Scything in Scotland

Last summer Christiane and I did a road-trip up to the Black Isle for a Transition Town group who wanted to learn scything. We had a brilliant time and so I was very glad to be invited up to Forres, near Inverness to lead another ‘Learn to Mow’ course.
This time I missed out the distillery but also dodged the rain storms as I made my way north via two museums to look at their collections of Scottish scythes. More on that in another post.
Scything in ScotlandIt wasn’t exactly sunny but we stayed dry for most of the weekend and the students from the Findhorn Foundation and the surrounding community were out tackling some long heavy grass which was lying over from the wind and rain. It cut sweetly though and the sward was clean which made it swift cutting, I was a bit jealous to be busy with teaching and not mowing along with the team.
We spent the evening sheltering from the rain around the barbeque stuffing ourselves on delicious local venison and home-grown potatoes before I headed home with my hosts Nick & Pip for talk about Nick’s time running Earthshare, a community supported agriculture scheme and using horses for cultivation of the land.
Peening scythesThe second day started with an in-depth discussion and demonstrations of scythe peening. This is a group who will be scything  a lot so they wanted to get as much information as possible during the weekend so we covered a lot of ground. For the afternoon Nick wanted to try and tackle the rougher patches of the field that the contractor has left out when he’s been mowing. These had grown up thick with docks, thistles and other weeds tangled into each other and flattened partly by the weather and partly by people walking through. This gave us a chance to look at trimming methods and to demonstrate the toughness of the Austrian scythes.
Hay drying rackThis year has been difficult for hay-making, to say the least and we had been discussing various racking methods from old agriculture books. Philip, who’d lived on Orkney, demonstrated making a tripod and we filled it with grass to dry. Ideally the grass has at least a day of decent weather to start the drying process before racking so more can be put on each tripod.  Nick will have his work cut out for him to harvest his crop but hopefully some of the rest of the group will go back to help him out with it.
It’s great to see the number of mowers in Scotland increasing and to be creating a nucleus around Inverness. I’d love to go back again, hopefully for the first Scotland Scythe Festival..
Scythe course in Scotland

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