Learning to Scythe at Scythe Cymru

DSC_0927As I’ve written about before, I regularly volunteer at Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. My interest in the garden initially was to learn how to grow vegetables, but I’ve gained so much more from the experience. I’ve learnt about growing food and plants, composting, I’ve made new friends and got to meet lots of people from my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago, me and two other volunteers from the garden braved the drizzle and  headed over to West Wales for a scything workshop. Scythes are making a comeback in modern gardening and farming, and are a clean, environmentally friendly method of cutting long grass that also give you a free workout. After years of wrestling with an unco-operative diesel lawnmower, we recently bought two scythes for cutting the grass in the community garden. And, after a couple of attempts where I think I in particular looked more like a baddie from a bad horror movie, we thought we’d better learn how to do it properly from the professionals.

Scythe Cymru offer, amongst lots of other activities, courses on scything. You can also buy scythes and accessories from them. As soon as we arrived, we knew we were somewhere special. We were greeted by two goats before Philip, our teacher for the day, led us into the barn. This is where he explained to us the basics of putting our scythe together, how to sharpen our scythes and, most importantly, how to be safe.

Once we were all set up, we headed outside to practice our scything technique. I soon learnt where I had been going wrong in the community garden, and with Phil’s expert guidance we were ready to head out into the field and cut some real grass. I must admit, if I had to genuinely do this as a job, the sight of a large field filled with knee high grass would be more than a little daunting. However, having a go and scything a tiny section of that field was fun and taught me a lot that I can take back to the community garden. Plus, when I looked behind me at the area I’d just cut, I was overcome with a sense of pride.

Our afternoon was spent back in the barn where we learnt all about peening. In order to keep your scythe in good working order, you have to make sure that you flatten out the blade at regular intervals. Although I generally have the attention span of a 3 year old child, there are certain tasks that I can really focus on and this is one of them. Peening my scythe blade took me back to when I worked as a ski technician and I would edge and wax hundreds of skis by hand. I was in my element.

Come next summer, our lawn at Plasnewydd Garden will be expertly scythed and looking neat and tidy. Failing that, we might just have to buy a sheep.

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Plant-Based Pause No 41: 4 Easy Steps Everyone Can Take

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘I don’t want to be running around barefoot, pushing my car like Barney Rubble. I don’t want to go back to the Stone Age. I just want to maintain what we have for a long time… for ever.’ – Cameron Diaz

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My dream would be for everyone on the planet to live plant-based. However, I am a realist and I know that is very unlikely to ever happen. There are a lot of people out there, though, that still strive to be more environmentally conscious even if they choose to continue consuming animals. The meat and dairy industries are a huge threat to our planet and our species, but there are other areas of your life where you can make positive changes. Here are four easy steps that everyone can take to help reduce our impact on Earth.

1. Carry reusable shopping bags with you wherever you go. It is estimated that UK shoppers go through 13,000 carrier bags in their lifetimes. That’s a whole sea of plastic you’re creating by using single-use bags.
2. Refill ink cartridges or donate them to charity. Over 65 million printer cartridges are sold each year in the UK alone, and it takes 3 pints of oil to produce just one of them.
3. When buying wood or paper products, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo which shows that the product comes from a responsibly managed forest.
4. Go paperless. Banks will now email your statements straight to your inbox. Not only does this save paper, it reduces clutter in your home and is a lot easier on the postman’s back.