Thayne and Michelle Mackey highway run Brookside Woolen Mill in Malta MT where they create green insulation out of wool produced by locally raised sheep.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m in Malta, Montana up here, we have a woolen mill. We used to run about 12-1500 sheep. Decided to change markets a bit, since there hasn’t been any decent wool market in Montana since the second World War. My wife
Brought 29 semi-loads of machinery and set up a wool mill.
I found a new podcast called Woolful! This young girl ashley is doing listeners!
Did she say you brought it back from UT?
Was the old Baron Woolen Mill
started by the mormon church
would n’t let the church
Baron’s of Scotland and they started running
ran up until the late 80s, went through several buyers before we got it.
all there Baron brothers were alive,
original parts and pieces
neat bunch of old gentlemen and were a big help moving the machinery and setting it up for us!
Wow! It says you were retired farmers who farmed about 4000 acres of grain? Which sounds outrageous!
Tell me about your of first gardening experience?
Dad always had a garden when I was fairly young. Through high school, did a lot of shoveling and
A lot of weeding
Grandmother always had a big garden
in Turner over on the east side of the state here and she canned a lot , my aunt still gardeners up there.
always had the farming and stuff in the background.
What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you? Maybe you want to tell us little bit about green insulation and your green mill.
Organic is difficult. because there are so many definitions very political. some things one organization will call organic and some wont.
All sheep coming out of New Zealand and Australia is organic but they don’t have to follow the same standards we do. Three are so many third party orgs that say this is this isn’t, there’s no standard. OCIA (organic crop improvement association) 25 years ago, definitions change with political climates and availability so organic is a very tricky situation to get into.
We are organically certified. We’re working with state of Montana on paperwork
do use organic sheep and organic wool
use conventional, the problem is there is no difference the way they are treated on the farm
if you have to inject it there are exceptions for organics
it’s a catch word
it’s a wonderful thing
it’s kind of a thing on
does it not mean you have to be fed organic food.
depends on your inspector … what’s organic hay?
if it comes out of a well does it have to have organic water on it?
if it comes out of an or
I think it means not being sprayed with pest
what are you up by the Yaak?
no we’re south of town?
if you irrigate out of the creek is it organic
if it has leafy spurge on it it can’t be organic
water out of the milk river drainage
if you irrigate out of the creek
leafy spurge in it…
we get a lot of people calling out of the east coast wanting organic wool
I think it’s people who are doing whatever they can to build the soil around their
people ask me why don’t we sell our eggs, I think they are not organic eggs because I can’t afford to feed my chickens organic chicken food…
certainly somebody who’s putting chemicals onto their hay to make sure it’s got weeds in it,
I prefer the terms green and natural are undefinable
anybody with any conscious, that says yeah this is natural we’re
yeah we’re doing the best we can.
If you tell me your certified organic, I’m like yeah?
inspectors fighting all the time with the state
That’s why we go with the green label.
Montana Green Insulation Product available in the world
Have to wash it with a soap.
Wash with Dawn
same thing they wash animals with after an oil spill etc…
10 day biogradibility
that’s the green thing that we use there.
As opposed to the organic label
That’s our process, our scouring train is
120 feet long weighs 105 tons.
We had to build the building around it
it’s a hot soapy water, goes through 3 rinses
water is recycled through
put into a clean pit
Cray fish, frogs and turtles
document that on our website You can see our water usage. is about as good as it can be. Natural.
That’s one of the things we’re trying to do this summer
is get a green house set up that has a large commercial aquaponics
puts some prongs in it and some tilapia, and some hydroponic plants.
I thing people will be interested
I just went on they strip over to paris
there happened to be this big ag production
the first guy I talked to out side had this really cool aquaponics system set up
he was from New Orleans and just moved to France to expand. It was a really cool system. It was almost like a metal rainwater type thing, but it was hanging vertical., the way the water recycled and came out on top was really cool It’s nice to see your gonna be doing
they had these
that’s what we’re dealing with
spun fibers, we actually use the sheep wool
not getting any harmful chemicals
every year you have to sheer your sheep
gives nitrogen, you’re actually putting fertilizer into your system by putting
make a sheep pad.
using the sheep wool
can make a natural pad
1000s of years,
what’s that market like?
growing market, it’s a very specialized because it’s pretty expensive.
There’s nothing in it but sheep wool
add polyboar to it which keeps out bugs if you are somewhere that has bugs, usually down south.
better fire protection so the Federal Government
can’t burn in our atmosphere
it will char, but it can’t carry a flame
to meet the new mattress
you can’t burn wool
throw a blanket on it
big internet thing
guy caught a sheep on fire
burnt down the half country
and set the prairie on fire,
when the internet was first starting.
sheep wool does not burn,
It just can’t happen
sheep wool won’t mold?
I was just thinking? Wool, will keep you dry and
When wool gets wet,
that’s the insulation
when wool’s completely saturated
still has it’s insulation
when you have a good wool coat
throw it on if it’s wet, it still contain 85% of the value
bore you real quick with science
wool itself is just like DNA it’s a double helix
not been able to be recreated in a laboratory
par t of the reason
wool has the insulation has the
why its so comfortable because you’re
surrounding yourself with a little bit of wool and a lot of air
if you look back in history
sheep was one of the first domestic animals
somebody decided to start to spin it
could make fabric and blankets and clothing
start of civilization as we know it, can be traced back to wool
I always love wool, and you can use the felt, I’ve seen amazing paintings done out of wool….
What we have is a line of
We are the only ones of the US production who is making those pads
3 inches thick, put a cotton covering on it, put a
layer it and
build a mattress out of it
you do a lot of studying on the internet
there are some really big and comprehensive studies
about how much better your body reacts to sleeping on wool
you don’t get hot spots, it breathes, non-bacterial
use a mattress for a few years it has a 100 lbs of skin cells
you can pull a wool mattress apart, clean it and reuse it
they’re very earth friendly and very green that way
wool will actually take chemicals like takes Hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde.
because of the double helix
basically purifies air
studies that have been done by land grant universities
Montana State has one of the few wool laboratories left in the US
down in Bozeman, they age a new
sheep university has a new doctor that’s in charge of it. You can verify all of this though them.
you said you got some sheep this year?
4 shetland? 2 brown and 2 black
Do you spin?
You should start spin! Everybody should spin
Kind of like Gandhi that way
I could se that I used to weave…
There you go,
I could see me spinning.
very relaxing, I could fall asleep running a spinning wheel.
look funny doing it.
I could see that being meditative We didn’t get the sheep for the wool, we got them for the manure and also to eat the weeds, the spotted knap weed
they will, you’ll have will have to force them on to it for a little while, to get them used to it.
better in the spring,gets really bitter in the fall.
they will actually eat it. They will just be
when it starts to cure out, If you get a chance.
put a blanket on them will help keep your wool a lot cleaner.
should get 15-20 lbs of wool off of the sheep
shetlands have a nice quality wool, it’s a coarse wool, but it has a lot of hand spinning qualities. It makes really nice blankets and sweaters.
I thought it would have to because shetland sweater,s I mean I’ve bought a lot of shetland sweaters. So you have 1200 sheep?
We go through so much wool. This year we’re looking at going through 200,000 lbs of wool.
each sheep let’s say, a conventional sheep we can get 5 lbs of usable wool out, Over the next couple of year I’d like to be processing about a half a million lbs a year
in Montana is about 1.5 million pounds yearly.
Wow! So I was just talking about this friend of mine about the sheep shearing guy, was coming to our community, and she wanted to know if we wanted to bring them over,
I was asking about them being pregnant now…
A sheep is a sheep
if he is a good shear
Have you ever seen them sheer sheep?
got some wool from NY a couple of years ago and we’re shipping some there tumor insulation
school through the wool
it’s almost like a dance.
sheep shearer can sheer them in a minute
spin them in their but
The sheep changes position and the shearer changes position.
60-90 seconds later a naked sheep runs out
Sometimes if they’re jostling around
might go ahead and lamb
but they are gonna anyway if they are ready
say she’s 8months pregnant
ride on a bumpy road
better for them then non-shearing
bring in 25-30 people
my wife would cook for them, which probably wasn’t much fun for her
kind of like horse traders, kinda got a take with a grain of salt
Anybody willing to shear sheep all day, you gotta be nice to them.
enjoy watching it
to be a good sheep shearer you gotta shear about 1000 sheep
That’s what she said, they said, it would take 1000 sheep! She’s going to that workshop. And then we hope she’s gonna do our sheep.
all repetition and foot work
sometimes a sheep will fight you, 90% of the times, they’ll walk away with a smile
sometimes you get one who is
they can be aggressive
You do have a shetland ram?
Don’t spoil him.
hit him between the horns with a stick
Illl bet he just barely butted me one day,
he’s a sheep
and your a person
Just make sure you don’t get hurt. The biggest problem you have when working with sheep is they jump. Many times, when you’re working wi
somebody’s step in front
jump up and hit them in the face, break their glasses and their nose,
a shetland sheep can jump 3 foot in the year, you watch them when the lambs will be 3-4 days old
I read about shetland sheep, the only way basically to protect themselves is either to run away or they have the ram there, and their vision is kinda limited, So then I realize he’s just doing his thing protecting the girls.
you’re a predator
the minute you put the feed bucket down you’re fair game
as he gets a little friskier in the breading season.
you just have to pay attention
You’ve watched on the discovery channel big horn sheep
1000s of lbs of pressure
let him know up front
if he gets aggressive you’re gonna smack him
pet the little sheep, that’s all fine and dandy.
but if that sheep gets aggressive,
and he hits you 120 lbs sheep with his head,
20 lbs a mile
I bet, I was getting his bucket to give him some food with some molasses and oats and your butting me?
used to run 2-300 shetlands, so I’ve been around them a bit.
want to bottle them, if you need to, if there are 2 that are the same size
pull the odd size off, if you have to bottle freed them.
bottle bum is a wonderment of god himself
wander put the nose in your pocket. They’re like a cat, and follow you into the house.
then they get to be 150 lbs
baby lambs very few things cuter then a baby lamb, and baby goats
congratulations on becoming a sheep owner! That’s a good thing! We need more of them.
What if listeners? What would they want to know
We’ve been feeding them hay, and alfalfa, and the oats and some mineral….
if the sheep can get out and graze, they’re gonna graze,
taste better then a conventional lamb, because they just do, taste a little better to me
If you have a little pasture for them to graze on, and good water, keep a little salt in front all the time
keep them vaccinated
They need a shot within a day of birth….
DSD dead sheep disease, nobody knows what it is, and sheep just die
the only thing dumber then one sheep is a 100 head of sheep, and they’re something to that.
Make sure you get a CSD shots…
nothing more crushing then have a little kid with a baby lamb
could have prevented
I need a prescription for a CD-T shot
take the tails off of them, are
imagine we’ll leave them long tainted?
Why would you take the tails off?
We don’t have a problem here where we’re dry, but you get a little more moisture up there where you are.
as they deficit
the feces will get caught in the tail
in the hair
they will get maggots
a little cleaner
commercial flock do it because of sanitation issues.
wool flies except maybe on their faces sometimes.
If you do, make sure dock them long, make sure it’s 3 inches
the flooper not a technical term.
keep it covered
go down to the farm supply store,
bag of little green cherries
don’t want a bunch of rams running around, that’s how accidents happen and people get hurt.
keep their mind on being a sheep
This is my personal opinion, don’t take it too serious, but get a little green cheerio
talk to your vet
Your extension agent in your county will be a good help for you.
You’re in good shape, just watch em, if they’re not acting right
get an antibiotic pretty quick
check their eyelids
primitive breeds, we’ve never had problems with.
inverted eyelid, if you don’t they will lose their eye.
just a muscle thing, it can be treated with an injection of saline solution or penicillin.
Or you can cut a little slit or the scar tissue
if you don’t they could lose an eye
watch them for runny noses
if they are laying down listless
when sheep catch a cold, they they don’t kick it off very easy and they usually just die.
I would imagine there are books out there, I know the University has a couple of textbooks
american sheep industry out of Colorado has some good books
all sorts of forums on Facebook where you can get advice, some people you might not want to take advice form (could be like me haha;)
I had no idea.
I’m barely the gardener. My husband’s the gardener. He grew up on a ranch, I don’t think they had sheep they had cows….
How about any business advice if somebody wanted to get into a business?
Like a cooling mill?
How many sheep would be the minimum if they wanted to sell some wool to you? IDK I know nothing about any of this.
Like to run big batches of wool
3 woolen mills in the state, 2 for sale and they want us to buy them just because of volume.
The 2 little mills in the State on a good year will use between 4-10,000 lbs of wool. We can process 1000 lbs an hour, so the big thing with that is scalable.
Most of them charge 3-4$ a lb. to scour the wool. Because on the scale we charge $1/lb. or less
can wash a lot at a time,
Let’s say with your four sheep, I couldn’t wash them separately
commercial wool sack is about a 400 lbs sack of wool and you;ll see those if you goto the shearing this year. That’s kind of where we want to be
if it has 2 ends
poor quality we grind up for insulation
higher quality wool can go into mattresses, reclamation pads?
Were doing some stuff with the
department of transportation on wool beds? Were doing some stuff
golf mats on tests
We’re doing some work with an engineering firm on
revegetating the Anaconda Copper Super-Fund site
dirtiest and gives off nitrogen
great growth medium
sprinkle grass down, cover it up, you retain an unGodly amount of moisture because the wool will hold moisture, so your seed beds stay nice, it throws shade on the seeds till they get established. then you have a mat that the roots grow into, and over the course of 5 or 6 years,
matt starts to deteriorate then as it starts to deteriorate it puts off 80-90% nitrogen so your grass is being fertilized so consequently you don’t have to spray fertilized on it Which for a yard is kind of nice, nobody wants their dog running around in a yard that has fresh fertilizer on it….
Yeah that’s the probably the biggest thing I’ve learned on this podcast is how toxic lawn chemicals are….
Lawn chemicals can be bad. Do you know what Roundup is, glyphosate? Safest chemical known to man It touches anything other then a plant it’s gonna kill, and it becomes inert, run it through everything green and it it will kill everything but as soon as it Hits dirt again it becomes inert
There’s other plants, chemicals like true-tail, sometimes you shake it in a cottonwood tree just driving by in a pickup and it will kill the cottonwood tree…
So there’s very dangerous chemicals out there and there’s very dangerous chemicals. Same thing with GMOs
there isn’t an organism on the that hasn’t been modified someway.
GMO sheep, they’ve
been bred with something else to get a shetland sheep
back into Politics and catchwords, I won’t bore you with my opinion. Some chemicals are bad and some aren’t so bad. You just need to read the labels
goes against the organic thing, but
I like the idea of the woolen grass pad, it’s putting nitrogen back into the soil. I guess I’m picturing that paper you get with the seeds in them? What do they use the insulations for? You put it in your walls?
Yep, We do a lot of attics. We do a lot of the tiny houses, because we’re only a few hundred miles from the Balkan Oil Field. So we do a lot of little houses by . and things like that. Lately we’ve been doing a lot of busses, people have been taking school buses and converting them into r vs.. insulated
little gal out of Livingston, who came and got a load of insulation for a tiny house they were building and she has a friend who is going to winter in a teepee, and they are going to come up and get insulation for the teepee. She’s building an old style very indian teepee…
A flip is R38
A flip of sheep wool is R50. Of course it’s a non-carcinogen,
filters the air and things like that,
don’t have to wear safety gear, when you install it, it doesn’t itch, it won’t get in your lungs, and cystic fibrosis,
using a lot of that
on the mats, we’ve been experimenting with an actual native seed mat, that we put the seed on, we’re not sure how to tack it in there, we’re looking at honey or corn syrup as a glue and you just put it on your yard, and
roll it down your yard and the honey or corn syrup
will actually attract bees and then everybody needs honey bees around
very important, so there are some advantages to that, we’re hoping to have something like kind of this next year.
I was thinking back before Mike and I first got married, a friend of mine had this huge teepee, and she had a big bed in it and she lined it with herbs, and it was like the nicest guest room I ever stayed in, it just smelled so good, and sleeping outside on this big ole queen bed…. was so heavenly listening to the creek flow by …
do a lot of homes
people who have kids with asthma are using it because it filters the air, and people with allergies
wool will help that…
With the felting machine
have requests for air filters for systems
excess filtering that wool will do that a polyester filter
weight the water that we use
washes out the impurities in the water.
I think you’re gonna inspire listeners. I’m always up for a
It’s a tough one where you have a kid with asthma.
Anything you can do .
5 gallon buckets that have
that will help out a kid
You’ve got four sheep right there and, you can make your own felt
need to wash at 120º to melt the lanolin,m primitive breeds like shetlands don’t have
fill it up with your wool
get your bathtub and hot as water as you get, the lanolin will float to the surface, if you want to make your own soap or to make your own lotions
Really? I have a friend who makes soap Simply Josephine …
goat milk soap
we are starting to recover some of the lanolin
turned into the slurry
lotion makers run the organic wool, we get organic lanolin
couple of companies that will use it, we’ll start boxing it up and start putting it in boxes.
How many sheep do you have? IDK not many, probably 50 or so
we’re like we say hardly running any more
We have some on shares or things like that.
You can do all sorts of stuff with your wool. Like I said get it in the bathtub
dry balls, wash it,
throw them in the dryer
will keep static out, make laundry a little nicer I guess, I don’t know what she does but it’s kind of magic!
Want a nice bath mat
and you walk on it, feels nice under your feet….
That will make nice Christmas presents!!!
Get yourself a needle felt kit
one year we had kids make christmas tree
filled them up with wool and needle felted them, took them down to the senior center
keep poking with a needle till you take about an inch and a 1/2 of felt, and get it down to about 3/8 of an inch and they make candy canes and snow men and all sorts of stuff out of will. If you look on Pinterest on the computer, just look up wool felting projects
For you with your 4 fleeces, it doesn’t make sense to have it processed
in an afternoon
There’s all sorts of natural dyes
onion skins, native plants that you can get a whole
If you get some good white fleeces.
Can we get a white baby from these brown sheep that we have? WE might get a white sheep down the road…We might trade our ram off for a different ram after this spring if we can…. But is it possible to get a white baby?
Like I say you can get about any color you want out of sheep. You’re sheep there, if you decide you want to some crossbred lambs or you get a conventional ram to breed your sheep
can get about any color
if you decide you want to get a
pretty silky fleeces
f1 generation crop is always, you get a lot of hybrid bigger
get some interesting fleeces out of them. It will be nice if you take up spinning and get into felting out of that.
I I love the felting idea, I haven’t ever tried that but I have a good friend who does, and I like what i’ve seen.
Want to tell anyone else anything?
Well we have a website I guess www.montanagreeninsulation.com
I am happy to help with questions.
don’t have enough wool for us to run
best way to wash wool, in their situations.
We are trying to work with wool pools in the state
Montana to develop some Montana Made
big spinning frame to make yarn
socks and sweaters and baseball crops
Montana wool growers to get together and say we want to have their own brand
that way people could get together like yourself and say we’re gonna pool our sheep
send it up and have it processed,
wool products that we made out of Montana wool fleeces.
start our own brand/coop WE’ve had a lot of interest in that.
Anyone interested get a hold of extension agent
wonderful sheep program, wool lab down there,
Call them with questions
Call me with questions
There’s all sorts of people available
There’s a whole bunch spinning and webbing guilds around the state
MAWS spinning and weaving
Eureka has a huge fiber gathering
Isn’t it the same weekend as the Quilt show now?
They used to bring up the Navajo Indians would do spinning and weaving demonstrations. They’d have an auction. It’s amazing the things they could do, they had a hand sheering class
use the old hand sheers and not the clippers. Real educational. Everybody in the wool industry is willing to talk to you.
Go down to the coop
Every ranch in the state of Montana was founded on sheep, very few that weren’t. Montana’s a big sheep state.
Sheep are cool that’s the bottom line!
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
The top of my head, your biggest problem we have right now is over population and concrete and asphalt. We don’ t have an equal distribution of food resources. Part of that , well 90% of that is political. We do have the capability of feeding the world on the ground that is in production now, but the biggest problem is the best farm ground in the world is habituated by cities.
Like in the state of Montana.
asphalt, any time it rains on it, it runs chemicals off and it runs bad chemicals
where we jump back to how can water be organic when there’s urn off on the the Kootenai river, by the highway. how can that be organic
starting one here
anytime you can help raise yourself
a food bank or someone else,
is a wonderful thing, don’t over build, don’t put in pavement, don’t pave your driveway
my personal thoughts,
anything that will help another is a good organization to be involved with.
Those were awesome answers. You’ve been just a wonderful guest. Full of concrete ideas and full of practical knowledge, things I didn’t know and Im sure other listeners probably don’t know.
In the online listen even Stephen king talks about his ideal reader, I think all my listeners or avatars are going to like that.
Every time I go to Kalispell they’re building more houses, on this incredible rich farmland, that whole new development where they’re just south of the new Cabellas
That was a perfect answer!!!
Thank you so much for sharing.
don’t take any people
One more quick note
there’s always coffee, they’re usually beer and hard liquor we always try to have made in Montana beer or liquor here. We’re sure here.
I’ve been to Malta…. I went for a job interview up on the German Hutterite Colony. It was a long time ago, back in 2003… I just remember there was a baseball game, and we went up toe the colony and I met the kids and parents and the elders, but I wanted to be closer to home, that’s long way from home…
Yeah we’re not nowhere, but you can see it from the hill!