, the American (dark one on top).


I can’t wait to have my first workshop this coming spring with a new generation of scythe enthusiasts and send a picture to Ms. Major of her father’s scythe, back to work after 80 years of rest.



This was my last encounter in the woods, just when I thought no one was watching me.


Stay sharp my friends…or else…


The New Generation of Scythers


We all know that nature is very wise and just by a quick observation at the animal world, (including human species) and the vegetable one too, we see how cleverly some species went from near extinction to a number that comfortably assures their continuation on this planet, (At least for a few more years at this pace). Some of them transform or “reinvent” themselves in a different shape, color, behavior or other astute tricks that help them to adapt to a hostile or different environment.

Believe it or not, something similar is happening to the scythe world.IMGP2109

Although one living organism is declared extinct when the last one of a particular species dies, the scythe blades do exit probably in the some number than 80 years ago, some of them rusting in old barns, hanging for decades from rotten fences and some lucky ones very well taking care of, shiningly decorating living rooms! With no one to use them, so to be more precise what was almost disappearing was the act of mowing in some parts of the world.IMGP1996

Suddenly something happened that is awakening the interest for the use of the scythe again. Perhaps all that talking about the famous or infamous global warming by not only environmental experts, politicians too and even the Pope! And without a doubt the TV series Poldark is contributing to this new interest for scythes. Personally I have not seeing that particular chapter, I heard and read the opinion of some good mowers and they are not happy about how Mr. Midan Turner swings the blade. Some of those experienced mowers describe his motion as the one more appropriate to play golf than to swing a scythe. If what I said before is true, then scythe revival have to thank environmental experts, politicians, the movie industry and of course the Pope!IMGP2169

When I said new generation of scythers, I don’t really meant teenagers, in my few last workshops held here in Washington DC and in Ohio there were people from all ages, backgrounds, gender and professions,some do currently have land or garden to mow, others not yet but as a young girl told me a couple weeks ago once she will have a garden or larger piece of land she will take care of it old fashion way and that’s why she wants to learn now.IMGP2069

It doesn’t matter what you do or where you are, always watch your back, someone (most probably with sharp nails) may be quietly looking and will jump on your back.IMGP1919

Stay sharp my friends….