Monday, February 27, 2012

One Scythe Revolution

Follow Botan Anderson into the One Scythe Revolution!

The One Scythe Revolution is a peaceful movement, kind of like the Broadfork Revolution. I'm a player in both. This is a picture of Botan with an enormous competition scythe blade.  (He's 6'5" tall, by the way)

I started using a scythe when my beloved 1996 model weed munching Stihl line trimmer died in 2005. At the time, we lived on the prairie of southern Wisconsin and I had to keep an acre of grass surrounding the house cleared for fire protection reasons. I didn't want to have another internal combustion engine in my life, so I opted for the Austrian scythe as a petroleum free alternative.

I immediately fell in love with the tool and soon thereafter met Botan. After spending a day with him mowing, I realized how important it was to have someone teach the basics of the scythe to a beginner. At first, there's something unnatural about swinging the scythe, but by watching an experienced scythesman, the pieces to the puzzle just fall together and the tool becomes a part of the body.

This weekend, I have the pleasure of teaching my first scythe class at the Organic Growers School in Asheville, North Carolina. There, I will find a group of people interested in learning about one of the most amazingly efficient tools ever conceived; the Austrian scythe. It's not the tool you find at flea markets and adorning the walls of Cracker Barrel restaurants across the US. The Austrian scythe is different in a lot of ways.

This tool is like a razor blade on a five foot handle. Nothing can compete with the efficiency of a well peened and honed scythe for taking down tall grass.

The reason I felt I needed to teach this class is the fact that most people have no idea that a scythe is sharpened with a hammer. Well, it is. The hammered edge is then polished with a stone and the blade becomes shaving sharp.

Scythe mowing is best done in the morning when the shadows are still long and the dew is still on the grass. A well peened and honed blade makes the mowing effortless and the experience of the world awakening to the swish of blade on grass in the long slanting light of dawn is priceless.

I became so passionate about the scythe that I sought to teach others the lessons I had learned along the way. There are some skills that we must continue to share if we want to make the most of the troubled times we are facing.

When I am out in the field mowing in the earliest light of the day, I carry on fearlessly, effortlessly; body swaying rhythmically in the tall grass heavy and wet with dew. As I progress a few inches at a time, using a tool perfected 5 centuries ago, I am overcome with hope that we can still do the right thing... like we used to.

Get to know the scythe. Along with the broadfork and a good garden cart, it is among the most important tools you can own.

The scythe and the broadfork were perfected in a time when the human body was the only machine available for powering gardening tools. With half a millennium of field testing, both tools still work just fine, thank you.

If you're a customer of mine, make sure you find me in Asheville this weekend if you're in the neighborhood. When I am not teaching, I'll be at the Earth Tools booth at the trade show/exhibit area.

As always, good soil to you.



  1. I'm very sorry I missed the workshop. I am a self taught scythe "operator" and a wood fire potter living in the mountains near Asheville. All I know I've gained from watching Botan's videos and by just getting out in the grass and doing. I look forward to exploring your blog!

  2. Hi Michael, I'll be teaching at Warren Wilson in a week or two. Maybe you could come out for a class? A few details from an instructor will change things for the better, I promise! Contact me through and we'll get together.

    I'd love to see your work. I have several friends that are potters and I have a great deal of respect for your craft/art.

    Good soil to you,

    Larry Cooper (Gulland)