As I was sitting on a low chair (close to the ground) a few days ago, contemplating what, from a distance, looked like a well-manicured lawn, gazing at the horizon, I swept the whole field with my eyes until, at my feet, I realized that the gorgeous, perfect and admirable green that was so pleasing to the eye, was no such thing. Once I looked at the grass between my shoes and “zoomed” into the small area close to me, I observed that the end of every stem looked like a white, dry shaving brush (almost like the roots at the other end of the stem). The butchery was done by the poorly maintained blades of the engine-powered machine that was used to mow that lawn. I couldn’t resist the temptation to kneel down and pull a handful of the grass and witness the devastating (almost painful to look at) effect that those machines can produce on grass.
This is a typical example of where one image worth a thousand words… Every piece of grass is damaged (or seriously injured)
I am not a horticulturist nor a soil management expert. However it doesn’t require either degree to see what the direct negative side-effect will be on regrowing that grass. The broken, crudely decapitated ends present unnecessary and additional surfaces for the sun to burn and damage, creating weak parts in the stem and leaving, at that exact end point, a section with multiples dead dry ends.
Even a poorly peened/sharpened/honed scythe will do a much better, effective, quick, clean and gentle job. Here is a good example:
And a closer look:
If you have a large area to mow, you probably require an engine-powered machine. But there is no excuse to not sharpen the blades. Painless decapitation is best for everyone involved.
The photo below is from a valley in Cantabria, a province in the north of Spain. The year-round green valleys there are spectacular. These fields (the ones in the photo) are not fully flat nor rocky. The native grass is mixed and tender, and the size and layout of the fields are attractive to the eager scyther.
A completely flat field looks great and welcoming, but is not the most comfortable to mow with a scythe. A field with a gentle inclination—where the scyther can push the cut grass down the hill rather than level to him or her—actually saves energy and therefore the scyther can cut a larger area.
The particular, nicely (and irregularly) segmented fields in the photo are ideal to practice both styles of scything: Single or double windrow. (In Spanish, meter el rollo and sacar el rollo.)
Single windrow is when you have a clean mowed area at your left and you build up (as you mow) a line of cut grass as you advance mowing, also at your left. The method is the most common.
Double windrow is the accumulation of cut grass while mowing in both directions, up the field and down. In other words: It is mowing a single windrow (but this time, the uncut grass is on your left and you cut and accumulate grass against the uncut area), you have to return, and you reverse as if you were mowing a single windrow, but in the opposite direction. Now you have the uncut grass at your right, with the cut grass from your first pass on the left. It is a little more difficult to see (and feel) if you have fully cut the swath since you cannot see if the blade has gone all the way through.
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.