Scythe Buyers' Guide
"...is it possible to live in an environment, as man must do, and not violate it?"
- Christopher Williams in
The Craftsmen of Necessity
In 1974, as fresh graduates pondering the future, Faye and I had asked ourselves essentially the same question posed by Williams. We consequently chose the path of small-scale farming within the context of which to explore the possibilities, and hopefully one day be in a position to answer with a 'yes'.
Above the only table in our 16'x24' cabin has long hung Mahatma Gandhi's well-known maxim: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
As caretakers and breeders of many kinds of domesticated livestock, cultivating a diversity of grains, fruit and vegetables -- while NEVER striving for maximum production -- we felt that animal-powered tillage, along with a healthy dose of Permacultural principles, was an acceptable version of 'living lightly upon the Earth'.
In retrospect, we were a little too smug. Although significantly reduced, our unwitting contribution to the corporate exploitation continued. (As but one little example, who makes the rechargeable batteries or the photovoltaic panels, where do all the materials needed for their production come from, and what really is the total ecological impact that affords us this 'green' luxury?)
It would be several years before we came across The Craftsmen of Necessity as well as other books on an array of related subjects, which together helped to dispel our initial illusions. Now, as members of a 'developed' nation living in the 21st century, our honest answer to Williams' question can be nothing short of a 'no'. To have come to grips with that fact was heartbreaking. It still is. So is the knowing that no matter how hard we try to walk our idealistic talk, we shall not succeed...
In the late 80ties our 'discovery' of the scythe became a balm to our perplexed souls.
By 1998 -- for reasons best summed up by Faye's early morning reflection -- we embarked on a mission to share this old "tool of necessity" with the new generation of potential 'eco-craftspeople', initially only in North America. We dubbed our vision of what we perceived could, or rather ought to unfold, the "Scythe Renaissance".
All in all, it has been an effort full of challenges, frustration, and of course, some deeply-felt rewards. Eventually, with the contributions of countless others, notable progress has been made. Still, never quite satisfied in this regard, I continue to gripe about the unrealized potential, and worry about the prospects of this tool's future quality as well as overall shortages (concerns specifically expressed in my essay Will Europe's Scythe Industry Evade the Reaper's Deadly Swing?). Nevertheless, it is rather obvious that even the level of 'renaissance' reached already is bringing benefits to the collective human experience. Furthermore, we are confident that the movement has nowhere reached its pinnacle and that those benefits will grow, perhaps exponentially -- regardless of what exactly the future may hold.- Peter Vido
Modified 16 Feb. 2012