Small Farm vs. Organic Wool

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We like farmers.  Perhaps it is because we’re also foodies and love to cook with fresh, wholesome ingredients.  Perhaps its because of their heritage and strength in establishing this Country. Perhaps its because farmers tend to have initiative and like working outdoors as we do. Perhaps it is because we understand small businesses. Any way, they are people to whom I can appeal to directly with questions of the sheep’s welfare and care.

SHEEP

Knowing one’s source is accountability and in my opinion, better than any organic certification.  A number of our farms could apply for organic certification if they wanted to, as they feed their animals organically and pasture and care for them well.  We support small flock farms where the farmer can keep a close eye on the individual sheep, providing it care it needs.  All of our farms are very conscious sheep owners.

I can ask a farmer what they do with the sheep when its winter, when they have worms, when they are sick; if they name their sheep; if the sheep have a shelter; how long they had sheep; why they have sheep; what the sheep eat, what shelter is provided for the sheep during seasonal changes; how many pastures the sheep have; what else do they do with the sheep besides sell me the wool; how often they shear the sheep, what kind of sheep they raise.  To me, those answers are valuable because they tell me how they care for their sheep and what kind of responsibility they feel toward them.

It goes to reason that what you put in, comes out. The better quality care and nutrition the sheep receive, the better quality their wool is. The better they are taken care of, the better we and their landscape are taken care of. All are causes worth supporting.

CERTIFICATION

Organic certification is useful when I can’t certify the farmer myself, such as with our puddle pads.  Because we do not source the wool or needle punch it, the organic certification is useful.  However, it’s limited:

In order for wool to be certified as “organic,” it must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production.  Federal requirements for organic livestock production include:

  • Livestock feed and forage used from the last third of gestation must be certified organic;
  • Use of synthetic hormones and genetic engineering is prohibited;
  • Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited, and
  • Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.

Organic livestock management is different from non-organic management in at least two major ways: 1) sheep cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice, and 2) organic livestock producers are required to ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze.

All of our farms meet these organic standards, with the except of the certified organic feed. Most of them cut their own hay from their own untreated grass for the winter months, thus ensuring their feed is as natural as they need. The wool is as good as organic, without asking the small farms to pay the certification costs.

WOOL

To take the topic further, not only are the sheep raised well, their wool is also cared for without chemicals.  There is no carbonization, no bleaching, no superwashing.  Nothing but the soap used to remove the lanolin from the wool is put on the wool. The hot water does most of the work of removing the wool grease.

In the end, think that knowledge is power, so I ask questions.

To see pictures and descriptions of our wool sources, see our Small Farm Wool page.

Pressure Points

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Natural Latex

Some have called natural latex buoyant, some call it Santa’s belly, some just call it foam. No matter your name for it, natural latex will not feel like an innerspring mattress. It doesn’t transfer motion the same way, so you will not be woken by the whole bed jostling while your partner turns over. It doesn’t squeak either, so you can sneak out of that bed after putting your child to sleep. Also, because of the nature of the foam, latex is renowned for absorbing pressure points.

Pressure points are the points of your body that will receive the most pressure when your weight presses on them. When lying down on your side, these include your ankles, your hips, your shoulders and your head. On your back, the biggest pressure points are your heels, your butt, your shoulder blades and your head. Because side sleepers create the largest pressure points, they often prefer the soft and medium densities of latex. Back sleepers and stomach sleepers create less pressure points and usually prefer the medium or firm densities of latex.

Pressure mapping is a technique to identify how well a mattress is absorbing your pressure points. Using hundreds of sensors to test the pressure between your body and the mattress, it will produce an image with colored circles to identify how much pressure your body is receiving. A quick Google search for “pressure mapping latex” will bring up quite a few images showing how latex is able to relieve pressure from these supporting spots on our bodies. While this machine is a great invention, it does have its limitations, such as what happens when you roll over and what about pressure points created by injuries. Use it as a tool, but let your body be your judge.

Customers tell me stories of years of aches disappearing, back pains gone, new sleeping positions now enabled, being able to roll over without having to lift off the bed. Some even note that the small dips in the body, such as the small of the back and waist actually being supported by the latex, now that every part of their body can sink in. Why does latex and absorb our pressure points? One mattress guru calls it progressive compression. When latex compresses, the latex doesn’t just move to the side like water in a water bed or take up empty air space like springs do, the latex compacts underneath you. This puts a very supportive layer of latex underneath your pressure points while at the same time, allowing you to sink in. Elasticity combined with density produces a very durable and comfortable foam.

Wool

Not only does natural latex absorb pressure points, but wool does as well. It has a unique ability to remain soft even after its compression. Unlike cotton, it will never turn hard.  Due to the composition of the wool fiber, its spiral shape lets the fibers stretch instead of just bending like a cotton fiber does. This stretching is what lets you sink in beyond its presumably flat surface. While wool may provide a firm sleeping surface, it also allows space for even side sleepers’s pressure points to be accomodated.

Dunlop vs. Talalay

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Dunlop latex and Talalay latex are not two different kinds of latex. Instead they refer to two different processes used to make latex. Both processes can be used to make natural or synthetic latex or blended latex. Both processes produce latex with the same options in firmness, despite some claims that Talalay makes a softer latex.

Latex firmness is measured in ILDs, Impression Load Deflection. In other words, how many pounds does it take to compress a four inch piece of latex one inch or 25%? Since both Dunlop and Talalay processes can be measured, the firmness between two pieces of latex can be exactly the same. The real difference is durability, price, and response. Let’s start at the beginning.

Latex is harvested from the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The harvesting begins when the tree reaches between 5 to 7 years old. A thin slice of bark is peeled away to release the latex, which then drops down into a cup, a process similar to maple syrup tapping. Unlike maple syrup, the sap is not taken from the growing center (cambium layer) of the tree as that would kill the tree. Instead, the flesh wound does not reach as deep as the sap. The cut releases what we call latex or gum rubber or India rubber. Harvesting of natural latex occurs quite regularly, but is spaced out so as not to stress the tree. There are generally only two months out of the year that a mature rubber tree is not tapped – the dry season, when the leaves fall off. This resource explains in detail the timing of the day and spacing out of the tapping, the exact methodology, and the expected harvesting life of the rubber tree plantation with diagrams and text.

After the sap is collected, it is cooked to concentrate it and remove the extra liquid. From there it is processed either Dunlop style or Talalay style.

The Dunlop process of latex, in brief, is to froth the latex in a centrifuge, then pour it into a mold. There it steam bakes for about 30 min before it is rinsed and cooled. The Dunlop process has been around since about 1929. Click here to view an informative video on Dunlop process latex.

Talalay processed latex starts similarly with the frothing, but when the mold is filled, it is only filled ¾ of the way, vacuum sealed, then pumped full of air. It is mixed, flash frozen to suspend the tiny air bubbles while they’re still evenly distributed, then baked, rinsed and cooled.

Both processes result in a piece of latex with small pin cores. The molds are set up like a waffle iron with pins protruding from the top and bottom. These pins help evenly distribute the heat so that the piece does not get scorched. Every once in a while, you’ll see a tiny yellow spot in the middle of a piece, which is a scorched spot; these spots are cosmetic and do not affect the performance of the latex.

Talalay boasts that the cell structure of their cells is more consistent than Dunlop’s. However their weakness is actually the air; the more air, the shorter the life of the latex. This addition is why soft pieces of Talalay latex have been known to get body imprints in as little as five years or so.

Dunlop’s weakness is not its durability but its lack of perfect uniformity. Because it is not flash frozen, the latex has time to settle toward the bottom of the mold. The bottom of a 6” core of latex can be slightly heavier than the top. Delivering our latex in 3” slices helps to keep the firmnesses of the slab consistent. The extra process of the flash freezing also raises the price of the Talalay latex to an average of $200 more than a Dunlop piece.

All of the Dunlop latex produced is a fast response latex; meaning it bounces back when the pressure on it it removed.  Talalay processed latex can support both fast response and slow response latex, a similar enveloping feel to memory foam’s feel.

We stock Dunlop processed organic latex.

Organic Latex vs. Natural

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I choose to sell GOLS Organic Latex. Why? In part because of the thoroughness of the standard, but honestly, mostly because we as consumers have come to equate the word organic with a quality product. When you hear the word organic, you realize that while you still want to read the label, someone else is out there holding your product to a standard. In our case, the standard is GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) similar to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), which we use for all of our fabrics.

Organic is a buzz word. It has been subject to green washing, to inflated prices and to eye rolling at someone’s careful choice.  BUT it is also subject to buying confidence, to a gold standard and to a product’s broad care and oversight. This broad care means that not just the final product of a latex core is certified, but also the growing procedures for the tree, the molding facility, the packaging, and that the worker’s wages are paid out fairly and their working conditions are respectable.

Is there a difference in the end product between natural latex and organic natural latex? My suppliers tell me there is just the difference of paperwork, and as all organic certifications do, the standard certifies 95% of the product. With the final product of both natural and organic latex being 96% rubber, both products surpass the certifications requirements for the product.

In the end, all natural latex, whether organic or not, ends up containing the following ingredients:

  1. Organic Latex Rubber 96%
  2. Zinc Oxide 2%
  3. Fatty Acid Soaps 1%
  4. Sulfur 1%
  5. Sodium 1%

Item 1 is pure, natural rubber harvested exclusively from the “Hevea Brasiliensis” tree, which grows primarily in South-East Asia.

Items 2 thru 5 are foaming agents that are essential to the vulcanization, foaming and curing process that all latex cores must go though. The finished core is then washed a minimum of 3 times to remove any residuals that may be left over after curing.

I feel assured that we are getting and selling a product that, for being man-made, is quite natural. You can find the document of organic certification in our organic latex product.

All Natural Bedding

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All Natural Bedding

All Natural Bedding

To keep you healthy and toxin free and to give you choice in your bedding, our mattress parts and pillows fills are completely natural. No chemicals whatsoever. Not only the cleanest bedding you’ve seen, but also the highest quality parts.

All our products are plant based, except for wool, of course, which from sheep.  For detailed information on any of these parts, see our Of Interest section.

Natural Latex – from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree grown in Sri Lanka
Millet Hulls – from organically grown millet in CO
Kapok Fiber – from Ceiba trees in India
Cotton – from organic farms in India
Wool – from local farms around MN

Yeah!

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Yeah, it is great! Gina got used to it now and loves it. It’s also nice to know that there are no chemicals leaching out of it, as Gina is VERY sensitive to formaldehyde. We liked the “soft” side so much that we didn’t even try the “medium” side! Thanks a lot for providing a healthy mattress alternative. If anyone needs a reference, we’d be happy to provide it.
I personally really like the feeling when I first get onto the mattress. Not sure I can describe it, though… – D. M.

Clean

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We are enjoying the mattress. We have really only tried out the extra firm side and both find it to be super comfortable. We were talking and if we were to do it all over again might just go for the straight 6 inches of that firmness. We may have guests over who like a less firm mattress though and it might be nice to have the option to flip it. I have some friends who might be interested in a mattress and I told them to check out your Facebook page.
I hope that you are well and thanks for working with us on the mattress. We are trying to be good about making any big new purchases “clean” and this mattress along with our nursery furniture were great places to start for us. I wish you a lot of success in your business. It is a great idea and I always appreciated how much research you had put into everything. – A. S.

No mold

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We thought we would let you know that we have gotten more used to the firmness of the mattress and don’t think we will be exchanging anything. Thank you again for all of your wonderful customer support and willingness to keep following up. If in a few years we desire change, then we could just purchase a 3″ medium pad then and swap it out. It feels so good to know we are not breathing mold every night. I hope your business thrives! – D. N.