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44 Comments

  1. About 15 years ago, my elderly friend, now passed, had me cut his small piece of grass with his long used scythe. It was comical for the family to watch him demonstrate his silky smooth movement to the former bodybuilder hacking mightily at the grass. Did get it done…but embarrassing. If at all possible where you live, volunteer to help a neighbor with that chore and learn the rudiments, which could come in handy someday. Thanks for the enjoyable article. Mtn Marv in NC

  2. Nice article. On a side note…

    I don’t know for how many other “Hays” this applies for but,

    When I read you talking about cutting green hay and using a mechanical bailer … I remembered that green cut and bailed alfalfa bails will combust on thier own.

    I’m my home county in California we grew a lot of alfalfa (average farm size over 1,000 acres) and it is a well know phenomenon that hay stack and hay bails will catch fire on thier own from time to time.

    Just a little bit of info for your consideration.

    1. I forget the percentage, but a bale with too much water will compost and build up heat to the point that it catches fire. In Kentucky it was not uncommon to see charred bales dumped beside the road after cuttings, and a few years back a commercial barn burned down from bales igniting.

    2. yes, hay caught on fire all by itself once at my folks ranch. By grace of God, it was noticed right away and barn saved! (with charred boards as a reminder to give thanks)

    1. Don’t worry about prepping if you can’t improvise scythe handles.
      By the way. Let’s make sure we aren’t just prepping for the sake of survival, but let us make sure we are prepping for a revolution against the system. IF collapse come any time soon, you can expect it.

      1. Windmill, I don’t know what kind of life you have lived…nor how much international travel you have experienced, your knowledge in regard to the rest of the world, etc. So I’m not sure what your “revolution” is all about. I can tell you that your comment in many other world nations might bring about your vanishing act. For me, growing up in a strict but loving and supportive Christian family, of modest means, working my way thru 6 years of University, enjoying a very stimulating and fulfilling career, now semi-retired living on my heritage farm (meaning a century in the family) , I have to say life in these United States has been very good. Yes, I have experienced several life threatening adventures and events (usually of my own making), survived those as a better man. I have generally found that the “revolution” begins with changing your own person.

        1. jima, I am so glad you said that.

          ” I have generally found that the “revolution” begins with changing your own person.”

          May we remember that wisdom.

          Carry on

      2. Windmill …. Feel free to improvise all the handles you want.

        A life time of working heavy labor (agro through construction ) has taught me the value of a good handle. Myself I keep one handle of every one of my tools spare laying around…. Shovels … Chisels… Saws… Hammers…

        This way when things get bad and I break it a handle with no home Depot around I can replicate it.

        I’m guessing your not a huge daily tool user so to compare what a bad handle is like set your office chair up higher than your feet will touch the ground by 2 inches and recline the back of it by 4 inches do that for a week and you will see the importance of ergonomics.

  3. Oregon Bill! Really enjoyed your article, and the idea of small-scale hay making — especially for maintenance of our hen house! It’s a great idea, and it was a story of your experience well told. Farming as a social event… This really made us smile. We agree.

    From your post and oh-so-true: “It is good to work your own land. It is priceless.”

  4. A wonderful article. Down to earth and a very important (and over-looked) aspect to self sufficiency.

    I have participated in this practice before. Was using an old scythe that I was told was well built. Within 5 swings, the handle busted off. Who’s gonna make the back-pack bush-craft version? 🙂

  5. I’ve wondered about this; a few companies make self-powered (aka “walk behind”) sickle bar mowers. They seem more popular in Europe than the US.

    Sickle bars for tractors are available in widths from 5 to 9 feet; I’d think a self-powered version, about 8-10 HP, 5 ft cutting width, operated at 1 MPH (88 feet per minute) would be a very useful homestead tool (5 ft X 1MPH = 99 minutes/acre).

    There are small rotating-cutter walk behinds in Europe that cut about a 24″ wide swath at walking speed (2-2.5MPH) which comes to about 2 hrs/acre. These seem to windrow the cuttings pretty easily for raking. Bumping the cutter head to about 36″ should be easy (reduces time to 1.4 hrs/acre). .

    All of these solutions require gasoline which will be in short supply, or non-existent, after SHTF, but until then they might make “unworthy” land more useful by harvesting it for natural growing fodder.

    After SHTF, diesel (or “diesel substitutes” like kerosene with oil added) may be more available than gasoline, and I wouldn’t rule out a small steam engine, which makes me wonder why no one has designed and marketed a simple low-power steam engine for homesteaders as a “universal power supply” for electrical generation, powering small tractors, cutting equipment, pumps, etc. Could be someone has, I’m just not aware of it.

    1. If I was gonna go the steam route I would look I to a generator. It would be best i.m.h.o. to make electricity for multiple electrical applications rather than make a steam tractor a steam Genny a steam carriage … Etc all requiring seperate boilers and fuel for them.

      Make one boiler one engine and hook up multiple alternators and batteries

    2. Earthtools.com is the big US distributor for the tools you’re thinking of. Two-wheeled tractors and attachments that can perform about any task. Amazing tools, stupid easy to maintain and dirt cheap to operate. I love mine.

  6. This article does a great job of pointing out that time management is of vital importance.

    There is a school of thought that believes they will be able to do it all…

    I got a sniper rifle, shotgun, pistol, I can make biodiesel, grow my own food, raise all my own livestock , make my own tools forge my own knives. . Etc.

    And there is the school of thought that knows community or at least trade is required to survive.

    They know it’s very hard to go from ace (super long range shooting ) sniper to point shooting a shotgun or hand gun in cqb …. Even harder vice versa. And that running productive land (growing) is very time intensive.

    When I was picking lettuce and watermelons cabbage etc …. It would take multiple all-day over time days for weeks for us to clear a field…. And that was a team endeavor.

    Earlier I posted about making my own handles….

    If I had to harvest fresh wood to make them each handle (counting drying time) would take about a month. With a solid (hand tool only construction) 30 hours of labor. I would have to cut a branch mill it, dry it, pattern it, rough cut, final pattern, scrape or flame smooth it, fit it to the tool, and finally finish it. It’s a lot of work and that’s just the handle. If we were talking about a saw blade or chisel blade I would also have to be smelting or forging casting etc… Yes I could do this while I was drying the wood but what I couldn’t be doing at that time is tending my fields… By my self.

  7. Oregon Bill, wonderful article! Except now I’ve had Whittier stuck in my head all day: “Maud Muller on a summer’s day, raked the meadow sweet with hay…”

    I always enjoy reading about folks making their own equipment. I only wish my internet connection allowed me to watch your YouTubes. I never thought of making my own hay forks but you’ve inspired me with yours. Any pointers on making them?

    I wish I would have discovered the concept of using tarps to move hay and leaves five years sooner than I did. If you have any buddies at the lumber yard, ask them for some of the wraps bundles of lumber arrive in. They’re high quality and nearly as good as most of the tarps you buy, plus you don’t have to worry about snagging them or getting holes in them because they’re free. They come in all sizes and shapes since lumber comes in lengths ranging from 8′ to 16′ and longer.

    Here’s a thought for TEOTWAWKI. The main reason I started cutting my pasture was for one of the reasons mentioned in the article, to keep “the blackberries and brambles at bay” but in my case, it was also a noxious perennial weed that had taken over the abandoned pasture before I bought the property. That weed turned into a huge fire hazard every year after it dried down. Post-SHTF, pasture and lawns will tend to become thickets and forests over time if not mown, which are also fire hazards if they are close to our homes. So it seems like having a scythe or some other manual mowing system in our preps would be prudent.

    1. making the fork was fun – no real trick to it just a decent, long length branch that doesn’t split after peeled and dried. my son made the one pictured, using a draw knife. i still get some pleasure out of my son’s excitement having a nice, rustic draw knife for a birthday present 😉

      wider forks are always best. i’ve busted and repaired those forks several times until they are ‘just right’ for strength and usage. now they don’t break down.

      1. Hey Wildbillb, that’s totally awesome, he’ll treasure that knife the rest of his life. One of my girls got pretty good with a draw knife when she was 10 from a project we did and I still call her by a nickname pertaining to that, 20+ years later.

        Sounds like I’ll just have to play around with some different hardwood trees I have and see which ones work best. Should be a fun little project. 🙂

  8. Matt in ok ,,,,,we have passed the point of no return ,a alternet to open fighting is to stop producing any extra ,starve the system ,go Galt ,i did ,stop being a slave to the system ,quit ,
    You can live well on less , less stuff,less stress ,

    As far as the USA government ,it’s like finding out your wife is bedding your best friend , You never get the trust back , Oh you can stay but something is gone ,
    That’s what we have with US government now. Step out of the way,like a bull fighter ,
    Would you ever trust the FBI again ???? Or any of the other ABC,,,XYZ good people don’t trust any more , the battle is lost before it starts ,, i tell my kids to be like a fish and swim around the rocks in the river not into them

    Tea and blueberries

    Who is John Galt ?

    1. Old …. This country and its government are far from perfect but …. I personally believe it’s the best one\ ones.

      There is no need for revolution as of yet. Just informed voting. The vast majority of issues people have with this government and country are problems we as its citizens created.

          1. That’s got my head spinning . . . . not sure. And I’d stay away from the Beatles, I’m pretty sure they started this whole revolution to begin with! Or maybe counter revolution, I’ve got to make a chart to figure this out.

      1. J m Z B,,,,,have lived and worked in far east ,central America,south America , am ok with a dirt floor , no place is perfect ,problem is we the people ,way too soft and indulgent and lazy ,,, trying to live a life beyond our means ,
        Try telling folks God’s going to get you for that , how about less computer time and more time with the book.
        Shalom

  9. Agree with marugg scythe recommendation, have one been using for years to cut grass hay on my small, irregular shaped parcel to keep a herd of meat rabbits fed through the winters when I don’t have enough fresh garden vegetation to give em.

  10. Worked for a neighbor during high school unloading and mowimg away hay (as well as my own farm) where he baled hay that was far too green for my liking. We would put a tier of bales down the take a bag of salt at broadcast it by hand on top. I waited till my own hay was dry by feel. Sometimes they would cook a little but never had any problems.

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