We’re talking about good vibrations #this weekend

The scythe feels surprisingly light when I lift it. It swings through the clover easily, and the movement feels natural, though I know I’ll get smoother with practice. And the feel of it makes clear — if you’re going to cut grass with a knife, you want the blade to be sharp.

It’s an agile kind of skill, and it’s exhilarating. I’ve been waiting for this morning since early spring — Shelby and Steve Howland from Howland Tools in Shelburne Falls have come to the Working Hands, Working Lands series at Williamstown Rural Lands, to teach a tradition centuries old. Shelby tells us he likes the quiet efficiency of it, getting outdoors on a summer morning and knowing what’s growing in his yard and fields.

That’s partly why I’m here — I want to care for the land where I live, and the native plants and pollinators who live here with me. And now I know what scything feels like, I’m finding out I love it the way I love rolling pie crust or driving a stick shift, or cantering a farm horse up an old wood road. It’s a skill you get to know by feel and subtle vibration.

Shelby Howland demonstrates how to peen and sharpen a scythe blade at Williamstown Rural Lands.

Shelby Howland demonstrates how to peen and sharpen a scythe blade at Williamstown Rural Lands.

Shelby shows us how to sharpen the scythe when you’re in the field — an easy flicking motion when he does it, like a fiddler flying through a reel. He hands around the sharpening stone. It’s wet and as smooth as find sand paper, as long as my hand and tapered like a canoe.

He lets me try gliding it down the knife edge while he can watch and correct my grip and angle when I’m holding it against the metal. And I think of making bread, the way I learned from my mother — you know how the dough feels when you’ve kneaded it smooth, and you can tell when a loaf is baked through by turning it over to thump the bottom and listen for the sound it makes.

This weekend …

Tanglewood is at it’s height — looking ahead to a BUTI concert of harp music in tribute to the BSO’s longtime principal harpist, Ann Hobson Pilot, on Sunday, and a performance honoring acclaimed poet Rita Dove tonight — and National Poet Joy Harjo next week, and the Silk Road Ensemble with Rhiannon Giddens and more.

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Hancock Shaker Village runs a CSA from its historic gardens in the warmer season.
Oct 4 2023 @ 10:00 am
Hancock Shaker Village will take a deep dive into the Shaker world! on a Discovery Tour each Wednesday morning, led by experienced Village staff.
A pumpkin hangs in a tree, carved with a luna moth in flight, at the Naumkeag Pumpkin Walk.
Oct 4 2023 @ 5:00 pm
The Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show is back at Naumkeag this year with more than 1,500 jack-o-lanterns and an expanded schedule —explore the gardens as Naumkeag transforms into a celebration of autumn.
Corinna May appears in the Wharton Plays as the Spirit in The Fullness of Life and as Alida in Roman Fever.
Oct 4 2023 @ 5:30 pm
Wharton on Wednesdays returns to the Mount on first Wednesdays — listen to quintessential Edith Wharton short stories brought to life by local actors.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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