Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harvest time for Flax

It's coming on the end of the season and here's what surprised me in the garden the last few days.  Lovely in the midst of weeds and dry stuff.

It is time to harvest the flax. I have been growing this stuff since June. With the exception of the flood, it has been a great growing season.  The flax came up good and straight, and blossomed all at the same time. It was a thing of beauty in its heyday. But now, it is time to harvest it. The flowers are mostly gone, over half the plant has turned yellow, and we are coning into a dry spell with full on sunshine.  Good weather for drying it out.

Here`s what it looked like right before harvest.

It is easy enough stuff to pull.  The roots, while they run deep, are not very thick.  So to harvest I`d grab a handful and pull.  I`d do that until I had a good sized clump and then it went into the wheel barrow.

The harvest in progress.  No knowing how much fibre I will get from this activity, I tried to harvest every single plant.  And believe me, it wasn`t easy to do.  I did try to keep the area weed-free, but we are plagued by bindweed out here.  It is also known as morning glory, but there is nothing of morning nor glory about it.  It is hateful stuff that grows several feet a day and tangles anything that is vertical.

So here`s when I made a bonehead decision.  I jumped right to `retting` process.  I decided I didn`t care to harvest the seeds so thought I could just start soaking them in water to melt the pectin and release the fibres.  After some more reading and thought I decided that seed collection or not, the seeds and pods were a considerable amount of biomass.  I did not need them in the way, rotting and adding to the smelly mess that retting involves.

So I took them out of the soaking water, and put them along the grass, in a sunny location. I turned them every couple of hours to dry them off. At least they are clean and the roots have no dirt in them. There has to be a bright side to every stupid decision.

Please be warned that I really do not know what I am doing. I know how to grow things, so I grew flax. I have a desire to be able to grow fibre for my use and so this is an adventure of self-discovery, aided by the Internet and various folks who know pieces of the process.

Here it is drying. Later today -- in fact right after this blog post, I`ll go to the back garden and stand these up for more efficient drying of the seed pods.

Stay tuned for more posts on the flax harvest.

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