"Are you really sure you want to go out there and do this?"
Being a little dubious of the entire process, I first assembled all the needed equipment so that there would be no delays in dealing with the fleece once it was pulled out. I could only hold my breath for so long.
Sawhorses with metal gate on top to lay the fleece to dry. Check
Plastic milk crate to transport the fleece from nasty container to drying location. Check
Hose hooked up and stretched to the drying location. Check
Nosey cat. Check
Rubber gloves. Check. Face mask. Check. Vicks Vapo Rub to mask the smell the face mask didn't mask. Check. (it is slightly possible I read too many crime novels...)
Okay, enough stalling, it was time. On with the mask & gloves, off with the lid, and out came the fleece. Only the fleece weighed like seventy four hundred pounds. Water logged doesn't even begin to describe it. Finally by lifting and pulling and slopping it over the side into the crate I was able to get the fleece out little by little. Once in the plastic milk crate it quickly drained. There was a little incident while carrying it to the drying table, when the plastic crate cracked and I momentarily lost my grip. Let's just say there was spatter.
After taking the lid off...whew dawgs...
By the time I got it to the drying table and flopped it on there, I had taken off the face mask. While the aroma was pungent, it wasn't overwhelming. Maybe just a whiff of sewer gas mixed with a fresh perm smell, with a dash of slightly rotting potatoes thrown in? However if you have a weak or tender stomach you might want to avoid this entire experiment.
Here is what the water looked like once the fleece was out.
Once on the drying table, I worked to spread the fleece out, then took the hose to it. I ran lots and lots of water over it, so if you are thinking of trying this to conserve water, don't. The fleece seemed a little discolored along the back, there was still quite a bit of vegetative matter, and there were...things. I think they were mosquito larva but I'm not sure. There weren't that many, and they washed out with the hose treatment, but still. And I had a lid on the bin too, although it didn't fit on there tight (since the lid belonged to a different tub). So if you do try this, I'd recommend some kind of screening over the whole thing as it soaks.
The fleece immediately after taking out of the tub....
Also if you have neighbors, you might want to do this when they are all off on vacation...
I do have to admit the fleece was very clean as far as dirt and grunge go. Once I thoroughly hosed it off, I left it to dry all day in the sun. By evening, it still had a distinct odor, but at that point I wasn't sure if it was from the fermenting or just the rammy smell (which can be very strong in and of itself!).
Here the fleece has been drenched with the hose, and left to dry
in the sun
in the sun
It was dark now, and what to do, what to do. Finally I filled the washer with hot water and Dawn and put the fleece in to soak. Soak, spin. Then another soak, spin. Somewhere along there I realized my washer wasn't draining right and water was splashing out on the floor. Noooo... Not rammy smelling water on my floor! Turned the washer off, and trudged outside in the dark to dig out the drainage trench. Yep, it was clogged--not with wool-- but mud and grass. By then it was getting pretty late, and I was heartily sick of the whole stinking mess. Stuffing the wet unrinsed fleece into a plastic bag, I took it back outside, rinsed it with the hose and put it back on the drying rack. In the dark. On the drying rack I had earlier moved outside the yard to keep Ashley the Shredder, from, well shredding the wool.
Fleece after drying in the sun all day.
The next morning bright and early before going to work I took the hose to it again. At this point it is a miracle the whole thing didn't felt up into a giant ball. After drying in the hot sun all day the fleece still has an odor, but it's not overwhelming. Seriously I think it's just the rammy smell. You know, the rammy smell that was the whole reason I did this experiment.
Final result, after the additional soak/spin with Dawn and drying in the sun all day
So anyway, it's now wrapped up in a sheet, sitting in my future wool-room-trailer. I'm thinking about emailing one of my processors to see if they will try and wash it again and work it up into roving. It's a beautiful fleece, and of course special because it's Jeff's last one, so I'd like to try. I'll let you know how that goes.
Take away on this? It was an interesting experiment and I'm glad I tried it. If it weren't for the little bug thingies in the water, I might have dunked another fleece in there just for 'fun'. The second fleece is only suppose to sit for two days. Again if your are doing it to save water, well it didn't work out to be water conservative on my watch. I probably won't try again, unless I just forget what a mess it all was. Which could happen because every day is a new day around here.
And there you have it.
And there you have it.