The Harvest

teamwork at the Victoria flax to linen harvest
The Victoria flax to linen crew harvesting flax 19.09.2012

This was early days of harvest where we are just starting at the top end of the field. Had a great crew that weekend and we all had to learn as we went along. How best to tie the bundles, where to put them after to dry out a bit, how long is this going to take???

Victoria flax to linen harvest
Harvesting flax in Victoria 22.09.2012

A couple of days later and a sunny day. We seem to have different places we like to pull up the flax. Some start at the top and work down, others pick a place where they like to work - and it all gets stacked the same. Great having helping hands. Its also great when working from the top of the field and come to an empty place that's already been pulled - you can leap ahead - feels good.

Flax drying in the sun
Flax drying in the sun,
picture by Lisa 22.09.2012


I love this picture. The mother deer brings her fawns into the field early in the morning, then leaves them there for a few hours. They browse on the weeds, which are all low to the ground. They wander through making paths and having naps. Deer don't eat flax.  Some mornings if I'm out there early enough I can sit at the top of the field, rippling seeds off the dry pulled flax, with the deer in front and the quail behind in the blackberries. They come out to pick up seeds. Best mornings ever.

Victoria flax to linen harvest flax stack
Victoria Flax to Linen - Flax Stack! 02.10.2012

       Where to stack the bundles of flax?
These bundles were stacked here out of the way until we had room to stook them.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
flax stems drying against the hedge
Picture by Murry, Sep 2012

We didn't have room at the beginning to make stooks so propped some bundles up against the blackberries where they could dry out

Ken Dunn rippling the seed of on the rippler (the spiky tool attached to a workmate). It has to be dry to ripple so as soon as the flax was dry enough we rippled.  We wanted to get as much done as we could before we stored it all some place. Not a good idea to store with seeds on - it attracts critters.
 It was difficult cleaning out the buildup that collected until we devised a tool of our own. A piece of shopping bag that was made from ripstop plastic. Made holes in it where the spikes were and pressed it down over the spikes. When it needed cleaning out - just pull the plastic up, blow out the odd bits and put the plastic back on. That one piece lasted all harvest. Can't beat ripstop plastic for cleaning ripplers. Who knew?

Rippling flax to remove the seeds
Ken rippling flax 02.10.2012

Victoria flax to linen harvest - removing flax seeds from the stems
Ken rippling flax seeds 02.10.2012

We put sheets and tarps down to catch the seed. Made for easy folding up and pouring into a more portable container - a plastic drawer, and when dried transferred to a pillowcase for storage (breathable - and if turned during storage not likely to mould). The folding chair in the corner is where I rippled - sitting down and rippling using a horses curry comb. Worked great except should have had a bigger tarp, then would not have lost the seed that went into the grass.

flax stooks Victoria flax to linen harvest
Flax stooks 02.10.2012


Later we made stooks of the bundles. They worked great. Our bundles are not large as we could only comfortably manage a handful of flax at a time for tying and moving around and for later processing. Some of the men had bigger bundles.

Liz checking the stooks
Liz checking the flax stooks 24.09.2012

Beautiful, beautiful stooks. I love them. We had people stop by just to take pictures of them. You just don't see these around anymore, maybe not even on the Island.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
flax harvest nearing completion 24.09.2012

We only had to harvest half the acre - our half is on the right. I guess we were about 1/2 way at this point. Liz & a couple of other people liked to work from the bottom up so was a little exciting when we met in the middle and had this big bare patch. There was shade in the afternoon down there. Love Elk lake in the background.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
bringing bundles of flax to stook 27.09.2012

Child labour! My grandson & his mom Tracey came one evening to help. It's always nice to get a bit more done. This was the hole in the flax that Ken's son Tom & his wife pulled one evening. They got so much done - it was amazing. Tom's a strong man and pulled huge hand fulls out at a time. We picked up the bundles and stooked them.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
making flax stooks 27.09.2012

Our beautiful stooks. I just love them (have I said that before). They all stayed up even in some of the windy nights we had. The deer didn't knock them over either.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
will the flax harvest be done before the rain? 27.09.2012

We tried to rake the straw that didn't make it into a bundle, into a pile to be dealt with later. We needed to keep the field clean of flax at the end of all this so the owner wouldn't have trouble with the tough fibres binding up any rotary machines he might put in there to work the field when we were through.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
flax storage space 28.10.2012

We were so happy (& lucky) to get space to store the flax where it could dry out. It took awhile to find it. Some of the flax still had seeds on because they didn't dry out in time to ripple them off. Processed them later. Ken & his son Tom loaded up Tom's pickup with a whole stooks of flax at a time & stacked them in the barn.
Victoria flax to linen harvest
drying flax stems for storage 13.10.2012

What a great place we had to dry the flax out.  In the end we had two rows of pallets along the wall stacked with the flax.  The stooks dried out and were then stacked to provide more room.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
cleaning up the flax field 09.11.2012

During harvest when a section of flax was pulled up we raked the messy flax into small piles to be dealt with later. Up until this date we didn't know what we were going to do with it but Saanich Fire Department and the owner of the property said we could burn as it had been raining and putting it in small piles would be ok. Yay!! We can clean it up.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
burning the flax waste 10.11.2012

Well - lets get started.  How are we going to do this??  Beautiful day - cold but sunny.

Raking 1/2 acre of waste flax into burning piles.
It was a beautiful day. 10.11.2012

Victoria flax to linen harvest
burning flax waste to clean up the field 10.11.2012

This is the very last bit of pulling the flax, now we can rake it up and burn it.  Flax had to be pulled as just trying to rake it up didn't work. Had to be pulled then raked. Katherine, Brenda and Ken (right out of the hot smoking fires) got it all done.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
flax straw burns hot 10.11.2012

Keeping the fires small because of  fire regulations and also it gets so hot you can't get near it if the fires piled high with flax.  Even if it's wet flax it doesn't take long to dry out and burst into flames.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
gathering flax debris 10.11.2012

We were very lucky that there was enough wind to blow the smoke into the forest instead of peoples houses.  Oh the pollution!!!  It was all we could do as flax doesn't compost easily at all and would wind up & bind any rotary machine that tried to work it into the ground.

Victoria flax to linen harvest
the final handful of flax debris onto the fire, 10.11.2012

Was a good feeling to be able to finish the field and leave it tidy.  Was a lot of work - the whole job, and I'm glad to see the last of it but will miss being in the field looking over the lake. The deer wandering through & just sitting rippling seeds off early in the morning.
Everyone did such a great job getting this done.

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