Monday 4 October 2021

Sheep as fluffy

 The flight to the city and consolidation of rural holdings into latifundia operated by robot-tractors means few farmers are getting their hands dirty. But publishers recognise a market for romanticized tales of embracing rural bliss. I'm their mark! Return to Ithaka or Driving over Lemons or The Shepherd's Life. Maybe 1'm not the core demographic of folk who read these Good Life books . . . and dream; because we are living that life and have been for the last 25 years. I could write a book too, but it wouldn't find a ready market because our farm life has no publishing hook: no hilarious pratfalls, no earnest tragedy, no stoical privation. I even have a title Ten Minutes from Ballindaggin. It's all in The Blob anyway, just needs a filter to fillet out the farmlife fables.

The hook for Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet might be lesbian yarn because the author Catherine Friend does get into carding, spinning, weaving and knitting towards the end of her book. Friend was an author before her partner Melissa brought her into farming: first as the indoor hand but more and more into the bodily fluids cycle of tup, take, birth, shots, suck, wean, feed, shear and death. It's pleasant and empowering to see a city-bred keyboard-jockey get increasingly engaged with farming and the outdoors. It's good see see anyone changing their strongly held opinions about something and embrace The Other. You can't easily call knitting-and-stitching folk "fiber-freaks" if you're knitting your own comfy shockin'pink winter socks. Bonus: knitting from your own wool!

Doing something anything with our wool is a touchy issue. This year we took 15c a kilo for raw fleece and the Agri Strore wouldn't even pay us until they had been paid in turn by the wholesaler. What is the point of subsidizing sheep farmers if the product is mere drugget on the market? There are 3 million sheep in the Republic each producing 3kg of wool that's 9,000 tonnes of wool but there is not a single plant for processing this mass of fibre in the country. Here's the math:

  • Sheep's wool house insulation density = 18kg/cu.m.
  • 1 roll 100mm x 400mm x 6500mm = ¼ cu.m. costs £30
  • or £120 / cu.m.
  • we get €2.70 for 18kg of raw fleece
  • if They can make a profit on this transaction in Germany and Britain, why not here?
Did someone mention Cumbria? Sheepish mentions in passing that Dalefoot Composting is making a peat-free potting compost from fleece and bracken. I've spent 6 working days on the hill thrashing bracken to free the grass and forbs for sheep. The dead plants were left lying in their own spores. Dalefoot says there is value in bracken and fleece. I'll scythe bracken if you bale it!

1 comment:

  1. Have you looked at using sheep's wool to make good the lane up to your house? If it was good enough for the ancient Romans...