Ok, blimey crickey it works. It really works.
I left the fleece in for 8 days, until Wednesday, as it wasn’t smelling as much as I was expecting. It looked vile, brown with a kind of white scum on top:
and yes it smells. But then again they have just finished spraying manure on the field out the back and we have a turkey unit down the road that stinks to high heaven on days when the wind is in the right direction, so if it comes to playing top trumps on stinkiness FSM tank is a good third place but not a hands down winner. I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a lot of neighbours though or limited outdoor space …
I gave the feece a couple of rinses in rain water (which gave me water full of yummy goodness for my vegetable patch). Then I put some of it into a hand hot detergent soak for about half an hour and some of it I didn’t. Then I rinsed both until the water ran clean. And this is what I got:
Pretty clean eh. The detergent soak was definitely cleaner and less greasy. But I can say that I now fully understand what “in the grease” means. Its clean but still has some lanolin, and has slightly sticky feel. Nothing like as much as before. I might try a slightly hotter detergent soak on smaller bits when I want to use it. I’ve got one half of the second Massam in the tank. Will see it it gets stronger as we go. I also don’t think it really saves that much on rinsing water but definitely saves on washing and heating water.
Will definitely keep using it.
Its that time of year again when the shearing is nearly over and the raw fleece is ready. As I’ve started to make more batts to sell this year I’ve gone and got considerably more fleece to clean up and process. Five so far (1 Romney, 2 Norfolk Horn and 2 Massams). There will be more. Terrifying amounts of energy, hot water and time and soap. It took 2 whole days, a vast amount of very hot water (I borrowed an urn with a temperature gauge) and lots of washing powder to clean the best bits of 1 romney and the 2 Norfolk Horns. Too much me thinks. I had thought about sending them away for processing elsewhere but the cost was enormous and I would have been better buying in top and roving, which really defeats the object of what I’m trying to do. I read along while ago, when I first started out on this adventure, about the fermented suint method of ye olden days. Basically the method is bung raw fleeces in a vat of rain water and leave them to stew in their own juices for a bit of time. I have never been brave enough to do this. But this year it seems the most logical way. Really low water consumption and nearly zero energy. A warm wash will probably still be required- I don’t think greasy batts will go down well (do you? opinions on this welcome). A quick trawl through the internet and I found this great tutorial on the Fermented suint method (thank you kindly to Moz for this). Ravelry also has a fantastically huge resource on the FSM method in the Fiber Preperation forum.
As luck would have it we pulled out the water header tank from the loft when we moved in and I’ve kept it around because ” it looks so useful”. And its perfect, with a lid and everything! We have had a lot of rain in the past couple of days so filling it from the water butts was also easy. Great upper body work out hauling the water too and fro. I put it up by the chickens and the compost heap, just in case the smell is really that robust. I’ve started my vat with some really scuzzy ver ver greasy norfolk horn and Romney scrag ends (stuff that I was not going to waste my time washing hot) to get it going and popped the Massam on top. Only the weather is great for April – shame its June. And June is definitely not flaming this year. Fingers crossed the sun will come out and heat it up for me. I’m hoping for a seriously stinking culture by Sunday. Let you know how it goes. At the very worst I will have some great fertiliser for the veggies.