Flax Study Group Part 1
(Sorry. I got to the first part of the harvest and realized this could grow into a book! So i will tell you about the violence and weapons like swords, brakes, hackles and skutching later.)
There are many reasons you might want to join a local guild. There is the comradery of people who are also interested in what you are interested in. There may be access to shared equipment or resources. There may also be the opportunity to join a study group. The Guild Ann and I belong to is reasonably old by North American standards and reasonably large for a local guild. We have members with interests from spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing to tatting, lace making and naalbinding . We even have at least one (Icelandic) warp weighted loom represented within the membership. We have socials every Monday nights if we are not having a meeting which happens once a month. At socials we spin, weave, knit and chat. One of the chats led to the idea to form a study group to grow and process flax. I think that was about a year ago.
Pre planting planning:
Cathy Louise offered planting space at her farm and started to research on seeds appropriate for our climate and length of summer. I tracked down books in the library, looked on line for information, and volunteered to photograph the experiment. We had a number of people that expressed interest but not all made it through to the end. We found a particularly good book on growing flax in Canada. Cathy Louise bought the seeds (we divided the cost amongst the participants; $7.00 Canadian) and prepared a row in her farm garden for the planting to take place. I think it was 4 feet wide by 40 feet long.
We had to wait till the field was dry enough to work (there was flooding again this year as the snow melted)
This is April 4, 2019 at Cathy Louise’s field south of Ottawa while most of my garden was still covered in snow.
Day 1 planting:
2 Cathy Louise Leads Us to the field
The study group arrived on a bright sunny day (May 5 2019) to rake, stake and plant the 3 bags of seeds to start the beginning of the practical part of the study group.
- density 4 seeds per inch hand scattered
Step 1 measure and mark the planting section for the flax.
3-4 Positioning the Flax Plot
Step 2 weed and rake the area of planting. Put up a line to mark the planting area.
5-6 Weeding and raking to prepare for the flax seeds
Step 3 we had three seed packages so we cut the section into thirds and marked them by a stake.
We planted each section by scattering the seeds by hand. Then raked and tamped them down.
14 Afterwords, relaxing with everyone on the deck (there use to be cake)
The end of planting was celebrated by cake on the deck!
Cathy Louise gave progress reports as the seeds became plants on our study group face book page; OVWSG Flax Project. (There was much rejoicing when we saw the little green bits and they didn’t seem to be weeds!)
(Skip ahead a little)
Weeding party- June 08 2019
- Checking the amount of growth of the row. Height just over 4 inches?
- Instructions- if it’s not flax pull it.
- A quick touch up along the edges (was that implement called a stirrup hoe?
- visit the very pretty cows
- Celebrate with cake and ice tea!!
15- 21 Some of this green is not like the other green so get rid of it! Glenn’s technique is vary relaxing.
22 We Work hard evicting and terrorizing weeds. So we relaxed with Cake and ice tea! it was vary good!
All this took just over an hour and then we celebrated with cake!
Cathy Louise posted updates at the flax grew
June 22 Cathy Louise Posts update on flax groth
June 28 updated on flax from Cathy Louise
July 7 update from Cathy Louise
July 11 In early July, Strings were added across the flax to help keep it upright before a large rainstorm was forecast (Cathy Louise, Bernadette and Julie did the stringing)
July 22 the seed heads suggest we should be harvesting soon updated picture from Cathy Louise
First harvest Saturday July 27, 2019 at 10 am. The harvest took an hour to complete.
28 Flax flower and seed pods
29 – 39 the Harvesting Teem. small bundles were pulled and tied with a flax plant to hold the bundle securly. the bundles were staked along the fence rail to dry.
40 the first part of the harvest is in . look at the weeds that snuck in among the flax plants.
You can see that we left about 1/4th of the row to continue ripening so it could be used as seed for next year. We split the remaining flax in two more harvests so we could not only have viable seeds but also see how leaving it to grow longer would change the characteristics of the fibre.
To also give comparison we were going to rett most of the fibre in a trough but wanted to also see what effect dew retting would create. To sate our curiosity Bernadette took a few bundles home to dew rett (spreading and lay it out on the grass, turning it to start the rotting of the outer part of the stalk to allow access to the inner fibre)
I will show you more of what happened to the unsuspecting flax plants after they were pulled up by their roots and left to dry by the fence. That will be for next week, or i am sure you will feel like you are reading a book!