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Thinking about getting a sickle

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Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Ghost » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:39 pm


Some of you feed fresh fodder to your rabbits, I wonder of you can help me out with fodder for guinea pigs? David's working herd of guinea pigs is fed a diet of primarily pellets. When I can, I feed them a mixture of fresh weeds and grasses. They love this mix and they will eat the fresh mix even when pellets are in the dish, they also appear healthier when provided fresh fodder. I enjoy keeping Davids guinea pig herd happy and healthy.

I looked around at getting a sickle help in harvesting fresh fodder. Looking around I found different blade shapes. I'm not sure which would be best. I will only be harvesting a 5 gallon bucked size load. And will probable only harvest once per week. It looks like I will be primarily harvesting Johnson grass and other tall grasses. I Am not interested in clearing the land, so I will most likely just harvest the upper portion of the plants with the most leaves and seed heads. Also there ate some places with a mix of plants/weeds and I wish to selectively harvest.

Does anyone here have experience with the use of a sickle to harvest fodder? What shape of blade do you think would make it easier to collect the fodder. Remember collecting is more important than just chopping it down.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#2  Unread postby MaggieJ » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:50 pm


I always used secateurs to harvest greens. That way I could take however much I wanted of selected plants. I used a 5 gallon bucket and could fill it in about 10-15 minutes, depending on the season.

A sickle needs to be very sharp to do a good job and is much more hazardous to use.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#3  Unread postby akane » Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:04 pm


People have gotten them to hand cut enough grass to make hay for a small herd for the winter but a 5g bucket I could usually do by hand or the occasional pair of scissors or various plant specific trimming tools. The branch cutters or other long plant shears would have been plenty to cut larger areas in strips if I wanted to do it a little faster. Normally I used bags and filled 1-2 grocery bags or 2/3rds of a garbage bag in no more than 30mins depending if I was wandering between different areas growing different plants or had a concentrated food source to gather from one spot. Depends on the land you are taking it from and what you are harvesting. The only time I used something like a sickle I needed to clear grass and various thin weeds down about 800' of fenceline and no one had a battery run weed whacker that was suitable. It gets tiring fast and a bit hazardous if you aren't cutting individual large, clear areas with space on all sides. I usually collected forage between and around things that were purposefully planted or obstacles that couldn't be mowed close so I didn't have very open space to cut. If you have unwanted plants in the mix you also may have to sort them after you cut it all down using a scythe or sickle because it's harder to target anything specific.

If you use a sickle the blade depends on the amount of free space you have for cutting and what you are cutting. A shorter, straighter blade will do smaller areas with less momentum and thicker plants such as when cutting various weeds around obstacles. You can find those sold for weeding gardens sometimes and are usually a thicker blade. A larger, more curved blade is usually designed to swing farther and cover a larger area but still be equally light weight so it often cuts uniformly planted plots of grass or grain better than small areas of mixed forage. The more serrated one may be for clearing small areas of thicker plants like old berry canes or reducing bushes.

To not slice your own leg use a backhand swing where possible. Turn the blade to point away from you or toward the same direction as the side you are holding it on and start it in front of you swinging away. Just watch what's next to you. When you need to swing from the outside across your body or pull toward you then you can place a stick in front of your leg with your other hand. Should the sickle not stop soon enough after cutting the plants it lodges in the stick and not your own leg or arm. A properly made sickle is meant to keep swinging easily so you don't have to put in as much effort and you can misjudge the momentum or how much force it is taking to cut a random weed.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Homer » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:59 am


If you're going to do a larger amount get a scythe. They still harvest meadows by hand with them in Spain.

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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#5  Unread postby Ghost » Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:03 am


Looking around on YouTube I found demo of some one using a serrated rice knife. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meoFRWXP7og This seems like what I was thinking about. Using this method, I grab a clump of vegetation then cut it away from from the rest. Here is a close up of blade #4.
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I'm not interested in a scythe, because it takes up too much space. I did not need to cut the entire plant and I'm not interested on maintaining the land. David hires mowing people that use gas powered mowers for grounds maintains.

Edit: add ps
PS: This still needs a handle, the photo is fore scale only.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#6  Unread postby hotzcatz » Sun Jul 15, 2018 5:40 pm


We have a couple of the small Japanese garden sickles around. I've found the one which has the blade almost at a ninety degree angle to the handle to be very effective at gathering bunny forage. There's also the one with the blade at less of an angle with the serrations such as you show in your picture, although I usually grab the other one before the serrated one.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Nisaku-7-in-Grass-Sickle-Wooden-Handle-NJP130/301175932 One similar to this one is the one which is usually grabbed first for minor grass gathering. I also have several full sized scythes and snaths. The aluminum snath has a brush scythe blade on it and the wooden snath has a grass scythe blade on it. But, for just getting bunny food, the little Japanese hand sickle is usually the weapon of choice.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#7  Unread postby akane » Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:28 pm


The short, straighter Japanese garden sickles are the easiest to find for weeding and not real expensive. For cutting grass a serrated bladed would probably work but you don't need it unless you plan to never sharpen it and don't pay for something that holds a good edge. Serration helps make up for the lack of a sharp enough edge or the size to cleanly cut what you are trying to. A regular blade should slice grass and thin weeds with actually less effort and not shredding as much plant matter compared to dragging a saw across it but for small amounts you probably won't notice much difference. The cut plants would also take longer to dry out or go bad with a thinner cut but not important if you are only cutting what they eat in a few hours or less. I sometimes cut an extra grocery bag and stuffed it in the fridge to feed at least some fresh food without collecting as often.

I'd just grab a pair of hedge shears. I already found 3 in the old outbuildings and the blade doesn't really matter including slightly rusty and possibly older than me. Chop, chop until the patch is all down and scoop it up into a bag. Won't matter the type of plant or size of patches and clumps you are cutting until you get to things as tough as small tree branches. Takes some extra force smashing them against my hip or shoulder to get through too thick of branch because of course I never bothered going back to get the branch loppers instead. :lol: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Worth-Garde ... /205582394
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Dood » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:36 am


I predominantly pillage from fallow fields in my area ;) and mainly use a 16" hand scythe so I can cut what I want and avoid undesirables like milkweed and pampas grass

I have a bigger scythe but only use it in my planted hay field where weeds are not an issues

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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Ghost » Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:02 pm


hotzcatz wrote:We have a couple of the small Japanese garden sickles around. I've found the one which has the blade almost at a ninety degree angle to the handle to be very effective at gathering bunny forage. There's also the one with the blade at less of an angle with the serrations such as you show in your picture, although I usually grab the other one before the serrated one.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Nisaku-7-in-Grass-Sickle-Wooden-Handle-NJP130/301175932


The blade on that one looks similar to blade #7 from my photo. Do you use the "grab a clump and cut" method shown in the YouTube video with the straight blade knife?
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#10  Unread postby hotzcatz » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:21 am


Ghost wrote:
hotzcatz wrote:We have a couple of the small Japanese garden sickles around. I've found the one which has the blade almost at a ninety degree angle to the handle to be very effective at gathering bunny forage. There's also the one with the blade at less of an angle with the serrations such as you show in your picture, although I usually grab the other one before the serrated one.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Nisaku-7-in-Grass-Sickle-Wooden-Handle-NJP130/301175932


The blade on that one looks similar to blade #7 from my photo. Do you use the "grab a clump and cut" method shown in the YouTube video with the straight blade knife?


I didn't look at the video, but the 'grab a clump and swipe' method works really well with the shorter sickles. Be VERY aware of where your fingers are, though. Gloves may be a good idea on your grass holding hand. Probably not so good for the sickle hand since you want as much control of the tool as possible. Because of the proximity of fingers to sharp edges, frequently, I'll just hook the sickle at the back of the grass stems and pull forward. That will cut off the grass without getting my fingers anywhere near it.
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Re: Thinking about getting a sickle

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Preitler » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:08 am


Hi,

I do all my foraging with sickle and scythe, I'm known here as the rabbit guy who's mostly seen with a scythe and a basket on his back since I forage everywhere someone else doesn't bother to mow. The basket holds about as much grass I can lift and carry.
If I find the sickle I could make a pictures of my tools this weekend.

With the sickle I mow mostly with one hand, getting the other anywhere close is risky, well, be sure to have some bandaid handy.
Sharpnes is important, I peen my tools ( right word? I mean beat/hammer the edge) about 2-3 times a year, and use the whetstone daily, with the scythe about every 10 minutes. It makes a huge difference if the tools are sharp, or just "sort of sharp", since they don't sharpen like a knife but you actually use the straighend burr for cutting, and that wears off/bends easily.
At least with the traditional forged blades - I've never seen stuff like that pictured above.

Since I got problems with my knees when working too much with the sickle I modified one with a long handle to a mini scythe, took some getting used to but works good enough. Well, every tool needs some getting used to to use it efficiently.

Whenever possible I use the scythe, much better ergonomics. If you don't have whole meadows to make hay I think one with a shorter blade is more versatile.
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