The use of small hand tools in farming can be found all over the world, however in the so-called ‘developed‘ world many of these tools, and the skills in how to use, maintain and repair them, have been lost, as people are increasingly ensnared in dependence on fossil fuel powered machinery.
The very interesting thing is that almost everywhere you go around the world where they still use small cutting hand tools (sickles), you will find tools that are almost the same — with a very similar size and similar curved shape.
The education in the correct use of such tried and tested tools can help in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. We all need to put away our small machinery and get back to our roots of hand tools. I have had many of conversations on the fact that you can do more work in a shorter amount of time with small machinery when compared to hand tools. I recall such a conversation while I was working at the Permaculture Institute (Tagari Farm) many years ago and a challenge was put to me: who can cut faster — me with my machete and my hook or the challenger (who had done council work as a brush cutter) with a brush cutter with a blade on?
So the challenge was set up on two different terraces of the same width with the grass the same height (both had had their last cut at the same time with a tractor), and with a large audience we were off.
From the get go it was neck and neck, by the middle it was still neck and neck, and when we finally got to the end some 45 minutes later it was still neck and neck, with a tie for the finish. In a discussion afterwards, with the consideration that the more work you do the more tired you get for the hand tools and for the brush cutter the more the vibration affects you, we concluded that it remained a tie, with the possibility that the hand tools may come out better off than the brush cutter. This was considering when taking into account the fuel needed for the brush cutter, as well as the energy required in the manufacture of both pieces of equipment. Also, after only two hours of using a brush cutter you start to adverserly affect your nervous system due to vibration.
Hand tools are the old way to go for a new frontier. Do you know how to use them correctly?
Permaculture Tools runs a range of courses on the correct use of hand tools.
Permaculture Tools also sells a range of hand tools (more coming soon).
The Permaculture Research Institute are stockists of Permaculture Tools. Find their collection here.