2020 Flax project year 2 (Coronas Virus version)
Last fall we harvested and processed the flax grown over the summer. As part of the process, we removed the seeds from the stocks. We got quite a bit of seed. Some of which will be used to make flax-dressing (also known as elephant snot). It is a truly disgusting mucus looking substance that makes spinning flax much easier. But you don’t need very much to make a reasonable quantity so we ended up with more seed than we started with. Since everyone wanted to have a second year of the project, we put aside most of the three harvestings of seeds.
– First, and largest harvest, was expected to yield the finer flax but less ripe seeds (500g)
– Second and third harvest were a smaller patch we had kept in reserve to check the increase in coarseness of the fibre and to obtain fully mature seeds. (550g)
At the density planted last year this would allow us two rows and some left over for flax dressing.
April 25th 2020 – a beautiful day at Cathy Louise and Henry’s Farm
1 Henry with the two flax plots
The ground is free of snow, has been tilled and Cathy Louise and her husband Henry plant the seeds in two 4′ X 50′ plots. The east plot is on the left and has the second and third harvests seeds (550g), the west plot on the right has the first harvest seed (500g).
By May 8th 2020 , undaunted by late snow flurries, the seeds are sprouting and looking like a green mist on the ground!
2 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
3 West plot – First harvest seeds
4-5 Close ups of seeds
May 18th 2020 (the long weekend for those of us who are getting lost in as to the date), Cathy Louise checks the progress of the flax.
6 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
7 West plot – First harvest seeds
At this point, it looks like the first harvest seeds may be a little slower or have a slightly lower germination rate but they are pretty close.
May 28th 2020, Next growth check. The flax is 4 inches tall and filling in
8 East plot – second and third harvests seeds (some of Cathy Louise’s Market garden is visible to the left of the plot.)
9 West plot – First harvest seeds
The weeds are starting to show and are about the same height as the flax. It is time to call in the weeding crew. We have a quick email chat about weeding dates at first booking the weekend so everyone can help out, possibly in shifts. It was quickly realized quite a few of us did not have plans for Monday! This time the ill fortune for many of us on reduced hours or off work completely is to our advantage! (Finally a good thing has arisen from all the bad.)
So adding masks to gardening equipment we will be heading out to see Cathy Louise and Henry on June 1st!
June 1st 2020, Weeding part 1 (we saw people we don’t live with!! it was wonderful!)
We arrived at 10am and were impressed with the amount of growth from the flax. We quickly got to work.
Looking at the flax we suspect we will increase the seed density next planting. At this point both plots look quite healthy. Here are a few close ups.
15-16 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
17-18 West plot – First harvest seeds
As you can see we had a number of different weeding techniques today. Glenn used his now traditional horizontal weeding position and Bernadette preferred the milk crate over the kneeling stool we had brought. We also had examples of kneeling and standing, with back supported by resting one arm on the upper leg (Quads). All techniques worked since you can see the carcasses of the extracted weed army littered about the valiant and triumphant weeders!!
19-26 different weeding techniques
The rows, being quite long, we all were able to keep socially distanced while still being able to chat. It was wonderful to see everyone. We got a good amount done but we wore out, let us say we made a strategic withdrawal from the field before getting both rows fully free from the weeds. We hope to finish up the first batch of weeding on Saturday.
Here is today’s work crew. As we wearily wandered from the field leaving the flax, a few remaining weeds and the silent member of the group to watch over the flax, so no one nibbles on it before it’s ready for harvest.
10 thoughts on “2020 Flax project year 2 (Coronas Virus version)”
That looks like hard work! Not the weeding – the getting down then getting up from the ground! Anyone over 50 will appreciate what we mean.
However, must have been worth it just to be able to socialise.
Very interesting read Jan – we enjoyed all the ‘flax posts’ last year and we’re looking forward to reading more this year.
it is a lot of work and each weeder had a difernt style. from lounging on the ground to staning bent with wate suported by one arm on a leg. in the end i think all the work is wort it! the fiber is amazing. we are going to try feald retting and slightly longer troff retting.
i will try to keep you uptodate!
Oh wow, I look forward to reading more about this later!
Thanks! the first 2 weedings are done and we have the gide strings in so it dosnt get plastered in the rain. we have already noted that were we got the seeds a bit more closely planted than the literature suggested we have a thicker crop and its supporting itself more.we sill see if this changes the quality of the fiber in the end.
You can tell it’s a pandemic when people get excited about weeding 😆
Looks like the seeds from last year are doing great. I look forward to seeing the process again this year.
yes weeding is usually a bribery induced occasion with cake and ice tea. or in my back yard blueberrys! (unfortunatly no flowering blueberrys so no blueberrys for me this year.) it was unusually exciting to see people who were not Glenn!
Quite a process and hard work. I used to use flax for papermaking. I had no idea of the work involved.
it makes exquisite yarn i bet it made wonderful paper too!
As a spinner of the bast plants as well as animal fibers, I have researched what it takes to process flax from the retting to the spinning. As a historical (hysterical?!) reenactor, I strive to understand that in order to impart that to my students when I teach classes in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Its a tremendous amount of work to go from the raising the sheep, shearing, cleaning, dyeing the fiber, combing or carding just to get to the spinning and plying of the yarn, before you can knit or weave with it.
Flax has so many more steps in it than just cleaning and washing. You must do so much more to extract the fiber from the woody stems, before you ever get to the spinning part!
i lured to spin in the SCA,(Kjarvala origonaly from Westyorvic) i was still alergic to wool and lanolin so i was handed a dropspindle and a handfull of cotton and proceded to spin. no one mentioned that it was considered more dificult to spin cotton.
i have a cuple of fleeces to wash this summer but i have lurned to raze the buckets and love my folding ikea drying racks. not nearly as hard on the body as attending to the flax.
i think a bed of flax in a rased garden mite be the way to go to keep my back from freeking out!
if you get the opertunity definatly try flax proccesing!! i hope you continue to have fun with fiber!