Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Flax Project 2013

Somedays I wonder if I should open the door. There she was, my dear friend, Mel, with a small Priority Mail parcel in her hands. "Here. I thought this might be fun to do!", she said enthusiastically.
Inside was one pound of seeds - tiny, tiny seeds. The label on the plastic bag they were in said "Marilyn" and under that, "Flax Seed 1 lb.".
Both Mel and I like weaving with linen yarns. Linen is the name you call flax fibers after they have been spun into yarn. Up until that point, the proper name is "flax" for everything from seed to the plant fibers you are getting ready for the actual spinning process.
My husband, who is home all the time now since he has joined the ranks of the retired, was listening to the conversation and became interested in joining this Great Experiment. He had just the spot. It's a protected area in our garden, about 10' x 10', and just the right size for this trial. The plants would be protected from our insistent SW winds as well as frosts. We've had luck planting things in that area before.
He prepped the soil with the rototiller and smoothed the surface out with a rake. Then on a less windy day, I hand sown the seeds across the area. They were watered in well and a frost blanket was placed over most of the area to keep all manner of vermin off of the spot until the plants started emerging.
And begins...
We also hoped the rocks on the south side of the patch would retain heat during the day to help get these little gems up and running sooner.
After about one week, a peek under the frost blanket revealed this:
Spotty at first, but growing none the less!

I hope to add other photos of this entire process. Yes, it's true. You can indeed grow flax in the mountains at 7,000 ft. elevation! So far, so good!
We do plan on documenting our progress as we continue this Great Experiment. I know that most of the work is yet to come as flax can be...hmm...what's the word I'm looking for here? I know...WORK! After the plants grow, come to seed, and dry they are pulled up by the roots to retain integrity of the precious bast fibers along the stems. After pulling, one must "ret" or "rot" the husk off those fibers, then break away all the chaff and tow (shorter fibers). After that the fibers are combed to a fare-thee-well to make the strick used by handspinners and fairy tale princesses alike in their search of fine linen, or gold.

I've not told the Flock of these goings on. All the sheep believe they are the be-all and end-all of fiber projects here at Oleo Acres, one of the cheaper spreads. Shh...

...let's surprise them, shall we?


Kathy said...

I will be posting updates as the flax continues to grow and we go through processing it into linens!

Michelle said...

Is the seed the same stuff I buy in the bulk section to grind and sprinkle on my food?

Leigh said...

Hurray! You've written a post! Welcome back to blogging. :)

I was so excited to read this. I grew some flax for seed this summer, and am getting ready to post about that in the next couple of days. Perhaps eventually, I'll try my hand at retting and linen making as well. I will be very interested in your flax project.

Kathy said...

No, Michelle, it isn't the same seed. those varieties are developed for seed production for eating or oils. The variety "Marilyn" was developed for fiber production.
It will make a difference as to your production. IF you want seen and buy varieties for fiber production, make sure you do not eat them as they are usually treated to prevent the seeds molding or developing fungus.

Leigh said...

Just came by to see how this project is going. :)