Harvest over;
The scent of retting lingers,

Some weeks ago, a fellow blogger, Mark (*1), challenged his readers to write a haiku about cotton.  Like me, Mark follows the seasons in his blog. At that particular time the cotton plant was beginning to open.  Of course where I live we don’t grow cotton and so having no experience of that process I wondered if there was something here, in these wetter, cooler lands that could be written about.

What came to mind was flax, the plant from which linen is made, and not so many years ago it played a massive part in the life of this island. Finding out something about it here was easy enough; the website for National Museums NI (*2) has lots of information but I wondered if anyone still grew and produced flax. Eventually I came across a farm in County Tyrone (*3) who’s ethos was to grow and produce flax using traditional methods in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Making contact with the farm, I was able to arrange a visit for my wife and myself on a glorious late September morning. Accompanied by Helen and Charlie we tramped over their fields along with their dogs, and actually pulled some missed stems of flax. We also helped to pick some of the remaining hedgerow blackberries.

How privileged we were, hearing the farm’s story and their plans for a sustainable future. Perhaps next year we will return to see the fields filled with the “wee blue flower”.

Carried on the autumn wind,
Golden memories.


(Retting: the process of soaking the flax in water to help soften the stalks so that the flax fibres can be separated from the core and outer casing.  The smell is very distinctive).

(*1) https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/117283304/posts/4218663982

(*2) https://www.nmni.com/story/warp-and-weft-story

(*3) https://mallonireland.com/pages/linen


35 thoughts on “Flax

  1. That’s wonderful that you had a close by farm to visit. I never knew linen was made from flax.

    My Dad had a side business of owning several cotton pickers and hiring crews and the machines out every fall to harvest cotton grown in So. Az.

    1. Hi Katelon, I hope you followed the link to Mark’s blog as he has some wonderful information there about cotton and some good verses too! 🌹🙋‍♂️

      1. I know the cotton I grew up with was highly filled with pesticide use. We used to play in the trailers filled with cotton. Great for my then serious asthma 😦 Cotton crops use tons of water….not really sustainable. I will check out the link.

  2. Thanks, Ashley. We have a few precious Irish linen pieces in the family, from my grandmother. I’d love to see how linen was made from the flax.

    1. Hi Michael, the process is quite a long one. Do check the link to the NMNI website (National Museums Northern Ireland) as there are some really good photos of the process. 🙋‍♂️

  3. It must have been a great experience to see how flax was grown, when it had been such an important industry in Ulster in the past. I like the way the National Museum’s website shows all the stages of growing through to embroidering the linen.

  4. We have a cockatiel and there’s Linseeds (flax seeds) in his seed mix, so when I empty his seed tray every morning in the garden, before refilling, the leftovers sprout and we have those pretty little blue flowers. 😀

    1. Growing and processing Flax is such a useful crop. The wild plant is called Linum utisatissimum, meaning useful! I remember reading somewhere that the fibres were at one time used in bank notes and tea bags! 🌹🙋‍♂️

    1. Hi Mark, we had a great morning; the weather too was wonderful. You must have thought I’d forgotten about your cotton page 😉🙋‍♂️

  5. Thank you for the beautiful photo and brilliant verse. I am in awe of your ability to say so much in so few words and so light, uplifting and elegantly.
    Happy day to you, too.

      1. Yes! I don’t know how I missed your blog in my WordPress meanderings, and I will return to it soon to read more of your offerings. I am grateful for the connection! 🌎

    1. Dear Elena, the scent, or perfume, from the retting process, is not considered to be pleasant. However, once it has been experienced it is never forgotten. Thank you for your comment. 🌹🙋‍♂️

  6. I find it very interesting that you have flax in Britain, because I live in a small Canadian town that’s surrounded by farm fields. A very common crop is flax. We also have canola, wheat, mustard seed and other grains and pulse crops.

    I thought Britain was very damp, with a lot of rain. Here we are very dry. And yet flax grows in both places.

    Another British plant I find interesting is heather, because the Narnia books mention them. Heather doesn’t grow here.

    1. Yes, it is certainly damp here in Northern Ireland ☂ and the northwestern areas of these islands! We are affected mainly by the weather that comes in from the Atlantic. Thank you for your comments about crops near you. 🌹🙋‍♂️

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