Sunday, June 13, 2010

The 102nd thing you can do with sheep’s wool.

There are 101 things you can do with sheep’s wool, the first, and most important of course, is to keep a sheep warm during winter. Summer time though, and they’re pleased to be rid of it so we’re shearing at the moment, with the ram and the wether already done and the four ewes still to do.

The duvet on our bed is stuffed with sheep’s wool (see Magazine Articles link on the right) and our friend Val has made it her business and does many imaginative things with it, such as supplying natural insulating packaging for organic meat boxes.

During the re-construction of our shower room, to make way for a double-vault, urine separating dry compost toilet, I had to remove and rebuild two plasterboard walls. Despite being internal walls, we wanted to insulate this room as it’s a room to keep warm in winter but adjoins a guest bedroom, which is only heated when we have visitors. So, we ordered sheep’s wool insulation from Val, who delivered it personally on her next trip over to Brittany.

However, I unbuttoned the walls to find that they were already insulated with rock wool batts. A conundrum: what was the most ecological thing to do with this horrible stuff? It’s insulating, for sure, but is high in embodied energy and is noisome to use (and also, presumably, for the poor guys who work in the factories manufacturing it). We could take it down the local tip but then it just gets buried in a hole in the ground. It seemed to us that the most sensible thing to do was to put gloves and dust masks on and seal it back up in the new partition walls. Although we ended up using some of the sheep’s wool insulation—which is such a pleasure to use compared to the rock wool—we now find ourselves with a surplus.

The pond at the end of our grey water treatment system is the first that either of us has constructed, so there are, bien sûr, things that we’d have done differently.
The edges are like the sketch on the left, with stones placed around the edge on top of the EPDM pond liner, which slopes down into the water, leaving a band of black rubber on view. We thought that a solution might be to build the edges as in the sketch on the right, so that the capping stones would hide the liner completely. But then slopes are good for beasties and birdies to access the pond and get in and out safely and vertical sides are not. (Photo shows me placing the pump during construction and yes, the water was very cold.)

Which is how Gabrielle came up with the 102nd thing to do with sheep’s wool: trap it under the stone and lay it over the liner, then lay moss on top. So far, the wool seems to wick up the water and keep the moss moist, to the extent that something has seeded in it. That makes us think that this technique could be refined to, for example, soak the wool insulation in mud, then seed it with a special pond edge mix of wildflowers from a supplier such as Emorsgate Seeds. Now we have pretty pond edges that are also wildlife friendly.