When writing, it is strange how something will pop into my mind, making me wonder about something we take for granted, making me think of how things would have been done in the 1800’s. As I have said, I stop learning the day I die, though if you think about it, I will then be learning what happens after life ends.
So, this week I got to think about gardening and how the lawns of grand estates were kept trimmed and neat. The first lawnmower was invented in 1830. What did they do before that to cut the grass? See, I told you that strange thoughts pop into my brain.
I have always joked that if the guy I pay to cut my lawn didn’t get it cut soon, I would have to get a goat to cut the lawn for me, but that is not what happened at large estates You couldn’t rely on goats to do as you wish and only eat what you wanted. What did they do?
You most likely know what a sickle is. Its big brother, the scythe, was used to “mow” the lawns. There were many types of sickles and scythes. Most scythes had two handles, with a longer snath or snaith, which is a long pole. The tip of the blade of the scythe was referred to as the toe, with the end that connects at tang is referred to as the heel. The tang was where the blade and handle connected.
According to Wikipedia, the handle at the top of the snath was held in the left hand and the center handle held in the right hand. The scythe would then be swung from right to left, leaving the piles of cut grass to the left side of the mower. The row of cut grass was referred to as swathe.
Mowing was a team effort. Look at the size of some of the estates and their parks, and you can imagine how long it would take to walk through there, hand scything the lawn. And it is interesting to know that they would start on the exterior of the area, moving clockwise, until arriving in the center. They usually started at dawn, as it was easier to cut when it was somewhat wet. Then, when the heat of the day dried out the cut grass, it was raked up and removed from the lawn.
There were many types of scythes. Longer, thin ones were best for mowing or hay making. Shorter ones were better for cutting reeds.
Because the metal was a bit malleable, the scythe required to be peened, which was using a hemispherical or wedge shaped end of the head a hammer, to flatten, shape, and bent the metal back to the desired shape. Peening should not be done frequently, as it can weaken the metal after time, and depending how soft the metal is. It also depended on what was being cut, whether it was grass or thicker brambles.
After it was peened, the blade would then be honed, using a wetted honing stone.
The US scythes were made of harder, more brittle steel, which did not require peening, just honing to keep the blade sharp, but even that was not needed as frequently as the UK version. Usually, when it was damaged, the edge had to be reground rather than just honed.
Scythes were also used on wheat fields for harvest. Around 1800, a grain cradle was added above the blade, which was wooden and aided in collecting the grain, making it simpler to collect and threshing.
The use of scythes dates back to the 12th and 13th century in Europe, though the invention of the scythe dated back to 500 BC. It replaced the sickle in harvesting crops in the 16th century.
Well, I will no longer feel as bad for the guy who cuts my lawn. He has it better, with a lawn mower and weed eater. And the people using a riding lawn mower, you don’t know how lucky you are to be living in the 21st century.
Have a great day, stay cool, and an early Happy 4th of July. Stay safe. And the safest way to stay safe is to stay home and read JAFF stories. Heehee. And my newest book, Rebuilding Pemberley, is available on Amazon. A murder mystery that brings our darling couple together to resolve what had happened and determine who was behind everything. Enjoy!