The story doesn’t end there with just a sickle – not while I’m all fired-up about scimitar-shaped blades and steam-bent snathes. And don’t yet actually possess one. Since we are habitually skint (broke, penniless – but in debt to no-one, let it be known) there was little hope of sending off an order to scythe connection, or scythe supply or scythe shop or Marugg. I would have to start seriously hunting through every vide-grenier every sunday until I found a cheap one that needed restoration. While waiting for this sunday to come around I started looking at the trees around the house for likely-looking snaths among their branches. Which fitted in neatly with my general survey of Useful Things on our property or around the village. I soon realised that I hadn’t a clue about most of the trees I’ve been walking past for the last 8 years. Not even the names of some of them, let alone their qualities and properties.
Take the tree that shades the little house we live in, the Cook’s House (separate but joined to, the Big House). I have spent many hours of a siesta looking up through its leafy layers (and this summer, trying to snap the comings and goings of a blackbird family at its nest) – but if I ever knew its name in French or English I’ve forgotten it – it’s simply been that Thorny Tree. This tree had the right-shaped branches alright – but was it soft-wood? Or hard-wood, but brittle?
So I did a crash-course via cuil on this and several others that I noted as having a good curve to their branches. And what surprises there were! This tree was none other than an acacia – a Black Locust no less, called Robinia in France. It is an extraordinary tree – and more on it, and some others in the vicinity, can be found here under Trees. So this morning, with a quick apology and a promise that its sacrifice was a worthy one – I lopped off a limb.
I had my snath – or at least the makings of one. I had but to wait ’til tomorrow and the vide-grenier in Sainte-Valiere, and I might get the blade to go with it . . .
But in the very next hour I found not one, but two complete scythes. Elderly, rusty and unlovely to look at:
The one on the left doesn’t actually belong to me – yet. I found it when I made a last tour of Monsieur Chalret’s potager, before carrying away my double ladder. I thought I’d just check out a few of his trees for my survey, and looked in to the little stone cabane. I’ve been inside a few times over the summer, and had not spotted it hanging up in the rafters. The rope was a last-ditch attempt to get another day’s work out of it, and it was loose and pretty hopeless. The last days of this magnificent kitchen garden have not been seen yet, for I have my eye on it – for the future. But its latter days must have been rather sad if this clapped out implement says anything. This little plot was well-conceived and deserves its own post someday soon.
Clambering back over the two stone walls and over the storm ditch that separates our two gardens, I was exhilarated with my discovery (and plotting how to refurbish it in such a way that he would feel delighted to offer it to me . . .) yet still preoccupied with trees and their branches. So instead of starting straight in on disentangling the rope-repair and wire-brushing the blade, I took a walk around our little parc. And while noting that we had a dozen or more clones of Robinias sprouting up around a big parent-tree, I spotted the top handle end of the ugly duckling on the right. It’s made entirely of metal, probably the creation of the smith who worked on site for the previous owner, and severely utilitarian. It must have been the talk of the village at the time – so modern – so practical – so strong. It was half-covered in the ground ivy and wild garlic that have invaded this once weed-free, shaded, leisure-area.
Now I don’t believe in fate, or Fate. Propinquity is as much as I will allow – and nothing propinks quite like it. If your head’s full of something and all your senses are tuned to that subject – then you might well get some results that wouldn’t have arrived if you’d been thinking about something else. A bit of ‘Effort brings its own Rewards’. Plus propinquity.
So now I suddenly have two scythes and not a meadow to call my own. But am I ready for the End of the World as We Know It? I should co-co. That’s English slang – go look it up on cuil. Say it : koo- ul. It’s cool.