Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Old-Fashioned, Better By-Hand, Methods and Tools

I've been thinking a lot on old methods of doing things that really work exceptionally well, even if they are not common usage anymore. This post is merely a beginning point to write about them; more will follow as time flies by.
Using a scythe for mowing comes to mind, although I don't have one YET. I've read several websites thoroughly, and several times over, about using a scythe. The problem many folks have had with using one is "fit", and if the scythe isn't fitted to the user, all attempts at using it will be frustrating and backbreaking. 

So, I hope to order a scythe next spring, funds permitting. Our back yard is too steep to safely cut with a riding mower, although it can be done... just not by me! It is also too large to consider cutting with a hand push or motorized mower and cutting with a scythe would do the job nicely. If I am lucky enough to get a small dairy goat next year, I can let the grasses grow for supplemental hay I can cut with a scythe.

Sorry, I don't remember where I got this cranberry rake/scoop photo

Another tool that has come to my attention is a wooden cranberry "rake" for dry-harvesting. Cranberries are among my top favorite fruits although I have had little knowledge of actual production and harvesting. I see the commercials showing fields that are flooded, but that's about all I knew last week. I did take a miniature train ride once through some cranberry bogs near Boston when I was a child, but I only remember the train! I lived in Boone, NC for many years, and a nearby community, appropriately named 'Cranberry' used to grow cranberries a hundred years ago. Today most US cranberries are grown in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington and Oregon.

The Rodale newsletter recently had a story about the first, and maybe the only organic cranberry grower in the US, a 4th generation family business, recently turning from dairy to organic cranberries. They now use an Amish-made wooden rake to dry hand harvest their cranberries, for several reasons. By not flooding the fields and mechanically churning up the berries to float, and then vacuuming the berries into huge trucks, they avoid damaging the berries, which extends the shelf life of the berries and results in far fewer culls. Also, berries that are not flooded to harvest are not over-saturated, so they have minimal shrinkage. They say gentle handled, hand harvested cranberries can last for several months.

The video is interesting for the technique, but in my opinion it should have been several minutes shorter.

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