I have been experimenting with an inexpensive digital microscope to see if I can get photos of the scratch marks made on the edge of a scythe blade by all the different whetstones I sell. I would like to be able to see how the different stones compare in their effects on the edge. I peened one of my older Fux Gartensense blades, to where the edge would deflect fairly easily when a thumbnail was pressed up against it. I could not capture the amount of deflection in the photo above, so you will have to take my word for it. It was a nicely peened edge, though not quite as thin as the one in the video. I wanted the edge to be thick enough not to get chewed away by the coarser stones.
Next I marked off 8 sections with some tape, and then I proceeded to hone each section with a different scythe stone. You can see photos of the whetstones I used on my Whetstones page. I honed each section bench-style, with a diagonal, rolling, grinding motion, on the bevel side only, until each stone had raised a burr.. I removed the burr by honing on the back (underside) of the blade, honing towards the edge with the flat side of the stone, to cut off the burr without raising another one on the bevel side. Next I wiped all the sludge off the blade with a wet paper towel and then dried it with a paper towel.
Winter is coming, but don't put away your scythes away just yet. This is the time of year that I like to mow brome grass at the straw stage, for use as animal bedding and mulch. It's great for mulching garlic. My favorite blade for this is the 85cm Falci 100. The 100 is formed to slide well over a bumpy field, and so it leaves rather high stubble. This works great with a prime upright hayfield, but it also works great for mowing brome in the late fall for straw. Whereas a flatter blade like the FUX 2010 blade, which hugs the ground and leaves short stubble, would mow everything and shave the ground clean, the Falci 100 will leave a lot of the short green grass behind unmowed. It takes a lot less effort to mainly mow just the dry straw rising above the green grass, than it takes to mow everything clean. Since I want to use the harvested grass as straw, I would rather have more dry matter and less green grass in the mix. The ease of mowing brome at this time of year is a lot of fun!
It's been a while since I have posted an update on my experiments with my pyramid haystack system. I've been working with beefing up the haystack frame with cedar posts, and covering the stack with used billboard tarps. To follow the whole thread, you can start at the first haystack blog post. For this update I posted three new videos on YouTube showing how I build up my pyramid haystacks. I also have the videos posted at the bottom of this blog entry. Over the years I have often been asked how I get the shape of the stack to come out so well. It seems to be something people are having trouble with. Like many of my previous scythe videos, I don't shy away from showing how the work gets done in real time, so I don't speed up the footage. My intent is to give a realistic sense of the time and amount of work involved. But don't worry, my Siamese cat does his best to keep you entertained!
Practicing on Strips of Sheet Metal
When you get your first scythe, it can be very intimidating to hammer away on your expensive new scythe blade in order to sharpen it. Most of us have had some, or even a lot of experience with hammering nails, but peening, namely hammering metal to thin it out, is a completely new experience, and a rather foreign concept. Berhard Lehnert suggests in his book on peening, called Dengeln, that you can practice on scrap pieces of metal banding strips before trying your hand at peening your scythe blade. I tried that out, but the banding strips I had access to where made of a very hard steel, and I found peening them to be a rather miserable experience. My scything friend Monica, who also read Lehnert's book, did some research and experiments, and discovered that the 22 gauge sheet metal commonly available in hardware stores were made of a steel just a little softer than our European scythe blades, and could be cut into strips for peening practice. She was kind enough to send me a couple of strips in the mail to try out. To my delight, I found that practicing peening on these strips of sheet metal was actually fun! I really enjoyed it.
A scythe can be used to mow along and under electric fences, to keep the tall grass from shorting out the wires. You have to be very careful not to hit the metal fenceposts, however. Most cracked scythe edges that I hear about, are from people trimming along fence lines and hitting either metal fenceposts, or wire. Keeping your edge very sharp, enables you to mow with much less force, so you can be more slow and precise when nearing a fence post.
If you wish to gather up the fresh cut grass for feeding back at the barn, or if you wish to make hay with it, it's best to mow from right to left along the fence, (standing with right shoulder towards the fence) so that your windrow ends up away from the fence. You can then rake it up and put it in a garden cart, and haul it away. Or, if you want to make hay out of it, spread it out in place, and ted it until dry before hauling it away. For feeding it fresh to the horses, you can mow from the left end of the fence line to the right (standing with left shoulder towards the fence) as in the video below, so that your windrow ends up on the other side of the fence, so the horses can eat it fresh from their side of the fence.
Two boys spend the day with their grandfather, scything hay. Everything is very idyllic, until a loud and obnoxious guest arrives.
The first Sunday of April has been officially dubbed International Peening Day, by the Scythe Association of the British Isles. The idea was originally conceived by Steve Tomlin, to encourage people to take the time to properly prepare their scythe blades for the upcoming mowing season. Even better is when people gather in small groups, to share their knowledge and experience. It falls on Easter this year, April 5th.1SR Scythe Instructor Andy Graybeal is hosting such an event in Coolville, Ohio. Andy will help those who need assistance getting their blade sharp. Starting at noon. Rain or shine. Contact Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to attend, or register on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/928546020509355/
I will be hosting an event in Minnesota, near Hastings. Contact me at Botan@oneScytheRevolution.com, or call 651-604-7090 if you wish to attend. Bring your scythe blade, whetstones, and whatever peening gear and stump you have.
If you participating in the international event, either in groups or on your own, you are invited to share pictures with Steve Tomlin https://stevetomlincrafts.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/international-peening-day-2015/
- Botan Anderson
Ever wonder how to get the hulls off of your homegrown Einkorn and Emmer, so you can eat them? I have heard of this solution, but I haven't tried it yet. Here is a video on YouTube of a simple way to do it. At 1:00, notice that a thick, flat rubber ring has been mounted over the main steel plate of a Corona or Porkert grain mill. The other steel plate is left bare. The grain heads are cut off the stems, and then run through the grinder. The plates need to be adjusted for firm, but not crushing pressure. As you turn the crank, the metal teeth of the steel plate, rubs the hulled grain against the rubber plate, and the friction rubs the hulls apart. Then the grain is separated from the chaff, by winnowing it in the wind.
On an even smaller scale, you can use the ancient method of toasting the hulls in a frying pan until very dry, then crushing the hulls with a mortar and pestle, and then winnow in the wind to separate the grain from the chaff. - Botan Anderson