Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So, a sheep walks into a baaaahrn...

Sunday afternoon was... interesting. I spent it, along with four other women, up to my elbows in wool and sheep shit. I kid you not. One of my local SCA cantons has come into a huge amount of freshly-sheared fleece. Dorset cross, in case you're curious (the "cross" is an anonymous donor, meaning the farmer has no idea). Twenty full fleeces, 3-4" staple, white, nice crimp, roughly 5 pounds each, not a premium spinning wool, but very usable (and hey, fleece is fleece)...

...and chock full of lanolin, dirt, grass, suint and poop. Lots and lots of poop.

And occasionally, a blueberry. Nature is funny that way. The herd is kept for meat, not wool, and apparently grazes in and around an orchard.

We're keeping about half of the fleeces between the group of us and making a summer canton project out of learning how to process a full fleece from scratch. It's amazing how many long-time spinners have never dealt with a fleece straight off the shearing-room floor. I doubt I'll do this every year (the farmer is possibly willing to make this a yearly thing, but in the meantime I'm going to look into options for sending it out for processing), but several of us agree that it's a good thing to know how to deal with, and do at least once.

The remaining ten fleeces we're trying to sell, with any extra money (beyond paying the shearer) going to the (non-profit) canton. But we figured they would be easier to sell if we got rid of some of the crap, so we spent Sunday afternoon very lightly skirting them. Being DIYers in an organization of DIYers (historical re-enactment), we didn't remove all the short cuts, like belly and leg fur, or even all the poo-tipped locks, which would normally be pulled out or cut off in a thorough skirting of a fleece instended for spinning. We figure even the unspinnable wool can be used for something once it's washed up - quilt batting, pillow stuffing, whatever - we'll leave that to the end user. We just pulled out (by rubber-gloved hands, thankyouverymuch) the really nasty stuff, and then weighed them. And even some of the really nasty stuff is going to be used, since one of the women figures it will make excellent fertilzer.

It took five of us four hours to skirt and weigh them all. Laying each fleece out one at time on a large, covered picnic table, 10 hands simultaneously decended into the wooly muck and began their work. We talked, we laughed, and we were exhausted by the end. I cannot believe we didn't take any pictures on Sunday as evidence blackmail documentation. Even a pic snapped on my cell phone camera would have been better than nothing, but did I think of it? Ah, well.

I'll get some pictures of the fleece itself soon enough, though, since three of the buggers now reside in my in-laws' garage. My mother-in-law, who is possibly vying for sainthood, is going to help me wash them in a week or two. One lady washed a few handfuls of one of the dirtier fleeces Sunday evening and carded it, and I spun a test rolag Monday evening. It washed up to a lovely white, medium-coarse wool, and spun nicely on the drop spindle. Like I said, it's not premium spinning wool, but it will do just fine.

In other news, that Next Written Thing that was supposed to go to Lady S on June 1? There's apparently nothing quite like a good, ultra-low-tech day filled with sheep shit to reset my brain. I am - finally - writing it now.

Notice the use of progressive aspect there. Don't die of shock please.

It's now a race to see if I can have something coherent written by the time Lady S, having just returned from a week abroad to an office full of crazy busy, notices that I am maybe hiding from her and emails me to see if I'm alive and, um, weren't you going to give me something "the day I got back", that being Monday?

I have not yet found the book, but then, it appears I'm still obsessing about it. That, and I haven't returned the library book either.


Lori H said...
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Lori H said...

That's alot of wool. Nice job cleaning it -- it looks great spun on your spindle too :)