Haymaking by hand: a guide from Indie Farmer

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Posted Aug 7 2017 by Nigel Akehurst of IndieFarmer
Handmaking hay with a scythe

This week our friends at Indie Farmer shared with us their how-to guide to haymaking by hand, in which founder and editor-in-chief Nigel Akehurst collaborated with small-scale farmer Simon Fairlie, co-editor of The Land Magazine.

1. Sharpening your scythe – The majority of farmers these days use a tractor and a mower for cutting grass but in the absence of modern machinery the most important tool you’ll need is a good sharp scythe.

Sharpening the scythe ready for haymaking

2. Scything or mowing – recently popularised in the BBC Series Poldark, scything is a real art as demonstrated in my video of Simon mowing below and according to him it can take at least 5 years (or seasons) to turn a lad into a professional mower. So you better get practising!

Haymaking in full swing with a scythe

Here’s a short video I took of Simon in ‘full swing’…

3. Turning your hay – to aid the drying process it’s important to turn the grass over the course of the ‘haying’ period.

Turning of the hay in action

4. Moving your hay –  once your grass has turned to hay (which normally takes a day or two fine weather) you’ll need to move it to the barn. To do this fork some hay onto a large blanket, which can then be wrapped it into a bundle and transport by foot to the farm yard. Depending on the size of the field you may need to make several ‘trips’ to clear the field.

Moving the hay - has anyone seen Simon?

5. Spreading your hay – sometimes if the hay isn’t quite ready but the weather looks set to change it’s a good idea to get your hay as close to the barn as possible and then spread it in the farmyard.

Spreading the hay

6. Stacking your hay in the barn – the final and most important stage of hay making is to get your hay safely in the barn before it rains.

The final stage of the haymaking process - stacking it securely in the barn

And whilst I haven’t convinced my dad to sell our tractors and hay making equipment quite yet here’s a ‘man versus machine’ YouTube video with a surprising outcome.

More information

To find out more about Austrian scythes visit this site run by Simon Fairlie. You can also visit the annual Green Scythe Fair (normally held in June).

There’s also a whole topic introduction dedicated to the art and skill of scything on the Lowimpact.org website – check it out here. Our thanks to Nigel Akehurst and colleagues at Indie Farmer for permission to reproduce the original article from July 2015.