Wednesday, May 29, 2013

flax connection

May has slipped away. It has been a busy month.

Most of it has been spent in the garden. The fence was repaired, new fruit trees were planted (plum, cherry and peach). Peas, lettuce, kale and new asparagus plants were sown early in the month and are growing well. The tomatoes and peppers and annual flowers that we started from seed in the green house, have been transplanted.

For those of you that follow this blog, you may know that I have previously raised textile flax, and processed it successfully. And as much as I wanted to try it again, I was frustrated because the only variety that was available to me was the one I had already grown. The seed type was from Holland and goes by the name, Marilyn.

By the time March had rolled around, I had pretty much given up on being able to obtain another variety of flax to grow this year. I was planning the garden, and know from experience that I should be sowing the seed in April. It takes about a hundred days from seed to harvest, and I had not found anyone who was offering flax seed for sale (other than Marilyn).

But with a little help from my friends, I was connected with a few people who have helped me to obtain some seed to sample. Many thanks to you! (and you know who you are!)

Although I am past the date when I would normally sow flax seed, I'm hopeful that it isn't too late. The unusual cool weather we have been having is good for something, in this case, germination.

About a week ago I planted a small plot of flax cultivar, Elektra, which is another cultivar from the Netherlands, and as reported from other field trials, scores high marks for fineness of the fiber, and good yields.

The seed was obtained by my friend about a year ago, so I am very please with the overall results of the germination!

Yesterday, much to my surprise, my request for seed from the USDA was approved, and I received a small amount (about 200 seeds) of a cultivar from Hungary. I am very excited to be growing this, and plan to sow it later today.

So, thanks to the help of others and all of you who have been patient with my whining and complaining and frustration about the importance of biodiversity and the lack of availability of textile flax cultivars in the United States in the year 2013! I am again growing some flax for linen. A very small amount of it, but enough to do a comparison and draw some conclusions.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

the woods

May has arrived and the woods are waking up! The quince and forsythia are in full bloom, and the warblers are starting to appear. The blue blue skies of May and the bees on the blossoms on the fruit trees are pretty enough to paint. There is bird song filling the woods, and nesting materials filling the branches of nearby trees. Around the riverrim, we planted a few plum trees another cherry tree and a peach tree. Gifts from my husband.

The creatures that live in the wood are waking up as well. We were visited by the Black Bear around suppertime the other day.

He waltzed right up the back steps and through the open gate onto the back deck. We will have to make sure we close the gate from now on..and walk with bells and pocket air horn. He or she was much to close to the house for my comfort.

The snakes woke up with the last thunder storm. I've seen small garter snakes around.

They don't begin to compare with the size of the one that tangled himself in the netting we had around the blueberry bushes last summer. I felt so badly about that situation. Garter snakes are good guys, and I encourage them to stay around my garden. Last summer, the Blueberry bushes need protection from the birds who were stealing all my berries, so I hung netting on the bushes. I never thought that a big big garter snake would come along and get himself tangled up in it. By the time I discovered him, it was too late.

I've been taking my distaff and spindle with me when I walk. I've been experimenting with dressing the distaff with a painted roving arranging it in a way that allows me to draft down different colors when I want to.

The fiber I'm working with is a merino/ tencel blend, and I am enjoying the way it handles. I can slip the distaff into the belt loop of my jeans, and walk and spindle...walk and spindle....down to the river, out to the garden...walk and spindle is very relaxing. It is not the type of walking that you would call a power walk, it is more of a stroll, or a wandering meandering type of walk. In the bucolic setting that surrounds me, I can well imagine a shepheardess of old accomplishing a good deal of spinning this way.

The amount that is on my distaff was easily spun in short walk down to the river and back...maybe a half mile? Maybe a half an hour or 40 minutes was spent on my afternoon break for spinning.

The distaff is a great tool for walking and spinning. If I want to stop and take a few photographs, I just park the spindle in the fiber and set the staff up against a tree or a rock. The distaff holds the fiber and spindle until I return. While I left it unattended...the little nesting birds showed great interest in the fiber...and I allowed a small chickadee to pick at the merino tencel on my distaff. She didn't take much.
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