Saturday, 4 August 2012

Little Piles

"Have you ordered anything over the Internet" Hubs called out to me as I was enjoying the delicious task of kneading some dough. I love the feel of the warm pliable pile of flour and yeast. I love the feeling of it coming alive beneath my hands.
...."Only a man's just called for directions. Are you expecting anything?"
No, I wasn't, although in a couple of weeks time I was, but for now, no.

This is our big Front Field. (Photo lower down) This is where I am scything at the moment. Or trying to. The bush blade scythe is getting on my nerves. It is being selective as to how much grass it will cut per swipe. The grass comprises fresh green grass, which can be wet and upright or soft and floppy depending on how much sun it has on it prior to the scythe being put to it, and tall dry grass seed heads, which can be rigid or bendy depending on how much moisture they have on them. Nevertheless I have been managing.

Yesterday, though, it was as if the scythe and the grass were mismatched. I nearly threw the scythe in the river. I started visualizing the purchase of a walk behind tractor with an mechanical cutting head. This is a bit of kit that Hubs keeps saying we need to purchase, but at 4000 euros, well, there are other things that money needs to be spent on. And anyway, I did try cutting the field with the lawnmower but got bored with walking up and down, up and down, up and down. Walking up and down, up and down, with a walk behind tractor would be much the same. Yuk. It would do my head in. Much prefer scything. At least that feels more interesting a way of cutting the field. If the scythe works. Which at the moment it isn't.

Cutting the grass may seem a waste of time if the sheep are grazing on it anyway. But the grass is romping away and putting on some growth. The sheep are mowing sections of the field, but there are a lot of places where the grass is deciding to go clumpy. This it must not do. We do not want to have wild  and untamed grass here, not in the fields anyway. Therefore it is necessary to top that upward growth on the romping away grass, thus encouraging the grass to grow sideways to make a thick carpet. So, to cut is necessary, that is what Hubs says. He says that if the fields aren't cut that we risk having to reseed the fields in a couple of years, that 'wild' fields encourage 'wild' weeds, like dock and thistle, that cut fields encourage meadow flowers.

So, this is our big Front Field:

..and those little pimples of yellowy brown are the raked up piles of hay. The bright green is where I have scythed. The yellow patch is still to do. The brown blob lower down is Gussy. He is waiting for me to do something interesting. Taking photos is not interesting. He wants action. So do I.  I need to sort my scythe out.

Dear, sweet, Hubs. That stirling trooper of a partner. The one who manages to cope with me as I do him. He took delivery of that parcel. Took control of seeing what was inside. And here he is trying to read the instruction manual. It is in French. But has pictures.

Aha! That bright red scimitar thingy on the floor by his knee? That is my brand new scythe. Ordered over the internet but not expected for at least a couple of more weeks. It is an Austrian scythe. We don't know how to assemble it properly. I go on the internet to have a search on You Tube. Find a man. See how its done. Lift the right knee up, lower handle to be placed at same level as hip. Put elbow on now fixed handle. Upper handle to be at finger tip height of that arm. Blade on. Must be angled in a certain way according to height of grass to be cut. Loosen blade. Insert small wooden wedge. Blade tightened. Put top of stave onto foot, blade at other end of stave. Swing blade along ground to see if blade at correct angle to itself. Don't understand what that means. Disregard that instruction. Take blade cover off. Panic. Looks an evil bit of kit. Worse than the bush blade scythe. Much longer. Thinner. Devilishly sharp.

The red blade is the new one. The blue blade is the bush blade scythe.

Yes, but does it work.

Well this is the patch I cut this morning. I have managed neat rows. Gus is still bored, wanting action. He is eyeballing me here, trying to psyche me out and make me do something else. I am proud of those rows. It does not look like there is much hay because the green fresh grass has not dried out yet, so all you can see are the yellow seed heads. This took me a couple of hours. Would have taken double that time with the other scythe. The new scythe is a stonkingly efficient bit of kit. I can now cut a metre wide swathe, sometimes more if I stretch out when swinging round from right to left.

My spirits are lifted. The field now feels more do-able. This is how much I have left to cut in this section:

Might have it done by Christmas! Just kidding!

And this is my holster. It is full of water. A wet stone is the grey thing poking its head up. When scything one has to stop every so often and re-sharpen the blade. This might seem a bit faddley, but it does give one an opportunity to rest and look at the surroundings while one hones.

I used to keep the wet stone in a pot of water on the ground. Now I can carry it with me.

I am armed and ready to do battle! Onwards with the hay making I go!

Things I have learnt:

- that a bush blade scythe does have its use and not to get cross at it because it can't do the job one wants it to do. Chucking it in the river would be a juvenile thing to do. One would only have to wade in and get it back out again when one calmed down.
- that it is best to put a tool away for a little while if it is not working in unison with one's self.
- that it is best to stop and have a cup of tea if one is becoming frustrated about not doing a job correctly.
- that the water carrier with the wet stone in it does not need to be full to the brim with water otherwise the water will splash and dribble out on to one's clothing and ultimately on to the skin of one's body.
- that the manner in which a woman walks dictates careful positioning of the water carrier, the swivel of the hips generating small water waves inside the carrier which, if filled too full, will cause these little waves to splash over the lip of the carrier, thus causing one to suffer the discomfort of wetness upon one's self.
- that one's winter fingerless gloves are useful on one's hands to stop rubbing problems causing blisters and eventual callouses.
- that it is fascinating to watch the changes to the shape of one's body as one continues with one's scything activities.
- that it is best not to look at how much one has to do, but instead to look at how much one has already done.
- that being outside as the day wakes up is an addictive delight.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

You really have got into this scything business and I am sure it is good for the body and stress. You would still need to convince me though that it would be good for my back! Hope you have a great weekend. Diane

DUTA said...

I like and agree with all your 'learning points', but most of all, I could identify with the one that says: " that it is best not to look at how much one has to do, but instead to look at how much one has already done".
How true and how beautifully put!

Horst in Edmonton said...

Looks like you got the right scythe now. Happy grass cutting.

Vera said...

Diane, I scythe and you cycle. At least we both are doing some exercise!

Duta, I try to live by that thinking but I don't always succeed!

Horst, am having scything withdrawal symptoms because it has been raining for the last couple of days. Methings I am a lost cause!

Niall & Antoinette said...

Impressive bit of kit!
You'll sail through the field in no time - especially as you have already discovered a very wise personal instruction manual :-)

Jean said...

There's absolutely no substitute for having the right piece of kit for any job. It's a shame that scything is not an olympic sport as I'm sure you would win a gold medal Vera.

I agree about not chucking the scythe in the river. I occasionally do equivalent when something really frustrates me and it's always a mistake, leaving one feeling embarrassed and even more frustrated, like the time I hurled a bag of flour across the kitchen. I don't remember what caused me to think it was a good idea at the time but I remember regretting it for a long time afterwards !!

Vera said...

Niall & Antoinette, the You Tube 'instruction manual' is a priceless source of info for us!

Jean, I needed a bit of upliftment this morning, and the picture of you hurtling that bag of flour most certainly did that! I bet it took you ages to get it cleared up!

John Gray said...

he looks like a trier!