YESTERDAY
  • Seeding (and preliminary operations): done in May at our latitudes; not before mid March, for the early species (even mid February for some new varieties).
  • Cutting and first drying in the field: full blossoming for the industrial textile varieties (approximately in August), at its end for cellulose varieties, for seed and some textiles (for which it can be extended up to October). It was done "by hand"; with sickles similar to those for hay. The inclemency of the weather could force the operations to be repeated several times from this point onward.
  • Beating: the plants were freed from their leaves and residual inflorescence, which produced natural fertilizer and seeds for the following year, then arranged in tall cones of belted canes.
  • Wooden horse: the foot of the canes was made even by beating with a wooden board, equipped with a handle, they were then stretched and long bunches were made of the same length, tied at the ends and arranged again in cones.
  • Cutting the top and first harvest of fuel for the fireplace and oven: the bunches were then tied up in bundles of approximately 3 m and 60-70 cm in diameter.
  • Steeping: transported on wagons, they were unloaded into special pools of water approximately a metre deep, joined in rafts of bundles and bunches and loaded with stones for total immersion. After a week of steeping and periodic checks (to act promptly if the ropes broke, when it was necessary to move the raft onto dry ground, dismantle it and reconstruct it), they went into the water, which was then foamy, malodorous and full of insects, retrieved and heaped up the stones, dismantled the rafts and beat every single bunch in water, to then throw them onto the shore; carried to the fields for drying a second time, they were then arranged in conical sheaves.
  • For swingling: small, light white bunches were made, stacked in the farmyard, that soon became a temporary home for many spiders and caterpillars. Various people assembled to install and load the swingling or breaking machine, that crushed the stems to facilitate subsequent elimination of the woody part; then, sheaves were formed in the shape of a house with a pitched roof, with a makeshift covering to protect the fiber from the rain.
  • Scutching: to carefully separate the fiber and woody part, the bunches were clamped in the scutch and pulled several times; the fiber was then stored in the form of provisional bundles and the woody fragments were picked up for a second time, to be used for fuel.
  • Clubs: the bundles were brought back to the threshing floor, to open them and separate the fibers according to their length, brightness, whiteness and softness, to then tie them into doll-shaped bunches, in their turn grouped into large bales, called "clubs"; at this point they would wait for the arrival of the merchant for their evaluation and sale, at the end of which they proceeded with the last operation of loading onto the buyer's vehicle.

TODAY

  • Roundbales: after preparing the ground, seeding and cutting with special mechanical equipment, they harvest with a roundbaler and transport the bales to the first processing system, preferably located within a radius of 40-50 km, for transport requirements; usually, for the system to be able to work at full pace, it needs at least 1000 hectares of cultivation and roughly fifteen skilled workers.
  • At the plant: it is designed according to the technologies for flax, modified down to the definition of blades and mechanisms suited to cope with the extraordinary strength of hemp fiber; the material of the bales is analyzed (quality, weight, moisture, impurities, state of maceration) and stored.
  • Separating machine: after removing the bale rings manually, a special belt transports the bales to the aforesaid machine, which supplies the scutching units with prearranged quantities of material.
  • Scutching units: the stems are stripped of their cortical and woody parts without being torn; these parts are collected on a second belt and sent to another processing sector.
  • Cleaning station: the following stage thoroughly cleans the fibers and extractors the remaining dust (fines), which can also be used in other plants.
  • Separating: they then pass on to a variable sequence of fiber opening and metering devices, along which, according to the industrial requirements, the cycle can be suspended at a specific stage or continued further.
  • Exit: the fibers are pressed and made up into bales, waiting for transport. Any steeping is always done automatically, preferably enzymatically, to shorten the time. Nevertheless, till now, steeping in water still produces qualitatively better fibers.