Friday, August 30, 2013

Rippling the Flax

We've had a stunning summer for the most part. Lots of sun and just the right amount of heat. In the last couple of weeks though, we've had a bit of rain here and there. Good for the corn and the hay, but not for flax that you're drying.

The harvested flax from the bed #1 and #2 were mostly dried and I finished it off by keeping it under cover. I was getting pretty tired of moving the stuff around, onto the lawn when the sun was out, back on the porch for overnight or if a rain cloud came by. When it was finally dried I decided it was time to ripple it. Rippling flax is the process you us to remove the seed pods.

Last year when I did this I was so excited and learning as I went along. This time, I knew what I was in for. It's a dusty, dry job and very messy with all the seed pods flying everywhere. So I did my best to minimize that. I swept the back porch carefully.Then I put a white sheet over the work area, the railing and let it hang onto the floor. The plan was to catch as many seed pods as possible.

Then I set up the rippling contraption that I bought in the spring from a local antique/junk shop. Right next to it I set up the Russian paddle comb that I used last year for rippling. I wasn't sure how the green thing would perform and I knew the paddle comb worked.

Here I am about half way through the process. This is the dried flax with the seed pods and dried leaves still on them. The variety of flax that I grew this year is the true Linum usitatissiumum linen variety. It's nearly twice as long as the flax seed variety that I grew last year. Not only is it twice as long, the stalks are larger and tougher.

Here's a small bundle of it going through the rippling tool. This one worked well for the first passes and then I used the Russian paddle comb to finish up. Used together I was able to clean up all the seed pods and dried leaves.

After a bundle was cleaned up, I tossed it to the side and then grabbed another bundle. Here's what a cleaned up couple of bundles looks like.

And here's the whole lot of it from bed #1 and #2, rippled and waiting to be retted. Retting is the process of rotting the outer layer of pectin to release the linen fibres from the straw. I can dew ret which is to let the morning dew and rains melt it away. Or I can wet ret it by putting it a shallow pool of water and try to replicate an eddy next to a slow moving stream. I prefer the lighter colour you get from wet retting so I'm going to toss this into a kiddie pool. Right now it's carefully wrapped up and under cover of the shed.

I have two more beds to harvest, will probably do that over the weekend as we are expecting sun and heat. That will give the flax a good start on drying. Then another rippling marathon and then. . . . . what on earth am I going to do with all this flax?

Adventures with flax to linen continued.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

More flax harvested - field #1

On Thursday this week, in the late afternoon, I harvested the first field of flax. It's growing in our south garden. It was the first plot planted this season and I expected it to be ready first. But this garden gets quite a bit of shade throughout the day, so it slowed things down a bit. Here it is in tidy bundles (something I didn't do on the first harvest) leaning against the fence.

And here's what's left growing. It was planted much later than the other two beds. And it was only really planted to hold the spots and keep the weeds at bay. I never imagined it would grow this quickly. I am sure it will bloom in the next week or so, and then I'll have even more to manage.

Now that's a problem I don't mind having.