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Snow Retting Flax

img_1092Last summer the dry, hot weather resulted in my first flax crop failure. There wasn’t enough seed to collect for 2019, so I’ll order new seed. There’s still plenty of flax from previous years, so I can continue to experiment.

Today it’s a sunny -15 C so I’ve taken a few bundles of flax out to try snow retting. The snow in the yard is at least a foot deep and much more can be expected before spring, so I’ve marked the corners of the patch with poles.

I’ll let it stay out there until the snow starts to melt and then examine it for signs of retting. While it’s this cold, I don’t expect any big changes, but with time, the fibre may start to separate from the core and the outer covering. Here’s hoping!


Bella in front of a snowbank for scale.

Update: It’s April 7th and over the last few days the flax has reappeared as the snow melts. It was covered with at least a foot of snow until recently:



It feels quite dry to the touch and I don’t think it’s changed much while buried in the snow. I’ve taken a small sample indoors to dry it completely and see if it’s started to ret. The rest can stay out on the snow and maybe absorb some moisture and do a bit more retting. Stay tuned.


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First Flax pulled – August, 2013

I started pulling the Flax on August 4th. It’s still quite green, but there is some yellow in the stems and seed heads. I’ll continue to pull and dry bunches of it until it gets browner and then I’ll finish pulling the rest. This is about 80 days since it was sown, and this gradual pulling approach should take me to the 100 day mark. The bunches already pulled are sitting under an overhang, but still get a lot of sun and warmth. I hope that pulling it while still immature will yield a finer fibre.


Coreopsis (Dyer’s Tickseed)

The Coreopsis (Dyer’s Tickseed) is doing well, and I should get out there and collect some flower heads for a small dye vat. This clump seeded itself, but the area I planted this Spring, is just starting to come into flower. Along the roads, the Goldenrod is blooming – another plant I’d like to use this summer. Golden flowers are overtaking the garden – a last glow of summer sunshine!

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Happy Groundhog Day!

What better day to begin thinking and writing about the garden season to come? Here in eastern Ontario, there is no question that winter will last another six weeks or more.

Seed catalogues are arriving and long wish-lists are being created. There’s still lots of time to prune them down into something sensible, but midwinter is the time to dream.

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