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Archive for August, 2011

2011 Flax Crop

Today I pulled the flax. The roots were much less developed than last year, and most of the seed pods are quite green, so the seeds are probably not mature enough to save for next year.

This year’s crop also looks a bit shorter than last year, so perhaps it’s best to start next year with some fresh seed. I’ll add some compost and fertilizer to the patch before planting next year as well.

The second batch of flax straw from last year is still retting, and so far there hasn’t been a change in the ph level, but I’m checking twice daily and replacing some of the water with fresh each day.

Next on the list is making a flax hackle (just a board with large nails spaced close together), as I’m still optimistic about this second retting and hope to be able to produce something that’s spinnable.

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Cotton Bolls

The cotton plants are still blooming and the first bolls are growing rapidly. I’m becoming more confident of having some that will actually ripen, so I may transplant some of next year’s plants into the garden instead of keeping them all in pots as I did this year.

The pots I’ve used aren’t really big enough to permit a nice large plant to form, but they do seem to take well to the tomato-booster fertilizer spikes.

The indigo in the screen porch is still doing well, but I think I’d need several acres-worth to have enough leaves to harvest for the dye pot. The Japanese Indigo seems more promising as it’s a faster grower in the garden, while the verdict is still out on the woad.

Flax (background) and Japanese Indigo

My first experiment in retting flax appears to be a failure as the fine fibres are breaking along with the rest of the straw when I attempt to separate them. I think this is due to over-retting, so I’m soaking another sample of the flax straw and this time I’ll test the ph level in the soaking water with litmus paper daily during the retting period so I don’t overdo it.

Another source of trouble may be the maturity of the flax straw itself – I may not have pulled it soon enough, so I’m keeping an eye on this year’s crop. Some of it is still blooming, while most of it has green seed pods with some yellowing of the stalks. It will probably be ready to pull this week.

Brown Eyed Susans

Another naturally-occurring dye plant that I’ve picked for later use are the Brown-Eyed Susans which are in full bloom right now.

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