seed to sail, Uncategorized

In the words of Inigo Montoya,

I hate waiting.

From The Princess Bride


I especially hate waiting when I’ve planted older seed and those seeds have a 7-10 day germination period. What if the seed was too old? What if they don’t sprout?

How can I have old seed? I collected the seed from the 2019 planting, didn’t I? Yes. Then I lost it.

I’d love to blame it on COVID, but that wouldn’t be fair. In 2020, I moved my studio three times. In January, we became a multigenerational household. Then Bob began working from home. Then a building materials shortage pushed back our addition plans. It all sounds very COVID related. Really, it’s more that I am organizationally challenged.

Pre-room shuffling, I had fiber stuff somewhat sorted into bins that slide into those wonderful cube shelves- and on racks in the studio- and hanging in mesh bags from the ceiling- and stashed in tubs in the dyeing room. Now, I have fiber stuff spread in poorly labeled boxes and tubs tucked under beds, on book shelves, under tables, and in one room, stacked side to side, floor to ceiling along a wall. You’ve got to *really* want something to mess with that!

In late 2018, I bought seed from the very nice folks at the Landis Valley Museum in Pennsylvania. They imported seed from Holland, and it grows some lovely flax. From those lovely seeds, I grew flax and saved about 1/2 pound of seeds from the plants. I have no idea where it went. If it ended up in the garage, then it may have fed some field mice over the winter. All I know is that there’s no way I’m unstacking a gazillion bins to find the old seed. OK, I unstacked half a gazillion bins, as well as a bunch of boxes and some mislabeled tubs. Thankfully, I stumbled across a bag of leftover 2018 seed in my computer table drawer. A natural place for storing seed (?). I can’t think why I didn’t check there first.

Truthfully, planting flax was not in my plans for this year. It felt like a long term commitment in an uncertain time. So we turned the gardens and prepped for vegetables. And I talked about flax. And not planting flax. And about sails and seeds and not planting flax. Did you know that over several hundred years, the size of linen panels for sails decreased from 48″ to 18-24″ panels? And the seams decreased from 1 1/2″ to 1″. The standard sailcloth bolt length was 38-39 yards long! And, in the early days of the spinning wheel, people didn’t trust flyer spun yarn, so the “better” cloth was made from spindle spun. I collected flax facts, sail plans, and started learning to weave. Meanwhile, Bob quietly started a new fenceline garden. We live on an old gravel mound, so starting a garden involves pick axes, carrying in soil, and some creative language.

Have I mentioned Bob’s uncanny ability to see into the future? Eventually, I asked how many tomatoes does one household really need? He pointed to the new bed and said, about that many. Which left me with an 8 x 8 garden box ready for flax. He’s a keeper.

Where was I? Yes, planting old seed. I live near the southeast corner of Lake Ontario in Zone 5a. Our growing/retting seasons are fine as long as I don’t dally.

Our new tomato garden. That’s my solar oven way in the back.

I planted in the morning on a day forecast for light rain. Somewhere along the line, I read or heard about mixing seed with flour to make it easier to sow. This worked out well for me in 2019, so I did the same thing again.

By 1 pm, we had a frontline come through with 50 mph winds and 1/2″ of rainfall in 20ish minutes. Behind that was 3 days of 45F nights and 50-60ish days. Flax doesn’t mind the cold, so at some point, if the seeds are going to sprout, they will. Right? Sure, it will. If I say it enough, it will become true- right?

Just after planting, I joined Berta’s Flax group- more about this fabulous project in a later post. In the group, I saw pictures of flax planted in rows. Beautiful, orderly rows of flax growing straight and tall. From what I had read, flax needs support from the side and likes wider beds. Obviously, no one told the plants this. I have orderly flax envy. If I need to reseed, I’m making pretty rows!

2019 Flax crop after a summer storm

For now, I’ll pace and stare at the seeds trying to decide if they look like they’ve swollen at all. Staring and mentally willing seed to sprout is a tried and true gardening technique. I do it every time I plant seeds, and ta-da! seedlings appear!

In case my mental mojo falls through, I’m going to order more seed. Best/worst case, I’ll use it for next year- because apparently I enjoy worrying about old seed.

2019 seed while winnowing

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