I don't know who first said that, but ain't it the truth. The right tool can make all the difference in the world. Take garden hoes for example. Who loves to hoe, raise your hand. Let's face it, hoeing is work, backbreaking work, especially with an ordinary garden hoe.
Back in my commune days, we had different hoes; heavy, large bladed hoes that made the job so much easier. Since we' moved to our five acre homestead, I've been looking for one. The problem was, I didn't know what they are called. The only name I'd heard was a rather rude one, and I knew they weren't sold under that.
I finally found what I was looking for when I read this post over at Farm Folly. Not only did Lee and Robin have the hoes, but gave a link to where they bought them (EasyDigging.com). I found out that what I was looking for is an Italian Grape hoe. I ordered one immediately, and a 6" grub hoe as well.
That's the grape hoe blade on the left. It makes productive weeding and cultivating so much easier. The one on the right is the grub hoe. It's perfect for trenching, turning soil, and making new garden beds. They are both heavy duty and reasonably priced.
The other thing we bought, which DH wanted, was a snath and scythe.
Usually, the entire tool is referred to as a scythe but technically, the scythe is just the blade. This one is a 30" grass scythe. The long wood handle is called the snath. This is an American type, though there are European ones as well. The European models have straighter snaths.
Why did he want one? Well, we love hand tools. Not that we don't have battery and gas powered ones which we use regularly. There's just something peacefully quite and calming about using hand tools. Something that seems to connect the tool user with the material being worked on. With something like scything, it's almost like a meditation. Handspinners, you know what I mean.
Slower? Maybe. However, it seems that the more sophisticated and technically complicated a tool becomes, the costlier it becomes to operate and maintain in terms of both time and money. If we calculated all the time DH spends fixing the lawn mower including running to the store to buy parts, then definitely the scythe does a faster job. Add to that trying to get replacement parts at a reasonable cost and rising fuel prices. It all adds up in the end.
Using it is an art and takes lots of practice, as you can imagine.
We found a couple of really good videos on YouTube, along with some not so good ones.
American Style Scythe
Mowing with a Swiss snath & Austrian scythe
Mowing Technique 2: Summer
DH will be the first to tell you he doesn't have the technique perfected yet, but he did manage this...
Understandably, the neighbors think we're a little nuts. No, we haven't gotten rid of the lawn mowers, because each tool has it's place. The tall grass would bog a lawn mower down, while a snath and scythe wouldn't do on short grass as for a weekly mowing of the front lawn.
Actually the end goal is to eventually have no or very little lawn. Over the next several years I plant to turn our front yard into an extensive herb garden, starting with the first two small beds this summer. We won't need a riding mower then, and can probably replace the gas powered push mower with a reel mower for the side yard recreational area.
The field you see in the above photos will eventually be fenced and used to grow feed, maybe hay. Obviously we aren't ready for that yet, but it's the plan. Until then, we just keep taking one step at a time.
New Hand Tools text & photos copyright May 2010