Thursday, March 06, 2014
The icicles that surround our cabin are slow to melt. I see the world outside my window through frozen bars of ice. Ice Jail. I am ready to be freed from my indoor chambers.
Even though the morning thermometer readings are close to zero, my calendar helps keep track of the days, and gives me encouragement. Spring will come, and it will be time to plant. I need to be ready. I reach for the jar of Hungarian Flax seed that I rippled from the plants I raised last fall. It is time to free the seeds from the boll.
The USDA sent me only 200 seeds to start with. Flax seed is generally self pollinating, but cross and even outcrossing can occur. I'm not sure these seeds will all be true to type. There was another variety of flax (Elektra) that was going nearby, and though most of it matured earlier, there is a chance they cross pollinated.
I open each boll by crushing it with a spoon. The base of the boll shows the different segments (they look like little chambers), the wall that separates the segments is called the septum. On average, I'm finding about 7 seeds per boll, and have found as many as 9. Occasionally, there will be only 1 seed in the entire boll.
The color of the seed is lighter than I expected. See the shiny coating? That is the mucilage. If you soak the seeds in water, the mucilage is released and makes a sort of jell that is silky and slippery. Flax mucilage is used when spinning flax to smooth down the wispy ends and hairy surface of the spun linen thread. The mucilage maybe also be used to dress or treat the warp on the loom when weaving with linen. The dressing (when dry) helps to prevent the warp threads from sticking together.
After about an hour of this task of crushing the bolls, I have counted 370 seeds. I have only removed about half of the bolls from the jar so far....so I am very happy with the number. I at least doubled the count that I originally started with. Now remains the test of germination.
So, yes. Spring is coming and although the landscape outside does not show much of a change, the extended daylight hours are upon us! The sun gives me great pleasure on those days that it chooses to shine. I find a spot to soak up the warmth and light and bathe in its goodness.