Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At last here are the solar panels that power the wool washing water! They keep the water at 60 degrees on a sunny day and even on a dark stormy day they are at about 40 degrees! The immersion then only has to heat it a bit thus saving an awful lot of electricity! They are Navitron units as Navitron are a really environmentally responsible firm!.....Our installer Solar Sam has been a hero and done amazing things with electrical and water pipes!

The wool washer is fantastic, after a few hiccups its going quite nicely!
The last bits of the machines are being put together....things like safety plugs and shut offs, a batting roller has been constructed by the wonderfully resourceful Pete out of a scaffhold pole, some land drain, beautifully turned wooden cogs and a proper drive belt. He has also invented a wool felt cutting table which will speed up proceedings considerably!
We will be having an open day between 10am and 8pm on Thursday 25th June so come along to Woolly Waste and see what we are up to......there will also be biscuits and cakes!

If you have wool to be washed, wool to be carded or wool to be felted......or need all three get in touch as we are booking up fast!
We also sell fleeces to those who havent got their own sheep but would like some fleece!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Greenwash......its everywhere and driving me nuts! So many people are jumping on the bandwagon of 'eco' and 'green' and 'environmentally friendly' and 'organic' that it makes me mad!

Why am I having this rant? Well today a friend emailed me regarding our recycled wool.....she had seen the ideal website with seemingly ideal values that would be perfect as an outlet for our recycled wool.

Now when I say really is! We have access to lots and lots of waste British wool....actually its better than that..... it has been processed in Devon, dyed lovely colours in Devon, then used for making designer carpets by hand weavers (our waste is the ends and bits from looms) 400 yards from out unit!!! so talk about keeping fibre miles down!
We sort it into colours and then chop it up and put it through the Garnett machine which makes it into fluff again for felt, stuffing, hanging basket linings, re spinning etc etc. It looks like the stuff in the picture here and is lovely!

Well the problem it seems is it may be local, it may be recycled, it may have amazingly low fibre miles, it may be 100% British wool......BUT
.......its not organic!
Flippin heck.....nobody is going to eat it ....are they?
Well apparently nice eco folks don't want stuff like this, they would prefer to buy organic wool......but why?

So I looked into the issues.....most people it seems trust the word 'organic'...dosent seem to matter where it comes from so long as its organic....because organic is 'safe'
Mmmmmm I agree to a point and when buying food I buy 1. local, 2.local organic, 4.Other, in that order and if the organic is from the otherside of the world often 'other' will get my vote!
Why? Because I know there is nothing magic about words! Because I know most food produced on the small farms of the West Country is not full of pesticides and herbicides nor boosted by tons of artificial cannot afford them, must comply with cross compliance or lose their Single Farm Payment (lots of environmental conditions) and if in a scheme Higher or Entry level Stewardship.....lots more conditions.
Livestock farmers are very careful with medicines which are strictly regulated and very expensive. (Intensive chickens and pigs are slightly different but thats another can of worms)

So what makes wool organic? We looked into this when we looked at and decided not to go down the organic route with our sheep. Sheep have to 'go into conversion' when born non organic....they are never organic but their lambs are. However the wool is considered organic....confused.....I was!
It seems that the theory is that whilst a sheep farmer can worm and use pour ons propylactically if an 'ordinary' farmer if organic he, or she can use the same products but to treat a problem rather than prevent it......However this is what most sheep farmers do! treating 'just in case' causes resistance to medicines, problems with meat withdrawl and is incredibly expensive....which with the prices of lambs and sheep being until recently rock bottom made no economic sense at all.
But we don't eat but we wear it and what about all those terrible toxic dips farmers put their sheep through?................Well dipping is practically unheard of except in huge hill flocks and even then the regulations are very tight and organo phosphate dips are virtually a thing of the past!..........their danger to human health is well known.
So just about all British wool is incredibly safe.....
The sting in the tail is that we export 70% of British wool and import 70% from abroad .......Heaven knows what some non European nations use on their sheep!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Manic wool cutting describes the last few weeks! We cut 1400 packs for Riverford Organics
for their meat boxes that go from Devon all over the UK. The boxes and wool packs are then collected and reused umpteen times.....good is reuse....goes with reduce and recycle and the boxes and plastic are recycled consumer waste and the wool is local thereby reducing fibre miles!

We are now well on the way to the start of machine cutting of this space!
We are also working mats, felt boots and wormery mats!!! More ideas please, we have loads of wool.
The washer is up and going after a hitch caused by me and an allen key.....doh! Resulted in a very costly spare part coming from Canada..........however it arrived in less than 48 hours....why oh why can I not get post to shift so quickly within Britain??

At the weekend we went to the Smallholders Show at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. We met loads of amazing people, sold lots of wool and lambskins, took lots of orders and came home very tired but happy!
This pic is of my stand!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Right....I promised to tell you why sheeps wool insulation, knitting wool, woollen jumpers etc are SO goes!

There are about 24 million sheep in this country (UK) and they all produce wool....even the very primitive native breeds of unimproved sheep such as Soays produce wool!

Many breeds of sheep esp the primitive types (that means unimproved) will actually shed their wool if not will fall out in clumps leading to a very motheaten appearance!
Man caused sheep to produce lots of wool by selective breeding for all sorts of Herdwicks and Dartmoors for carpets, Devon Closewool and Southdown for hosierey (knickers and socks etc!!) and Wensleydales for worsted cloth (from which mens suits were made) Britain we have the most diverse breeds.
Meat was a by product of the woollen industry and only latterly wool became the by product of meat as man made fibres took its place!
In 1947 the Agriculture Act came into being setting up 'boards' to guarentee prices for producers and make sure Britain never went short again if we had a war....there was a Milk marketing board, a potato board .....and the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) among others.
Wool was very very important as nylon was in its infancy and acrylic had not yet appeared.
Every sheep keeper with more than 4 sheep had to register with the 'board' and good money was paid for wool.....approx average 54p per kg in 1954.....and that was a lot, the wool cheque often paid the rent on a farm!
Today in 2009 wool prices have just gone an average of 54p per kg ....but somehow I don't think 54p is worth the you!
Now to get this average there is a lot that is cheaper than that.....some poor quality coloured wool will fetch 5p or less per kg.....
..........Now shearing costs about £1 per sheep and the average sheep has approx 3 your own maths!.............the amount paid for the wool hardly covers the cost of shearing and often dosent get anywhere near covering it!

So we know the wool is pretty worthless and a lot is poor why are jumpers and insulation SO expensive?
Well.....once the wool has been delivered by the farmer to the depot (more costs as there are only 2 for the whole of the SW of England!) it it graded and baled (compressed into big rectangles)......
And then it is sold on the wool stockmarket!!! This electronic trading is where registered wool buyers buy on the basis of the report on the wool supplied by the wood graders....The wool has not moved from the depot but its been sold! The wool buyer will then sell to the wool processor, someone like me....
So The farmer may get 5p per kg for the wool he sent to the depot, where it was sold to a wool buyer for maybe 30p per kg who in turn sells it to me for 45p per kg.....the wool has still not moved but everyone takes their cut.....and I in turn have to pay for scouring, carding and felting.
Now sall scale scouring, carding and problem...I have all the kit....but for the meat box and house insulation I must have 2-3 tonnes scoured at a time so I have it scoured commercially......You can notice the pennies adding up here if you are mathematically inclined!....Scouring costs are around 50p per kg.....and about 40% of the original weight of the wool is lost down the drain in dirt and grease.....feels expensive!
So you can see that whilst the farmer may have got 5p per kg by the time I have the washed dried wool in my hands its cost me about £1.60 per kg!!!!
You have to sit down to actually digest how something that was worthless suddenly gets so expensive, but this is how ALL wool is processed whether its for spinning, felting or whatever....and this is just to get it to the point where it can be processed further.

Many people say th me they cannot understand why woolly goods ranging from jumpers to insulation are SOOOOO expensive, well here lies the answer!

People really do not like having to pay the real true prices for their goods and baulk at the price of meat box insulation such as the product that we make as it is more expensive than polystyrene! For example a large recycled cardboard box and 2 liners will cost the person who sells them a bit more than a polystyrene they may decide not to buy....
Sheeps wool insulation costs more than rockwool or recycled plastic they choose rockwool!
I would however like to cut my processing costs a little, buy my wool direct from the farmer, via the baling facility at the BWMB depot, giving the farmer say 15p per kg.....cutting out the wool buyer, more than doubling the price the farmer is getting for his poor quality wool, nearly halving the price I am paying for it AND paying the BWMB for storing at the depot and baling I pay the farmer 15p per kg, pay the BWMB 5p per kg to bale it and then 5p per kg transport it in bulk to the processing facility....In effect cut the middle men who never see the wool yet trade it!
15p to the farmer still sounds terrible andit is.....I would prefer to pay the real worth....BUT
Whilst the consumer is unaware of this chain and how much it costs to process the wool in to a useable product they will not pay for it....catch 22!

So I appeal to readers of this blog.....find out about wool and if necessary pay the proper price!