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cleaning sheeps wool

Cleaning sheep’s wool that no one wants

Sheep’s wool is a beautiful material, but unfortunately scores poorly on animal friendliness and environment. Just about the only thing you can say positively about the environmental impact is that it doesn’t contain any plastics. Against this background, it’s pretty crazy that the shepherd in my neighbourhood can’t get rid of his wool. He has a shed full of it and nobody wants it.

The waste of wool less than a kilometre away wouldn’t let go of me.

Cleaning sheep’s wool costs a lot of soap and water. And the use of chemicals is also enormous. And the sheep emit methane, a strong greenhouse gas. In addition, most of the sheep’s wool comes from Australia. These are quite a few kilometres of transport from Europe. The waste of wool less than a kilometre away wouldn’t let go of me.

Cleaning sheep’s wool is a big challenge

Two years ago the shepherd gave me a big bag of wool, so I could see if I could use it. Cleaning the sheep’s wool was no fun. It took an awful lot of soap and water, it literally smelled like an hour in the wind. The quality of the wool didn’t seem bad, but cleaning the sheep’s wool in an environmentally friendly way turned out to be a big challenge.

I put the big bag of dirty wool on my land and every now and then I came up with a new idea, which didn’t work. And suddenly the solution was there by itself. With time, the plants even grew a bit through it, the stench had disappeared. And it didn’t feel greasy any more and reasonably clean.

After a test I was still able to felt with it. And after one washing it was relatively clean. I found it interesting enough to ask the shepherd for a few more bags of wool, which he gave me with great pleasure.

Hot water from the sun

Cleaning sheep's wool on my land: let time do the first work
Cleaning sheep’s wool on my land: let time do the first work

The new wool I spread on the land between a folded piece of chicken wire, from the ground away from leaves en twigs. Waiting for the time to do its work again. Plus hot water. When irrigating plants on the land, the black irrigation hoses are usually first filled with hot water from the sun. That water is too hot for the plants, but now very useful. I use it to rinse the wool for a short period of time. The sun dries the wool again. Five weeks and a few short rinses later the wool doesn’t feel so greasy any more and doesn’t smell so strong.

Homemade woolpicker for cleaning

Cleaning sheep's wool with a handmade woolpicker
handmade wool picker made out of an old cabinet drawer

Today I put some of this wool through my homemade woolpicker. Just after 5 weeks washing it two times seems to be enough. Soon carding and felting. And see if this is the solution to clean the wool without a lot of soap or water.

A small other experiment is if the sheep poop that come along with the water do the bamboo next to it well, because they can use some manure. And whether the bindweed under the wool still likes it so much with manure and hot water.

Somewhere I read that the invasive bindweed is doing very well on poor soils and that fertilizing would be a solution. See my post about getting rid of invasive bindweed. A test, free of charge and for nothing. I keep on rinsing the rest of the wool, hoping that the wool will be sufficiently clean with one soap washing and the mechanical cleaning with woolpicker. More about that later.

Do not wait to sterilize the cat. Five kittens by surprise.

My son has a cat. Not so good for the environment, but nice of course for him. It became a serious environmental problem when she suddenly turned out to be pregnant. Do not wait to sterilize the cat, is my advise.

When the cat had to be sterilized, the vet was ill. So he gave her a shot so that she wouldn’t get pregnant for a while. The jab, he said simulated a pregnancy. But it was nonsense and worse. She became pregnant and we did not realize it because of that false pregnancy. When we found out she was already too far away for abortion.

Do not wait to sterilize the cat
So cute

I am a vegetarian and meanwhile I give my cats meat in the form of lumps. How disturbed is that?

We have 5 cute kittens now. They are incredibly funny and sweet, but I hope never to experience it again. They are a serious disaster for the environment. I am a vegetarian and meanwhile I give my cats meat in the form of lumps. How disturbed is that? So do not take a cat or else, do not wait to sterilize the cat.

How can I limit the environmental damage?

  • Immediately sterilize them with 6 months. Both the females and the males
  • Dry cat food instead of fresh meat or wet food
  • Don’t buy stuff for the cats
  • Clean the litter box twice a day to save litter
  • Search for an alternative to cat litter, such as wood chips
  • If they go outside, then with a whole zipper of small cat bells on the collar so that birds and rodents are warned
  • Keep the cats indoors as soon as small birds fly out
  • In the meantime we enjoy them. What else can we do?
  • Does anyone have an other idea or want one?

Scratching post for 60 cents and no waste

scratching post for 60 cents

An old piece of board and a roll of rope is an excellent scratching post. Wrap the rope tightly around the post and secure the rope above and below with a staple. When we do not need it anymore, whe can reuse both the board and the rope

Environmental aspects of cats

Living without plastic is not only skipping packaging

We probably all know about the problems with plastic. It never breaks down and in the sea, it falls apart into smaller and smaller pieces and harms our health as well as marine life. According to the Plastic soup foundation 5% of the annual oil production is used to produce plastic. In this way, plastic also contributes significantly to climate change and it would be beter living without plastic.

Luckily, living without plastic is popular

If I search for living without plastic I get 437 million hits in Google.

The many tips I found are almost all about plastic packaging. Refill your water bottle; buy food in bulk, use solid soap instead of liquid. The tips range from relatively easy to implement to more difficult.

The milk package is a tricky thing for me.

Finding groceries in the supermarket that are not packaged in plastic is quite a challenge for us in the mountains in Spain. Simple because there is almost nothing to choose. The milk package is a tricky thing for me. Milk should disappear completely from my pattern because of the enormous climate burden.

1900 kilotons of plastic in 1 year in the Netherlands alone

But today this blog is about plastic. Research by CE Delft (unfortunately the report is only in Dutch) on behalf of Greenpeace in May 2019 showed that in the small Netherlands in the year 2017 alone 1,900 kilotons of plastic were put on the market. That plastic is used as follows:

  • 40% large and small utensils
  • 30% packaging
  • 15% building material
  • 11% clothing and textiles
  • 3% cars and electrical and electronic devices

There is justifiably much attention for packaging, which represented 30% of the total in 2017. In addition, the number of plastic packaging had increased by 10% in the previous five years. And they are of course often unnecessary.

living without plastic

Apart from packaging, there is much more to cut back on plastic

40% of the plastics is used in large and small utensils and 11% in clothing and textiles. We, as consumers, may not be able to do something directly with building materials (15%), but apparently we can do something about large and small utensils and textiles. I start with something that is easy for myself. but apparently much harder to others.  

20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes per person annually

According to the Dutch environmental consumer site, Milieucentraal, people in Holland buy an average of 20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes annually. I am shocked.

I hardly buy clothes, but apparently I am an exception. Maybe it’s easier for me because I live far away from clothing stores?

organic cotton is not really sustainable

But if I do need clothing or textiles, what do I buy? So far I am mainly looking for organic cotton. It does not contribute to the plastic soup and no pesticides are used for it, but it is not really sustainable either, due to the large demands on land and water.

Acrylic, lycra, polyamide and polyester are apparently the substances that account for 11% of plastics. That’s almost half of the amount of packaging.

The most sustainable is the reuse of textiles. And of course take good care of your clothes and not buy new ones if that is not necessary. According to Milieucentraal, Tencel or lyocel is also doing well.

The shepherd can’t get rid of his wool, that’s double waste

Like silk, wool is doing terribly badly on almost every environmental aspect but plastic. I think not everyone comes up with that. A shepherd in my neighbourhood has his shed full of raw wool, he can’t get rid of it. That is double waste. Let’s see if I can do something with it later.

I think I score reasonably well on clothing, but not on all plastic

On my land there is a large piece of black plastic to get rid off some stubborn and invasive plants before the lavender arrives. That is approved in organic agriculture, but plastic. Was that the right choice then? A lot of stuff to find out, it’s not so easy to live sustainable. But necessary. So I will continue to figure out how to live a more sustainable life. Here you can read why.

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