Scythe Association of Britain & Ireland

The Scythe Association of Britain & Ireland meeting

The Scythe Association of Britain & Ireland meeting

It was that time of year again when SABI holds its winter meeting- being Health & Safety Officer I had to attend; not a problem as John Letts always has a warm and welcoming house. It’s also nice to meet everyone again and Oxfordshire is reasonably central to us all.

The SABI meeting in John Letts abode

The SABI meeting in John Letts’ abode

John’s house is like a library, full of his academic work on thatching and arable crops associated with straw etc. I have always had to have a gander through someone’s books and it’s amazing what you can find out about people- subjects that you would never guess they were interested in as well, of course,  as loads of subjects associated with their work or hobbies. Boy, he’s got more than me! Much was talked about and, for the life of me, I can’t remember a lot of it… just as well Beth took the minutes. One thing I do remember was changing the title of the Health & Safety Officer to Health & Safety Adviser- probably the right decision as SABI can only offer advice, some guide lines and maybe a model risk assessment for scythes and their use, just the same as the HSE (although they cover a multitude of risky work scenarios) . Having moaned many years ago about the HSE  not being very helpful, you suddenly realise that some companies or people seem to want you to do all their risks assessments for them and that’s not the point. The whole idea of risk assessments is to make one think about what you are about to do or get someone else to do: do you need PPE? Is/are the machinery/tools in good working order? What other associated risks are there? Are there other risks that are specific to where you are working i.e. could there be a cliff someone could fall over, is there deep water nearby and is that a bull charging at me?!!!!!! Hopefully this year we will be able to provide an easy-to-use  model risk assessment for helping people reach the right conclusions for safe mowing, although they will have to add any site specific risks or hazards.

Phil Batten admiring an English made snath

Phil Batten admiring an English-made snath

On to other incidental items outside the meeting: Phil was checking out the new snath ( the handle that the blade/scythe fits to).This had been made by Richard Brown and, it would appear from his historic research, that the AMERICANS (who think that they invented the curved snath) could be completely wrong. It turns out that the earliest documented evidence of a curved snath in America was in the early 19th century BUT, an English painting in the late 18th century clearly shows a number of ENGLISH men using a curved snath. The boxing gloves are on…

English scythe makers

English scythe makers

Chris brought along some scythe blade makers’ labels he had been given or found- some are from small businesses that disappeared quite a long time ago, mostly because they had been bought out by bigger companies like Nash. A little bit of industrial history.

Rounding plane made by Richard Brown

Rounding plane made by Richard Brown

Jim Mcvittee was far more interested in the homemade rounding plane- a really useful item for the green woodworking/pole lathe group. Will keep an eye out for some suitable planes on ebay.

Phil Battens REAL homemade haggis

Phil Batten’s REAL homemade haggis

After a longish meeting it was time to sample some of the goodies brought along to supplement John’s spread (think he must have been cooking all week and his bread was as good as ever). One of the more unusual items was Phil Batten’s homemade haggis- quite apt as it was Burns Night. A haggis is a wild animal with two short legs on the right side and it is caught by chasing it the wrong way round the hill ;0). No, really it’s made from the pluck, heart, lungs and liver (which is cooked before it is minced – mince it raw and it turns to mush uggghhh!) , add spices, pepper and salt and fill the stomach of a sheep (the sheep has to be dead though). A sheep has two stomachs and Phil used the bigger for the SABI meeting and left the smaller one at home for his family. People should eat more haggis, it’s a lot tastier then they think.

Simon Farlies home made cheese (not the Port)

Simon Fairlie’s home-made cheese (not the Port tho’)

Next delicacy was Simon Fairlie’s cheese: “oh” he said “this one is not very good”. Can’t see why he said that- it’s a very nice tasting  handmade cheese with excellent bubbles in it. Both Simon and Jill milk three cows at Tinker’s Bubble to the sound of a gramophone playing his favourite music- swears blind it makes the cows far more easy to milk. Having seen the way they make the cheese I can understand how the people of the post-medieval Wimpole parish must have produced their cheeses. Thing is with cheese, it stores all that milk you couldn’t drink within a few days  and you can keep the stored milk (cheese) for leaner times. One thing I did learn from Simon was that if milk goes off at around 4C the bacteria species responsible for breaking down the milk produce a pretty horrid, sour milk which no one really wants to eat or drink but, if you store it at around 10C  it will go off quicker and a different set of bacteria break down the milk and you can drink/eat it as it does not have the same horrid taste. Modern milk is far removed from the old local milk deliveries- hmmmmm! Not very sure about super dairies; would much prefer small, local dairy producers but they would need support from local people. Can’t believe milk is cheaper than mineral water, seems extremely odd.

Even music

Even music was on the agenda

Richard playing ? my rabab

Richard playing my rabab

Finally there was a bit of a jam session which lasted some time aided by, amongst other beverages, my homemade cider. It was pretty good (if I say so myself) and I have learned that if you use 10-20 % pear juice some of the sugar in the pear juice cannot be broken down into alcohol and therefore is about ten times sweeter then normal sugar, hence you can ferment the combined apple and pear juice completely yet still retain some sweetness.

Richard was wondering what he did with the blades

Richard was wondering what he did with the blades?

Richard manages Emorsgate Seeds- so, if you want wild flower seeds he’s your man and he’ll sell you scythes to mow your meadow with once it’s established.

Phil Batten prepared for the worst

Phil Batten prepared for the worst

Got to take my hat of to this man- he actually does what I can only dream of doing. He works the land in a very ecological manner in South Wales  see Dyfed Permaculture.

About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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2 Responses to Scythe Association of Britain & Ireland

  1. Pingback: SABI Winter Meeting and How Scythes Travel By Bike | scythecymru

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