Flax Harvest 2020

Flax Harvest 2020

This summer, has been vary different from what I had expected at the beginning of 2020. With covid19’s arrival, we have not been out much, so even weeding the flax patches a month ago seemed wildly exciting, well more so than last year weeding seemed. we are even more excited about being part of the Flax study group for year 2, since we get a chance to see some of our guild friends even if we are a bit farther apart than we normally would be.

Last time i updated you on that fabulous fun of weeding the flax. We had intended to do a second weeding but our plans did not work out.  Instead we had a very Hot Dry spell. You may have noticed the temperature while i was felting outside (in the shade).

On July 12th, Cathy Louise let us know the flax was almost ready for harvest. The blast of heat pushed the seed ripening faster than we had expected.  The flax stalk are not as tall as we hoped but if the seed is ready it’s time to harvest!

1 1 the flax is waiting for us

So, we set a Saturday most of us could attend and  on July 25th we met to harvest this year’s 2 rows of flax.  We had a brief chat and inspection to check the ripeness of the seeds in both rows and realized that much of the flax had ripe seed, so we would harvest all of it now. Last year we did a large harvest and saved a small amount to see if the fully ripe seed would have better germination. (You can see the germination rate from both harvest times produced similar results.) From the pictures, you can see that both rows had very similar success.  We also found that a clump in the west row had been seeded more densely than the rest of the flax and it both helped support the naboughring stocks and had less weed intrusion. If we continue with year 3 we may try to increase from the recommended seed density.

  2-4 ripe and ready to harvest

We took out the support string that had been added to support the flax in case of heavy rain.

 5-6 removing the support strings

We then dispersed ourselves to start the picking on both rows, from both ends.

As we did last year when we harvested the flax, we selected a small amount of flax and pulled it up with the roots. The dirt knocked off and a stock or two is used to tie the bundle together.

 7-9 bundling flax

And repeat!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10-26 Flax harvest in progress

As we gathered and tied the flax, we started to line the bundles up along the fence to dry. You can see the line of flax growing behind the flax pickers.

2927-30 drying bundle collect along the fence

  31-32 pile wating to go to the fence

We have about 1/3rd of the rows picked, you can see the weeds that that have been left after the flax is removed.

33-34 flax picked weeds remain

We kept going and soon were finding more weeds than flax were left.

35-40  starting to run out of flax

One of our team was collecting the weeds for his pigs and chickens to enjoy!

41-43 weeding

Can you see the flax bundles along the fence at the back of the patch and continuing to the left along the fence and into the market garden.

 44-46 the flax drying line grows

4748 47-48 the harvest drying

This is the after harvest shot and the weeds are being collected.

4950  49-50 Most of the flax harvesting team

Here is our harvest team at the end of this years harvest (Glenn myself and Cathy Louise are missing from the large group shot)

The flax sat drying along the fence, then it was turned and continued drying.

5451-54 Drying in the heat and sun

Once it was completely dry, (now we got the rain we needed earlier), it was collected and moved to the barn to await the next step. Separate the seed from the stock,  Decapitation, which will be violent and exciting!!!  But more on that next time!


55-56 the unsuspecting dried flax awaiting us



9 thoughts on “Flax Harvest 2020

  1. That looks like back-breaking work! But very rewarding.

    Your lovely photos made us feel as if we were there and actually watching the flax being harvested.

    1. It was Hot! but it went resonably quickly with all the help! ok i was not as much help since i was taking picktures. it is amazing how this method of fiber producion was ever discovered and ustilized to make fabulous fabric. who would think its a good idea to through perfectly good straw like stuff in a pond to sktink for a while after its been dryed?

      If you are in the Ottawa area for the next step i am shure the study group would love a bit more help! or maybe next year when travel will be a bit better i hope!

    2. I don’t think we’ll be making an appearance Jan – there’s almost 3,500 miles between us !

  2. Thank you for posting this. It is so interesting! Where some people might see a lot of hard work and “aggravation,” I see purposeful work that gives a sense of true accomplishment. On reason I think many people these days are just so unhappy and unfulfilled is because, while technology makes our lives so much more “easy,” and full of distractions, it does NOT fulfill deep inner needs that humans have had for thousands of years. Also, your story reminds me of when I lived/worked in Japan. My little school did an experiment with the little children: we grew rice in large buckets. Great fun, and at the end of it we had just enough rice to make a little pot to enjoy as a snack.

    1. Thanks Meriel! yes to see the little bundles lined up along the fence was vary satisfying and quite suprizing as we could see how far down the fence the line went!

      your rice experiment would have been facinating! i just realized i have no idea how to harvest rice! i should look that up!

      there will be more about the next step of the flax study gourp shortly!

  3. Jan
    Thank you for the interesting article that some of us know nothing about. It is fascinating! Looking forward to the next step.:)

  4. im an glad you are enjoying the work of our flax tortureing group! it should be even more fun the next cuple stages! i have not tryed felting with flax but mixed with a bit of wool it mite work! if a local guild starts a study group near you, it mite be worth looking into just to try out the process. it is amazing to have that feeling that i helped out in this and have fiber ready to spin to prove it.
    have fun and stay healthy! (wool with warm soapy water)

  5. Looks like a good harvest! It always surprises me to see a process like this and wonder how anyone initially thought it would work or knew what to do next.

  6. My back hurt just watching you all. That is a lot of hard work. It’s good there is a team to do it. I’ve used flax, but never realized the amount of work it takes to harvest it. Kudos to you all!

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: