Monday, September 9, 2013

A flax inspired Saturday

Saturday was a day devoted to the flax, in all its various stages.

The flax from bed #3 had fallen victim to the heavy rain we had last week. A lot of it fell right over. I tried to prop it back up, but the rains kept coming and the weight of the water won out in the end.

So I pulled them. It was a larger bed than I originally thought so it took a while. Also, the rains had really saturated the soil so knocking the dirt from the roots had me looking like a mud-wrestler in little time. Here's the empty newly harvested bed with all the bundles of flax on the ground. I have to move these to a better location so they can dry. But it was easier to just pull, knock the soil off and toss.

Here's the final bed. It was planted the last and you can see it's still flowering. I am up to my eyeballs in flax, not sure what I'll do with this bundle.

Here's the product of beds #1 and #2, newly retted. This flax is very different from the variety I grew last year. This flax has thicker stalks and is twice the length. I ended up borrowing a much larger kiddie pool from my neighbour, seen below. I was able to get all the flax into this pool. And here it is as the rotting/retting process starts. Lovely bubbles from fermentation.

Unlike last year's variety, this stuff really floats so I had to place my smaller kiddie pool on top and filled that with water to help weigh it down.

We had some warm and damp weather over the week so this stuff retted in record time, just over a week. And even though I regularly changed the water and added new stuff to it from the rain barrel, it smelled to high heaven. It was a fishy, swampy, stale beer kind of smell. And strangely enough, one that didn't readily wash off. You had to scour yourself with soap and water to get the smell out.

My over enthusiasm to get it all into the same pool was nearly my undoing. It retted fast and thus had to be deal with fast. All of it. So on Saturday, after harvesting the flax on the other side of the house, I had to rinse and scrub this flax to get the smelly rotten bits out of them. The linen was fully exposed and if I had left them in the water for much longer, the linen itself would be compromised. 

To do that I had to bail all the water out of the pool. Once nearly empty I could tip it and further drain the flax. I placed it on a tarp and grabbed the hose. Using the jet blast I thought I could just rinse it out that way. But there's so much of it and it's so dense, the linen fibres really take up space, I needed more action to rinse it out. So I filled the pool with clean water and bundle by bundle I put it in the clear water and squished and squeezed until it didn't feel slimy any more. After about five bundles I had to empty the pool and start with fresh water. Which suited me just fine because by this time my back was hurting and I was seriously questioning my passions.  Here it is all newly washed and drying against the back fence.

Here's a closer view.

And here's a close-up. You can see the linen fibres all over the place.

These bundles still smell a bit more swampy than I like. I wonder if that means they haven't retted enough. Or if I simply haven't rinsed them enough. I'll see what they're like when they are fully dry. If they still smell I am going to take them down to the Fraser River and wash them there. That will be much easier than filling a kiddie pool over and over and over again.

Of course the fishers may wonder why I am washing straw in the river.

And if they still smell after that, I'm just going to throw them on the ground and let the rain take care of them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your work. I find your project fascinating and inspiring. I'm working with linen right now and writing a blog post on linen for my own blog and I found your information so useful.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your finished product.

    Take care,