Friday, July 20, 2007

Essential Tool for Buying the Farm

I can’t imagine buying the farm, as it were, without getting your hands on one of these. OK, all pathetic attempts at morbid jokes aside, I’m all for doing certain chores the slow and old-fashioned way. It isn’t that I don’t have enough to do in my spare time, or that I don’t value my time, but more about prioritizing minimizing my footprint and actually enjoying necessary daily chores as much as possible. See I never have enjoyed mowing. Most lawn mowers are loud and how much does anyone really enjoy the monotony of mowing straight lines across one’s yard? Are there people out there who truly get out of bed on the weekends eager to give the lawn mower a run? I detest weed eaters. It isn’t that these mechanical devices aren’t marvelous tools for the job, but the noise is like a brick wall, so I have sworn off ever buying such a contraption. I prefer the sound of silence, punctuated by bird calls. What does that leave me with? Well, when I owned a small city lawn (or what was left of it after I had etched out plenty of garden beds) I bought a rather old and rusty reel mower. After a good sharpening it worked like a charm. Those old reel mowers were built to last and I have found they outperform the reel mowers you can buy new these days. The essential parts hold together on the old mowers, rather than falling by the wayside mid-mow as I’ve noticed on the newer models. And you can’t beat buying a solidly built lawn mower for $5.

But back to my main topic here, we just bought ourselves some acreage. 2.5 to be exact. We were dreaming of 5, but by the time we found the right piece of land, land prices had about doubled in our area (in a span of 2-3 years) and so we settled for something smaller. Maybe that’s good. 2.5 acres is a good chunk of land and I’m already overwhelmed with it. Horses had kept the grass sheared up until the point that we put our offer on the property, but by the time we got moved in it became obvious that we would be fighting tall grass. Honestly though, I do like tall grass. I like the way it arches, dries to a light earthy tone, and flowers all feathery and airy. Come fall it will be a decorative asset. But sometimes you need to walk and work in an area without wading through waist-high field grass.

After briefly running over my options in my head – ride-on lawn mower (not!), weed eater (never), goat (maybe someday) – I remembered there was a hand tool designed for just this task and that there are people out there actually practicing the art of using it – a scythe! Even considering using one feels like stepping back into the dark ages, but then I do like to be unconventional. Believe it or not, there is a book that details how to properly use one. I’m considering looking into this book and also maybe purchasing a state-of-the-art scythe. But as a temporary solution, and as an opportunity to experiment, my parents brought me a scythe that they happened to have in their garage. I guess my brother, horticultural wonder-boy that he is, bought this scythe back some time when he was still living with my parents. After a good sharpening, I took it out for a test run and was rather impressed. If you have any tall weeds that you prefer not to pull by hand, this tool will at least temporarily neuter the reproductive stalks. It slices right through blackberry vines too – no need to run to the tool shed for pruning sheers and/or gloves. I had fun sweeping it through the tall grass, and I could see why some people say that the process feels meditative, as the act left me feeling rather calm, but I have to admit to only clearing a small section. I’m not sure what I would report after a day long scything adventure in the back field.
While I was practicing my scything technique, I pondered the contrasts between hay and straw. Not that long ago I didn’t really know what the difference was between hay and straw, only that hay was valued as a livestock feed. Hay, typically dry grass, has no nutritional value to humans, yet is a staple for feeding livestock during the lean months. Straw, or dry grain-crop stalks, is a byproduct of human agricultural crops, and is used primarily as a livestock bedding material. There is a nice synergy there in how these crops provide for both livestock and humans, without waste or a whole lot of competition over resources.



At July 20, 2007 2:39 PM, Blogger Pad guy said...

While you may be jealous of my tomatoes, I am quite jealous of your 2.5 acres!!!!

I do have an old scythe at my parents... I wonder what metro would think if I went about slicing around in my yard.

At July 20, 2007 2:46 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Thank you pad guy. It was a long time coming and has/will involve a good degree of self-sacrifice -- I'll explain that in posts to come!

Hee hee. I'd love to have exercised that scythe at my old city lot. The neighbors already thought I was nuts for pushing around an old reel mower. . . little did they know!


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