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Category Flax

Monthly update - January, 2016

Posted on by Rhea Hamlin

Since the new year, we have been busy planning for the year ahead. 

Denise has been researching different seed trials carried out in Belgium and France for varieties that will grow well in our Maritime climate. Because of our shorter growing season, we are looking at seed varieties with good youth growth. We are planning to grow five acres of flax this year, with the majority of the fields being planted with the Melina variety. We have planted Melina before with good success. We will also plant some small test plots with a range of newer varieties. 

As we increase the amount of flax we are growing, we have to solve the harvesting issue. Last year, our one-acre plot of flax was harvested manually over several weeks. This harvesting method is clearly not a viable option with our production increasing to five acres. The team has been working on finding a solution to our harvesting needs. 

We have decided to include roving on our list of products. I have been carrying out research to determine a fair price for this product. 

On January 15th, a group of farmers, weavers, spinners, and other interested folks started an exciting discussion about forming a collective fibershed here in Nova Scotia. We will be continuing the conversation on February 12th, at 1 pm at Bishop Hall. If you are interested in joining the conversation, or interested in learning more, please join us on the 12th. 

Last year, we were contacted by a flax and linen study group in New England about a symposium they are hosting in August of this year. We are happy to announce that Patricia and Mike (our engineer) will not only be attending the event, but will be presenting. And, we are looking into the possibility of taking our equipment with us. I have been conducting some research into the necessary paperwork we need to have in place to cross the border with our machinery. 

Back in December, we were asked to write some content for TrustedClothes.com and the first two blog posts have been published. It was nice to work with Shannon at Trusted Clothes and we are looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for this organization. 

Patricia brought in her mother's knitting machine and I am working on getting the machine into operational condition. Once operating, I will learn how to knit dishcloths on the machine using our linen yarn. In addition to this, we are working with Jonathan McClelland at Western Valley Agri to develop a firelog using our flax shives. 

Our second piece of equipment, the breaker, was brought to the farm last week. After some tweaking, I will be able to start breaking mechanically. I am super excited as this means no more tired shoulder! 

We are in the process of setting up the flax processing room on the farm. We have started testing our third piece of equipment, the scutcher--this machine will remove the shive from the linen fibres--and construction of our fourth piece of equipment, the hackling machine, has started. This piece of equipment will remove any knots and shorter linen fibres and leave you with long line linen fibres that are ready for the intersector. 
 
 


Monthly blog - December, 2015

Posted on by Rhea Hamlin

I hope you had a lovely holiday spent with family and friends. Even though we slowed down over the holiday, a lot happened over the month of December, and I am excited to share it with you. 

I contacted a local spinner who was keen to try his hand at spinning linen, so I sent him a sample of our long line flax fibres and some short line flax roving. (Roving is made from the short fibres (2-4") that remain in the hackles after processing the long line fibres. It is easy to spin and commonly used in knitting and weaving.) When he was finished spinning the sample fibres, I met with him to discuss how the fibres were to work with. (Good!) It is exciting to see interest in linen fibres growing. 
 
We have heard back from several businesses and organizations that we contacted in the fall about the TapRoot Fibre Lab. The folks who responded were excited to hear from us and to learn what we are working toward. Also in December, we were contacted by Trusted Clothes--a group of volunteers who are linking people, organizations, and brands who are ethically and environmentally friendly. They have asked us to guest write a series of blogs for their website. We will write three blogs for them, discussing our ongoing process of designing and biulding our machinery, why we have chosen to work with flax and linen, and where we want to see the TapRoot Fibre Lab in the future. We're really looking forward working with an organization like Trusted Clothes. Check them out: http://www.trustedclothes.com/ 
 
We are making good progress on the machinery. Testing of the breaking machine continues and the results are looking promising. Mike anticipates that the scutching machine prototype will be ready for testing by the middle of this month. The design is complete for the fourth machine--the hackler. This machine will remove any last bits of straw remaining and comb the scutched flax into long, clean fibres that are ready to spin.  I took some of the flax straw that Mike put through the breaker to the lab and I finished processing the fibres by hand. (These were the samples that we sent to our spinner.) It is a little chilly in the lab right now! Luckily, we have a space heater to keep things warm. 
 
From the whole TapRoot Fibre Lab team, we wish you all the best in 2016

 



Monthly blog - November 2015

Posted on by Rhea Hamlin

With the cooler weather, we have moved indoors. 

On November 1st, we held a 'Flaxy Sunday Harvest Mob' event at TapRoot Farms. Our goal was to have 100 people in the flax field harvesting the remaining flax. Unfortunately, the weather did not corporate with us and we were harvesting in the rain. We had a great group of people show up to help us despite the weather and after harvesting, Patricia invited everyone in to warm up by a fire with a delicious bowl of soup.  There is still some flax in the field. We are testing to determine how the flax will handle the winter months. 

Our flax straw from this year's harvest has been moved indoors for storage over the winter months. 

We held a meeting with some professors from both Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design and Acadia University. They, together with a few other key supporters,  helped us to develop a research strategy for developing flax/linen-related products. We are excited to move forward with the action plans we came up with.


I have completed TapRoot Fibre Lab’s content marketing plan and have started implementing our action plans. 

We are working on sharing our journey with as many individuals, businesses, and organizations as possible. A letter was sent out to inform and encourage conversation. 


We are excited to announce that things are coming along nicely with our equipment. Testing has started on our second piece of equipment--the breaker--and Timbertec has started work on the third piece of equipment--the scutcher. 

I wish you a happy and safe holiday and all the best in the new yea
r.

 
 


Monthly blog - October, 2015

Posted on by Rhea Hamlin

 

I’ve just come in from the flax field to complete some computer work that I put on the back burner back in August, when I started harvesting flax.

With all the leaves changing colour, things are beautiful here in the Annapolis Valley and like the weather, things at TapRoot Fibre Lab are changing! Here is what’s been happening:

  • We have started searching for used equipment. We have a lead on a seed cleaner out in Saskatchewan and are sourcing harvesters and Hollander beaters (for paper making).

  • We are building partnerships and networking with folks who are interested in our machines. I have been working on putting together a letter to send to individuals, businesses, and organizations that will include photos of the rippler testing and progress on the breaker, a description of our work thus far, and where we are heading.

  • A few weeks back we had a visit from a friend of ours who works with flax in Québec. He spent the day with us, talking about things to consider during our test runs and offered suggestions on how to improve the quality of our flax straw. His visit was jam-packed with information!  

  • We are testing out some products that we can produce while we are waiting for the long line linen machines to be built. Linen is our final goal, but there is so much more that the “cast away” fibres, seeds, and shivecan be used for!

  • Patricia is following up with her contacts from her recent trip to Belgium and is in the process of securing financing to move the TapRoot Fibre Lab into the next phase of development.



Monthly blog - September, 2015

Posted on by Rhea Hamlin

Happy Belated Autumnal Equinox!

I have been busy in the flax field harvesting, drying, and retting this year
's crop. 
 
In August, I experimented with some flax from 2014 that had not retted 
long enough--I retted one-pound bundles of flax for varying lengths 
of time and noted any changes in colour and processing time. I 
also conducted some market research to identify yarn shops located in 
the Maritime provinces that carry linen yarns. 
 
Recently, Patricia visited Belgium for a week to talk to professionals 
in the flax industry.She had a wonderful time and blogged about her 
visit in the Facebook group: Flax Learning Tour 2015. 
 
The rippling machine testing is ongoing and yielding positive results. 
The challenge now is finding a cost-effective way to crush and clean 
the seeds. Construction has started on our second piece of 
equipment--the breaker--and the designs are finished for the third 
piece--the scutcher. Construction on the scutcher will begin when the 
prototype breaker goes into the testing phase. 
 
Have a safe and happy October!