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Is using a scythe hard on the body?

Betty Montgomery


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: Lone Oak, TX
Gas prices are forcing this question as well as my wish to harvest the grass/weeds that are growing in my front and back yards to feed my goats. The question is: How hard is it on the body to use a scythe to mow an area? I guess you need some personal info to answer that if you know. My physical problems are bone on bone arthritis in both knees and bad feet. Is the "mowers shuffel" that I've seen on video's of people using scythes likely to hurt or even help such an ailment.
Mostly I just want to get the grass/weeds to my goats etc. with out too much work or using gas. If I had fencing I could just put them out there, I know. Unfortunately, I also have stuff growing there I want to harvest for my table that they would munch down.
I'd appreciate any information on this.


I babble at www.bettyamontgomery.blogspot.com,
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Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2092
Location: FL
    
  49
Don't overdo it. Moderation can ease the workload. Your body will tell you when its had enough. Try different positions, get your feet planted right, swing according to you ability rather than the needs of the grass. Keep the blade sharp to let it slice through the grass.

If a scythe proves to be too much, a reel mower with a bagger can be had in the $125 range. It's fairly low impact, you need to push it is all.


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Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Be sure to do just a little bit at a time. A little patch of just a few square feet each day is better than a marathon session of clearing the jungle. Start with a very modest goal. A sickle might be another tool to look into, it cuts with a pulling rather than a swinging action. I used to harvest a lot of grass for mulch with a sickle. For both tools, keeping them very sharp is important, you'll want to sharpen after each session. Some people carry a file or stone with them and sharpen after a few cuts.


Idle dreamer

Austin Max


Joined: Mar 15, 2012
Posts: 98
Location: South Central Kentucky
    
    1
A good scythe and good technique can make all the difference too. Check out the info libraries on scytheconnection.com and onescytherevolution.com.
Rusty Bowman


Joined: May 30, 2009
Posts: 120
Location: Idaho
    
    1
Betty Montgomery wrote:Gas prices are forcing this question as well as my wish to harvest the grass/weeds that are growing in my front and back yards to feed my goats. The question is: How hard is it on the body to use a scythe to mow an area? I guess you need some personal info to answer that if you know. My physical problems are bone on bone arthritis in both knees and bad feet. Is the "mowers shuffel" that I've seen on video's of people using scythes likely to hurt or even help such an ailment.
Mostly I just want to get the grass/weeds to my goats etc. with out too much work or using gas. If I had fencing I could just put them out there, I know. Unfortunately, I also have stuff growing there I want to harvest for my table that they would munch down.
I'd appreciate any information on this.


Not sure if it will agitate your knees but I do know after using three of my scythes for a few yrs that there is a huge difference in how 1) different scythes cut and 2) how a scythe cuts when it's really sharp compared to sorta sharp. In other words, if you have the right scythe/blade for what you intend to cut and it is kept really sharp, it's the difference between it feeling nearly effortless and being hard work. I don't feel I'm particularly good at operating them, or sharpening them, but I'm getting better and find it oddly soothing and satisfying.

Good luck!


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Betty Montgomery


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: Lone Oak, TX
Thanks to all of you for the info. Especially the web sites!
Joe Braxton


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 223
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
    
    9
Howdy! First post and all that...

What about a swing blade? Might be easier on the back and legs to just swing side to side?

http://www.americantrails.org/resources/info/tools3.html
Betty Montgomery


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: Lone Oak, TX
Sorry Joe. I have used what we call a onetwo around here. What I don't like about them is that I can't sharpen them. At least not that I know of. A scythe I would be able to sharpen. (In case you wonder, I went to that site you suggested and what I saw was indeed what I grew up calling a onetwo. I never got one of those things to be anything BUT hard work) I'm too old to volunteer for HARD work and my joints are to creaky to enjoy it. I'm looking for a way around using gas that will give me something to feed my goats, mulch my garden and maybe some gentle exercise. Yeah I know. I want it all. Sigh.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 844
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  13
Flat smooth ground is also easier to mow. Timing is important, if you wait too long and stuff begins to lodge the scything becomes more effortfull. Early morning when the grass is turgid with water also helps. Ditto all the comments about form and sharpness and taking it slow -- a scythe is all about the quality of the tool and your developing skill and understanding. It has taken me around 3 years to start to feel like I understand what I am doing--and I hurt my back doing stupid things. I have bone spurs on my toe, but no stress there. I haven't noticed any knee strain, very little impact and very gentle excercise--should be better than walking. Now it is soooo painful to watch a newbie pick up a scythe and start whacking away.


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Phil Hawkins
volunteer

Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 227
Location: Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
    
    8
Howdy,

I am new to scythes, and it isn't hard work, but it can be frustrating - the problem is it looks so easy, but it's not so easy as it looks. I am sure that like most things, practice makes perfect, and the you'll see a lot of improvement in the early stages. I know my personal bad habit is I tend to raise the blade towards the end of the stroke, so I leave a series of crescent shapes in the lawn.

That reminds me - I need to get up early tomorrow and get mowing!


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Peony Jay


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 145
Location: B.C.
Any helpful info on clearing bush with a scythe? My land is sort of uneven,hilly, rocky, etc.
In addition, any helpful tips on sharpening my scythe would be appreciated. I stopped using it late last year when I got a rotator cuff injury and I got tired of waiting for my family members to take up the scythe and/or sharpen the dang thing.


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Phil Hawkins
volunteer

Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 227
Location: Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
    
    8
Everything I have read about scythes suggests keeping them away from anything that isn't grass (or maybe something like reeds). I know when I have had 'accidents' involving striking something more substantial, I have to sharpen the blade again.

When I have had to clear out small type plants, I find long handled ratchet loppers will take care of anything up to about an inch and a half, after which an axe is your best bet. The loppers will usually let me get to the "trunk". Removing the stump is best done with a combination of an axe and a crow bar. Again, all of this is my personal recommendation based on my own experiences - yours and others may differ
Joe Braxton


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 223
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
    
    9
Peony Jardine wrote:Any helpful info on clearing bush with a scythe? My land is sort of uneven,hilly, rocky, etc.
In addition, any helpful tips on sharpening my scythe would be appreciated. I stopped using it late last year when I got a rotator cuff injury and I got tired of waiting for my family members to take up the scythe and/or sharpen the dang thing.


If it's much more than grass, I would use a bush axe. More versitle and easier to sharpen.



[Thumbnail for 027997170325.jpg]

Phil Hawkins
volunteer

Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 227
Location: Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
    
    8
Speaking of being easier to sharpen, I never use a chainsaw less than 6" from ground level as there's just too much dirt down there and it blunts a chain amazingly fast. It will blunt an axe too, but they are quick to put an edge on in the field, particularly if you maintain a good edge.
Betty Montgomery


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: Lone Oak, TX
Thought you all might like an update on my situation as you were kind enough to give advise.
Got my scythe from from Scythe Supply in the mail last week. They were very fast at filling my order and getting it to me. I ordered the package that included a blade, a snath, a peening jig, a sharpening stone with metal holder and "The Scythe Book." I'm presently working on learning to "dance" with the scythe.
I have so many questions now that I fear can only be answered by someone who knows what and how to do watching me try to do, if you know what I mean. I know I'm letting the blade get up off the ground way to much, my stance is likely all wrong and I sometimes take too big a 'bite' out of the standing grass. But the other questions that can't really be answered here or by watching YouTube video's or even this cool one of Brian Kerkvliet that Paul recently posted: am I using too much or too little pressure when I use the stone on the blade? Am I sharpening it often enough, Not often enough or too often? Should I peen it yet? Am I really standing right or do I just think I am? Sigh. So much to learn, to figure out.
I'm trying to make sure that folks around my small town (less than 400 people within the city limits!) all know that the bad mowing job on my front yard is not the fault of the equipment but the operator. Yes, the grass / weeds were tall enough to justify a scythe!
The up side is that badly as I am mowing, I am mowing! I'm getting exercise and if it stay's dry for a couple of more days, perhaps even a tiny bit of hay to put aside for my goats to eat later in the year.
Then there are the activity points I'm racking up for Weight Watchers! Points I can add to the amount I can eat and still lose weight!
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
I have a few questions here too.

This looks like fun. I have kinda one of those weird sense of humors and somewhat eccentric taste. SO my interest is not really as much "green" as for the exercise and cool factor. Not to mention enjoying the looks on the neighbors faces

I have watched several of the videos on you tube. I live in town on a full 1 acre lot which is mostly grass. Living in town I have to keep my yard to a certain standard or the neighbors are calling city hall and complaining about the bum on third street that doesn't properly trim his hard.

Here are a few practical questions about using a Scythe.

1. can you mow grass in a yard type situation and achieve a nice manicured look or are they primarily for harvesting standing crops and you end up with an uneven or choppy grass surface?

2. Can you realistically trim around trees, chain link fence etc. or would I still need a weed trimmer for those type things.

3. Is it really efficient time wise. How long can I expect it to take to mow 1 acre of grass with a scythe? It takes me about an hour and a half with the mower and another hour with the string trimmer now.

4. what about tight places and corners?

5. About how much do they cost?

Thanks,

Ray
Rusty Bowman


Joined: May 30, 2009
Posts: 120
Location: Idaho
    
    1
Ray Cover wrote:I have a few questions here too.

This looks like fun. I have kinda one of those weird sense of humors and somewhat eccentric taste. SO my interest is not really as much "green" as for the exercise and cool factor. Not to mention enjoying the looks on the neighbors faces

I have watched several of the videos on you tube. I live in town on a full 1 acre lot which is mostly grass. Living in town I have to keep my yard to a certain standard or the neighbors are calling city hall and complaining about the bum on third street that doesn't properly trim his hard.

Here are a few practical questions about using a Scythe.

1. can you mow grass in a yard type situation and achieve a nice manicured look or are they primarily for harvesting standing crops and you end up with an uneven or choppy grass surface?

2. Can you realistically trim around trees, chain link fence etc. or would I still need a weed trimmer for those type things.

3. Is it really efficient time wise. How long can I expect it to take to mow 1 acre of grass with a scythe? It takes me about an hour and a half with the mower and another hour with the string trimmer now.

4. what about tight places and corners?

5. About how much do they cost?

Thanks,

Ray


Hi Ray,

If your primary concern is attaining a "manicured look", the scythe might not be for you.

As far as keeping a yard to a certain standard, I believe it helps to have plenty of trees and bushes along the perimeter thus concealing the inner yard. Then, you can progressively have more freedom inside your oasis without complaints.

rusty


Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks for the info Rusty,

I grew up in the woods of southern Missouri. I'm about as Jed Clampet as it gets (Minus the 39 million in the bank ). I married a city girl. She would rather live in the middle of St Louis I would rather live so for out in the woods the I have to pump in sunlight. The small town we live in is a compromise between the two.
I find myself in a situation where I would like to live elsewhere but here is where I am so that's what I have to work with. Living here I have to deal with things that irritate the snot out of me like higher taxes, building codes that make no logical sense for such a small community, having to keep my yard looking like a city park, etc.

From the sound of it I personally could probably live with the look of scythe cut grass but it might cause relationship problems with the neighbors and city hall so I probably should keep using my mower.

Dang it all!
Ray
Betty Montgomery


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: Lone Oak, TX
Ray, I found a video on YouTube "Lawn Mowing with a scythe" uploaded by yclept9 on May 2. 2010. It should give you some ideas about how to mow a lawn with a scythe. Just note that the writing below the video states that it was early and there was a light rain. Unlike your regular lawn mowers scythes apparently work BETTER when the grass is wet.
Also there are lots of other video's on YouTube showing scythes at work demonstrating that they can actually do a better job than a weed whacker.
I personally think a scythe, in well practiced and knowledgeable hands, could end up mowing way faster and more efficiently than either a riding or a push mower. After all the swath a scythe takes out of the grass is more than double that of anything but one of those honking big double wide riding mowers that may as well be farm tractors.
Besides while you are using the scythe you can still listen to the birds singing and your hands don't vibrate for several minutes after you set it aside for a well earned glass of iced tea (or a cold beer if that's your preference).
Of course you do need to rake up the cut grass afterwards as it isn't shattered into tiny pieces that no one can see from the road.
My scythe (blade, snath, peening jig, honing stone and holder with the book) cost me around $217 dollars. The actual price will depend on how much it costs to ship to you from Scythe Supply if you buy from them. There are other on-line stores you could buy from however. If you are serious about using a scythe, check around on the internet and watch some of the stuff on YouTube then think about it for a while. Just remember that there are different kinds of blades for different uses such as lawn mowing. That's how ye olde manor houses lawn was mowed when they didn't want sheep poo on it I've heard.
If your hands still itch to get hold of one after that, go for it. It can be addictive, though. I've caught myself eyeing overgrown lots around my small town wondering if they'd let me cut them for the grass I could dry into hay and use for bedding or food for my goats.
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Interesting. Thanks for the input.

Since I have been planting I have need of something that will do "trim". I now have a grape arbor, raised garden beds, berry plants and vines, fruit trees etc. I no longer just have a big open 1 acre lot. I have been considering getting a push-mower to do the detail work with. Have any of you used a reel mower? I noticed Lehmans has those for about he same price a gas push-mower would cost me. In my situation would a reel mower be a better option than a scythe?
Rusty Bowman


Joined: May 30, 2009
Posts: 120
Location: Idaho
    
    1
Here's a nice article on scythes:

http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/why-every-permaculturist-should-own-scythe
 
 
subject: Is using a scythe hard on the body?
 
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