Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas ride

  After all the gift opening this morning, I decided to go for a ride on Bonnie.  It was a nice sunny cool day today; couldn't have asked for better.  I've been driving her so much lately that I figured  a little change of scenery would be nice.  What fun!

  Yesterday, Bonnie pulled her first piece of farm equipment (with me anyway).

It was a four foot spike tooth harrow that weighed about 80 pounds or so.  I was amazed at how easy she pulled it.  I tried dragging it myself and made it about 10 feet before I quit.  Horsepower is really amazing.  We ended up dragging the whole arena...

The drag marks weren't really pretty but I think that was more my driving than Bonnie's pulling.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lucky shots

Ever see a picture unfolding in front of you and wish "Man, I wish I had a camera"???

This morning...

And yesterday...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Animal updates

  The biggest news is that we got a new cat from the animal shelter.  I've been going there for the last two months to see if anybody found our missing kitten, Liza.  I finally came to the realization that we probably aren't going to see her again so we decided to get another.  They had a beautiful seal point short haired kitten that was already spayed so we took the leap.

*E* loves her to death.  She plays just as much as Liza but isn't nearly as scratchy.  I think we're going to name her Holly since she joined our family at Christmas time.

She's got some pretty cool colors on her and is very affectionate.  I just hope that she's a good mouser for the homestead!

  Bonnie's training (and mine) is coming along well.  I drove her all last week in full harness and even took her out of the arena and around the stable grounds both days this weekend.

  I think she remembers her Amish training because she's sure making me look good.  I can get her harnessed up in about five minutes now and she hasn't been freaked out by the tug chains dragging on the ground behind her.  I need to make up some chain extensions so I can hitch up the single tree when it gets here.

I'm dying to hitch her up to the little harrow/drag that the stable uses to groom the arena.

  DW and I tried our hands at cheese making again last night.  Meijers had milk on sale so we bought a couple extra gallons.  Our original intention was to make soft farmer cheese but DW decided to take another shot at mozzerella.  We used whole milk that wasn't labeled as "ultra-pasteurized" but I suspect it was more pasteurized than they let on.  We used some expensive hoytey-toytey milk from Whole Foods last time so we figured we'd see what would happen with regular old grocery store milk.  The mozzerella flopped bad.  Ironically enough, it came out like a nice soft farmer cheese and is very tasty.  She also discovered that you can reheat the left over whey to just boiling and make ricotta.  It worked like a dream and we ended up with almost a pound and that means LASAGNA on Thursday...Yum.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Auction action

  I LOVE auctions!  Ebay is OK but there's nothing like being there, looking the competition in the eye and finding surprises every time you turn something over.  We had the opportunity to go to one yesterday.  It was a collection of mostly kitchenware and tools.  I needed a crock to increase the amout of Sauerkraut I can make at a time and it looked like lots of other interesting things were available as well.  The auction didn't disappoint and we ended up with this...

1)  A plain Jane white six gallon crock that we tracked down to Pfaltzgraff from the very worn mark on the bottom.  Doesn't have a lid but I figure I can make a nice wood one along with a kraut weight.

2)  Oak hall tree.  The coats are getting out of control with winter here.

3)  An old Rapid Washer.  I figure that this could come in handy as a backup on those off-grid days when little power is being produced.

4)  A butter crock with a nice homemade wood lid.  We're looking at trying our hands at butter now that DW has broken the cheese barrier.

5)  A hand crank apple pealer and some kind of neat small pulp press.  Not sure what we'll do with the press but we go through lots of apples around here.

6)  A stairway basket.  A ton of other baskets went for lots of cash but this was one of the last and we got it for a song.

7)  An old hand corn planter.  I definitely want to do this by horse but it may be a while before I get a planter (and a second horse).  This will have to do for now.

8)  A harness repair vice.  It needs some of the leg cross-braces replaced but all in all it's an awesome piece of work.

9)  A beam auger and two bits.  Not sure if I'll ever do any post and beam construction but it is on my list of things to do before I die.

10)  Some miscellaneous items in a box lot including these strange things...

I'm not sure what they are but judging by all of the leather working tools that were there, I would say that they are leather forms or molds of some sort.  If anyone can ID them please let me know.
  Of course *E* was irresistably drawn to the auger...

It was fun to watch him play with it until he started sticking his fingers in the gears.  The auger was banished to the basement immediately before the screaming commenced.
  All in all it was a great time.  Some of the stuff will need a little love to put it back into useable condition but, Hey, that's half the fun!

  The other big thing happening around here is Bonnie's training.  I've been working with taking her horse collar on and off.  Usually she's sort of a stinker the first time and then relaxes.  Today, she let me do it almost immediately and was letting me take it on and off like she was an old pro.  I decided to take a chance and Voila...

She let me put the whole harness on her.  I was really rusty since I haven't done it since my April horse farming workshop.  The harness was adjusted for a much smaller horse so it was pretty slow going while I got everything reset.  She stood there absolutely still and patiently let me do my thing.  I couldn't believe it!  I walked her around on the lead rope for about 20 minutes or so.  She was a little spooky at first because the two bottom spreader rings on the hames were jingling like crazy but after a few times around the yard she calmed right down.  I got her driving lines in yesterday so we'll be ready to go with ground driving as soon as she wears the harness a few more days.  This was a very big deal to much planning and working and studying to get to this point.  It's really something special taking an actual step toward one of my life's goals.  I wonder what cubicle people are doing today?!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Summer homestead flashback: Draining issues

  Probably the biggest issue we faced this summer was a total drain blockage in our farmhouse.  We had planned for a lot of issues and upgrades but this one hit us from out of left field.  You can have all the pressurized water in the world but if it has nowhere to go, you're in big trouble!

Everyday mundane activities that become nearly impossible include bathing, washing dishes, cleaning house, doing laundry and of course anything to do with the toilet.

  Before tackling the house's lack of drainage, we addressed how to work around our family's needs.  First of all, all housecleaning, dishes and a little laundry were done with tubs or buckets that could be hauled outside to dump.  We then made an hour and a half drive to the nearest Walmart and bought a port-a-potty.  The last and most difficult fix was the construction of an outside shower stall built around our Sun Shower.  I've always thought these were neat and figured that I'd be building one eventually anyhow.

  This was version number one and it went through numerous improvements over the summer.  It was really nice to take a shower in if you knocked off work early enough to beat the skeeters.  *E* was a different issue.  He was too small to shower in the stall so DW came up with an ingenious solution...

With all of our needs band-aided, we moved on to solving the plugged drains.

  My dad came to stay with us for a few days and was the real brains behind Operation Mudslide.  First thing we did was locate the septic tank and pop off the inspection hatch.  We dipped the level and found that the tank was nowhere near full.

Incidentally, the dipper was forever known as the "dookie stick" after this.  This told us that the blockage was in the pipes.  The house pipes were a combination of PVC, cast iron and copper; all connected with rubber sleeves.  We started disconnecting joints on the second floor to drain the system and inspected for blockage.  This was an absolutely HORRENDOUS job.  We eventually tracked the issue to the second-to-last elbow before the pipe exited the basement.  I hammered a steel rod into the blockage from the top while my dad did the same from the bottom.  We worked for about twenty minutes before we started getting chunks of concrete to come out.  CONCRETE?!!!  I couldn't believe my eyes.  We knew that there was a mobile home next to the house at one time and finally figured out that they dumped Quickrete into the drain when they attached the trailer house's septic into the farmhouse's tank.  This was to keep sewage from flowing back into the house if the septic tank filled up.  We finally got it all cleared out and I'm happy to report that water (along with other less pleasant things) is flowing again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Horse collar intro

  Made some major progress with Bonnie's training today.  I laid out her new horse collar and harness on the hitching post in front of the stable and walked her past it a few times to introduce her to it.  I made sure to let her sniff and look at the pieces as much as she wanted.  I put her into the round pen and slowly brought the horse collar up to her face.  She shied away so I slowly touched her face with it and brought it up over her head.  The collar hung up on her eye ridges so I had to turn it upside-down to clear.  It took about 20 minutes but she finally accepted it.  I found that she closes her eyes when it's her time to let me put it over her head.

The collar is a little big even though it's adjusted down to its minimum size.  I'm going to have to get a collar pad to keep her from getting blisters.
  I took the collar back over her head with very little resistance and walked her around the yard and back to the pen.  We repeated the procedure and this time it took about five minutes.

I pulled the collar and walked her around one more time and repeated the collar exercise a third time.  This time it only took about two minutes.  This was outstanding progress so I decided to call it quits for the day.  I like to keep training at a half hour to keep Bonnie from getting bored or frustrated and I always stop with a success because I think that the last thing she does is what she remembers best.

  I had some more time to kill so I tied her up to the hitching post again and worked on cleaning the harness up.

I figured that hearing the harness buckles jingle as I was cleaning would help to get her used to being around it.  I was told that she had been trained to drive by the Amish so I held some outside hope that this would all come right back to her.  Unfortunately, it didn't but I couldn't be happier with how everything went today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Horse driving equipment

Hooray, one step closer to driving Bonnie!  Her new horse collar just arrived...

It's a 24"-26" adjustable collar and boy was it expensive.  It's one of those things that I could have  probably found at an auction given enough time but I'm ready to go now.  I measured Bonnie out at 26" so this collar gives me a little leeway if she leans out from work or if I decide to use a pad.
  I've been using Lynn Miller's "Training Workhorses, Training Teamsters" as my guide and having good results.  For the last four days we've been working in the arena instead of the round pen because of all the rain (blech!).  I've been "roping her out".  This involves asking her to walk around me in about a 20' circle and stopping and standing on the whoa command.  After a few successful times, I put a lariat (to all my friends, yes I have a lariat) loosely around her neck and repeat the exercise.  Whenever I stop her, I throw the rope over her back and wiggle it and run it along from her rump to her neck.  This trains her to stand still and accept whatever you're doing behind her where she can't see, which is really important for when you put the harness on with all of its straps and jingly buckles.  At first, Bonnie was really spooky about this but she has learned very quickly.  It's almost become boring so I think we're about ready to move on to doing round pen work with the harness on.
  I've only been riding Bonnie up to this point and she's turning into a really nice trail horse...

She's still a little spooky around water but she's getting better.  It's quite an experience riding her at a gallop...kinda like sitting on a charging Wooly Mammoth!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cheesy post

  What a beautiful chilly fall weekend.  Christmas lights hung on house?  Check!  Stable duties complete?  Check!  Cheese made?  Check?!!!  DW finally took the plunge and made her first cheese.  She chose a mozarella which I guess is a relatively simple recipe.  I wasn't here to see the process so it's still all pretty mysterious to me.  Here's a picture of the proud mama and her baby...

I was really surprised that it took a gallon of milk to make this.  The leftover material (whey, of little Miss Muffet fame) is good for making bread; we'll see.  She froze it anyhow until we figure out what to do with it.  I suppose if we had pigs, they would get it.  So how did it turn out?

We tested it on a salad for supper.  It was made with the last lettuce and spinach from our fall garden.  It was pretty good but had a couple of issues.  DW missed the "salting" step so it was kinda blah.  I guess the acidity wasn't quite right either so it came out a little rubbery.  I didn't mind because it reminded me of "squeaky" cheese curds.  DW said it was like eating pencil erasers but it wasn't that bad.
  This is all pretty exciting since we've wanted to try cheese making for a long time.  I must confess to having had a bit of fromagiophobia when it came to learning this skill!  We've been talking about the pros and cons of getting a milk cow or two out at the homestead but we couldn't justify it for only milk and butter...have you seen the price of butter lately?!!!  Cheese definitely makes the milk cow a viable option.

  Little man *E* has learned how to move and climb onto chairs to reach what he wants.  He has also learned how to defeat the "child proof" locks on the cupboards.  I guess I assumed that they would still be effective with a 16 month old.  Nothing is safe from him anymore!

Here's *E* helping mama with her coupons.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have a bad feeling.

  Does anybody else out there feel like the wheels are about to come off and we're ready to plummet off the cliff as a country?  I don't know if it's all the happy Black Friday videos showing society's descent into madness, or the festive news of the Euro's impending collapse, or our own shameless political hacks pointing fingers at everybody but themselves, or maybe it's all of the above.  I'm waaaay further down the "pessimism superhighway" than my DW but even she was feeling it this morning.  She was even reading about some of Fernando Aguirre's experiences in dealing with the collapse of Argentina's economy in 2001; pretty scary stuff.  I'm feeling very exposed here in Cinci as we ride out the rest of this school year, trying to make it to the time when we can scoot for the homestead.  I think my trigger for an early bugout is going to be if the government declares a "bank holiday" like it did during the Great Depression.  There're quite a few miles between Cinci and Nodak and three very troubling places in between, namely Indianapolis, Chicago and Madison.  I don't want to wait too long should our very own collapse start unfolding before our very eyes (again read Fernando Aguirre).

  On a happier note, I finished one of the horse cart leaf springs today.  I also got off my hind-end and ordered a Big Berkey water filter system.

I got two spare filters and the sight glass spigot.  It's really pricey up front but when you figure out how much it costs versus the amount it will filter over its lifetime, it's a great value over buying bottled water.  We got the house water system hooked up to our well this summer but we still need to get the water tested.  I found two university studies that showed that this filter was effective at removing pesticides.  Even if our water tests good, I'll feel more secure since we live in a heavily agricultural area where the farmers just love to spray.

  As a last little ray of sunshine, I was overjoyed to hear that congressman Barney Frank wasn't going to seek re-election.  I try to live my life not hating anybody but this guy is about as close as they come.  My skin crawls when I hear the "man" speak!  I think his leaving is "too little to late" but it's still a nice gesture on his part.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A nice spring day

  I worked on our 100+ year old horse cart today.  The main leaves in the springs needed to be changed due to the previous owner welding in two inch extensions.  I had them made this summer at E & H Spring Shop in eastern Ohio.  They did an outstanding job and charged me about half of what I was expecting to pay.  I'm just getting around to installing them; such a procrastinator!

The two top springs are the new ones.  The workmanship was top-notch but there was one small issue.  The width of the 100 year old spring is not a standard size for the stock produce today.  I either had to go larger or smaller.  I told the guys at E&H to go larger and I would file the extra 1/8" off of the eyes and mounting pad.  I went out to the storage bin and got a piece off the cart to use as a size gauge to see how far I had to file.

The cart is looking all sad and droopy without the leaf springs on one side.  The spring work on the leaves and on the seat is absolutely beautiful.  I'll have to get a picture when I have them done.  I filed my little heart out and ended up finishing both eyes on one spring and got a good start on the mounting area.

Depending on how much I work with Bonnie tomorrow, I'm thinking that I should be able to get one side finished and repainted.  I only have to get a horse collar and a set of lines and I'll be ready to start ground driving Bonnie.  I think we're probably a long way off from hitching her to this heirloom though.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Horse fly

  Still recovering here from Thanksgiving.  DW and I split the cooking again and, as always, we had waaaay too much food.  We each made a pie from scratch; hers was pecan and mine was sweet potato.  It was hard to pick a favorite since they both came out great!  She is finally over her plague so we had extra to be thankful for, especially since nobody else caught it.

  I spent today out riding our draft-cross Bonnie.  It's been raining so much here lately that I haven't got to work with her that much.  Bonnie is for all intents and purposes still green due to her young age and lack of work for the last couple of years.  If I don't get her out for a ride or at least get her into the round pen she turns into a real handful.  Today was the second day in a row that we were able to go trail riding.  She was very well behaved and I guess I got lulled into a false sense of complacency with her.  Toward the end of the ride we were trotting along the back fence of an adjoining horse farm.  There were two horses standing ahead of us and as we approached them, they spooked.  Bonnie spooked in the opposite direction so fast that I didn't even really know what happened.  All I remember was looking down at all the pretty green grass going by underneath me and then I was on the ground.  Thankfully, I think my parachute training kicked in from Naval aircrew school and I made a nice rolling landing and got up without a scratch.  Bonnie trotted off and I found her eating grass next to the fence by the stable.  She looked up at me with that innocent draft horse look like she was asking "where you been?".  I rounded her up and rode her back over to the spot so she could see that there was nothing scary over there.  No harm no really was my fault anyway.  This is the first time I've ever been thrown from a horse so lesson learned.

Here's a picture of *E* meeting Bonnie for the first time.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why are we in the trouble we're in?

  DW is still plague-ridden although it seems like she has a bit more energy today.  Everybody else has dodged the bullet so far.  She's been spending a lot of time on her E-bay selling as this doesn't take too much out of her.  Her whole operation consists of buying items from estate sales, thrift stores or craigslist and selling them on E-bay.  We've tailored back our debt to just the mortgage on the Cinci house and our day to day spending has been reduced to $100 per week for a family of five.  The nice part is that she didn't have to return to her "rat-race" of a job and we're both getting to enjoy watching *E* grow up.  We kind of look at it as our own little Galt's Gulch!

So here's my amazingly sad E-bay story for the day...
  DW listed a little fortune telling pendulum kit that was do to end in the next day or two with no bids as of yet.  She received a message from a potential buyer this morning indicating that this individual was interested in buying the item but would not be able to pay within the three day limit that was indicated on the listing.  Payday was coming up and she wouldn't have the money until then.  My DW, being the humanitarian that she is, replied that she would make an exception and extend the deadline for payment to one week.  Problem solved!!!  The person bid on the item.  Here's where it gets really sad...the item was $3 with another $3 for shipping.  You can't make this stuff up!  The woman didn't have $6 to her name so that she could buy a FORTUNE TELLING PENDULUM and was trying to leverage this monstrous financial investment on her next pay check!  I would give her a dollar to just be able to look into her food cupboards.  I was shaving with my straight razor when DW was telling me this story.  I'm lucky I didn't slit my throat when my jaw dropped.  I was a command financial counselor in the Navy for each of the squadrons to which I was assigned.  I would see this kind of stuff every day from the young sailors that just had way too much credit available to them and got themselves into trouble but this one is amazing to me because of the amount of money involved and the frivolity of the item.  People just don't understand what's coming!

  Whew this post was pretty sad.  Here's a couple of pics of *E* out at the farm this summer, swinging in a hammock and rolling in the grass.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flashback: Arriving at the Homestead

  It's been a hectic week around here.  DW caught the plague or some such related disease when she went to North Carolina to visit our Grandbaby.  It's hit her pretty hard and she's downright miserable.  We've all but quarantined her from *E* and to some extent myself in order to keep the house from turning into a total trainwreck.  Both parents sick or a sick baby is bad juju!

  I thought I'd write down a little bit more of our trip out to the homestead in North Dakota this summer.  This picks up on our arrival following a nightmare last day of travel (see earlier post for all the gory details).
  We pulled into the yard with both of us totally exhausted from being awake for the last 24 hours or so.  The first disaster was evident right away as all the wood shakes were missing from the top three feet of the roof.  It had been a particularly nasty winter and the old shakes just had no more to give.  Who knows how old that roof was?!!  To add to the fun, there was a hole chewed though the roof planking on the west side just big enough for a racoon.

If you look really hard, you can just see it up near the top. 
  The next fun was of the creepy crawly variety.  We managed to arrive at the height of tick season and as you can see by the above picture, the grass was a good two feet high.  We stepped out of the truck and were instantly covered.  Our poor dog Sparky was an instant walking tick feast and I think DW got more on her in the first ten minutes than she has had in her whole life!  We quickly ran into the house and initiated de-ticking procedures.
  With nerves stretched pretty thin, we took a walk through the house.  Our racoon friend had been busier than we thought and had also chewed a hole in the living room addition's roof.  It made for a nice sun roof but played havoc with the wood floors underneath the carpet.

  To top everything off, we also found that every drain in the house was plugged.  We knew from the previous summer that they weren't quite right but now nothing moved.  We discovered really quickly that not having running water is nothing compared to not having drains!
  It was all too much.  I couldn't stand having  DW and *E* spend the night in that carnage so I disconnected the trailer, packed them back up into the truck and sent them off to the nearest motel, which was over twenty miles away.  Sitting empty for 20 or so years had not been kind to our old house.  As I watched the truck pull out of the yard and drive away down the dirt road I asked myself "What have you gotten us all into?".  I spent almost the entire night and next morning cleaning and knocking down the jungle of grass in front of the house.  It was still a nightmare when they came back the next morning but it was bearable.

  OK, OK, that was pretty depressing!  Here's some gratuitously cute pictures of *E* dressed up as a scarecrow for Halloween to cheer you back up.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

  What an awesome weekend!  I got to spend a lot of time with our new horse Bonnie and made quite a bit of progress with her.  This week has been a real test of patience as we have both been figuring out who is the "alpha" in our relationship.  I know that our little "herd of two" needs a leader and I intend for it to be me!  I've seen it the other way when the horse runs things and that's a disaster.  Up until this weekend, I've felt that I was in charge...but just barely.  This has been most evident when I had to catch her in the pasture.  There were a couple of days that I just couldn't even get close to her.  It seems like we turned a corner on Saturday with the help of one of the other horse owners at the stable.  She took Bonnie into the round pen and did some work with her.  It was really neat to watch Bonnie go from pure attitude to very cooperative.  The great part was that this lady not only kept up a running dialog of what was happening but then also let me try while she gave pointers from outside the pen.  There's nothing like a mentor to accelerate things!  I've worked a horse in a round pen before but I think that the person that told me what to do wasn't very knowledgeable either.  Their reasoning was "you just need to tire out the horse to make it easier to handle".

The results were nothing short of amazing.  I took her for our first ride in one of the small paddocks and it went great.  It's pretty obvious that she hasn't been ridden for a while but she warmed up nicely.  On Sunday, I whistled to her and she galloped across the pasture to meet me at the gate.  What a nice change!  I saddled her up and we took a few spins around the stable grounds.  She's a little spooky about water but it seemed like she got better through the day.  Riding back and forth across the yard got old pretty quick so we took off down the trails.  A beautiful day, leaves turning and the smells of autumn...I couldn't think of a nicer trail ride.

  I wish I had remembered to take some pics on the ride but I was just too absorbed in the experience; maybe next time.  We rode for about three or four miles and man was my hind end sore!  It's been about six years since I was in the saddle.  I also got out of bed this morning with very tired back muscles.  I imagine that this will get better as we ride more.

Just as an update to some earlier posts...
  Our homemade Sauerkraut hit four weeks old in its fermentation.  I didn't skim the scum off the top like I should have but I don't think it hurt it.  We had a little mold around the inside rim of the bean pot so we were just careful to avoid it when we dipped out the kraut.

I was pleasantly surprised with how it tasted.  It wasn't pucker your face off sour like the stuff you buy in the store.  It tasted a little like pickled cabbage with just enough sour in it to let you know it was there.  We only ended up with enough for about two meals so we just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.  We cooked some up with a kielbasa and it was a hit with the family.  As an extra added bonus, nobody keeled over from food poisoning.  We eat kraut once or twice a month so I think that it will be worth it to continue making it.  We need to keep an eye out for an old crock since the bean pot's shape is pretty hard to work with.
  Our other update is with the wool.  I started messing with combing yesterday and got some mixed results.  There is a real technique to this and I think I'm just starting to get the hang of it.  I ended up making three OK little roves but I have a long way to go!  I'll try to get some pics up soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Washing Wool

Today was a beautiful sunny day in the lower 70's so we decided to quit procrastinating and wash our wool before winter hits.  Last Christmas, my DW's presents all sort of ran toward natural fibers.  First, *C* and I made a hackle and comb set.  After seeing how much they were selling for on the internet, I decided that we would build them ourselves.  We made them out of solid oak and I was quite pleased with how they came out, especially considering that we only had pictures to go by.  Her next gift was a circular sock knitting machine.  If you've never seen one, look these fascinating devices up on YouTube.  We've played with it some but there's a real knack to actually cranking out something that resembles a sock.  Her last present was a box of Jacob sheep wool.  I have to admit that I know very little about sheep but I'm pretty smitten with this breed.  They're so unusual with their polycerate (more than two) horns and multi-colored wool.  I think that I'd like to get some when we get out to the homestead so I figured we could try some wool out first from e-bay.

  The wool came pretty well skirted when we got it.  That means that all the sticks and cockle burrs and poo were picked clean.  We decided to give it another once over.

The smell wasn't so bad once it was out of the box a while.

My DW may have found a few pieces from the nether end!  She was a trooper though.  We did quite a bit of research on how exactly to wash the wool and got a whole spectrum of methods ranging from Ruth on BBC's Edwardian Farm just chucking it into a stream to numerous "serious" wool people taking temps with thermometers and using special soaps.  We kinda split the difference.  Two common pearls of wisdom that we found over and over were that you have to have the water hot enough to melt the naturally occuring lanolin in the wool and that you can't agitate the wool too much or you'll end up with felt.  First, we filled a five gallon pail with water as hot as I could stand putting my hand into and added a generous amount of dish soap.

We gently put the wool into the hot water, taking extra care to not agitate it too much.

Without shaking things up too much, I just kept gently pushing the wool back under the water as it floated up until it was time to lift it out and let the nasty water drain.

At this point, you may be noticing the color of the water as it's draining out.  It was a lovely color of brown and I do mean brown.  I suspect that it was a combination of lanolin, dirt and, oh yes, POO!

This is what the water looked like after the first wash...

And then the second was a little better...

And the third was better still.  After three more rinses without soap, the water didn't look too bad.

We took the wool out of the final rinse and laid it on a couple of metal garden fence sections to dry.  I figured that it was a good way to get air underneath to help it along a bit.

As of this evening, the wool looks great.  It's fairly clean, except for some small pieces of grass and these should come out when we comb it.  The white portion of the wool is really brightening up as it's drying and I couldn't find any sign of felting.  *C* and I ended up having to move it into the garage since it's supposed to rain tonight.  All in all we were really happy with how it turned out...poo and all!