Flattened Flax

I have been hesitating to post this because I don’t have much in the way of photo documentation, plus it’s sad. On Monday (June 25th) we had very heavy rain and thunderstorms. It had been very hot for a few days and I’d been watering the flax and garden each day, so I was glad for the rain. But on Tuesday I arrived at the community garden to a very sad sight. The v.n.s. looked as if someone had parted it with a comb down the middle of the bed, and then combed it flat on either side of the part. Flat. Poor flat flax. I hadn’t brought my camera, so there is no photo of the scene, but maybe you can conjure a mental image. I tried to fluff it up and shake off the excess water and encourage the stalks to stand upright again. They stood up a little, in a wobbly way, but I fear their former graceful and erect stature is gone forever. The Marilyn, which has already suffered from lodging, was also hard-hit. In contrast, the Evelin was not affected, happily.

Later on Tuesday I checked on the plot at Amethyst Farm, and there was a similar scene there.

vns Amethyst Farm Continue reading “Flattened Flax”

Cat Nap Beds or Crop Circles

Last week when I went to check on the flax at Small Ones Farm, their barn cat, Squeak, was lolling about in the flax bed as if it was the perfect place to nap, or perhaps hunt mice. Or just to hang out. Flax does have a strong smell, even while it’s growing (and stronger still while it’s drying). Maybe it’s appealing in a catnip-like way. Who knows. Anyway, here’s Squeak in the flax.

Squeak in flax

I have several other photos, but this is pretty cute. Continue reading “Cat Nap Beds or Crop Circles”

Mystery Cordage Photos

Back in May I was visiting family in Maryland, and made some cordage from an unidentified plant growing behind my sister’s apartment. Click here to read the earlier post and Simone’s comment. Now it is in bloom, and she has sent me some photos. At first glance I think it is some kind of milkweed relative, judging by the flowers. I will look into it. Here are the leaves.

mystery cordage leaf structure

Continue reading “Mystery Cordage Photos”

Flax Blossom Image Gallery

Happy Solstice to all! Here in Amherst it is a sweltering, bright, gloriously sunny day. Flax is in full bloom. Even though hot weather is not necessarily to flax’s liking, it has been looking stately and graceful over the past several days. I’ve been giving it extra water for encouragement.

I find flax in bloom to be unspeakably beautiful–the sweet little five-petaled structure and luminous blue color of the flowers themselves, and the way the flowers and the bright green foliage of the plants vibrate and glow together. I have taken ridiculous numbers of photographs trying to capture the exhilarating feeling of the plants and blossoms. Here are some close-ups:

flax blossom closeup 1

Continue reading “Flax Blossom Image Gallery”

Photographing Bees

I have been impressed with how many bees I see at every plot, even though only Amethyst Farm actually has honey bee hives on the property. I enjoy their little buzzing sounds, which are as soothing and blissful as a cat’s purr. I love watching them bumble up and down, and the way a flower head droops down when the bee lands. Happy bees feasting in flowers is quintessential summertime.

However, attempting to photograph bees visiting the flax flowers is like photographing fairies. I have always had a fondness for mysterious creatures such as Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, and have always felt sympathetic about the difficulties of photographing such elusive beings. However, getting photographic proof that the bees are actually there in the flax is proving to be as challenging as getting a clear shot of Nessie. I take photos of where the bee *was* but of course in the time that it takes to actually take the photo, the bee has moved on. And then there’s the fact that the camera will focus on other things besides the bee…. Here are some attempts:

vns Amethyst Farm no bee

Hmm, no bee at all. Continue reading “Photographing Bees”

More Flax Blossoms

Well, two months after planting, all the flax is blooming. This is exactly as it should be, and is very reassuring in a year when plants are otherwise not synched up with my sense of when they should be blooming (Queen Anne’s Lace already in bloom? What? Chicory??? No!!!). But, more on this later….

Back to flax news! At Amethyst Brook and Small Ones Farm, the v.n.s. wins the prize for most prolific flowers compared to Evelin and Marylin, at least at this point, at least at the times of day that I’ve observed the plants. At Amethyst Farm, I do not not observe a big difference in the number of flowers blooming between the v.n.s and Evelin, but there is a difference in height, as you will see in a moment.

Here are the plants at Small Ones Farm, as of yesterday morning, June 15th (exactly two months since planting). First, the tallest v.n.s. plants, at just over 22 inches high:

vns Small Ones 22 inches high Continue reading “More Flax Blossoms”

Flax is Starting to Flower

The flax in starting to bloom! These photos were all taken yesterday, June 12th, at our community garden plot at Amethyst Brook. The first variety to flower was the non-specified variety from Richters. It’s a tad shorter than the other two varieties overall, and as you may recall, it came in a little thin. This has meant that the individual stalks have more room to spread out, and the leaves seem larger on the v.n.s. than on the other two varieties. Spreading isn’t considered desirable with fiber flax, because the more branches the plant develops, the shorter the fibers will be.

Here’s one of the first beautiful flowers on the v.n.s.:

vns first flower

In this photo I happened to catch a little green bee-like pollinator at work. Sorry it’s blurry, but I didn’t even realize it was there until after I took the photo.

blurry green bee

Last year I learned from Cliff Hatch at Upinngil Farm that flax flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects, and will not produce a lot of viable seed without them. I am not trying to save seed this year (hence I am growing more than one variety close together). There aren’t any beehives near the Amethyst Brook gardens, but as you can see, we get a few other pollinators.

The Evelin was full of buds yesterday, but no flowers yet:

Evelin buds June 12

There was one flower just barely unfurling in the Marylin bed (or Marilyn, who knows–I’ve seen it written both ways):

Marylin bud

Measuring the heights of the plants proved a bit trickier to do by myself than I thought it would be. Again, apologies for the quality of the photos. Next time I will bring along an assistant.

The v.n.s. is about 33 inches high:

vns height June 12

The Evelin is about 35 inches high, though there is a patch where all the plants are much shorter (one to two feet) and more spindly:

Evelin height June 12

Evelin short patch

The Marylin is a full 36 inches and some plants are taller.

Marylin height June 12

However, it has suffered from lodging, which is when the plants fall over and don’t straighten up again.

Marylin lodging June 12I

noticed the lodging at the end of May. Here’s how it looked on May 28th.

Marylin lodging May 28

I decided not to do anything to correct the problem (for example, staking). The point of the whole exercise this year is to see how different varieties compare under similar conditions. The Marylin came in very thickly compared to the other two varieties, and grew much faster initially. I think this may be have due, in part, to the competition between the plants. In theory, you want to sow thickly so the plants will grow as tall as possible and as straight as possible, without branching. However, perhaps they outpaced themselves, and got too tall for their own stalks to support. Maybe Marylin needs to be planted less densely.

Anyway, that’s the news from flax land.


Dishtowels for Pioneer Valley Weavers’ Guild

I am a member of two local weaving guilds, Pioneer Valley Weavers’ Guild and Weavers of Western Massachusetts. The Pioneer Valley Weavers did a community service project this year where members wove dishtowels to donate to the Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraising auctions this summer and fall.

I decided to use Ms and Os for my weave structure, to get some nice bumpy texture. Here are my dishtowels in process. Here is the warp threaded, sleyed, tied on, and ready to go:

Ms and Os dishtowel warp

It is a mixture of different sizes of cotton yarns, as I was trying to use old yarns from my stash. So, the black is 6/2, the light green and gold are 10/2, and the cream is 8/2. I think they are all mercerized, but they are still soft enough to be absorbent. The width is 22.3 inches in the reed, and it’s 536 ends sett at 24 epi, sleyed 2 per dent in a 12 dent reed. I wound a 4 yard warp, which I thought would be enough for three full sized towels. As it turned out, I only had enough for two towels and one smaller napkin or bread-basket sized cloth.

One towel has a pale yellow 22/2 cottolin weft:

pale yellow cottolin weft

I like this one because the values and proportions in the stripes work the way I imagined, and I like the lacy feeling.

I wove the other towel with a bright turquoise blue 6/2 cotton weft:

turquoise blue weft

The intensity/saturation of the turquoise interferes with the stripes. As Matthew put it, everything feels like it’s underwater. In future, to use this color weft again, I would redesign the stripes in a smaller scale and with different colors. I think that a more intense bright yellow would work better than the gold, for example. On the other hand, several people to whom I showed the finished towels said they preferred the turquoise one.

For the smaller napkin-sized piece, I alternated the turquoise and pale yellow, and I like the plaid effect a lot (the pale green stripe at the bottom is plain weave, which I sewed into the hem).

turquoise and pale yellow stripes

striped napkin

Above, the napkin-sized cloth looks round because it’s draped over a round foot stool, but I think you can see the plaid effect pretty well.