This is the part I missed last year, so was particularly interested in photographing and participating this year.
When we last left off we had had a very hot dry summer, the flax had matured more quickly than anticipated and we harvested early. We considered a second planting but there were a number of health issues in the group this summer so we decided against it. The flax was picked, bundled and stacked along the fence. Once dry, it would be moved inside to await the decapitation. We decided on a date Aug 29th when most of us could attend.
Well, that was the plan, between harvest and getting dry enough to put in the barn there was a distinct change in the weather. All the rain we would have liked earlier arrived now that we had harvested. Thus, the flax took longer to dry than expected and it looks to have started to do a bit of field retting.
1-2 the dried flax
3 Aug 29th, 2020 everything is wet but it’s not raining at the moment.
The day arrived for our torture of the Flax and it was overcast and looked like rain. We gathered in the coverall barn while the cows nibbled the stocks of the picked cornfield.
4 the cows were only mildly interested at this point
While I waited for the flax to be moved from one barn to the coverall, I admired the corn protection devices. There were a number of beech balls with eyes bobbing away and a cool black kite that went up and down in the breeze. It was fascinating, I think I need one for my garden if it works on chipmunks I might get a few strawberries!!
5-6 garden guards
Gord used his pickup to transport the harvest. Even with the stocks being shorter this year, there is a lot of flax! I had nice white new tarps in the car and we spread them out to place the flax on as we slowly worked our way through the pile.
7 flax arrival
There was a bucket of seed heads that had fallen off in the other barn which were also collected and brought to the coverall.
8 floor sweepings from storage
We had a number of experiments with seed extraction devices this year. Last year the pillowcase and rolling pin method was most effective. This year we had that, a fish thwapper and a blank for a baseball bat to crush the seed pods releasing the seeds. We had a funnel to try a different form of winnowing and Cole had brought a nasty implement with blades. He also re-tried the double rack used also like a hackle that had been suggested but had not been effective last year. This year the rakes were secured together with elastic and Velcro.
The funnel was interesting, it was used to swirl the crushed seed pods and chaff. We expected the seed to fall to the bottom and the chaff to migrate towards the top. While we could see a bit of this happening, we suspected that the seed this year is not as heavy or large as last year’s, so it is not as effective as we had hoped. This may work out very well next year so we will try it again.
9-12 the funnel separator
13 this years seed are small and light (not just in colour)
The next implement was the fish thwapper. Its basically like a rolling pin without the handles for hitting fish with. The unsuspecting flax was stuffed headfirst into the pillowcase (a small amount worked better than a large amount). When the flax was well incased in the pillowcase we brought out our weapons of choice, with either the thwapper, bat blank or rolling pins we rolled or beat the now blinded and unsuspecting flax till it was decapitated.
14-19 rolling and hitting method
All this violence left us with the decapitated stocks, crushed seed heads and a few very tiny light cloured seeds. Most of us were using this method. You can check out Gord’s roller, which is a blank to make a baseball bat!
20 21 more rolling
22 Gord was flax-covid-coordinated with his mask matching his pillowcase!
The tarp at the back of the picture has the flax that has not been decapitated yet. The near tarp with the pile closest to the front of the picture is the fibre we had worked on.
23 making progress
We are still under halfway there but already had a large number of flax stocks, chaff and hopefully some tiny seeds in amongst the chaff.
24 Chaff and seed collection
As I said earlier Cole brought a homemade implement to torture the flax with, it had blades set at an angle and he was drawing the flax through. It was working to separate the seed heads but it was taking some of the stock ends with it. It was also vary sharp and a bit scary (even for me).
25-28 blade implement
Next, he tried the two mettle tine racks Velcroed and elasticed together. This had not been effective last year but I had not been there with my handy elastic and Velcro tie downs!
29 This method seemed to be less harmful to both the flax and Cole.
30-32 the two rake method
Seedhead removal was very quick compared to the pillowcase method. There was still some stalk damage but not as much as the blades. if you had to do a full field of flax this would be appealing.
Partway through the morning, I noticed the clean-up crew that Cathy Louise had on call. One was working the aria under the wheelbarrow and another pair were covering the area where Gord had backed up to unload his pick-up.
33-36 Barn cleaners
We continued working while keeping an eye on the clean-up crew in case they got over-enthusiastic and went for the flax.
37-38 chaff and seed
You can see bits of seeds in with the chaff. There will be a lot of work for the winnowing basket but with the seed so light and small, it too may disappear in the breeze
39 We have about 1/3 -ish left to decapitate.
40 The finished pile is growing too!
41-44 rolling thwapping and raking continued
45 We can see a bit of seed
46 artsy shot
Through the day, we had herd intermittent rain on the roof but this was getting to be waves of heavy downpours. Looking out the cow end of the coverall we could see the rain pelting down.
47 More Rain!!!
48 We finally reached the end of the pile!!
All that was left to do was crush the seed heads Cole had been separating. For that, we used the shovel to add the seed head to the pillowcases. Now back to rolling and thumping
Just as we started the rolling Henry returned from his quest. I think we should leave that for next week! you will have to wait to see what a brilliant idea he had!