Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Two rants: the joys of a sickle and my troubles with Permaculture


I got myself a sickle because I couldn't afford a scythe and my grass patches are small. I had been electric whipper snippering but my machine burnt out.I've had it with mowers and powered brushcutters.

So I thought $25 for a sickle? Why not?

I needs to keep the neighbours off my long-grass-indifferent back.

Cutting with a sickle means you have to bend and you can't maintain a fixed height as you can with a scythe. But I'm not fixing to play golf or bowls.

We had a sickle way back in the 50s. Rusty old thing. Combined with hammer you can be a bolshevik.

But I tell ya, I can cut my patch quicker with my acoustic hand tool than I can with electrics or petrol.

(So long as you don't cut yourself: always cut with the right hand (if not a southpaw )and hold a short walking stick in your left.The more efficient scythe displaced the sickle for reasons such as these...)

And a scythe is the Tai Chi of mowing...and I look and think: what a hobby! what a exercise regime! What grace! It's groovin....add an ipod and you're there.

But hey the blade is gotta be sharp.Handy for later suicide attempts or decapitating the neighbourhood bully...

Maybe one day I'll graduate to a scythe but for now I'm sickling it.

My troubles with Permaculture

For many years I've done my homework and I've put in the gardening hard yards. And I've created a few gardens in different places. While I respect and endorse all those who take the sustainable growing path, the heavy doses of evangelical hype that accompanies omnipresent Permies annoys me no end. 

The pieces below by Peter Harper captures some of my hesitancies in regard to Permaculture. I'd also add that the way the system is so often packaged, dependent as it is on perennial plants, sponsors a menu mainly of fruits and the occasional nut...

I don't eat that much fruit....So what's the charm in growing it?

So growing perennials, sensible as it may be, has a limitation in that we aren't hunter gatherers of the olden day ilk and would like a more frequent turnover of comestibles. So I don't believe the hype, because I don't think much of the Permaculture Cook Book. 

But that's not the be all and end all of sustainability. Design surely matters and is no doubt useful, but it ain't the be all and end all of gardening....

So I'm saying partake with a grain of salt. Be pragmatic. In a 'food forest' you can't always see the wood for the trees.

My attitude isn't alone. With a little homework you can find some very useful and well argued critiques of Permaculture that do mark it down where it matters, while respecting it for its utility :

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Comment by Jodie Miller on March 21, 2014 at 16:49

Love my swales.  Want more.  Not very clever about keeping them planted out and productive though.  Mowing is a PITA.  Own a scythe - keeping it sharp is the challenge.  Keeping it safely away from children also the challenge.

Thanks for the laugh Dave.  I can relate.  And why is it that it's always the Permie who turns up to dig the garden in thongs with no hat and no water?  It's snake season for goodness sake!

Comment by Dave Riley on February 17, 2014 at 10:50

Both parts of Lancaster are in the BCC network:

Comment by Dave Riley on February 13, 2014 at 17:53

My dad's mower was a Sunbeam.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 13, 2014 at 17:52

I was using AC/DC but the machinery let me the end it's a cost issue. But i find it's also a labour dispute as with sickles you simply pick up the tool cut a bit and rest. Come back later. With machinery it'a all prep, set up and work until finished to warrant the effort. 

My dad used an electric mower but all domestic bush mowers prefer level ground and a level playing field of growth.

We'e talking about a different attitude to's anti-lawn.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 13, 2014 at 16:16

Back in the early 60s someone I know scythed his 36 perches and raked up. Finally he bought a rotary lawnmower. My Dad scythed before he bought a Tecnico (electric rotary) mower.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 13, 2014 at 7:51

"Scything today is undergoing a rennaissance.  Local authorities, stately homes, allotmenteers and home gardeners are increasingly using the lightweight Austrian scythe as a zero-carbon alternative to managing weeds and grass.   Scythes are even being used to cut lawns!"

Comment by Dave Riley on February 13, 2014 at 7:50

Coordination? The day I got the sickle after the trimming all about I decided to sharpen the blade and almost took my finger off. Therein lies the danger: always take care with the stone. And while getting used to the sickling job  use that stick between you and the sweep of the blade.

The scyther is not a vid of me...but I could project myself into the scene. Imagine a movement of scythers. in fact one exists in Britain: Scythe Association. When I first heard about scything I thought the mowers were nuts -- but when you watch the effort, it makes sense.And these light Austrian scythes are the catalyst.

One man went to mow, 
Went to mow a meadow, 
One man and his dog, 
Went to mow a meadow

Two man went to mow, 
Went to mow a meadow, 
Two man, one man and his dog, 
Went to mow a meadow

Three man went to mow, 
Went to mow a meadow, 
Three man, two man, one man and his dog, 
Went to mow a meadow

Four man went to mow, 
Went to mow a meadow, 
Four man, three man, two man, one man and his dog, 
Went to mow a meadow

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 11, 2014 at 21:42

Heh heh Andy … how many legs do you normally have? ;-)

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 11, 2014 at 21:18

Mate - your coordination is SO much better than mine.  I would have lost a leg or two in the first 5 seconds.  

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 11, 2014 at 20:42

Both look very interesting. Thank you for the links, Dave.

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