Scythe Cymru is on the move!

As part of an ongoing website development process, including the anticipated addition of a online scythe shop, our website is on the move. All will look the same as it is at the moment, but our website address will become If you have subscribed to our site, your subscription should be transferred automatically by WordPress. Thanks for following us!

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SABI Winter Meeting and How Scythes Travel By Bike

Phil's bike, loaded with scythe equipment, in Norfolk Square, London

Phil’s bike, loaded with scythe equipment, in Norfolk Square, London

Phil went to the Scythe Association of Britain and Ireland (SABI) winter meeting at the end of January, hosted by John Letts in Oxfordshire. With a mix of business and socialising, a good time was had by all. Simon Damant has a nice report on his blog, here with some great pictures.

While meeting up with Simon Fairlie, Phil took the opportunity to stock up our scythe shop. We don’t have a car so Phil took his bike up on the train to transport the equipment back. Gill did wonder if it would all pack in, but Phil is a master of the art. With an impressive amount of metal work packed into those panniers, including blades and peening jigs, it was a pretty heavy load, see picture above.

The first leg of the journey was a short cycle from John’s place to the local train station. Then into London on the train and a cycle from Marylebone to Paddington station. The discovery of Transport for London’s cycling maps a few years ago has made bicycle transfers across London much more pleasant, perhaps even enjoyable, though a world away from the cycling we are used to doing! The picture is taken in Norfolk Square, near Paddington Station – a nice green space to hang out in while you are waiting for a train.

Then the bike was stowed in the guards van of the First Great Western train bound for West Wales. All that remained was the hilly 15 mile cycle home from Carmarthen………

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Seed Swaps and Scythe Stall 2014

Due to unforeseen circumstances we will not be holding a seed swap at the National Woollen Museum this year. We will instead have a stand at the Carmarthen Seedy Saturday and Green Fair in St Peter’s Civic Hall, Saturday 8th March, 10am-3pm

As well as bringing along home-saved seed from our garden, we will have the scythe shop with us, offering scythe sales, information and advice, so come along for a chat! See the Carmarthen Seedy Saturday Facebook page for more information about the fair.

We will also intending to take seeds to the first seed swap at The Botanical Gardens of Wales on 23rd February.

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Grafting Apple Trees – collecting scion wood

Collecting graft material from an apple tree

Collecting graft material from an apple tree

Here is Phil collecting material for grafting from an apple tree in our garden. The scions are stored with their butt ends in the ground to await grafting on to new root stock, either by us or during our Apple Tree Grafting Workshop later in the spring.

Labelled bundles of apple scions being stored ready for use in the spring

Labelled bundles of apple scions being stored ready for use in the spring

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Bare Root Apple Trees for Sale

graft tree buds removedFollowing on from last years grafting course at the Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust, we have a small number of bare root apple trees for sale. All are on MM106 semi-vigorous rootstock and are varieties that have been selected to grow well in West Wales. Trees are £12 each, see below for variety list.

Trees can either be collected from the Trust, or from Newcastle Emlyn Country Market every Friday by prior arrangement. Please contact us for more details.

There will also be another opportunity to learn to graft your own trees on an Apple Tree Grafting Workshop on 21st April. The course is priced at £35 and includes the chance to take home two trees that you have grafted. See our course page for more details.

Apple Tree Variety List

All are on MM106 semi-vigorous rootstock

  • Cornish Aromatic
    Eating apple, very tasty, pollination group
    D, use apples in December – February
  • Lanes Prince Albert
    Late storing cooking apple, reliable prolific cropper, pollination group D, use apples in
    September – March
  • Tom Putt
    Triple use – autumn cooking apple and also suitable for eating and cider making, pollination group
    C, use apples in
    September – November
  • Ellisons Orange
    Early autumn eating apple, pollination group,
    D – partially self fertile, use in
    September / October
  • Grenadier
    Autumn cooking apple, good cropper, pollination group C, use in
    August – November
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Course Dates 2014

The New Year is here and we have started putting together our 2014 course programme. There are our popular Introductory Scythe Courses and a Peening Workshop as usual, and another Apple Tree Grafting Workshop following on from the sucess of our first one last year. This year we are also offering a Hand Hay Making Workshop.

See our course page for more details on all courses.

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The Fruits of our Labour

Bramble the Hebridean ram enjoying some hand made hay

Bramble the Hebridean ram enjoying some hand made hay

Above is a picture of our Hebridean ram tucking into a rack full of hay that we made in the summer. It is very satisfying to see the sheep enjoy the fruits of our labours.

We will be getting our taste of the results of our work too. On Christmas Day our family will be tucking into roast lamb from one of our home-bred Shetland x Hebridean lambs. The lamb was reared entirely on grass and hay here at the Trust. The meat we have tried so far was delicious.

Amazing stuff, grass!

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Gift Vouchers for Scythe Courses or Scythe Kits Gift

Looking for something a little different for a Christmas or Birthday gift? We are now offering gift vouchers for our Scythe Courses and Scythe Kits.

A Scythe Course Gift Voucher costs £50 and will allow the recipient to book a place on one Introductory Scythe Course at the Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust in 2014

A Scythe Course and Kit Gift Voucher costs £195 and includes:

  • The opportunity to book a place on one Introductory Scythe course at the Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust in 2014
  • A One Blade Scythe Kit with a “Ready to Mow” blade (see
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Colourful Waxcap Fungi found at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust

Clavaria zollingeri (Violet Coral) in Penboyr churchyard

Clavaria zollingeri (Violet Coral) in Penboyr churchyard

My daughter and I have had an interest in Waxcaps (Hygrocebe spp) and associated fungi since we were lucky enough to discover an important site for them at Penboyr Churchyard (os ref: SN 360363), a short walk from our home. We have been enjoying their display for several autumns now, including the rare Violet CoralClavaria zollingeri. This amazing fungi looks like violet fingers rising out of the ground and is on the Red Data list for endangered fungi.

We were delighted to find several kinds of waxcap on the Trust land this autumn, pictures of which can be seen below.

What is so important about Waxcaps? Well firstly, they are very attractive, emerging in a range of jewel like colours including reds, yellows, whites and greens. More importantly, they have become increasingly uncommon, or even threatened species throughout the UK due to changes in land management.

Waxcaps and associated fungi such as Coral, Spindle and Club fungi(Clavaria and Clavulinopsis spp) require undisturbed, low fertility semi-natural grassland (not ploughed or fertilised). The same conditions in the Trust hay meadows that create the ideal conditions for a profusion of wildflowers in the summer provide ideal conditions for Waxcap fungi in the autumn.

Yet, according to the Pembrokeshire Fungus Recording Network, it has been estimated that more then 90% of this habitat has been lost since the 15th century, through agricultural intensification, loss of land to development and neglect / abandonment of grassland leading to scrub encroachment.

If you are interested in finding out more, the Pembrokeshire Fungus Recording Network produce an excellent booklet called “An Identification Guide to Waxcaps in West Wales”.

If you are not lucky enough to have access to areas of permanent grassland, churchyards and burial grounds are an excellent place to look for such fungi. They often contain remnant populations of the flora and fauna once found in the surrounding countryside but have been protected from agricultural intensification. The charity Caring for God’s Acre are doing excellent work encouraging churchs and local councils to manage their burial grounds so as to benifit wildlife (including encouraging the use of the scythe!).

Why not go out and see what you can find in your fields, or your local park or burial ground?!

Hygrocebe punicea (Crimson Waxcap)

Hygrocebe punicea (Crimson Waxcap)

Hygrocebe pratensis (Meadow Waxcap)

Hygrocebe pratensis (Meadow Waxcap)

Yellow Hygrocebe sp, not yet positivly identified

Yellow Hygrocebe sp, not yet positivly identified

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Harvesting Bracken

Bracken Mowing - cut bracken to the left, uncut to the right

Bracken Mowing – cut bracken to the left, uncut to the right

I have been using our trimming scythe to harvest bracken in one of the fields at the Trust. Mature bracken stalks are pretty tough, so I used a 65cm Styria blade, which is capable of cutting rougher stuff without sustaining unreasonable damage to the cutting edge.

I say “harvesting” rather then “controlling” the bracken because the material I cut will be put to good use in our garden. We use it to mulch garden beds over the winter, where it breaks down to a dark brown, rich looking compost, helps to control weeds and protects the soil over the winter. Bracken is a rich source of phosphorus and the mulch is a useful addition to the garden ecosystem.

Interestingly, using bracken as a mulch in the garden imitates what bracken does out in the field. Left uncut, the bracken fronds collapse and die during the autumn and in effect, create it’s own mulch, covering the ground and killing out competing grasses and herbage. Come the spring, the young bracken fronds emerge with little competing vegetation around them and soon come to dominate an area and spread. The bracken mulch will also protect the underlying rhizomes from frost damage.

By removing the bracken from the field in the autumn, we put it’s excellent mulching capacities to use in a much more useful place (our garden!) and open up the bracken sward in the field, allowing light into competing grass and herbage which will then be in place to compete with the emerging bracken fronds in the spring and check it’s growth. The bracken rhizomes are also more exposed to frost, potentially weakening them.

This is the fifth autumn that we have cut and removed bracken from this area. It is notable that when the bracken is cut now there is grass underneath, whereas in the first year there was only sparse sorrel plants. Although autumn cutting of the bracken does not get rid of it, it does appear to check it’s spread and it provides us with a useful product.

Historically, bracken was an important part of the rural economy with uses including animal bedding and thatch.

The end of the mowing - windrows of bracken

The end of the mowing – windrows of bracken

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