The finest fibre is obtained by a thick growth of slender stalks. The Dutch take great pains to weed the crop by hand, when the plants are two or three inches high. In June the plants are in bloom, and the fields present a beautiful appearance, covered with the delicate blue flowers. The time for gathering is indicated by the leaves beginning to drop off, and by the bottom of the stalks becoming yellow; also by the condition of the seed bolls, which should be examined almost daily about the time of maturity of the crop. When the ripest on being cut open with a sharp knife do not appear within whitish and watery, but firm and dark green, the flax is fit for pulling. Soon after this the seeds would begin to fall, and the fibre would lose its silkiness and elasticity. But if it be desired to obtain seed for sowing, the plants must be allowed to fully ripen at the cost of the deterioration of the fibre. As the flax is pulled, it is gathered in bundles to dry; and then if the seeds are thoroughly ripened, they may be separated by the threshing mill. The ordinary course, however, is to strip the seeds by the process called rippling, which is drawing the stalks, a handful at a time, through a set of iron teeth standing in a row, half an inch apart at top and a quarter of an inch at bottom.

Four men with two rippling combs will separate the seeds, it is estimated, from more than an acre of flax in a day. The seed bolls should be well dried, and then stored away in bags in an airy place. At convenient times they are threshed and winnowed to separate the seed from the capsules, preparatory to obtaining by expression the oil and the oil cake. The culture of flax and its preparation tor market involve more labor than almost any other crop. The seeds are preferred which are brought from Riga, and next to these the Dutch; the American produce a coarser stem. The soil should be thoroughly prepared by repeated harrowing after deep ploughing. The weeding requires peculiar care, that it may be sufficient without injury to the young plants. The soil should be kept rich by judicious manuring; for flax is commonly regarded as an exhausting crop. The plan of returning to the soil the water in which the stalks are steeped, by which it is estimated nine tenths of the nutritious matter taken away are restored, is highly recommended. The pure fibre yields no ashes, so that it takes nothing from the soil, and the manure of the cattle fed upon the oil cake will restore much of the solid constituents of the seeds.

Dr. Ure gives the following mixture of salts,which it has been said will replace chemically the constituents of the plants produced from an acre of land, viz.: muriate of potash, 30 lbs.; common salt, 28; burned gypsum, powdered, 34; bone dust, 54; sulphate of magnesia, 56." The preparation of the flax for market finds occupation for the cultivators in the winter season; but this can be economically conducted only where many are engaged in the culture, and mills are provided with the requisite machinery. In the flax districts of Belgium it is stated there are no paupers, as the whole population find employment during the winter.-The first process in the preparation of the fibre is to steep the stalks in water until fermentation takes place. This causes the glutinous matter, which binds the harl or the fibrous portion to the woody core, called the boon, to bo decomposed, and the fibres are thus set free. The water most suitable for this purpose is soft river water. The flax is left more free from color by a stream of water flowing over the bundles than if these are steeped, as is often done, in a pool, the water of which is kept to be applied to the soil. This process is called water-retting or rotting.

The result is sometimes obtained by exposing the flax on grass plots to the dew and rain, when the operation is called dew-retting. This requires much longer time, and also the control of extensive grass fields. It is an excellent method to combine the two processes, commencing with the water-retting, and when the boon is partially rotted and the gummy matter loosened, to complete the operation upon the grass; the risk of carrying the fermentation too tar and injuring the fibre is thus avoided. When the steeping process alone is employed, the flax is removed from the water as soon as the harl is found to separate by the fingers from the boon, and this breaks without bending. At this stage also several stalks knotted together sink in the water. The duration of the process is from 6 to 20 days. The riper the plant, the longer is the time required; hence the necessity of sorting the stalks into bundles of similar qualities. The bundles, being lifted out of the water by hand, are set on end to drain for 24 hours, and the stalks are then spread upon grass, and occasionally turned, to be softened and ripened by exposure for several days. When again gathered and made into sheaves, these may be kept for years in stacks, the quality of the fibre continuing to improve for some seasons.

Though the fermenting process is not intended to pass to the putrefying stage, a disagreeable odor is given out from the flax, which even contaminates the air of the district, and the waters are so affected that the fish are poisoned. A more expeditious and agreeable process was therefore highly desirable, and such a one was devised by Mr. R. B. Schenck of New York, and successfully introduced into the flax districts of Ireland in 1847. This consisted in steeping the stalks in water heated by steam pipes to a temperature of about 90° F. The gummy matter is thus rapidly decomposed, so that in about 6O hours the operation is completed without the escape of any disagreeable odors. The mucilaginous water is then drawn off, and the flax is set to dry upon frames, the waste steam of the engine being used, if necessary, to heat the air for hastening the drying. Other improvements have also been introduced, as that of Mr. Bower of Leeds, which consists in rolling the stalks after they have been steeped in cold or warm water, again steeping, and again rolling. The glutinous matter is thus more thoroughly removed.