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Flax is a vital crop used in the production of textiles. Flax's main products, tow and lint, are processed in order to make canvas, linen, and rope, all goods fundamental to the Egyptian lifestyle.
Flax comes in many varieties. Anyone may receive a packet of either Old Egypt or Nile Green flax seeds from any School of Art and Music. Which one you get is random, and not determined by whether you carry a jug. While growing the Nile Green variety requires water and jugs, it also gives twice as much flax per bed as the Old Egypt variety.
Through Crossbreeding, it is possible to design even more potent flax strains, and in Tale 5 many new strains have already been created which are far superior to Old Egypt and Nile Green. See the Flax Seeds page for a list of the newer and more popular strains.
To grow flax, plant a bed of flax plants using the "Plant" menu, on grass. Flax will not grow on sand. After a short while, green flax shoots with blue flowers will appear in the bed. Shortly afterward, yellow weeds will appear. Weed the flax bed by selecting the appropriate menu option. Depending on the variety of Flax Seeds being used, you may need to water the flax when you weed it (using one Water in Jugs), and you may need to weed the bed several times. Eventually, the flax will complete growing and you may harvest it. There are no signs that the flax is ready for harvest except more flowers grow in the flax bed. The best way to tell is to click on the flax and see.
To get water, you need jugs, which you can get by signing up to learn the Pottery skill at a School of Thought.
Flax grown in the above manner will not produce any seeds. To grow Flax Seeds, plant a bed of flax but do not weed it. Shortly after weeds appear in the bed, the flax will go to seed. You will see more of the yellow weeds. You may then harvest seeds from the flax up to 5 times before it finally dies. When the plant dies, it will leave more seeds on the ground. It takes 1 Teppy Minute (about 1m 07s real time) for the Harvest option to reappear after harvesting a seed.
Take care to not use up all your flax seeds when growing flax; you should always keep at least a few in reserve to grow more seeds. If you do run out, you can go back to a School of Art to get a few more seeds.
Under [Self->Options->One-Click and Related], there is an option to enable hotkeys on flax. With this option enabled, you can use [W] to weed and harvest flax, and [H] to harvest seeds. Note however that if this option is enabled you will have to physically run to each flax bed to weed/harvest it, whereas with this option disabled your character doesn't have to physically move.
Pollution / Soil Quality
Among other species of flax, Nile Green will reduce soil quality around the ground where it is grown. It doesn't seem to affect only the exact spot, but the general area, perhaps the whole coordinate area up to a range of 2-3 in each direction. (Needs independent verification)
Nile Green: In a 4x4 coordinate area in Sinai, 3362,4114 I began planting NG and harvested 180 or so before I started getting only seed.
I planted over 500 NG and didn't lose any flax (3420,4382 Sinai)--Ferns
I have harvested over 3000 Nile Green and am still getting regular returns. (FB 3898, -431) --Andara
Pollution is probably not the right word for it. Where NG has been planted in quantity, Old Egypt flax subsequently planted may yield no flax and a message about poor soil (poor soil is not the same thing as pollution). JulianJaynes 01:33, 31 December 2008 (EST)
Update--the same spot now returns no flax and a message about poor soil quality for Nile Green as well. I can't tell you how much flax I've planted, but I've been using the same spot since we got jugs. The depleted soil is only for 2-3 coords, and moving over a bit takes me out of the depleted zone. JulianJaynes 14:12, 3 January 2009 (EST)
BooBoo and I also got poor soil messages in conjunction with Acidity 21k. We grew about 14k flax with Nile Green Seeds in a 4-5 day period. Read more here: Pollution. --Pitaboo
There is general agreement that present day cultivated flax is most closely related to wild L. angustafolium; a wild progenitor seen throughout the Mediterranean Basin, North Africa, the Near East, Iran, Caucasia and Western Europe. Other species of the Linum L. genus are located over the steppe belts of the temperate Mediterranean, the northern hemisphere and China.
Because it was one of the first domesticated plants, flax is recognized as a foundation crop of modern civilization. It responded well to the first efforts at domestication as was evidenced by a noticeable increase in seed size, higher oil yield and /or a longer stem and a seed boll that did not easily dehisce (burst open releasing the seeds). These significant genetic changes were fundamental in flax attaining a leading position in the economic, social, religious and political lives of Neolithic people and further positioned it for a future inexorably interwoven with that of human civilization.
(From Flax History on saskflax.com)
Also see Flax on Wikipedia.