Every year Joybilee Farm plants a small plot of Fiber Flax at the beginning of May. The field is well rototilled and the flax is broadcast at a rate of 2 kg. of fiber flax seed per 25 x 25 feet plot. This year we planted “Hermes” which is similiar in growing characteristics to “Evelin” that is offered by Richter’s Herbs in Ontario.
When the flax is 4 to 12 inches high, we weed it. At this point you can step right on the flax and it will recover. The window is short, only about 2 weeks and then the flax grows beyond its ability to recover after being stepped on.
About 2 weeks later, when it is about 24 inches tall, it begins to flower. Flax flowers stay open for only a day, but every day new flowers will open. Flax is pollinated when the flower is still closed by the motion of the wind, rippling the fields. Each stalk of flax will have many flowers and each flower produces a seed bole containing 4 to 10 seeds.
The flax will continue to flower for about another month and at about 100 days after planting, the stalks will turn from green to golden brown. When the stocks are 2/3rd golden and 1/3rd green the fiber flax is ready to harvest. The seeds will still be immature, but will continue to mature while the flax is drying.
Flax is harvested by pulling it up by the roots and bundling it, in upright bundles to allow it to continue drying.
Once it is fully dry, the seed heads are removed in a process called rippling.
The bundles are stored for the winter.
In the spring, the flax bundles are opened and retted, either by field retting or by water retting. At Joybilee Farm we use a re-purposed bath tube to complete the retting process.
Once retting is complete, the flax is allowed to dry completely. It is now ready to break, scutch, and hackle. The three steps to turn the flax stocks into usable, luxury, spinning fiber.
Each Year Joybilee Farm has a Linen Festival in the second weekend in August to share their passion for fiber farming, and locally raised and created fashion. This year the festival is August 11th near Greenwood, BC, Canada. Admission is free. For more information see my blog.