Our family-built Wool Shed is complete and open for visitors. Success!
This example shines, in an increasingly ‘big box’, mass-produced world. Rural communities are eroding, farms disappearing.
Support from our friends, neighbours, municipalities and province has cheered on the family-built Wool Shed.
They loaned money, muscle, expertise and moral support. Customers have written of their joy in our products from many countries and every province in Canada, loving the authenticity of who we are; what we do.
Completing the project by our deadline was a near thing. Our old Wool Shed was doomed by road-widening bulldozers; our efforts to build the new one challenged by the need to also be lambing, haying, doing sheep work; careful budgeting and challenges of ferry and Amherst Island logistics.
Once Noel McCormick, Island artist-with-a-backhoe, poured the concrete pads we dived in.
Jake evolved the basic design, working with Home Hardware, our building supplier. He worked longer hours in the fields with Christopher, freeing the other two men. Just before opening he designed and built a gorgeous setting for our sign, using a giant stump and careful dry wall work.
Will and Kyle worked long hours with Island foreman Rob, doing all the building and basic electrical work, with help from Carl. The skylights took a lot of extra time to install well, but their light is wonderful. Perry gave us hours of labour.
Peggy did the design and planning of the interior, purchasing, and coordinating with Rob, and finalized display and layout.
Ian paid the bills, helped co-ordinate with permits and worried a lot.
Sally recorded the action, fed exhausted workers, did landscaping and PR and kept craft items replenished, with the help of 10 piece workers.
Leah established order in the office, paying bills, helping Ian with shipping & receiving and sorting inventory. She and her mom worked wonders with Peggy on display and layout.
Ali finished interior display units and ceiling boards with environmentally friendly materials, and joined sheep drives and barn work.
Noel successfully managed to expose, support, lift then drag our century-old Ice House/Milk House to its new location behind the new Wool Shed. It will serve as shipping and receiving, replacing our living and dining room floors and table. This will be its 7th or 8th incarnation.
We hooked up the inspected, approved structure and electricity Friday night, before the Saturday official opening (no stress involved!). We were a part of the Amherst Island Christmas shopping event in our family-built Wool Shed.
The grandsons were involved that day also, with Nathan and Mike helping people find items they sought, chatting about the products and the farm, and taking cash.
We had our best day ever.
A 70th birthday dinner for Sally that evening became a true family celebration of all we had accomplished on our family-built Wool Shed – together.
Thanks to each person who has helped make this small shop on a farm, on a dead-end dirt road on an Island become an example of what we can all do in our home communities, working as a team. Buy local, wherever you live.
Please come visit.
The Township told Topsy Farms we had to tear down our Wool Shed store to widen the road. What a shock!
Our Wool Shed at Topsy Farms is housed in a former small milk house/ice house, built about 90 years ago on the edge of the narrow road, on the edge of the lake, handy for the horse and wagon. After electricity came to the Island, that small building was used for storage, for making candles, for a farm workshop, then for a teenager’s band. It then evolved into a store outlet for wool blankets, throws, lap robes, and cotton-encased wool bedding; sheepskin products; yarn; roving; raw honey and lamb cuts. The Wool Shed is also a destination for people who come for farm events, enjoying shearing and helping to foster baby lambs.
The blocks of ice for refrigeration came from the lake, but it continued its slow steady erosion of the limestone shoreline and cliffs, chewing at the rocks until a person can stand in a cave under parts of the road.
The school bus, feed delivery trucks and heavily laden farm wagons travel that same, dangerously undercut road.
Loyalist Township is working to make the north-west corner of Amherst Island safe, by redirecting, shoring up, ditching and widening – a massive undertaking.
We feel both threatened and grateful by the plan to tear down our Wool Shed store.
Farmers must be as flexible as a tree, bending with the winds of change. We need to perceive modernization as beneficial, even while the road crew are cutting down our venerable trees that are too close to the road. Our family must flow like the water, moving smoothly around unmanageable barriers; persisting at reducing others.
We are turning the cut trees into lumber and firewood and mounds of organic wood mulch.
We are building a larger, designed-for-the-purpose Wool Shed in our back yard.
Our extended family have prepared a concrete pad. We hope that Noel, an artist with a backhoe, will be able to lift our former store (milk house/ice house) and move it beside the new building. It will be a storage area, linked to the shop. Success will depend upon the unknown base of the aged structure.
Our 3 generation family at Topsy Farms sees this upheaval as a challenge and opportunity to spruce up, rebuild, and otherwise improve our space.
We’ll be inviting everyone to a party this fall to celebrate the new/old Wool Shed.
Our popular pure wool dryer balls have many uses. When a person puts 3 in the dryer they will:
- fluff up laundry
- avoid the use of somewhat toxic dryer sheets
- reduce or remove static cling
- shorten dryer time, thus
- save you money
David Suzuki recommends pure wool dryer balls as a means to reduce dryer time for up to 30%.
They are environmentally, ethically sound, using only the renewable resource of wool, to significantly reduce electrical energy and costs.
Pure wool dryer balls come in a convenient home stitched bag (from repurposed cotton sheets) with a cute lamb photo, for pleasurable gift-giving or handy storage.
The package of 3 dryer balls, information sheet and gift bag cost $25 at https://topsyfarms.com/wool-shed, or by phoning 888 287-3157. There is presently such high demand that they are not yet available on our website store.
And as this 8 second video shows, they can be fun too!
The Wool Shed at Topsy Farms is our at home outlet store for beautiful pure wool and sheepskin products.
It hasn’t always been so. It appears to be just a scruffy farm outbuilding, built far too close to the road by today’s standards. However you can’t tell its heart or history by its faded covering.
The Wool Shed was built about a century ago with a double purpose.The south portion was designed to store great blocks of ice, cut by hand from the lake, and stored with layers of sawdust helping to insulate. That supply was vital as the only source of refrigeration in those days. The north portion of the small structure was the milk house, used for cooling the cows’ production of the day, destined to be picked up by horse and wagon or cutter, to be delivered to one of the Island cheese factories.
Two generations of the Eve’s family lived here for many years, planting the huge black spruce trees. (Our older son now lives in the bungalow built next door for retiring mom/grandmother ‘Peachy’.) They had electricity by then; still used the milk house portion for awhile, but eventually the shed was just used for storage.
When Topsy’s first group arrived at the recently abandoned farm, the shed became a crammed storehouse, then a much-needed tractor repair workshop. Some of the machinery couldn’t fit in, but the tools and mechanic/farmer were sheltered.
When the commune amicably dissolved, former members were repaid, and the impoverished remainder were fed one winter, by the candle production housed in the Shed.
Once our new workshop was built, the Shed became a music centre for our younger son and others. It sheltered a drum set and speakers, providing some privacy for teenagers. The budding musicians traveled from high school in Napanee, made glorious noisy experiments, with sufficient autonomy (but not too much) from the older generation.
University years enabled yet another evolution. Four coats of high quality primer and two more paint coats covered most of the music group’s wall ‘creative writing’, and the Wool Shed evolved to its present glorious new life.
It is open any day, all year (please phone first).
About 1200 sheep are shorn annually – the fleece being one of the most renewable resources that could exist. It is transformed in P.E.I. to a high quality, all-Canadian wool made into blankets and throws, yarn, wool, and many hand-crafted products.
The Wool Shed has the largest variety and inventory of pure wool Canadian blankets and throws in Canada.
Visitors love the feel of our sheepskins, either trimmed ‘medical’ skins or luxurious ‘shaggies’. Lambskins are also available: smaller, softer, and ideal for new born babies, or the seat of a chair. Also available is unbleached cotton-stuffed wool bedding, pillows, mattress pads and comforters. These will give you an experience of sleeping on a cloud – or the next best thing. Many hand-crafted items are available from Topsy Farms only by visiting the Wool Shed – you’ll find it worth it. For outing information, see https://topsyfarms.com/uncategorized/great-outing-amherst-island-day-weekend
The heart of this old building beats strongly.
Ian took a van load of our products to the Queens Farmers Market at Queen’s University in Kingston. This once-a-month market was requested by some students last fall and has been pretty successful. We were invited to set up a booth for the January event and did ok. The 2 things Ian learned in January were: make sure people know that we can take Mastercard and VISA; and there quite a few young people knitting. So this time Ian put up the charge card signage and brought lots of yarn. Sold 42 skeins of yarn and made 3 credit card sales. All the natural – white, brown, light grey and dark grey – were bought. Three young women, representing a group called “No Sweat” as in no more sweat shops, bought the last of the natural yarn. They intend to learn some knitting skills for empathic reasons, I think. It was nice change from sitting on a tractor and rolling out hay. Don got to do all the chores so he had a busy morning.