"Flax should be sowed promiscuously (as Wheat or Oats, &c.) but somewhat thicker," wrote Wily.
Eighteenth-century farmers debated the proper amount of seed necessary for wheat and oats. Contemporaneous sources recommended, depending on the region and season, two, three, or even four bushels of wheat seed per acre, and something like the same for oats. Nevertheless, Wily recommended sowing only 1 to 1 1/2 bushels of flax seed per acre. The thicker the crop, he said, the thinner the flax stalks, which meant finer fibers and (eventually) finer thread.
I had 2 teaspoons of flax seed from an heirloom seed house. That means math, the sort of math not necessary for farmers in the 1760s. But here I was, with much less than a bushel and a half of flax seed and much less than an acre to plant. There are, apparently, 7149.5 teaspoons per bushel, and so you'd need 10724.25 (7149.5 x 1.5) teaspoons to plant an acre at 1 1/2 bushels per acre. That means I had 2/10724.25 or 1/5362.125 of an acre of seed. An acre (43,560 square feet) divided by 5362.125 is 8.1. It turned out (and there are other ways of ciphering it) that I had enough seed to plant about eight square feet of flax, 1765 style.
Enough flax seeds to plant eight square feet.
Flax seeds on the surface, before mixing with the soil.
Wily recommended sowing flax between mid-March and mid-April, and I planted mine on April 6th. He also suggested going over the planted field with that tooth harrow or "a larger Quantity of scragged Brush dragged after a Horse or Ox, to cover or mix the Seed with the Earth." To "scrag" is to rough something up, so I mixed the flax seed with the soil by hands after I sowed my eight square feet of flax. After that, I left the seeds to their own devices. Stay tuned for an update.
My flax patch.