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dirty old wool

 
tel jetson
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let me start out by saying that I loved my grandfather very much.  still do, I guess (he died four years ago).  but whenever I'm working on my grandparents' farm, I find myself muttering or yelling, "WTFuck, grandpa!" at least daily and often more than hourly.

so I'm doing some work on his barn.  it's a corrugated metal barn.  ugly.  he tore down the old chicken house and put the corrugated metal from from it into the rafters of this new (25 years old) barn along with some plywood and a lot of cardboard.  so imagine a ceiling made of those three materials.

then he tossed a whole bunch of wool on top of that ceiling.  my best guess is that he did this to insulate a little bit.  my uncle guessed that it was to quiet the sound of hail storms.  chances are good that only he will ever know why he did it.

on my way to making the barn a more usable space, I'm tearing that ceiling out.  it's obnoxious work.  I'm about a third done and I've probably got a cubic yard of filthy 20-year-old wool already.  so what do I do with it?

my first thought was mulch.  then I found a bar of insecticide that my grandpa also tossed up there.  can't make out enough of the label to tell what it is, but it does say not to let children play with it.  I don't know what else he put up there that might be toxic, but my grandpa wasn't averse to using some nasty chemicals.  the wool is absolutely full of grain husks, so I'm assuming it's at least not immediately toxic to rodents.

so, what do you think?  safe for mulchshould I compost it?  landfill?  hazardous waste site?  before anyone suggests it, a person would have to be more than a little bit of a nutter to attempt cleaning and carding and spinning this stuff.  I am not that kind of crazy.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I'm very curious what the label says, that you can make out. A decade and a manufacturer might get you pretty far on the internet. There might even be a hobbyist who has posted a gallery of labels you can page through to find a mathc.

Most recent insecticide is in the organophosphate family, which is relatively quick to decompose and can probably be composted with the cardboard.

Anything with a Dr. Seuss drawing is probably made with heavy metals. There's some stuff that really does belong in the hazardous waste dump.
 
Jami McBride
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I don't know . . .  how does it smell?  Like wool, earth, mold or chemicals?
 
tel jetson
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a closer look in better light: DDVP-impregnated plastic.  that's 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate for the chemists, and Dichlorvos in trade.  it is, indeed, an organophosphate.  cholinesterase inhibitor.  nasty stuff.  fortunately, at least for me in this instance, it's pretty volatile so there isn't likely to be much left hanging around this wool.

what I'm really worried about is what I haven't found a label for.  I wouldn't put it past my grandpa to have sprinkled or sprayed some other nasties up there.

Jami McBride wrote:
I don't know . . .    how does it smell?  Like wool, earth, mold or chemicals?


smells like animal urine.

there's an awful lot of dust up there, too, but it isn't dust.  the particles are much bigger, maybe just a little bit smaller than amaranth seed only much lighter and dark grey.  strange stuff.

anyhow, I'm leaning toward feeling better about this stuff.  25+ years is a while.  not confident enough to mulch with it, but maybe compost it.

there's still this voice in the back of my head: remember the oil filters you dug up.  remember the asbestos you found.  remember all the buried asphalt rubble.  remember you found a streetlamp buried directly over a water pipe junction, for crying out loud.  maybe you get the picture; my grandpa got a little... um... funny sometimes.
 
charles c. johnson
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please tell me you our wear a mask. 
 
paul wheaton
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If it were me, I would take it to the dump or give it to somebody that isn't worried about that sort of thing.  I like the idea of being sure about what's on my land.

 
tel jetson
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paul wheaton wrote:
If it were me, I would take it to the dump or give it to somebody that isn't worried about that sort of thing.  I like the idea of being sure about what's on my land.


same conclusion I've come to.  it'll be headed to the dump next week.
 
Ken Peavey
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This sounds like a cleanup job.  I doubt there is an emotional attachment to much of the stuff you describe.  Toss anything in question.  Save the time of picking through and looking for alternative uses.  Tear it all up, fill a dumpster, take it down to studs if you have to.  Get it done from top to bottom so you can move forward with putting it together right.
 
                    
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I wonder if you could impregnate the wool with some kind of fungus that would degrade all the nasties into friendlies.  I watched paul stamets' TED talk recently and it made me believe that fungi will save us from ourselves.  Behold, the power of enzymes. 

That sounds like a reasonable amount of potential biomass, seems a bit of a shame to just call toxic -- though it sounds like you have very good reasons to be suspicious of its potential nastiness.  Little grey pellets.....geeze. 

We found the melted and nebulous remains of a burnt up house digging a hole the other day...rural soil/general biomass remediation is a reality that we need to deal with in active and conscious ways, not just send "somewhere else."  In my obnoxious opinion. 
 
tel jetson
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trouble is, I have no idea what the nasties even are.  fungus is amazing stuff, but it isn't a panacea.  if Mr. Stamets wanted to drop by with some spores, I wouldn't turn him away, but he's got some pretty specialized knowledge and equipment that I do not have and I don't think he'll part with those things for a song.

I'm all for taking responsibility for this land—that's kind of the whole point—but with limited resources I'm going to have to choose my battles. certainly doesn't feel good to make a dump run, but I'm trying not to feel guilt over the choices my ancestors made, too.
 
                    
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Do what you feel you need to do to make your home a safe place for generations to come, tel. 
 
paul wheaton
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There are lots of folks that are keen on transforming the toxic to something that seems healthy.  I prefer the idea of transforming the healthy into something amazing.
 
Ken Peavey
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Can I use that for a tagline?
 
paul wheaton
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Can I use that for a tagline?


Soitenly! 

Of course, what sort of community steward would I be if I didn't say "can you mention permies.com when you do that?"
 
Ken Peavey
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This is for the tagline in here.
 
                          
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Somethings are just made for dumps.
Opps, I meant; "Environmentally secure disposal facilities".
Hank
 
Emerson White
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Fire, very hot fire, preferably where you can't smell the lovely smell of burning wool. Melt up a big pot of wax and pour it over the mess, start a small fire on top, out where nothing will catch, and avoid it until after it has cooled, scrap together what didn't burn and start again. Most of the chemicals that were used as pesticides have some complex ring structures that can't handle the heat of being put through an open flame.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Emerson White wrote:Most of the chemicals that were used as pesticides have some complex ring structures that can't handle the heat of being put through an open flame.


And many others contain halogens, and might produce dioxin or similar if incinerated with the methods you recommend.

It's difficult to be sure your fire is hot enough to do the job properly. Incineration of synthetic chemicals is a job I think is best left to the professionals.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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