Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Apologies to those who ordered the Mowing Instructions from Fedco – my fussiness regarding the technical correctness as well as my notion of how complete the guidelines need to be are to blame for the delay. Several friends suggested that most people today have little patience with drawn-out, detailed instructions and will not bother to make use of them. Presentations on just about anything must be short and sweet. Is this true?

I ignored their well-meaning advice and wrote a somewhat complete version. It turned out way too long. Shortened to approximate specifications it was incomplete, or so I felt. Next I split the long version into Beginner and Intermediate Parts. I found it darn difficult to draw the line between them and it took me days. I sent in Part I. It got edited, as all written stuff, I am told, must be. I almost cried. I certainly fumed and asked it not be printed as such.

Alan Hood came to the rescue by asking me to write an expanded how-to section for the new printing of The Scythe Book, due out soon, which will allow the inclusion of many details. With this I was content to write a new short version for Fedco. It may help a little …

Interim

I spent two weeks within the Styria Factory Complex. The learning continues, for better or for worse. I was told in more detail why the quality of even 30 to 40 years ago is obsolete. Feel free to spend the $1.00 “Scythe Project” donation that I suggested in my last MOF&G article (March-May 2000) on ice cream for the lads. It is now too late …

The water driven hammers have been dismantled and the specialty anvils for hand forming the tangs have gone to collectors. It would also be seriously cost-prohibitive to obtain a supply of the custom blend of steel in the correct dimensions for drawing out the “zain” – the first step in the process of blade making as described in The Scythe Book.

If enough of the world’s rich wanted such blades (an unlikely scenario), the purely physical setup could be brought to life again and supplied with raw materials regardless of costs. However, there are things that money cannot buy. Most masters of old are retired or dead. In a factory setting it took the collective works of several of them, each with years of training in a specific step of the total process, to finish a perfect blade. Gathering enough of these masters together under one roof today is beyond the power of mere money. Thus, scythe making in the old way has become another case of near-extinction!

Many other human skills possibly await the guillotine of the kind of progress we have, for the most part, accepted as inevitable …

However, I perceive that the co-operative network of supply is still plausible, or even necessary, to save what we have left. A few little steps back are still possible, and the Styria factory may be willing to cooperate. This would require some reorganizing of skills and equipment – reorganization that would not be justifiable for a small order of blades.

For now I focus on this. Several key questions remain: Do we have enough distributors able or willing to pocket less than 100-plus percent of purchase costs? How many eccentrics among the 300 million citizens of North America are ready to use the scythe? Is there any point to such a project?

We are now capable of bioengineering lawn species that would quit growing at a height of 2 inches while remaining pretty dark green, and hayfields that at their ideal TDN stage would rot at the ground level. Solar powered robots could harvest the biotech forage while we are granted the luxury of sitting at the Internet getting informed about how to further reduce the use of nonrenewable resources. I see this as one of the options open to a high-tech culture. Is this really what we want?

– Peter Vido
Lower Kintore (Perth), New Brunswick

MOF&G Cover Winter 2000-2001