spring fibre foraging and planting

I thought it high time to do a bit of updating for what we have been up to in the planting and harvesting department so far. there have been some exciting things discovered!

But First: for the record

flax plantings took place as follows:

Means of Production Garden May 29 (Marylin seeds)

Maclean Park June 2 (Electra seeds)

Hastings Urban Farm June 3 ( Marylin seeds)

Trillium North June 7 ( Marylin and Electra seeds)

I was overzealous in the seeds I gave away before I had a chance to do my own planting, so  planted  mostly electra ( last years seed) at Trillium, and noticed right away that the small square of marylin came up faster, not sure if that is a  seed difference, or because the electra was  older seed. Penny did a bit of research, and it looks like there should only be about a 2% chance of cross-pollination, so not overly worried about that.

seeding MOP

seeding MOP

Other things worth noting about the sites that we can monitor as the season progresses:

The HUF site is in a heat sink- being surrounded by buildings and concrete, the milkweed there has grown twice as fast as at the other sites likely because it is warmer.- Also seems the nicest soil, least weeds and good “handfeel”

Trillium was really lousy soil, the park board dropped off rotted leaf mulch for me, so I just seeded on top of the leaf mulch, will see how  the fibre is from this experiment!

Maclean has very little flax and  neighbourhood folks are taking care of the site this year with me, growing carrots, sunflowers, amaranth and quinoa along with our milkweed. The soil did not get any soil amendments from last year, other then halfhearted attempt to plant  winter rye too late in the season.

MOP is very clay-heavy soil, things like weeds and remnants of older crops grow like stink, I just hope the flax can  keep up. We did  4 major weedings before planting starting from March, didn’t make a lick of difference!

flax and weeds as neighbours

flax and weeds as neighbours 3 weeks later

Soon I will post  exciting photos of growing flax I promise

On the foraging front:

Tansy folks! IMG_1633A contender for the new fiber 2014 award? We harvested some on June 10, and just ’cause- I tried stripping the skin off and it works! Am doing a few  retting experiments with it now – stay tuned!


We harvested on May 20, 27 and  June 2nd and the skin came off amazingly well after a good smack with David’s Mallet – feels already like the basketry  skin we usually harvest in late July. This season is crazy early. (I have heard of a local man having his  wheat harvest on July 1st this year!) I have done a series of retting tests, and so far have some fibre that was retted for 10 days, then mellowed for 3 (read- forgotten about in the bottom of a basket where it stay wet for 3 days- we call that mellowing) This will be hackled soon using our flax hackles


I nailed it! thanks again to Nancy Turner’s book on hand technologies of First Nations People in BC, I happened to  look up fireweed, and she said, June/July harvest for cordage- before flowers bloom, and it worked! More fibre, will save some for retting experiments and some to use green.

Stinging Nettle: IMG_1450

We have sourced a few locations within a few blocks of our  Trillium work site- and by my rules that is close enough to count!  I hope it is hidden enough from zealous gardeners that it is left untouched and we can harvest it later in the season. When I picked some to show folks, I also picked some  plantain ( left) and burdock ( right) so folks knew what to look for if they got a sting… IMG_1631Then Martin sent me this video link today, so am going to have to try it barehanded now!

Tracy also brought out some eagle down and Mountain goat hair she has been collecting and we spun up a sample.IMG_1423

and she showed us how her ancestors used diatomaceous earth to clean the wool fibres- it kills bugs- and  a little water added, and hand  rubbing also brings up the guard hairs for easy removal.

At the MOP site, we are just beginning to have some fun with discovering the native tree section, and Katrina and I are working away at  some pruning,IMG_1649 the results of which is giving us wood to use like Mock orange, traditionally used for tools including knitting needles and the branches of Oregon grape and the great yellow inner bark shall be a dye. The Arbutus tree that has died on site shall become a feature for our weaving in some way down the road….IMG_1655

Next Wednesday Mirae’s  dance workshop is back at the Hastings Farm, and I am going to bring my spinning wheel and get caught up on some spinning on site while the group dances, come join if you can!



Spring Foraging Dates Announced

5 dates just announced for some spring fibre foraging…  it’s a part of our research actually. You see, I figured out by fluke years ago that Himalayan blackberry has a specific date for harvesting the bark for use in basketry- that is late July here in Vancouver. Harvesting during that time and then  attempting to process the inner bark into a spun fibre has shown some positive results, but the fibre is very scratchy!

I think if we try gathering and processing from late May through June we might just get a fibre we can then later ret and process similar to how we process flax. So that is the objective!

Spring Foraging:

Join Tracy and Sharon for locating, foraging and processing spring fibre plants. Wear closed toe shoes, bring leather garden gloves and clippers if you have them. We will be gathering and processing blackberry stocks for fibre research. Each day we will meet at our designated location and forage in the area for gathering local invasive plants. (tools/gloves provided) Trouble finding us? Call Sharon at 604-363-0220

Tuesdays 6-8.30pm

May 20  Strathcona Park Fieldhouse   857 Malkin Ave. near Hawks

June 3  Means of Production Garden   corner of E. 6th and St. Catherines

June 10  Strathcona Park Fieldhouse

June 17    Means of Production Garden

June 24   Trillium North Park  580 Malkin at Thornton meet at Thornton St sports field entrance.