Monday, July 28, 2014

Blooming Flax Field

 The faces of the flax flowers were turned away from me as I stopped by the edge of the only blooming flax field I have seen this season.
 A field of flax brings back memories. Grandpa Sonny raised it regularly when I was a growing up in GriggsDakota.  The fields bloom like a lake of blue and are beautiful all through the season, until they are swathed. The swaths blow around easily and can be a challenge to combine when that happens. Also, because of its oily nature, we were cautioned to never try to stand on top of a load of flax. The flax seed will act like quicksand and swallow intruders.
 Flax is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as a health food for human consumption. It is rich in omega 3 oils and fiber, and is given credit for improving heart health and keeping cancer away. When flax is fed to chickens, the eggs are said to contain less cholesterol and more healthy fat. 
Flax has been raised for over a thousand years, primarily for its stalk. The fiber from the stalk of the flax plant is used to produce linen and fine paper products including Kleenex and cigarette wrappers.
Flax flowers produce seed heads, being held still in the wind by my thumb, which contain the flax seed. The seed contains the oil that has been traditionally used to make linseed oil, used in the paint industry. 

With the modern day perception of health benefit, much of the seed is ground and used as an ingredient in baked goods and cereals. 
The straw will not break down adequately if left on the field after combining. It can be baled and sold in some areas. Farms can stack bales to use as windbreaks for livestock. If flax fiber is applied to river banks or washouts, it adds substance to wet ground and can help slow water flow. Because of its strong fiber, it stands up well.
Flax straw was often burned after harvest to keep its stringy stalks from plugging tillage equipment and blowing around. Modern vertical tillage equipment can adequately chop the flax straw so that burning is unnecessary. 
But a flax field blowing in the wind was a delightful sight near GriggsDakota.

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