FLAX. Since the introduction of the cotton gin, cotton goods have largely supplanted the use of linen., Up to the period of the .ast war with Great Britain, flax, for manufacturing into goods for wear, was generally raised by farmers and spun by their families. The census of 1810 returned, 21,211,262 yards of flaxen cloths made An families, and a production of 23,925,746 yards of blended and unnamed stuffs, and 802,718 yards of tow cloth. Now, nearly all the linen goods manufactured in the country is from )imported flax, it having been found that the tog of raising a crop for fine fiber, and its preparation, could not be undertaken on account of the scarcity and high price of labor, in this country, as compared with that of European countries, where cheEtp manual labor and that of cheaper women's labor came into competition. Nevertheless the cultivation of flax for its seed, and, as of secondary importance; the manufac: ture of the lint for coarse bagging, hag become a great industry especially in the settlement of the Western lands, the seed being an article which in consequence of its high price would bear transportation long distances. As showing something of this, we find that the five States between the Ohio and the MiSsissippi reported in 1850, 238,265 bushels; in 1860, 375,107; 1870, 1,431,415. At these successive decennial periods Ohio reported 88,880 hushes, 242,420, and 631, 894; Indiana, 36,888, 119,420, and 401,931; Illinois, 10.787, 8,670,. and 280,043. The States beyond the Mississippi reported in 1850, 15,976 bushels; 1860, 11,253; 1870; 143,930. in crease in the product' of 1869 over that of 1859 was chiefly in Minnesota, Iowa, California, and Oregon. The State of Ohio furnishes definite local statistics, which illustrate the general up ward tendency in the northern States east of the Mississippi, beginning with the stimulating effects of the war and continuing until those effects ceased to operate, followed by a decline. From 1862 to 1875, inclusive, the annual acreage and production of seed and lint in Ohio were as follows: ? In the younger States west of the Mississippi the upward tendency in production as yet shows no sign of declining, but seems to grow with accumulating force. Minnesota reported, for 1870, 18,635 bushels of seed, and 120,571 pounds of lint; 1872, 71,752 bushels, and 2,903,079 pounds; -1873, 100,853 bushels; for 1876 the official estimate was 125,932 bushels. Iowa, which reported for the census of 1870, 28,621 bushels, reported for the State census of 1875, 559,836 bushels. The report of the Kansas State board for 1879 gives over 37,000 acres in flax, yielding 424,770 bushels of seed, valued at $424,770,58. This gives an average yield of 11,48 bushels per acre, and an average value of $1.00 per bushel. In relation to the fiber, the report says, the amount returned for the census of 1850 was 7,709,676 pounds; 1860, 4,720,145; 1870, 27,133,034. In 1850 Kentucky held the first rank, reporting 2,100,116 pounds; Virginia the second, 1,000,450; New York the third, 940,577; and North Carolina excelled Ohio by In 1860, • New York 'had gained per cent., and held the first rank; Ohio ninety-seven per cent., and was second; Ken tucky had lost sixty-five per cent., and was .third; Virginia fifty-one per cent., and was fourth. In 1870 Ohio had advanced 1,926.3 per cent., and ranked'first ; New York 141 per cent., and was second; while Kentucky had lost sixty seven per cent., and was eighth; and Virginia, including West Virginia, fifty-six per cent., and was tenth. In New York, .as in the Northwest, production which has been declining in- recent years appears to have increased until after the close of the war; the product returned in 1869 (the census year) was 92,519 bushels of seed, and 3,670,818 pounds of fiber; in 1874, 130,318 bushels, and 3,927,914 pounds were returned. The cultivation of- flax for seed an flax tow, requires that the soil be put in a fine state of filth, that the seed be sown, one and a half bushels per acre, on freshly plowed ground, and lightly and evenly covered. When ripe, the crop is cut with a self-raking reaper, the gavels set up without binding, and leaning together so they will stand secure. When quite dry the seed is threshed by machines, and gen erally sold at once to agents of oil mills, or buy ers in , the villages. Formerly flax was thought to be an exhausting crop. From the prevalence of noxious seeds in the flax the land soon becomes foul. From these two 'objections —has arisen the idea that flax is exhausting; yet, flax, except it be pulled and the seed and fiber carried away, is not particularly exhausting. As to the objection of foul seed, it is now obviated by means of modern fanning-mills, which clean the seed thoroughly. On the rich soils of the West farmers have taken advantage of these facts, and hence the large increase in production. If machinery could be invented for preparing the stems cheaply, the, lint would be an added stim ulus to its further production. So few persons understand the cultivation of flax for lint, (for where lint is the chief product, the seed is a secondary consideration,) we append the follow ing, originally recommended by the Royal Society for the Promotion, and Improvement of the Growth of Flax in Ireland, and revised by the special committee of the Northeast Agri cultural Association of Ireland for Promoting the Growth of Irish Flax. , They contain suffi dent information for the cultivation of the plant, and to economize and reduce it to a proper state for breaking and scutching: By attention and careful cultivation good flax may be grown on various soils, but some are much better adapted for it than others. The best is a sound, dry, deep loam. It is almost essential that the land should be properly drained and subsoiled, as, when it is long saturated either with underground or surface water, a good crop need 'not be expected. The subsoiling should be executed upon a previous crop, so as to be completed at least two years before the flax is grown. The best rotation for lint is to grow after wheat on average soils; hut in poor soils, where wheat does not succeed, it is often better to grow after potatoes. Flax should on no account be grown oftener than once in five years on the same ground, and once in seven is con sidered safer. Any departure from this system of rotation is likely to cause disappointment and loss. One of the points of the greatest impor tance in the culture of flax is by thorough drain ing and, by careful and repeated cleansing of the land from weeds, to place it in the finest, deepest, and cleanest state. This will make room for the roots to penetrate, which they will often do to a depth equal to one-half the length of the stem above ground. After wheat, one plowing may be sufficient if on light, friable loam, but two plowings would be better; on stiff soils three are advisable—one immediately after harvest, across the ridges, and two in spring, so as to be ready for sowing in the first or second week in April. Much will, of course, depend on the nature of the soil and the knoWl edge and experience of the farmer. The land should be so well drained and subsoiled that it can be sown in flats, which will give more even and much better crops. But until the sys tem of thorough draining be general, it is advisa ble to plow early in autumn, to a depth of six or eight inches. Throw the land into ridges, that it may receive the frost and air, and make surface drains to carry off the rains of winter. Plow it again in spring three or four inches deep, so as to preserve the winter surface for the roots of the flax. The spring plowing should be given some time before sowing, to allow any seeds of weeds in the land to vegetate, and the harrowing in of the flax seed will likely kill them, and save a great deal of after-weeding. Following the last harrowing, it is necessary to roll, to give an even surface and con solidate the ground, breaking up this again with a short-tooth or seed harrow before sowing, which should be up and down, not across the ridges or angle-wise. These oper ations can be varied by any skillful farmer to suit peculiar soil or extraordinary seasons. The ob ject is to have clean, fine soil, as like as possible to what a garden soil should be. In buying seed i select it plump, shining and heavy. Sift it clear of all the seeds of weeds, which will save a great deal of after trouble when the crop is growing. This may be done through a wire aieve, twelve bars to an inch. Home-saved seed has produced excellent crops, yet it will be best, in most cases, to use the seed which is saved at home for feed ing, or to sell it for the oil mills. The propor tion of seed may be stated at nearly two bushels and a peck to a statute acre. It is better to sow rather too thick than too thin, as with thick sow ing the stems grow tall and straight, with only one or two seed capsules at the top; and the fiher is found greatly superior in fineness and length to that produced from thin sown flax, which grows course and branches out, producing much seed, but a very inferior quality of fiber. The ground being pulverized and well cleaned, roll and sow. If it had been laid off without ridges, it should be marked out in divisions eight or ten feet broad in order to give an equable supply of seed After sowing, which should be done by a skillful person, as the seed is very slippery and apt to glide unevenly from the hand (a broad cast seed aower is best), cover with a seed har row, going twice over it—once up and down, and once across or angle-wise, as this makes it more equably spread, and avoids the small drills made by the teeth of the harrow. Finish with the roller, which will leave the seed covered about an inch—the proper depth. The ridges should be very little raised in the centre, when the ground is ready for the seed; otherwise, the crop will not ripen evenly; and when land is properly drained there should be no ridges. Rolling the ground after sowing is advisable, care being taken not to roll when it is so wet that the earth adheres to the roller. If care has been paid to cleaning the seed and the soil, few weeds will appear; but if there be any they must be care fully pulled. It is done in Belgium by women and children, who, with course cloths around their knees, creep along on all-fours. This injures the young plant less than walking over it, which, if done, should be by persons whose shoes are not filled with nails. They should work also facing the wind, so that the plants laid flat by the pressure may be blown up again, or thus be assisted to gain their upright position. The tender plant pressed only one way, soon recovers, but if twisted or flattened by careless weeders, it seldom rises again. The weeding should be done before the flax exceeds six inches in height. The time when flax should be pulled is a point of much nicety to determine. The fiber is in the best state before the seed is quite ripe. If pulled too soon, although the fiber is fine, the great waste in scutching and hackling renders it unprofitable; and if pulled too late the additional weight does not compensate for the coarseness of the fiber. It may be stated that the best time for pulling is when the seed is be ginning to change from a green to a pale brown color, and the stalk becomes yellow for about two-thirds of its height from the ground. When any of the crop is lying and suffering from wet, it should be pulled as soon as possible and kept by itself. So long as the ground is undrained
and imperfectly levelled before sowing the flax will be found of different lengths. In such cases pull each length separately, and, if possible, keep it separate in the steep-pool. When there is much second growth, the flax should be caught by the puller just underneath the bolls, which will leave the short stalks behind. If the latter be few it is best not to pull them at all, as the loss from mixture and discoloration by weeds would counterbalance the profit. If the ground has been thoroughly drained and laid out evenly, the flax will likely be all of the same length. It is most essential to take time and care to keep the flax even, like a brush at the root ends. This increases the value to the spinner, and, of course, to the grower, who will be amply repaid by as additional price for his extra trouble. Let the handfuls of pulled flax be laid across each other diagonally, to be ready for separating the seed. Rippling should be done at the same time, and in the same field with the pulling. If the only advantage to be derived from rippling were the comparative ease with which rippled flax is han dled, the practice ought to be adopted; 'be sides this, the seed is a very valuable part of the crop, either for tbe'oil mill or for feeding pur poses at home. The apparatus for rippling is very simple, consisting of a row of iron teeth -screwed into a block of wood. The best ripples are made of half-inch square rods of iron, placed with the angles towards the operator, three-six teenths of an inch asunder at the bottom, half an inch at the top, and_eighteen inches long, so as to allow a sufficient spring, and to save much breaking of flax. The points should begin to taper three inches from the top. The ripple is to be taken to the field where the flax is being pulled, and screwed down to the centre of a nine foot plank resting on two stools. The ripplers may either stand or sit astride the opposite ends, and should be at such a distance from the comb as to allow them to strike it properly and alter nately. A winnowing sheet must be placed under them to receivethe bolls as they are rippled off, and then the ripplers are ready to receive the flax just pulled, the handfuls being placed diag onally and bound up in a sheaf, which is laid down at the right hand of the rippler and untied. He, takes a handful with one hand, about six inches from the root ends, and a little nearer the tops with', the other. He.spreads the top of the handful like a -fan, draws the 'one-half of it through the comb and the other half past the side, and, by a half turn of the wrist, the same operation is repeated with the rest of the bunch. Some, however, prefer rippling without turning the hand, giving the flax one or two pulls through, according to the quantity of, bolls. The flax can often be rippled without being passed more than once through the comb. He then lays the handfuls down at his left side, each handful crossing the other, when the sheaf should he carefully tied up and removed. The object of crossing, the handfuls so carefully- after rippling, when tying up the beats for the steep, is that they will part freely from each other when they are taken to spread out on the grass, and not interlock and be put out of their even order, as would otherwise be the case. If the weather be fine, the bolls should be kept in the field, spread on winnow-cloths, or other contrivance for dry ing, and if turned over from time to time they will soon dry. Passing the bolls first through a coarse riddle, and afterwards through fanners, to remove straws and leaves, will facilitate the drying If the weather be moist, they should be taken in-doors, and spread out thinly and evenly on a barn floor or on a loft, leaving windows and doors open to allow a thorough current of air, and turned twice a day until no moisture remains. By this mode of slow drying thefeed has time to imbibe all juices that remain in the husk, and to become perfedtly ripe. In fine seasons the bolls should always be dried in the open air, the seed threshed out, and the heaviest and plumpest used for crushing or sowing. The light seed and chaff form most wholesome food for stock. Flax ought not to be allowed to stand in the field, if possible, even the second day, but should be rippled as soon as practicable after it is pulled, and carried to the water to be steeped, that it may not harden. Watering requires the greatest care and atten tion. River water is the best. If spring water must be used, let the pond be filled some weeks before the flax is put in;that the sun and air may soften the water. That containing iron or other Mineral substances should never be used. If river water can be had, it need not be let into the pond sooner than the day before the flax is to be steeped. The best size of a steep-pool is twelve feet broad, eighteen feet long, and from three and one-quarter to four feet deep. Place the flax loosely in the pool, in one layer, somewhat sloped, and in regular rows, with the root ends under neath, the tie of each row of sheaves to reach the root of the previous one. Cover with moss sods, or old, tough sward, cut thin, and laid perfectly close, the sheer of each fitted to the other. Before putting on the sods, a layer of rushes or weeds is recommended to be placed on the flax, especially in new ponds. As sods are not always at hand, a light covering of Straw may do, with stones laid on it, so as to keep the flax just under the water, and as the fermentation proceeds, additional weight should be laid on, to be removed as soon as the fermentation ceases, so as not to sink the flax too much in the pool. Thus covered, it never sinks to the bottom, nor is affected by air or light. A small stream of water, allowed to run through a pool, has been found to improve the color of flax. The average time for steeping sufficiently is from eight to fourteen days, according to the heat of the weather and the nature of the water. Every grower shOuld learn to know when.the flax has had enough of the water, as a few hours too much may injure it. It is, however, much more frequently under watered than over watered. The i best test is the following; Try some stalks, of average thickness, by breaking shove, or woody part, in two places, about six or eight inches apart, at the middle of the stalk; catch the broken bit of wood, and if it will pull freely out, downwards, for that length, without breaking or tearing the fiber, and with none of the fiber adhering to it, the flax is ready to take out. Make this trial every six hours after fermenta tion subsides, for sometimes the change is sudden. Never lift the flax roughly from the pool with forks or gripes, but have it carefully handed out by men standing in the water. It is advanta geous to let the flax drain from twelve to twenty four hours after being taken from the pool, by placing the bundles on their root ends, close together, or on the flat, with the slope. But the heaps should pot be too large, otherwise the flax will be injured by heating Select, when prac ticable, clean, short, thick pasture ground for spreading, mowing down or removing any weeds, if necessary, that rise above the sward. Lay the flax evenly on the grass, and spread very equally and thin. If the directions given underthe head of rippling have been attended to, the handfuls will readily come asunder without entangling. Some persons recommend turning the flax on the grass with a long rod. Six or eight days,' if the weather is showery, or ten or twelve days, if it be dry, should be sufficient for the flax to remain on the. grass. Ten days,may be taken as a fair average in ordinary weather. A good test of its being ready to lift is to rub a few stalks from the top to the bottom; and when the wood breaks easily, and separates from the fiber, leaving it sound, it has had enough of the grass. Also when a large proportion of the stalks is perceived to form a bow and string, from the fiber contract ing and separating from the woody stalk. But the most certain way is, to prove a small quantity with a handbreak or in 'a mill. In lifting the flax, keep the lengths straight and the ends even; otherwise great loss will occur in the process of scutching. If heavy dews or damp weather pre vail, do not lift too late in the day. Let the flax be set up to dry for a few hours, and afterward tie it up in small bundles; and if not taken soon to be scutched, it will be much improved by being put up in small stacks, loosely built, with stones or slabs in the bottom to keep it dry and allow a free circulation of air. Drying, if by fire, is always Most pernicious. If properly steeped and grassed, no such drying is necessary; and to make it ready for breaking and scutching exposure to the sun is sufficient. The imports of flax and hemp, raw and manufactured, into the United States during the year 1879, amount to $5,781, 710, and of this amount $2,798.465 was paid for the raw material in the ratio of one to two, flax being the lesser import. For the foreign flax supply we depend mainly upon six or seven coun tries, and in the last ten years but fifteen countries are represented in all, only eight.furnish a steady supply. Since 1877, inclusive, Russia has fur nished the largest amount and England next, the last named country leading in the seven years previous. A considerable amount comes from Canada, either•in the form of tow or line. The tow being subject to a duty of $10 a ton when intended for bagging manufacture, though it comes in free for paper-stoCk. The Boston mar ket is largely supplied from Archangel. either direct or via England, though a large quantity of this fiber also comes to the port of New York. Holland flax IS used to some extent, though it is not in such demand as formerly. At one time it was considered the most perfectly prepared flax in the market, being even at the ends, well cleaned and strong. Rotterdam and Zealand flax is imported in small quantities, and Belgium sends us small amounts, varying in the ten years from- five to seventy-five tons. But tea tons were reported for the year 1879. It is difficult to get at the true figures as regards any one market, on account of this increased amount of indirect importation in small quantities. The quantity of flax—hackled and line—and also of tow received in Boston during the year 1879, • was 3,730,000 pounds. By far the largest portion, or 3,583,400 pounds, was received from Russia, and of this quantity 1,405,300 pounds was imported in the form of tow. The small balance was received chiefly from Ireland and the Netherlands, there being 59,500 pounds from the former country and 87,100 pounds from the latter. In 1879 the flax importation into New York was 1,420 English tons, or 3,180,800 pounds; 970 tons of this was flax, costing from $300 to $550 per ton, leaving 450 tons of tow valued at $225 per ton, a total valua tion of flax and tow to the amount of $600,000. Referring to the customs for the year ending June 30, 1879, there were 2,935 tons of raw flax fiber, including tow, imported from seven countries, at a cost of $969,451, a fall ing off from the previous year of p07,778, and a smaller amount than in any year since 1870, when the raw flax imports were 100 tons less than in the year previously mentioned.