Could it be cooled lava? An aerial view of some distant unknown planet? No. It's very dirty wool. It is wool I bought through the internet based on the knowledge that 1) it was Corriedale and 2) it was cleaned. In the case of the former, I will chalk it up to a certain amount of ignorance regarding sheep's wool. I've met Corriedale before and it didn't look or feel like this ~ it was comparable to Merino (in my humble opinion), soft and luxurious even in a relatively dirty state. But I could be wrong ~ it could be Corriedale. As for the latter, it wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to figure how un-clean the wool was. It was perhaps skirted, dung tags and burrs removed, but it still reeked of sheep. Which is fine if you are a sheep looking for a date.
So, I spent the day scouring wool. I've done it on and off now for about 6 years. I've come to ignore the advice from Lee Raven's very fine book on beginner spinning, "Hands On Spinnning." Her warnings regarded water temperature, agitation and the dreaded by-product of felting. Well, I can tell you that I have tried felting, on purpose, and I must have been doing it wrong because the wool didn't felt. In fact, it was hardly interested in adhering together at all; it just sort of laid there in helpless, formless globs. As a result, I've learned that wool can indeed take a proper scouring and still be good looking wool to spin. This "Corriedale" saw two suds baths with one rinse bath and a quick spin in the washing machine (as in, set the machine to Spin Only, no rinse, otherwise it really might felt). Once done, it looked a bit like this:
Alright, so it still looks like the aerial view of some distant unkown planet! (Where's Flash Gordon when you need him? Do you suppose Emperor Ming secretly spins in his Royal Chambers at night?) Anyway, I have to admit it feels much better. It probably just needed a bath after the long journey through the postal system (it was also seriously compacted). It's got interesting color, good crimp and ranges 2" to 2 1/2" in length. It still doesn't feel as luxurious as Corriedales I've met, but it'll be quite good for sock yarn. (Ian has already put in an order for a pair.)
And, on a final note: I know that most folks in the shepherding/wool industry possess sheep dogs. I am the proud owner of Wool Cats, fierce protecters of the Wool! I believe at last count I still have six (6) of them. Here is Darth Vader (yes, that's his name ~ don't ask) minding the unwashed bits while I was tackling the scouring.