That’s a lot of wool!
Having made the decision to jump in and purchase the entire Blue Pepper Farm clip for 2018 gave me several moments of wondering if I was just nuts. The first such came when I met Tyler Eaton, Shannon’s husband and partner at Blue Pepper, at a gas station off of exit 19 on I-87, to take delivery of it all. Shannon and Tyler had bagged each fleece separately and stuffed them into his vehicle. Somehow I kept getting the giggles over what felt like a weirdly clandestine contraband deal as we transferred all 32 fleeces into my old van. It had the most wonderful sheep-y smell but I kept imagining what the other, non-fiber people passing through were thinking. It was great to visit with Tyler for a bit and hear more about their goals for Blue Pepper (more about that later).
Once I’d made the short drive home, I hauled the fleeces into the garage. Though Shannon had done a great job skirting the fleeces on her own, I definitely wanted my own hands on each fleece to inspect and sort for quality and color. The quality of the final yarn depends on the quality of the wool, and I was pleased at how very nice these fleeces were. Good staple length, it was pretty clean and I removed very little more on top of Shannon’s initial skirting. But it took me two days to completely sort: one sunny day in the driveway on a tarp, and, one rainy day in the garage on a skirting table. The table was better. Mine was simply two hog panels overlapping on a set of sawhorses. The panels double as my pea and string bean trellis in the summer garden but they worked very well here. The fleeces held together very well, staying on the surface of the panels while the short cuts and discarded bits could fall through and be swept away. Plus I wasn’t working at the level of my feet on the driveway. Second plus: the studio pup could hang in the garage with me and nose about under the panels. He enjoyed that quite a lot.
Shannon had primarily white fleeces with several dark and a few mixed fleeces. I figured I could easily sort into 3 categories: whitest, darkest, and mixed. It worked quite well. I struggled with the temptation to keep differing tones of the dark separate but it would definitely give too many fairly small lots of only slightly different wool. By the end, the three piles system was both productive and doable over the course of the full clip.
Once sorted it was back into the van for the trip to Battenkill Fiber Mill, Greenwich NY. At final sorting, the wool came to 106 lbs of raw wool ready for scouring at the mill. It was sweet to have had my hands on very nearly every single fiber of that wool, and I admit it was a little hard to just leave the bags heaped at the mill. It felt like my baby at that point. But I trust Mary Jeanne Packer’s expertise and now was no time to start doubting her.