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Scything

We use scythes extensively at Farmopolis. It is our favorite tool. We purchase blades from Europe (Austria) and make our own handles (called ‘snaths’) from hardwood stakes that we buy at the local farm supply. We paint the snath red to make the scythe is easy to spot in the tall grass.

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Kari sharpens the blade with a natural sharpening stone, also from Europe. Here we are mowing on a wet day, perfect for scything, as wet grass is heavy and is easy to cut. Dry grass tends to bend in front of the blade. Traditionally, mowing is done in the early morning before the dew evaporates.

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The scythe is the perfect tool to mow around the beds and tight spaces. The mowed grass will be raked and used as mulch on the garden beds. In the wetter areas of the farm, the grass grows so fast it can be very difficult to spot our newly planted saplings. The Swamp White Oak in the following picture is almost invisible.

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Here is the five year old sapling with the grass mowed.

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Elapsed time, about two minutes. Not only are the scythes fast, but they are also a great workout. Linsen and Chevalier look for the next Swamp White Oak sapling to rescue.

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Progressing into Summer

View from the wel

View from the well

 

Hay field: won't be cut for another week or two. We could get three cuts a season (a local farmer takes the hay in exchange for cutting), but more often than not the farmer is too busy to cut more than twice.

Hay field: won’t be cut for another week or two. We could get three cuts a season (a local farmer takes the hay in exchange for cutting), but more often than not the farmer is too busy to cut more than twice.

Small dogs need frequent naps, after a long day of napping.

Small dogs need frequent naps, after a long day of napping.

First plums ever!! This is a six year old red plum tree

First plums ever!! This is a six year old red plum

Chive bed around a peach tree: chives act as aromatic pest confusers, a natural form of pesticide
Chive bed around a peach tree: chives act as aromatic pest confusers, a natural form of pesticide

 

sorrel bed: a great over-winter perennial that the French grow year-round (in greenhouses). Ours provide greens into December.

sorrel bed: a great over-winter perennial that the French grow year-round (in greenhouses). Ours provide greens into December.

Spring melt: studying water systems

One of the important lessons permaculture teaches is to study the land, and learn from its features what kinds of things are possible, and desirable, to do with it. In this sense, the land speaks, and our job is to listen to it.

It seems so simple, but most of the time, it’s so easy to forget. In a consumer culture, we are trained to think that anything we want to do, we should do, and all we need is to buy the right thing to make it happen. Think bananas and avocados in February.

We have learned from experience that you can’t force a vision of what you want and make it grow. You have to study the land and try to figure out how to work within its systems. So, each spring we study the way water runs off our land, where it pools, where it turns into a swamp for weeks, even months, to determine what to plant where: swamp white oaks and water-loving trees in wet places, for example.

If I had done this from the get-go, I wouldn’t have lost three cherry trees because I planted them in a standing water pool, where the soil is heaviest (which prevents it from draining). But I did that in a dry year, and didn’t realize until I took these pictures why they died. Of equal importance is where the snow melts/blows away, and where it lingers; this tells us about the microclimates on our land, where it is colder, where plants are going to be more exposed–and also, where to build.

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Garlic on drying board

This was our 2013 crop of hard neck garlic, harvested in late August. We divided the harvest in half; the largest cloves we will plant this spring, and the small ones we eat.     Jason