I’ve been scything in the Lee Valley – Walthamstow Marshes – recently, under the aegis of haystacks.net.
Experienced scythers can cut faster than a strimmer: with the hay in its windrows easier to gather. The rangers at the marshes are considering using scythes as they can also be used in the wet, where strimmers can’t. I love these times (as with using heavy horses in woods) where old techniques turn out to be faster, quieter, more economic, as well as better for the ecology. Skill over power!
We were introduced to scything by Clive Leeke, a fount of knowledge. We used Austrian scythes – light, sharp – as English scythes are heavy and hard to use: scything was done by Irish migrant labour in the UK so there’s less tradition behind it. The tools were very interesting: I use the canoe-shaped sharpening stones to make my volcanic glazes. Simon Fairlie has an extensive website with more information, as well as a great quote:
“Scything with a good tool relaxes the mind and attunes the body. As Levin says to his brother after a day’s mowing, in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina : “You can’t imagine what an effectual remedy it is for every sort of foolishness.”
I’ve been working for a while on a new range of work inspired by thorn trees in grassland. Getting the glazes right is taking a long time: I thought I had got there, only for the last set of pots to be firmly stuck to the kiln shelves. The next set should hopefully come through unstuck, but it will take a few more batches for the last bit of refinement to come.
Naming new work is also hard: it’s often only after months of sending the work out that the name really emerges. I’m struggling between calling them “thorn”, “a far green country”, or “green hills”. A prize of one of the stuck pots to anyone who can identify the source of the middle name! I’m also tempted by the letter ‘thorn’: on the web, þ, easily displayed using the name “þ”!
Any thought on names will be gratefully received – do you prefer the short, the poetic, or the descriptive?