My favorite new garden tool from 2014 is an Austrian style scythe from Scythe Supply. Over the winter I read The Scythe Book and watched some internet scythe videos, of scythe wielders beating men with gas powered trimmers in competition, barefoot young ladies elegantly and speedily mowing meadows, and the like. So I ordered myself a scythe outfit, mostly for cutting the grass in the front of my house which is unpleasant to do with a normal lawn mower. The kids thought this was awesome and were really excited to try it out.
My scythe is naturally much too big for them, but I started looking into child size scythes.
I used the scythe for a few minutes in the grain maze area, to cut down mixed wheat and clover,
the second round of buckwheat, and the sorghum straw in late fall.
Using the scythe to cut grass around the yard was enjoyable.
Ultimately I would love to use it exclusively to cut the grass, but for now I also have a Fiskars reel mower, which is a vast improvement on the gas mower I used to use. I'm happy to report the gas mower did not come out of the basement once last year, and I should probably sell it or give it away. Now that we have less grass in total and it is less lumpy, using the reel mower is no problem if I do it every week. It only takes about 15 minutes to do the back grass and it is quiet and not terribly hazardous. So I often do it on the way out the door to work at 7am, or on the weekend with the kids out playing. They like pushing it around too, and I'm looking forward to the day when they can mow the lawn instead of me! None of this was possible with the gas mower, which is loud and a little dangerous. The reel mower is easier to maintain and doesn't need petroleum fuel.
The scythe was a huge improvement over the gas mower for the front yard. The front has steep slopes going down to the bushes at the junction with the public sidewalk. For some reason grass does not grow well in much of this area, so it is an unhappy mixture of weeds and bare dirt. This is miserable with a gas mower because it sucks up the dirt and makes a huge, irritating dust cloud, so I usually would wear a respirator and hearing protection when mowing the front with the machine. It was annoying to lug the mower up and down the slopes, and I worried about losing my footing and ending up short a few toes if my foot went under the mower deck.
Now I can mow the front with the scythe in about 15 minutes of quiet, pleasant work. My beginner level skill with the tool results in grass (or weeds) of not as uniform height as the gas mower used to produce, but it is good enough and far easier. I can do it in the early morning just before going to work, though I have gotten some puzzled looks by folks passing by at 7am on a weekday. The scythe works better on the moister vegetation of the early morning.
The scythe makes a wonderful complement to the reel mower too. I use the scythe to cut around edges in the back instead of a gas string trimmer (another two cycle machine I am happy to report did not come out in 2014). And the scythe neatly solves a typical challenge with a reel mower; if the growth gets away from you the reel mower just pushes the grass over instead of cutting it evenly. If this happens I can just mow that week with the scythe. It doesn't leave as even a surface as the reel mower, but it does a decent job, especially on grass that is taller than optimal for reel mowing. Then the next week it can get evened out with the reel mower.
I probably only used the scythe a total of a few hours last year, so I have only used the whetstone so far and have not peened the blade. Maybe I'll bust out my peening jig next winter to freshen up the blade geometry.