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  • Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: jldphotographblog.com.
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Flax Harvest

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎10-02-2014 04:35 PM - edited ‎10-02-2014 05:05 PM

Throughout the year I have been sharing all about our flax crop here at Agriculture.com.

 

The time finally came to harvest our flax. You may recall on the last update, we talked about how to tell if the flax seed is mature. Seed is produced in what is called a boll or small round capsule. A full boll can have up to 10 seeds but typically averages around six to eight. Every bloom that is produced will become a boll with seeds. As the flax matures, it will turn from a green color to a yellow color. The seeds inside the bolls start white and as they mature turn brownish yellow. Flax is ususally deemed fully mature when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown and the stems turn yellow. 

 

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We harvested our flax with a combine (or harvester) with a draper header. A draper header uses a soft canvas-style rolling platform belt (draper) to catch crop. The crop is conveyed on the belt from both ends of the header to the middle, where a third draper pushes it into the feeder house. Draper headers are an alternative to auger-style headers which typically use a large auger which feeds crop to the center where it will enter the combine’s feeder house.

 

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Draper headers have gained favor as a tool to harvest a wide range of crops over a variety of different terrains. I will say my husband and father-in-law are pretty sold on the versatility of this header. 

 

According to their various manufacturers, "they’re able to feed larger volumes of material evenly into combines, resulting in increased combine capacity and more acres harvested per day. And when the cut portion of the crop can be fed evenly into the combine, this also helps improve residue distribution, reduce grain losses and minimize wear and tear on belts and drivelines within the combine itself." 

 

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The flax yielded fairly well despite several growing challenges and some weather challenges. It was certainly exciting to bring a crop of the past back to the farm and I don't think any of us were more proud than Grandpa. At 88 years young, he delighted in seeing a crop he used to grow come back. I got the chance to sit in the tractor with him while he ran the grain cart as he told me stories about how he used to grow and harvest flax. 

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Flax is an important crop to North Dakota with nearly 95 percent of the nation's flax grown solely in the state. During recent years, the United States has been a net importer of flaxseed as the value and market for flaxseed as a healthy food continues to develop.  

 

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As research continues to support flaxseed as a healthy choice for heart health as well as reduced cancer risk, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues and if more farms become interested in bringing flax back. At present, the only flax breeding and genetics program in the U.S. is at the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station.  In fact, the program at NDSU is one of only three in the entire United States.

 

To read more about our season growing flax, visit these articles: 

 

 

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A Flax Update: Growing

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎08-22-2014 02:32 PM - edited ‎10-02-2014 03:49 PM

So I shared a while back about how we are growing a new crop on the farm... a crop of the past! Flax! And I am sure you all remember when I shared about standing in the ocean... The ocean of flax blooms. In case you missed it, let me remind you of the beauty... 

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Last time we left off on the flax journey... we talked about why we grow flax, what flax is used for, and the history of flax grown across the globe. This update, I would like to talk about how flax grows. 

 

So how does flax grow? 

Flax is an annual plant that has one main stem. Flax usually grows to a height of about 24 to 36 inches with a tap root that can penetrate to 40 inches if growing conditions are favorable. Flax requires a 50 day vegetative period, 25 day flowering period, and about 35 days to mature. 

 

Flax is a self-pollinated crop. Individual flowers open the first few hours after sunrise on clear, warm days, and by noon usually the petals will close up. Most varieties will have blue petals but petals may also be different shades of white, purple, or even pink. Once the plants are done blooming, the blooms will fall off and bolls will form. 

 

Seed is produced in what is called a boll or small round capsule. A full boll can have up to 10 seeds but typically averages around six to eight. Every bloom that is produced will become a boll with seeds. As the flax matures, it will turn from a green color to a yellow color. The seeds inside the bolls start white and as they mature turn brownish yellow. Flax is ususally deemed fully mature when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown and the stems turn yellow. 

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Where Can Flax Be Grown?

Flax does best grown on the same type of land that grows wheat or barley. Poorly drained soils, drought soils, and soils with lots of erosion should be avoided for growing flax. Flax fits well into a small grains rotation and should not be planted more than a one in three year rotation.

 

The North Central area also has moderate summer temperatures and rainfall which is sufficient flax. Flax yields tend to decrease as precipitation diminishes. Adequate moisture and relatively cool temperatures, particularly during the period from flowering to maturity, seem to increase oil content and quality in flaxseed. 

 

Our flax is just starting to turn or ripen. The seeds are starting to turn color from white and the stems are starting to turn yellow. Here's what it looks like now! Our next update will be all about harvest! Stay tuned! 

 

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Standing in the Ocean

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎07-23-2014 01:12 PM

Several weeks ago I wrote about how we are growing flax again on the farm. Flax is a crop that Grandpa used to grow. And he's been eagerly awaiting it to bloom. He keeps telling me when the flax blooms, I will have to go stand in the ocean. 

 

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And this week, I stood in the ocean. As we came over the hill to the field of flax, there was no denying it was blooming. You could see it from a mile away. And it literally did look like an ocean of blueish, purple. It was gorgeous. I stood in the field, my camera in my hand, soaking it all in. 

 

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The blooms are starting to cycle through and once they fall off, they form what is called bolls. They are little pods that contain the flax seeds. These bolls are what we will harvest when it comes time. 

 

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Up close, the blooms are gorgeous shade of purple-blue with such intricate detail. Morning is the best time to catch these beauties blooming as they close up in the evening or whenver there may be bad weather. We drove by the other evening and sure enough, no blooms. Field was green, not the ocean we had seen the previous morning. 

 

Crops never cease to amaze me. Farming never ceases to inspire me. It's a constant learning experience. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

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Have any of you ever seen flax bloom? 

 

 

Beauty in the Most Simple Places

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎07-09-2014 11:07 AM - edited ‎07-23-2014 04:06 PM

Last week I wrote about how I love living in rural America... The nostaglia of a small town, the peacefulness, the quietness, no traffic. 


But sometimes living in rural America, we get numb to the beauty that is around us. We quickly grow accustomed to where we live. And we forget to see what's around us.

 

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I was reminded this last weekend the beauty that is created in the most simple of places. Living in rural America, often times I fly past all the corn fields, the pastures with calves that grow every day.. I don't spend enough time soaking in the beauty that is around me. 

 

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Hopping in the car, the windows rolled down, wind in your hair, sun shining on your face... Pulling over on the side of a dirt road, taking a few steps into a field just to soak in the sound of the crops blowing in the wind. (p.s. Check out our flax now!!) 

 

There's honestly nothing better. 

 

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I hope you take some time this week to appreciate beauty in the most simple places... Instead of blowing by that field of cattle or that field of corn you drive by 10x a week, take some time to stop.

 

Stop. Soak it all in. And find beauty in the most simple of places. 

 

 

 

Going Back to a Crop of the Past...

by Jennifer_Dewey ‎06-18-2014 10:58 AM - edited ‎07-23-2014 04:06 PM

I have written quite a bit about the future in Agriculture. I’ve written about thinking outside the box and being willing to adapt and accept new things in your farming operation. But sometimes thinking outside the box may be trying something we used to do, bringing back something of the past. This year on our farm, we are doing just that. We needed a crop to go into some production land that has had wheat on it for a couple of years. Two weeks ago I wrote about our crop rotation and while we maintain that rotation throughout our fields, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

 

So we needed a new crop. Our answer? Going back to something we used to grow. Flax.

 

Where did flax come from?

Flax is actually one of the oldest fiber crops in the world. It is said to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe, but it was extensively cultivated in ancient China and Egypt. In fact, the linen cloth that wrapped mummies in Egypt has been found to contain flax fibers. Flax production made it to the United States for commercial production somewhere around 1753 and became a popular crop as the upper Midwest and parts of Canada were settled during the 1800s. Today, worldwide, the top producers of flax are the Soviet Union, Poland, and France.

 

Where is flax grown?  

Flax is a crop that is traditional to North Dakota. Back when people first settled here and broke the native prairies, flax was one of the crops produced. Because flax thrives in moderate summer temperatures and rainfall along with fertile clay soils, the North Central part of the country is where flax has traditionally been grown.

 

Flax has a history in other North Central states such as South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In Alternative Field Crops Manual put out by the University of Wisconsin Extension in 1989, they reported that “Wisconsin had 2,000 acres for seed in the state in 1966… Minnesota had 378,000 acres in 1920 and over 1,600,000 in 1943. Since 1943, acreage has steadily declined with only 15,000 acres grown in 1988. “

 

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If we take a look at the 2013 Flaxseed Planted Acres by County, we can see the current numbers of production for selected states such as North Dakota. Even though we and many other farmers in the area have moved onto growing other crops, North Dakota continues to rank first in flaxseed production with more than 90 percent of the nation’s flax crop grown here. Flax grown in North Dakota is often used in a crop rotation along with other small grains such as barley and wheat.  Flax is also traditionally and continues to be grown in Canada as well.

 

So what is flax used for?

Producers typically grow two types of flax: seed flax for the oil in its seeds and fiber flax for the fiber in its stem. Today most grow flax for the oil and food use in the United States. Flax seed is crushed and used to produce linseed oil and leftover linseed meal. The oil has many uses while the meal is used for livestock feed. The fiber seeds are used to a variety of paper products and linens. Apparently cigarette paper is a major flax paper product. Who knew!?

 

With the trend towards eating healthier, flaxseed has gained in popularity. Flaxseed contains high levels of dietary fiber, lignans (antioxidants), and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have suggested the benefits of flaxseed on lowering cholesterol levels or in those with breast and prostate cancers. Although no conclusive evidence has been produced. I certainly know that I have seen it pop up more and more in recipes for healthy baked goods as well as in things like smoothies and energy bites.

 

Being that I am originally from California, I have never seen flax in production. I was very excited when my husband announced that we would be planting it this year. I look forward to watching it grow and getting the opportunity to firsthand learn about an entirely new crop. I have heard it is beautiful when it blooms! Stay tuned and I hope you look forward to following along and learning with me!

 

Here is what our flax looks like right now.

 

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