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Archive for July, 2011

Ever since the buds on the cotton plants formed some time ago, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the next development. Today I came home to find this beautiful first blossom on the Uplands Cotton plant.

I’d like to think that the application of  tomato spikes have helped them to develop, and the recent heat wave probably didn’t hurt either.

Now to see how close they can get to ripening a real boll outdoors before the pots have to be taken in to avoid the colder weather.

The hops that were planted last year have been growing steadily all summer, and have now started to produce what looks like a blossom (or bud?) as well. The hops bines must be about 15 feet long, and have been twined along the top of the fence, for want of a higher support. Perhaps next season we’ll treat them to a proper structure of poles and hanging lines.

Last but not least, the grapes have lots of fruit. These do tend to disappear as soon as they start to ripen, but for now they look quite abundant. 

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Today the flax fibres can be separated easily from the smooth central core and reasonably well from the outer bark layer, so it looks like retting is complete. It’s been rinsed and is lying out in the sun and I will try breaking it in a few days once it’s dry. Most of this flax straw is about 30 inches long. This year’s crop is still a little shorter, and is blooming beautifully.

The dye plants are coming along (shown are Bedstraw, Weld and Japanese Indigo in front of the flax patch), although I’d like to see a greater quantity of leaves to harvest for dyeing. The best performer in the dye garden is the Japanese Indigo. The Madder plant that I pulled up by mistake had lovely orangey roots.

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This is the fifth day that my bundle of flax has been soaking in a styrofoam box lined with plastic sheeting.

There hasn’t been a great deal of foam or sludge or anything on top of the retting box, and the water doesn’t feel slimy, although it’s now a darker brown. I think this is due to the fairly low temperature of the water, which is cooling off each night.

As there doesn’t seem to be any biological activity, I haven’t started to add any fresh water.

The process is going to take longer than I first expected, but perhaps this is a good thing as it’s the first time I’ve tried it. The flax straw doesn’t feel any different yet, so I’m not sure it’s even reached the end of the developmental stage.

The day lilies nearby are starting to put on a show, so I’ve included a picture of them for interest.

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This year’s flax crop is just starting to bloom, so it seems like a good time to start experimenting with processing last year’s crop. I used the seeds saved from last year to grow this year’s crop, and the germination rate was good, so I’ll do the same this year. When harvesting for fibre, the flax should be pulled while many of the seeds are still immature, but I’ve read that leaving them on the plants after pulling will allow more of them to ripen. Last year, I didn’t remove the seeds until several months had passed after pulling the flax and drying it. Since then, the flax straw has been stored in an open bag and is nice and dry but not at all brittle. I’m following the directions for retting found in “Flax Culture” by Mavis Atton, 1988, The Ginger Press, ISBN 0-921773-06-4.

This first batch is being processed using the water retting method (rather than dew retting) and I’ve taken about a third of my bundle (crop) to use. I found a styrofoam box that was almost long enough to hold the flax, and only had the bend the ends over a little bit. Plastic sheeting was used the line the box, in case of any leaks.

Step One – Leaching Stage: Water from the hose (cold) was used to fill the box and the flax was soaked for about four hours. A couple of bricks were used to hold the flax straw under the surface. The soak water turned a nice yellow shade, so it was apparently doing its job and mixing with the water soluble materials on the flax straw.

Step Two – Developmental Stage: The box was drained and again filled with fresh water from the hose. It’s a warm, humid day, so the water temperature should rise in the box fairly rapidly. The best water temperature is 27 C or 80 F, so it will be a challenge keeping it this warm over night, or if it rains…

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I saved the last few fingerling potatoes from last year, as they were really too small to cook.

This spring they sprouted but didn’t look very promising. I took them out to the compost pile but had a last minute twinge of regret about not planting them anyway.

Instead of adding them to the pile, I took a few shovels of compost and planted them in this tiny bed next to the pile.

Once established, they looked so good that I added more compost and the screen to keep it in place. It will be easy to keep topping them up, and they seem to thrive in their little compost patch.

 

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