Sunday, May 07, 2006


I have been using a medium grit sandpaper to clean a variety of handtools I use in my garden. There's a pleasant rhythm to the work, working the rust away, then using a file and a honing stone to sharpen the tools' edges.

I re-mounted my hand cultivator on a heavy oak dowel that I shaped with a spokeshave.

These tools have been mine for years, but they feel more mine than ever now.

Friday, May 05, 2006


One of the reasons -- one of the many! -- that I stay behind in my gardening projects is that my farm offers so many nice places to sit or stretch beneath a tree and read.

One of the things I read is science fiction magazines. How long since you've looked, for instance, at a copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction? You should -- and you can take a glance and more importantly subscribe at the F&SF site where in a cool move editor Gordon Van Gelder has posted the full texts of this year's Nebula nominees from his magazine.

Find yourself a tree and read F&SF under it!


I've been using dowels for various things this week, ranging from a new roller for the reel mower to a new handle for a hand-cultivator. I learned pretty quickly to spend the extra money for heavy oak dowels than the lighter, cheaper and far less effective softwood ones.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


This year I am using my mattock rather than a tiller, much less a tractor, to turn my garden. I am of course behind, and the fact that our area is now five inches behind on rainfall doesn't make it any easier.

But this year easiness is not only what I cannot afford, it's what I do not want to want.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Brush Axe

In some ways my favorite of the tools, though most favored because of watching my son wield it one memorable day rather than any great attachment to the implement itself.

Indeed, the dilemma of the brush axe when I use it is that its long handle and wicked curved/hooked blade find me as often thinking of earlier incarnations of California's current governor as of the task at hand.

Conan The Bramble Clearer!

Monday, May 01, 2006


I love the idea of my scythe even more than I love the idea of my reel mower. I bought the scythe for $20 at a yard sale and have always loved it more than used it, although it has done some work over the past year.

The best day's use it got was after my friend Glenn Dillon showed me how to use it. Proper scything involves a dragging, rather than swinging technique, accompanied by frequent sharpenings of the blade. Sharpening the scythe blade is, at least, easier than sharpening -- or trying to -- the blades of the reel mower.

Now I am trying to repair the scythe, too. The rings that hold its handles in=place were loose when I bought the tool, and have continued to weaken and give.

So I am trying to tighten them, or figure a way to fashion new ones.


I have spent a lot of the past couple of days trying restore an old -- at least 50 years, maybe more -- reel mower. Maybe you know the kind: cast iron workings, wood handle and shaft, heavy and awkward, no engine.

That last is what I love most about the mower, or at least the idea of the reel mower. Whatever industry and exploitation and pollution -- and craft, skill, commerce -- went ito its manhuafcture, that was it. The reel mower's supply chain is me, as is its fuel source.

Despite much of the work being done on what many -- and most of my neighbors and relatives -- consider a sabbath, I was delivered of some prime invective (creative anmd foul even for me) as I worked to loosen long-srusted bolts and sharpen long-dulled blades. Maybe you heard me.

The mower -- I may give it a name -- is closer to working now than it was or has been for the past quarter-century at least -- but is still not quite there.

Nor is my property well-suited to this kind of mower.

But I think I may be.