Guest Post: Joy in Scything

Editor’s Note: Here is a post by our intern, Penelope, who is taking a gap year during her university education.


During my time at Kaitiaki Farm, I have continued to find joy in the small tasks that make up our days. Projects sometimes consist of jobs that could be done with fossil fuel powered tools, but we choose to do the slower way which we find has the side effect of producing a better output. I keep finding these are the most meaningful job to do. When we step back and look at the task ahead of us holistically, we often just need to change a mindset to make it enjoyable. I found this to be true in scything the main garden paddock.

Most of the scything here happens in the spring, as the grass starts to really take off and grow after a cloudy, wet winter. This makes the paddocks more unruly, harder to walk though and more difficult to push wheel barrows through. We also can usually can find a good use for some cut grass, either through mulching the garlic beds or protecting plastic in the sun.

The task set forth to the interns was the cut the highest strip of grass in the paddock which will soon be removed of all of its topsoil as a driveway will be build there. So the grass doesn’t need to be there at all soon, so why not cut it now and get some use out of it?

Here is picture of Ivy, a fellow intern, hard at work with the scythe:

I had some very brief experience scything rye at my old college, but this was a more meticulous task. Grass wasn’t as rigid as rye, and I would have to cut closer to the ground for a more mowed feel. The motion of scything is meant to be fluid and I may not have it totally down, but I can say for certain I don’t bury the tip in the ground nearly as much as I did when I started the paddock. Overall the project took about 4 hours to do, including raking up the cut grass and putting it on the plastic that was covering our next garden beds.

By covering a section of the grass covered paddock in a large sheet of plastic, we kill the grass after a few months and can then remove the plastic, broad fork the soil apart, aerate the soil, break it down into a finer tilth, shape some beds and voilà! You’ve made a paddock into a garden bed! (a more in depth look at that could be a whole other post) But as far as the cut grass we had on our hands, we put it onto the plastic so that we were protecting it from breaking down in the direct sunlight- prolonging the life of the plastic for us.

Here you can see the final product, littered with grass piles, but shorter than the grasses on the left.

And here you can see the hay and dried grass that has been put on the plastic to protect it from the harmful sun.

By doing a task without the use of fossil fuels we are contributing to a smaller carbon footprint while working our bodies to manipulate the land we have, for our benefit. The grass doesn’t care of its long or short so why not use a bit of it? For me, manual work always comes with a sense of accomplishment that I have yet to find anywhere else. I cut that grass and then we used it for another project. Lawnmowers are loud and polluting and if we’ve got the time why would not do something that is better for the earth and better for us?




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