Happy 2017 from all of us here at TapRoot Farms!
Josh and I (Patricia) are in the throws of planning for the growing season ahead. We have created a tentative plan for what would go into the shares each week. This is to ensure we create a production schedule that has veggies available when we plan to have them available. We haven't shared this before because we don't want you to hold us to it in that it is a plan and it will depend on how storage crops hold up or how early or late the season is or if we do or do not have a big wind storm, etc. etc. We are trusting you will appreciate this. We'd love your feedback on what you'd like to see more of or less of based on what we have outlined here.
Chickens are raised from May - October. This is because they are pastured (free range). It is too cold the rest of the year to raise them. The chicken inventory will run out later on before we have new chickens in June. We have tried hard to work it out so it will last as long as possible.
Enjoy reviewing and welcome to a new year of food from the farm.
The fall has brought some wonderful changes in the weather as we finally got some rain, as well as changes in the Fibre Lab. We have made a lot of progress in the last month, and are feeling overwhelmed with all of the support and possibilities for this project. Our team has been hard at work trying to bring more product to the shelves, and we have been receiving expressions of interest from people all over the world for our products and machines. We had our first EVER piece of clothing made with our own linen mixed with wool by Pia. She spun, wove, and designed and created a beautiful tunic that certainly makes the dream of local clothing more real than ever!
Near the beginning of September, we moved our Belfast Mini Mills wool processing equipment to the old winter market at Noggins to free up farm space at Canard. The separator and carder have been hard at work with Rhea at the helm. A few weeks ago we received our short-line tow/wool spinning machine and have been able to produce tow yarn from our rovings. It’s an intense process as we try to figure out how to properly spin yarn and care for these machines, as well as how to measure that which we have spun. It’s truly an expertise that will be developed as we go. With these machines all set up together, we are almost ready to begin custom processing wool and short-line flax fibre, and have a few pilot projects lined up this fall to see what we are able to produce. Our biggest challenge for wool is that we don’t have a washer, so fleeces will have to be fairly clean before we can run them through our machines. There is a wool mill with a washer at Hameny Woolen Mill near Stewiacke, which we invite people to use before they come to us.
Our hackling machine has left the manufacturer and will be set up in conjunction with the rippler, breaker, and scutcher as we try to figure out a streamlined, mechanized process to get flax through these machines as efficiently as possible. We are also negotiating our possible first sale of the machines as well, which has added some pressure to get the entire line completed as soon as we can! We have had several people from the USA also contact us about setting up a system in their area and asking for flax-growing advice, which keeps us confident that we are on the right track.
Patricia has been on a mission to spread the word about all we are doing. She attended a Rural Talks Rural event in Blyth, ON, and participated on a panel entitled “From Fibre to Fabulous: fashion from the ground up!” telling the TapRoot Fibre story. She then attended the Manitoba Fibre Festival where she sold our first skeins of tow yarn (and lots of other goodies) in Winnipeg. Next up is Amherst for the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival on October 15th and then the weekend following that in PEI for the Maritime Spinner’s Retreat. All our products will be available for sale at these events, and it’s almost time to start planning for Christmas so if you know any spinners, weavers, or knitters, this might be a good opportunity to get ahead of the game! We are enthusiastic about hearing all your opinions about flax so come out and say hi and let us know what sort of things you are looking for. We are planning to release knitting kits that include a length of yarn and some original patterns, so if you have any ideas we would live to hear them! Email email@example.com
Finally, on September 29th we were overjoyed to be the recipients of the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Innovation Award. Valued at 32,200.00 in cash and in-kind contributions, we were first place winners for our pitch that focused on completing our processing line and getting our final wet-spinning machine for long line linen completed. Thanks to the AVCC and the judges for choosing us, and you'll be the first to get those linen shirts Patricia is always talking about!
It’s August on the farm, which means the bees are a-buzzing and so are we. As more and more crops ripen and are collected from the fields it means all hands on deck at TapRoot Farms, which translates into equal excitement here at the Fibre Lab. We brought in a new addition to the team in July, Emily, who has been working to organize events, communicate the Fibre Lab vision, and to market and sell our machines and our products. You can reach out to her at any time at the Fibre Lab email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or stop by for a tour of the processing line or the flax field so she can share with you her newfound knowledge (and enthusiasm!) about flax and linen. Rhea is busy processing, learning to troubleshoot through the working of brand new machinery and ensuring that we keep up with demand as the flax products start to take off. Mike has been hard at work with our new hackling machine and Patricia went south of the border to spread the good news about Nova Scotia flax and met some passionate and enthusiastic flax growers and processors along the way.
This month brought some exciting milestones. Our processed short-line tow, roving, and clean fibre are now on the shelves at Gaspereau Valley Fibres, and we are currently reaching out to fibre retailers all over Canada to see who may be interested in carrying our linen. Several Canadian fashion designers have already contacted us, anxiously awaiting the possibility of locally grown and naturally dyed linen fabrics, including some from Toronto, New Brunswick and Vancouver. Each product is from flax grown on the farm that has been rippled, broken, scutched, and hackled by the machines designed at the Fibre Lab. Some products have been further processed by a separator and carder from Belfast Mini Mills, and we are also hoping to start offering custom wool processing on these machines as well this fall.
If you are interested in become a retailer of Nova Scotian linen, send an email to email@example.com. All our products are also available to view and purchase online at our website, taprootfibrelab.ca.
Patricia attended the New England Flax and Linen Symposium in Deerfield, Massachusetts, as a presenter, where she was able to witness all different styles of hand processing and meet a number of other passionate flax enthusiasts. Emily and Mike prepared a video showcasing the completed machines for presentation at the Symposium, which you can view on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/ke13b4AwR6s
One of the most exciting developments of the month was the introduction of our fourth machine, the hackler. It consists of 60 combs, getting progressively finer, situated along two counter-rotating belts which brush and comb the scutched flax as it rolls through the machine. If you can’t picture it, a demonstration is featured near the end of the video linked above. The first few tests produced some very beautiful results, with long, shiny, shive-free fibres ready to be drafted and spun. These are very promising advances as we move closer and closer to having a fully functioning processing line.
The arrival of August also meant that the flax crop was nearing it’s 100th day and getting close to final maturity, which signaled the need to harvest. We hired a band and organized a corn boil, and invited all flax enthusiasts and community members to come partake in the great flax pulling. Having been an incredibly dry summer, the flax was not as long as it could have been, but certainly looked good and healthy as we pulled it from the ground. As luck would have it, one of only a few rainy days all summer fell on the day of the harvest and the band had to cancel, but the wet weather failed to deter any of our helpers. In fact, it almost felt as if people were encouraged to come enjoy the long-awaited rain, as the refreshing mist certainly made for a comfortable temperature and perfectly loosened soil. About 100 people came, and the amount of help we received and community interest in flax that we witnessed was a sign that we are on the right path here at the Fibre Lab, and that people genuinely believe in local linen as a viable product and exciting future project. We did not make it through harvesting all five acres, and encourage anyone who missed the harvest, or feels the urge to keep at it, to stop by at the farm and we will bring you out and show you how it’s done. This invitation especially extends to all who didn't hear about the harvest event through our newsletter, which we realized afterwards we had failed to send.
All in all it's been a very productive month here at the Fibre Lab, and as we move closer and closer to having a finished machine line we have lots to keep us busy in the meantime. We are also contemplating a move with a more official storefront, so stay tuned for that possible update in the future! As always, we thank everyone who has taken an interest in our work here and don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, advice, or just to talk flax.