We applied for Green Tourism Canada Certification this winter.
A branch of Green Tourism International, Green Tourism Canada promotes ecotourism by :
• Encouraging tourist-oriented organizations to examine and improve their carbon footprint.
• Helping eco-minded travelers locate and choose their destinations.
The Canadian organization, http://www.greentourismcanada.ca/, is determined to create a sustainable industry that welcomes visitors across the country.
Topsy Farms worked with Green Tourism Canada for a few months, supplying initial data, participating in telephone interviews, then providing documentary and photographic proof of claims.
There were 5 required criteria:
• Sustainability commitment
• Risk management standards especially regarding disposal of toxic substances
• That we know and evaluate our energy consumption, waste disposal, water use, and money spending patterns
• That we establish a Green Policy regarding environmental, economic and social issues
• Creation of a Green Management file, documenting problems and solutions
There are 140 possible measurements of strengths and problems, but the evaluator applied only about 60 appropriate ones to Topsy Farms. We were scored 0 – 5 on each to be evaluated for Green Canada Tourism certification.
The interviewer was supportive and encouraging. The 5 to 6 hours of interviews by phone were both stimulating and exhausting, with a free flow of information both ways.
The staff at Green Tourism Canada was impressed by many things already happening at Topsy Farms:
- commitment to permaculture with the land
- efforts to assist Syrian refugees, First Nations healing, local schools
- support of our local community, including the donation of a lambskin to each Island newborn; producing the Amherst Island newspaper, The Beacon, for over 30 years; participation in First Response since inception; gathering fresh food from Island gardens for Kingston shelters
- welcome extended to the public to visit our shearing and foster lamb operations, educating families about eco-farming practices
- recycling materials used on the farm; repurposing others. (One example: 7 miles of wood retrieved from a derelict grain elevator we took down built the second floor of our barn – now our shearing floor.)
- support of our environment with gardens, Monarch Way Station certification, raising bees and producing honey, mulching with belly wool.
- no chemicals at all are used in the production of our roving, yarn and blankets.
We learned a great deal about ourselves as well as developing ideas for improvement.
We were fascinated by the exercise of drawing a geographical chart, showing where our money was spent in 2016. The pie chart summarizes our proud results. Topsy paid 72% of last year’s goods and services within Ontario, mainly locally. Only 5% was spent outside Canada and we hope to reduce that!
We received a report suggesting areas of vulnerability, making practical recommendations, and stimulating new ideas.
We are proud to announce…
On Earth Day, Topsy Farms was awarded the Gold Classification for Green Tourism Canada.
It is the highest possible standard that a tourism business can receive regarding ecological sustainability.
Of 110 businesses classified in Canada, Topsy Farms is the FIRST farm – one of a very few agribusinesses including vineyards – to receive Green Tourism Canada Certification.
We are deeply gratified that our efforts, our values have been acknowledged. Our wool products are the most sustainable, environmentally friendly anywhere.
We can also clearly see new ways to improve our practices to be even more ecologically friendly.
Do walk or cycle this pathway with us.
We practice permaculture at Topsy Farms because it makes sense. The shallow land and Island context sets limits to what works without damage or erosion.
The farm we bought in 1971 is located on the west end of Amherst Island in Lake Ontario. The shallow, drought-prone soil is best used for forage. We keep the sod cover intact, not ploughing, using the sun and moisture-retaining soil to turn the natural grass and legume forage into meat. The farm is wooded with mixed trees, naturally self-planting.
Permaculture means we work to enhance what exists here, naturally.
We’ve deepened low-lying areas, making ponds for the sheep flock in many of the fields.
Living on an Island, we have easy access to a great volume of water.
It is our job to ensure we keep it clean.
We either pump water from the lake or a deep well, through the people and animals, then back into the soil.
Our woodlot is about 100 acres – more than enough to supply firewood and some fence posts without ever cutting a live tree. We burn fallen and dead trees in the wood furnace, the primary source of heat of our main house,
We’ve made some lumber from standing dead timber, using a rented portable small saw mill on the farm. Even the off-cuts aren’t wasted – we use them for the structures of our compost piles.
We harvest wild mushrooms, nuts, nettles and other wild edibles. Each house grows most of its own fresh food, and we consume mainly our own meat chickens and lamb or young mutton. We also eat venison, taken by license on our own property.
We’ve inherited and enhanced good fence rows – trees and bushes that separate fields. We planted a hedge of spruces (those most likely to survive here) that provides winter windbreak and summer shade.
All our properties have fruit trees, and some deciduous trees that we’ve planted. Our grandsons are involved in the gathering, making, and consuming quantities of pears and pear and apple sauce, and elderberries from our prolific bush, frozen, then eaten all winter.
We trim pastures rather than spraying for weed control. We do not plow.
Our farm has improved soil quality over the years by unrolling hay bales on the fields – “sheet composting” – which spreads the manure naturally. This technique feeds the soil’s earthworms and microorganisms. We also gather and compost manure from barnyards, then spread it on the fields.
We mulch under bushes and near our Wool Shop with belly wool – a waste byproduct of shearing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3v0WTZLrpk Some garden areas are mulched by unrolling old hay bales, no longer desirable for the sheep. This provides a very effective thick ground cover, adding nutrients for the soil as it breaks down and aiding moisture retention.
The shearing area on the second floor of the barn was built of wood salvaged when we were asked to demolish an old Island grain elevator. Seven miles of wood went far.
We make products from our yarn; the leftover bits form the core of dryer balls, the small tads cut off are added to the nesting materials, combined with belly wool, for birds in spring. Everything is used.
Raising sheep was a logical decision, given the shallow soil. Originally chosen as a source of meat sales, family food and revenue, we couldn’t make a living for 2 families. The lamb, yearling and mutton is in high demand, but the prices aren’t. We turned the health necessity of annual shearing into revenue by having the raw wool processed in PEI. We now provide almost 1/3 of the farm income through sales of pure wool blankets, wool bedding, yarn, sheepskins and other wool products. Our honey bees thrive in the pollen-producing environment, giving tasty, healthy honey.
Our desire is to improve the farm’s finances to enable the next generation to take the farm over and to have a good life.
Our shearing floor is cluttered. It is piled high, 362 days of the year, with inventory for our Wool Shed. There’s no room for the sheep or shearers.
A year’s supply of natural pure wool bedding, comforters, mattress pads and pillows fluff up greatly.
32 colours of yarn (at last count) in varying quantities fill bin after bin stacked 3 high.
Sheepskins and lambskins, with their lovely loft, don’t just fit in a corner. They take up space too.
And there are many other wool-related items we stash on the usually empty shearing floor, near the boxes of raw honey.
Then 3 days a year the shearing floor must be cleared for woolly sheep and shearers.
We discover a few unlooked-for treasures. We struggle to find places to store things temporarily where we can access them on demand (and remember where we put them).
We invite the public to come to visit and enjoy the spectacle of the annual ‘haircut’ for the sheep – a necessary health intervention. One day in March and two in April, should be enough for over 1000 ewes and rams. The barn will be full of its intended occupants.
How wonderful a cycle, with the sheep, the wool and the wool products, all finding their home with us. That tempting empty space will be refilled with our wool products, created from the fleeces just shorn.
Wool Pillows enhance sleep. There are lots of reasons for that claim:
• Wool breathes. It traps lots of air, so it is actually cooler in summer as well as warmer in winter. It helps the body temperature stay at a comfort level, unlike fibrefill or other artificial petroleum industry by-products.
• Washed wool fibres have a tremendous resilience – a ‘boingability’ to coin a phrase. It naturally rebounds to its own shape, so it doesn’t need constant fluffing.
• The lanolin in wool actually repels dust mites, unlike feathers.
• Wool pillows are hypoallergenic.
• Sheep fleece is also fireproof. It will not burn. Hopefully that will never be important to our pillow customers.
Our wool pillows are also washable. No need for dry cleaning.
Wool pillows are natural; renewable.
It is vital for body comfort to choose a pillow that is the right density. When lying on your side, your neck should be supported sufficiently so that your head neither sags down nor is pushed up.
Your spine should lie in a straight line when sleeping on your side.
Wool pillows also come in 2 dimensions, both standard and Queen size.
A choice for all!
Our customers certainly agree:
Lisa: “I was looking have more natural products in my everyday life esp. while sleeping and to help with eczema problems around the ears. I am allergic to (chemically processed) wool but in my research, wool without pesticides and more natural wool would not affect me so I gave it a try. These worked great! My eczema was gone because the wool was breathable and it was very comfortable. I use the wool wash that I bought as well since there was a bit of a smell when the products arrive. But after washing it, it was fine. I’m glad I took the risk and bought these. Will buy more products from Topsy Farms down the road. Thanks so much for offering such quality products!”
Jen: “You can feel the difference from the standard, some nights you just need that little extra bit of fluff! Best pillows ever, so comfortable. Amazing service as well.”
Honey-Lee: “I have been using a Topsy Farms standard wool pillow for 2 years now. It is the best pillow I’ve used after many years of trying and discarding various types. It is a great all-round pillow for someone who rotates from side to back through the night. It does not get too hot in summer and to refresh it, I will either put it in the dryer for a bit in winter or lay it on my lavender plants in summer. Wool also is a more humane filling. Down pillows are most often made using down that is live-plucked from geese and ducks, causing them great distress, and let’s not even talk about synthetic! I would highly recommend bedding from Topsy Farm, which by the way is just across the lake from my house, so very local.”
Àngela: “So happy with our pillows! We’ve had them for about 6 weeks now and love them. We have them on each bed and we sleep so well. My 6 year old has asthma and allergies and simply changing his pillow has made a huge difference. We will certainly be investing in more wool bedding soon. Also, the customer service has been kind and wonderful. I look forward to trying to make time to visit Sally and the farm with my family.”
Ruth: “Have struggled with pillows and this wool pillow is ideal! Fantastic. Soft enough and yet firm enough for support. No more allergy headaches either.”
Mona: “I bought these pillows and my kids absolutely love them! They felt the difference from down/synthetic pillows and only want to use the wool ones now. Very happy with this product!”
Greg: “This pillow is exactly as described, a simple wool filled pillow with cotton covering. None of the frills that I find too many pillows today suffer from, just a soft wool pillow that helps me get to sleep at night.”
Jen: “Can’t decide which pillow I like best so I have a standard and a firm and I switch them up depending. LOVE them both!!!!”
Bethany: “I love my new pillow! So soft, yet still supportive (I got the regular fill). I could smell the faint scent of animal, but I like it, it’s natural. It feels good to know that I’m resting on and breathing something that is healthy. I look forward to being able to order more of these pillows and other bedding. I think one of my little dogs wants to sleep on this pillow, as well. I may need to order another one sooner than expected.”
Asel: “I bought two of these pillows. They are wonderful. The big thing for me that they are hypoallergenic.”
Mayo: “I gave my daughter the gift of a wool pillow from Topsy. I offered to do the same for her husband, who was not at all interested. He was skeptical that a wool pillow would be comfortable, cool in summer, etc. Within a few weeks he was ‘stealing’ her pillow! I remedied the situation by getting him one of his own. Now there’s pillow peace.”
Buying a half lamb for the first time, with lamb shanks or necks included, can be a challenge to those who usually cook only chops or roasts. (Shanks are the upper part of front legs.)
One of our lamb customers presented us with this fine recipe, great for winter comfort.
“DOCTOR DOUG’S “CANADIAN” SCOTCH BROTH using lamb shanks or necks
2 meaty lamb shanks or necks
8 to 10 whole cardamon seeds
1 tbsp summer savoury
About 10 litres of cold water
2 medium Vidalia onions, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
About 4 cups of cubed potatoes
6 to 8 cups cubed carrots
6 stalks celery, diced
2 cups pearled barley
Your own broth or 950 ml Campbell’s Beef Broth
¼ tsp celery salt
2 tsp seasoning salt
Fresh ground pepper
In a large covered stock pot, place the first four ingredients and bring to a good simmer for about three hours. You want the broth to be as rich as possible, and you want the meat to fall off the bones.
Remove all of the solids from the broth using a skimmer, strainer, whatever, and put these on a raised cookie sheet or roasting pan, etc to cool.
Sample the great-tasting broth.
Add more water if you wish at this point. I do. Add the remaining ingredients to the broth, bring to a boil (stirring frequently), then back to a simmer, covered, for at least half an hour. In the meantime, remove the meat from the bones, cut it into small pieces about 1 cm cubed or so, and discard the bones and cardamon seeds. Add the meat back into the pot and let the whole soup simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. The barley can stick to the pot, especially if your stock pot does not have a good thick bottom, so be mindful to stir the pot frequently after adding the barley.
Correct the seasonings (chances are you will need more salt) and serve.
Notes to Chef: all measurements HIGHLY approximate. If you spell cardamon with an M at the end please feel free to use that alternate spelling. And if you like turnip, which I consider a disgusting excuse for a vegetable, by all means throw some in and ruin your pot of soup. The traditional recipe does call for turnip, but what do those folks know!!! Enjoy!”
Buy pasture-raised meat year round. Topsy offers fresh frozen lamb by order from November through early March, providing delivery options once a year to Ottawa and Toronto, and to Guelph. Customers order yearling for late June (grass-fed, about 1 1/4 years old, so no longer lamb). Mutton can be ordered at certain times of the year; young for home eating, or older for nutritious food for dogs. Hallal requests are welcomed.
Subscribe to Interest in Lamb Meat on any page of our website for direct mailing information, seasonally.
We’ve started making chemical free homemade dog food for our hard-working dogs. Five guardian dogs live outdoors year-round, working hardest at nights to patrol and protect our flock of sheep. During cold winters, dogs need extra nutrients and digestible fats.
Research on-line gives a scary range of opinions, recipes and advice about making homemade dog food. It’s clear that making homemade dog food takes time, learning and love for the animals in your care.
It is most important to know, when making chemical free homemade dog food, that the meat comes from healthy animals and not those laden with antibiotics and other medicines.
Our dogs eat older mutton and we offer it for sale to dog lovers. Dog owners can order this chemical free meat for healthier and happier dogs, ground and packaged in quantities that fit their needs. It is available at various times during the year. Add your name to this list and we’ll let you know exactly when.
“It is important to know where your meat comes from.”
That comment has been a universal response from customers (true for people and pets!)
One daschund owner was a farmer and knows the chemical overload that can be in commercial foods. His beloved Dominic lived 8 years in a Topsy sheepskin-padded wheelchair, staying active and well on a mainly cooked diet that has included our mutton for years. He says his dogs are “sleek, shiny coated, well-muscled and slender”.
“We buy from Topsy Farms because we know the animals are well-treated and live a healthy pasture life; the meat is not chemical-laden.
If you cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it” says another customer, a healer.
Their 4 rescue dogs (and a steadily increasing number of cats) are thriving in their new home and with their improved diet of chemical free homemade dog food. The family uses no commercial dog food, serving mainly raw meat, vegetables and supplements. Their meat is chopped or ground then frozen.
“Emotional trauma symptoms are reduced, infections and minor ailments disappear, and aches and pains are decreased” says this proud dog rescuer and family chef. She buys a whole mutton at a time, ground, frozen and packaged in 1 lb packs, for convenience.
Also for sale this summer will be fat from our grass-fed, market yearlings. This will contain no residue from grains. It has a high percentage of Omega fats – ideal for consumption. Topsy will be using it for our dogs in winter. When feeding our dogs at Topsy Farms, we enrich kibble with our own mutton and mix in homegrown vegetables and other nutrients.
For those who love their family pets, making homemade dog food – or at least supplementing it well – makes perfect sense. Topsy Farms mutton and yearling fat is a valuable addition.
Let us tell you when it’s on sale. Sign up for this dog-lover version of our electronic newsletter. Or email email@example.com and mention your interest in mutton and or dog food.
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.
We are introducing Crafting Shearling Sheepskins in response to significant demand.
All shearling sheepskins are chosen for the highest density of wool; the thickest loft, then trimmed to the desired length of staple, from 8 mm to 25 mm, standing up like a dense ‘brushcut’. They come in 3 forms:
- Customers use Medical skins of top quality shearling for cushioning back and bottom, preventing or relieving sores.
- Naturally coloured shearlings are new.
- Crafting Shearling sheepskins are available at a lower cost. These are dense, trimmed skins with small defects, ideal for cutting into the desired shape.
People are showing impressive creativity with these Crafting Shearling Sheepskins.
The most common uses are for beds for dogs and cats, from tiny wee pups that are carried in a handbag to very big dogs. Sometimes the owner entices the pet to their new Crafting Shearling Sheepskin to protect the new sheepskin purchased for themselves.
The longer staple Crafting skins are sometimes cut into two seat pads. They are comfortable – excellent for preventing or reducing friction sores for people, and they look lovely. Jennifer wrote: “the skins arrived today. They are more gorgeous than I imagined! I need to sharpen my scissors and calm down before cutting!” She made 6 wooden chair pads from 3 skins.
An increasing number of our customers make baby booties, with 16 mm sheepskin soles. We make them too, using every scrap of the supple resilient Crafting Shearling Sheepskins.
The tops of crutches or seat belts or any places that rub or chaff can be padded with cut shearling sheepskin pieces.
All our shearling sheepskins are washable, resilient, fire retardant and hypoallergenic.
We have two customers who are using Crafting Shearling Sheepskins to express their love of horses. One has designed a saddle warmer. She cut a skin carefully to pattern, stitched it, and now uses it regularly.
Another home business supplies carefully hand-built and designed horse tack. The owner is working on a prototype for Velcro-attached, sheepskin-covered cheek pads for bridles and other spots that might rub. She is delighted with her first experiments.
Shearling sheepskins – medical, naturally coloured and for crafting – are available at the Wool Shed on Amherst Island, where we pay the 13% sales tax, or from our on-line store.
What creative uses might you discover?
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.
Raw wool transforms into wondrous things:
- Roving for weaving and spinning and needle-felting and stuffing
- Pure wool yarn – which can then become toys and sweaters and …
- Blankets and throws and lap robes
Our shearing story describes how it gets from the sheep to the big burlap bags for storage.
Here’s how raw wool travels from the farm to be processed at the traditional woollen mill in Prince Edward Island.
The bags weigh about 150 lbs when well packed, and are stored in the shearing area, upstairs in the barn. Three or four men load them onto a farm wagon hitched to a tractor. (No large tractor-trailers can cross on our ferry, so we haul them to the mainland).
This year we had over 5600 lbs of clean wool. Our sheep are pasture raised, so they grow more, longer-stapled wool to stay warm, and it’s cleaner as they don’t hang around in barns. The sheep are mainly North-Country Cheviot and Suffolk so the staple for weavers is similar to Corriedale.
The raw wool hits the ‘high seas’ crossing on the ferry.
We co-ordinate with the tractor trailer driver for timing. He’ll leave an empty, clean trailer for us to fill. (We’ve had adventures in the past with unwashed potato or cattle trucks heading back east, or drivers who gave us 15 minutes notice when we’re two hours away). We plan for a time when we aren’t taking too much space from our neighbours going to the mainland.
We haul the raw wool bags off the wagons and into the tractor trailer box. Ian loves the sight of those doors closing and calling the driver for pickup.
The mill uses only soap, no harsh chemicals so we are confident that the products that are produced for us, from our wool and others, will be the softest most hypoallergenic quality available.
Ever heard of therapy lambs?
This year Topsy Farms invited the public to bottle-feed and cuddle our baby lambs that needed help. (They were the smallest from 3 or even 4 lambs born to 1 ewe.) People came, spread the word, and we were booked, 11 hours per day for more than 3 weeks.
We knew our own time spent feeding, cuddling the most needy lambs of about 1400 born, was peaceful, calming, quality time.
We soon learned how much our therapy lambs were helping others.
Sure, it is a joy for young families to introduce tots to a tiny, needy animal, to help them learn about the natural world.
Yes, it was a balm for a teacher under stress to sit quietly with her ‘virtually’ adopted lamb, and stroke and hum and rock gently, and bring her overloaded mind and heart to a more quiet level, able to cope once again.
Then we had a family with a girl who turned vegetarian very young, clearly having an unusually link with animals. The lambs flocked to her wonderful energies and reinforced her love. Her autistic sister responded really well to the action.
A woman came in a wheelchair, not yet at peace with her immobilized state. She poured out her frustration and grief quietly, cuddling the therapy lamb which fell sound asleep in her arms. Her body didn’t change, but her mind was less fraught.
Paula Chisholm, in the midst of chemo therapy treatments for a very tough cancer, spent over an hour in meditative link with the wee woolly animal snuggling up to her neck. She wrote us to describe the huge healing impact on her heart and soul. “[…] I relaxed so much and allowed myself just to be in the moment. I truly believe that animals give the best therapy…they don’t expect anything from you but to be loved. Cuddling and playing with them allowed me to forget everything else going on in my life…it gave me a positive purpose and I left your farm feeling so happy and relaxed.” And who knows – maybe it helped her body too?
Niall Hartnett, blind from birth, came to visit on a rainy day. He sat quietly in a chair in the 3-room ‘playpen’, his sensitive hands softly exploring the lamb. The tiny animal responded, feeling safe.
A few Syrian families came to visit, still struggling to adjust to their new world, to the absence of violence, to the low-key warm welcome in Canada and at Topsy Farms. The strained faces relaxed into laughter and joy.
One child who came has a rare illness that prevents her from playing with other children or groups of people. Her family carefully booked a time when she could be alone with the lambs. She has only recently been able to hear, thus speak, but after a few minutes, she was chattering away with the lambs, touching and exploring. Her mother and caregiver were thrilled that she had a ‘normal’ happy hour, playing like any child, anywhere.
A family with an older child who was severely autistic now have a young daughter with the same challenges. The older boy was helped when two of our lambs moved to his farm. Frustration and anger melted away. Two new, sturdy, affectionate lambs moved there last year, and again this healing happened. Their interaction is helping the five year old begin to use language and to socialize more freely.
Topsy thought that people were rescuing lambs but it turned out that the therapy lambs were rescuing us.
Want to host a kids party – animals and action? Learning by doing!
Small animals to cuddle! Space to play! Boat ride! Picnic! How can you beat that?
Enjoy an outdoor venue at Topsy Farms in spring. Children can visit shearing in March or April (specific days only) or play with baby lambs, romping and bottle-feeding the weakest babies rescued from the fields in May and early June.
Two young lambs at the kids party – animals and action – will feed from hands or walk on a leash.
On weekdays from May 16 – June 3 every year, small groups are welcome to organize a party to help nurture our most vulnerable lambs, rescued from the fields. (Weekends are for families to visit lambs; too busy for parties). We have indoor and outdoor spaces so rain or shine your families and friends can have a good time.
Our new Adopt a Lamb program has already provided unusual birthday gifts. That present includes a photo of the lamb, a choice of its name, and information about the lamb’s needs and future.
We hosted a birthday party for 2 year old twins during shearing. A small day care, a group of home-school families, and Derby Girl families have come for picnics and play.
The twins family said:”The entire team at Topsy Turvey was wonderful from start to finish. Planning our daughters second birthday celebration was easy and execution was seamless. An afternoon on the farm was a wonderful way for us to include all ages of family and friends and learn while we were there too! Everyone had a great time seeing the sheep, learning about shearing, riding the ferry, and enjoying snacks and outdoor fun!”
Medically-challenged individuals with families can be welcomed.
If you want your kids to have their party on Topsy’s Sheep Farm, we request:
• a high proportion of adults to children
• a maximum of 10 children to ensure quality hands-on experience
• casual country clothes and thinking
• you bring and take all food and beverages and serving requirements. (A neighbour on Amherst Island take orders for cakes; enquire of us.)
fee to be discussed.
The ferry leaves once an hour on the HALF hour and costs $9/vehicle. You’ll leave the farm a little after the half hour to catch the return ferry ON THE HOUR.
Guaranteed your special people will have a joyful experience they’ll remember.
Lap Robes and Throws and our other wool bedding are made from a combination of the 6000 lbs of wool annually shorn from our sheep combined with others, then processed gently to retain natural lanolin. That means they are soft to the touch, not prickly, and have all the wonderful characteristics of wool – hypoallergenic; naturally fire resistant; resilient, cool in summer and warm in winter and importantly, entirely washable.
Wool Throws and Lap Robes are woven of 100% pure Canadian wool.
The Throws are half the size of a Queen blanket; measuring 6’ 6” by 4’ 4”, close to the size of a single bed blanket. They are now available only in the popular checkerboard patterns, which combine two or more colours in both the warp and the weft, both natural and dyed tones. They are perfect for curling up with on a couch or in recliner, long enough to wrap around shoulders. The man modelling in this photo with his little girl is over 6 feet tall.
The Wool Lap Robes are 4’ x 5’ in dimensions. They are available in natural white with colour bands and also in our tweed colours, with the natural white yarn in the warp, woven with your choice of colour in the weft. They are wonderful and cosy, perfect to keep a lap warm; decorative for any setting. They also work well to keep toes warm, when placed on the foot of a bed.
The tradition of processing wool gently, without harsh chemicals, has been maintained by the woollen mill in the Maritimes. Most of their looms are old too, and the Lap Robes haven’t been available for awhile. Thankfully, this Woollen Mill, once water-run, has again made them available to Topsy Farms and to you.
Discover the many reasons why folks love to visit Amherst Island. It’s an old-fashioned traditional rural community, with lots to see and to do.
It’s easy to visit Amherst Island.
A 2 – 3 hour drive from Ottawa or Toronto will bring you to our ferry. See contact us for detailed directions. Our ferry leaves the mainland on the half hour from 6:30 am to 1:30 am. For more information click here.
For information for sailors, there are government-maintained docks and excellent harbours for mooring your boat.
You can choose where to stay when you visit Amherst Island.
Your hosts will offer some meal options or you can choose housekeeping and bring your own food, supplementing from Island gardens and kitchens. (Our pie is renowned). The community-run diner, The Back Kitchen offers meals Thursdays through Sundays or holiday Mondays in spring and fall, and daily in summer. The Women’s Institute has a bake sale Fridays of each long weekend. Allen Farms has a veggie stall (by the ferry) Archibald’s Farm Fresh Eggs are available and Terry McGinn from Maplemarsh Farm and Barb Reid have produce at the weekly Saturday market.
There’s lots to do when you visit Amherst Island.
- explore over 40 miles of bicycle trails on the Island, most by waterfront, as well as many in the nearby area.
- enjoy our birding wealth, envied throughout North America
- have fun at our seasonal events: orphan lambs or shearing at Topsy Farms, Canada Day Parade, Fantastic Island Fiesta, Back Kitchen Talks, Women’s Institute Bake Sales, Fish Fry, Percheron wagon rides, Annual Cow Count, Dances, St. Paul’s Garden Party, Amherst Charters fishing summer and winter, The Wooly Bully race along the shoreline, The Fall Festival, and the Parade of Lights. An International Dry Stone event took place September 2015 with many free activities for kids and adults, with more workshops planned for 2016. For information on the above check www.drystonecanada.com, the Beacon or CJAI radio, on the Amherst Island website. Or get a self-guided tour book at the Museum or The Wool Shed.
- St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, St. Albans Anglican Church and St. Bartholemew’s Catholic Church welcome you. (At present there are no regular services at the latter.)
- public sand beaches, and quiet corners with water and rock are here for your quiet pleasure.
Music abounds when you visit Amherst Island
- Waterside Music Festival attracts top international performers
- Emerald Music Festival is a joyous bluegrass and country Island event
- Our “Islanders” informal music group entertains at many events.
There are places to go when you visit Amherst Island
- The Neilson Store Museum and Cultural Centre
- The Weasel and Easel, Fine Art and Handicrafts Gallery
- The Wool Shed at Topsy Farms, offering lamb, sheepskin and wool products, and some garden produce and cut flowers, seasonally
- Shirley Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org has Watercolours Etc gallery in her home where she also offers classes
- Island Gallery at 125 MacDonald’s Lane is open seasonally by appointment. call Woody Woodiwiss at 613 384-0887
- Paper/Scissors/Stone at 12485 Front Rd is open seasonally by appointment. call Elizabeth Barry or Don Newgren at 613 389-7782
Media blankets Amherst Island
- CJAI 92.1FM Music from the Barn also broadcasts on the internet, with many live eclectic shows
- The Beacon, Amherst Island’s monthly 20 page (or so) newsletter is free on-line and has been published for close to 40 years.
There’s lots more too for you to discover when you visit Amherst Island.
You’ll enjoy the fact that there are far more sheep and cattle than people; that there are many services and a great deal of mutual-aid caring on our Island; that you can trust our ferry crew to guide you. Most of all, that when you visit Amherst Island we all wave at each other, confidently expecting you will wave back.
If it was not for teething right now, I am more than sure that they would be sleeping through the night. I seriously cannot believe the difference and I am so grateful that I can now get sleep myself. What a change! Well worth the money, and my only regret is not trying this sooner!
The honey is delicious, and I have not tried the yarn yet but hope to very soon.”
Shannon sounded very desperate when she phoned Topsy Farms with questions. Exhaustion will cause that. A little while after receiving two medical trimmed sheepskins, she wrote the above message.
Shannon, Ontario, March, 2016. Get your very own sheepskins here!
VISIT FOSTER LAMBS FROM MID-MAY UNTIL EARLY JUNE
May 14 to June 5, 2016
Bring cameras, big and little kids and casual clothes
Cuddle or bottle-feed a lamb
See hundreds of lambs in nearby pastures
PHONE/EMAIL IN ADVANCE FOR AN APPOINTMENT
613 389-3444, 888 287-3157 email@example.com
These foster lambs have been rescued as their moms can’t raise them. One may be smallest of triplets; another a twin of a young mom with insufficient milk. Please come to help us nurture them.
Adopt a Foster Lamb to help a baby lamb survive and thrive.
Our flock of 1000 ewes birthed over 1400 lambs last year. About 30 – 35 lambs can’t stay with mama, and must be cared for. Otherwise, they’ll die.
Will you help save a baby lamb?
Do you want to be a (virtual) foster parent?
The cost is $45 before March 1st, 2017. After that, it will be $50.
For that donation you will:
• Name the lamb – we’ll use your chosen name from then on
• Receive a photo of the lamb so you could find yours in a group
• Learn all we know of its birthing history and reasons for needing to be fostered
• Be encouraged to come to the farm to help cuddle and bottle-feed during the time that it is here
• Learn about health care and needs of small lambs
After a week or so, most lambs ‘graduate’ to small farms where they join small free-range flocks.
• You’ll get a report of your lamb’s progress as it learns to become a sheep.
By registering and paying, you will be on a ‘first come first served’ priority list to adopt. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You do NOT take your lamb home.
People who don’t want to adopt can reserve a time to visit. If you wish, use our site to subscribe to the mailing list for Family Visits.
The males will live on pasture in their new homes for the summer then will go to market; the females will stay with the flock, bearing babies of their own for years to come.
If you adopt a foster lamb, you will help a caring, busy sheep farm nurture the most vulnerable to enable them to survive.
Know babies with sleep issues? We do. We’ve been there. We’ve found a way to help babies with sleep issues.
So often the restless sleeps of babies result from discomfort, inside and out.
One reason is that there are usually so many plastic and rubber and other artificial fibres in a baby’s world. Those materials inhibit temperature regulation, and natural circulation. Anyone who has worn a nylon shirt in the heat, then changed to a cotton one, understands this.
Artificial materials, often petroleum byproduct derivatives, may also be a source of allergens.
Lambskins and sheepskins are hypoallergenic.
The natural fibres of lamb and sheepskins help the skin breathe.
Wool traps air and has a lofty, supportive resilience, helping babies with sleep issues.
Our grandson would sleep but not deeply, startling awake easily. His mom started using one of our lambskins and noticed an almost immediate difference in his deeper, more relaxed sleep. On the occasional night when the lambskin was missing – air drying after washing – the baby’s sleep was noticeably worse.
One friend and good customer wrote: “Nico is now 6 months and has just started to nap regularly. For the first few months the collicky and incredibly light-sleeping redhead would only sleep during the day while we wore him.
Recently I have started to be able to put him down while he slept…but only if it’s on the sheepskin or lambskin. I think it’s because it’s so soft and warm that he won’t be startled when his head or cheek lays on it.”
Lambskins are easy to move to strollers, car seats, or to visit Nana, taking familiar comfort with a mobile child.
An important factor for new parents is that Topsy Farms lambskins and sheepskins are entirely washable – if you follow our instructions. Just soaking in Eucalan in a washing machine, skipping the rinse, spinning, then air drying actually nourishes the fibres, softening the leather and increasing the comfort.
We wish we’d had Topsy Farms lambskins when our kids were little.
Not everyone would have the ‘gumption’ to tackle washing, carding, spinning wool from a Topsy Farms fleece. Especially an ‘in-the-grease’ fleece, fresh from the ewe. But Carlene Paquette is one of those brave souls. Some weavers come to the farm during shearing, to help on the ‘skirting’ table, and choose the fleece wanted, even getting to meet the donor ewe who was just shorn. When we offered free delivery to Ottawa, Carlene decided to experiment with our breed – North Country Cheviot/Suffolk cross; pasture-raised.
Here’s the process. First she examines the fleece on the floor of her garage, to remove any fecal matter or chaffy bits that were missed during skirting. Ours was proclaimed unusually clean. She also looks for ‘second cuts’ – short bits of wool staple if the shearer went over the area twice. Again, our pro shearers did well. The length of staple is important, as well as whether it is solid. If the sheep has issues in nutrition mid-season, the staple will break in mid-length. She tugged on the wool as a soundness test, and proclaimed it strong.
She then soaks the fleece in a combination of hot water, “Simple Green” (a commercial degreaser) and “Blue Dawn” dish washing soap. Some lanolin stays in; most dirt and smells are removed. Carlene dumps that dirty, oily water on driveway, then rinses again.
Once the clean wool has been spun in netted bags, she finishes drying the wool, spreading it out on clean towels. It has graduated from the garage to the spare room.
Carlene then uses a carding machine to align or comb the fibres, winding them in a soft batt.
Certain fleeces are more curly but this isn’t a characteristic of our wool. Our Cheviot fibre is about 27-33 microns. Mixed with Suffolk it is similar to Corriedale, a popular medium wool for hand spinners with a micron count of 25-31.
She then begins to spin, working a treadle, synchronizing her hands and feet in quiet rhythm. The spun wool is wound on a bobbin. For some reason, this one-ply strand is called ‘singles’ (plural!). She then combines or ‘plies’ the singles into a double strand, creating her preferred density of yarn. She washes the finished skein, then may dye it.
Why all this work?
Why go to this trouble and effort before even beginning to turn the yarn into a product with weaving, knitting, or crocheting?
She finds the entire process of creation, the washing, carding, spinning wool to be relaxing; meditative.
Working with a drop spindle was tedious for Carlene, but once she invested in a wheel, she says she hasn’t looked back. She says her involvement in the skill “sort of spirals out of control. I greatly prefer the creative process of making yarn (to knitting). The skein of yarn is a finished project in my mind. I really like the feel of the fibre running through my fingers. At first my feet had to slow down until my fingers caught up. The process supports my focus on mental and physical health and fitness. Spinning helps me stay away from snacking in evenings and it can be done while watching documentaries or chatting with someone, or listening to music. I even sleep better since I began.”
Who would have thought that our Topsy Farms flock enhances well-being? Anyone who works with our fleece and our yarn, apparently.
The Campaign for Wool was initiated by Prince Charles in England, as a result of his desire to increase the market for British and Commonwealth wool and to promote awareness of its environmental benefits. The Campaign expanded to Canada in the past two years, with Holt Renfrew as a major participant.
Buyers from Holt Renfrew’s chose Topsy’s products for their Campaign for Wool shop
The 5 minute interview with Sally, explores why our wool products are unusually soft and not prickly as a result of our caring pasture-raised sheep practices and the gentle, chemical-free wool processing techniques used.
Wei Chan asked about the startling impact of being contacted by the Princes’ Charities, on behalf of Prince Charles and was met with a laugh.
Please enjoy our cheerful radio discussion.
Syrian Refugees reaching shore in Lesbos – photo by Sergey Ponomarev
Kingston region expects about 600 Syrian Refugees to arrive by February.
The Syrian Refugees need to be welcomed with warm clothes as well as warm intentions.
Topsy Farms is all about wool, and warmth and food, and welcoming visitors. We admired the momentum in other communities to mobilize craftspeople to create warm items of apparel (https://www.facebook.com/25000tuques/ and http://www.ravelry.com/groups/1000-stitches-for-syria).
But nothing was happening in Kingston.
So we helped start KINGSTON STITCHES FOR SYRIANS campaign.
Knit Traders, our Kingston yarn outlet store, and Jean Sweezie, a Kingston knitter, are the team making this happen. Others, including the mobile yarn store Purlin J ‘s (who also carry Topsy yarn) and Rosa’s Café are promoting the idea. More will soon follow.
The goal is to encourage all knitters, crocheters, weavers, and sewers to contribute hats, mitts, scarves, socks/slippers, toys and blankets. Warmth matters. The newcomers will be traumatized and cold. Our yarn is wonderful for hats and mitts and we’ve offered some at cost for this purpose.
We are asking the creators to attach a label with a simple message of welcome, and their first name, and to provide some guidelines for those sorting the donations.
On Amherst Island, bring your donations to the Wool Shed at Topsy Farms. In Bath, please go to Rosa’s Café. In Kingston, drop your donation off at KnitTraders or at Minotaur Games and Gifts at 78 Princess. In Napanee go to Ellena’s Café. We will be seeking other locations in regional towns and villages. A group of folks who crochet in The Great Waterways have joined us. We are approaching seniors residences and groups. Knit Traders sent their blog to over 800 knitters. And we are coordinating carefully with the overall refugee aid groups.
A kind donor has given $100 to purchase Topsy yarn at discount for this purpose. Our coordinator who is visiting Seniors Centres to encourage involvement in Kingston Stitches for Syrians, may now offer our yarn, free.
In your community, seek the networks that may exist. If nothing is happening, start your own, and link with us for more information.
Please encourage friends and neighbours to join in. Remember, no donation is too small or too big, whether it’s a small beginners’ scarf or a family sized afghan – we need them all.
Yogurt-Mint Marinated Grilled Leg of Lamb (middle-Eastern style)
– submitted by Rick and Janina Prociuk
Prep Time: 10 min (more if leg needs to be deboned)
Inactive Prep Time: 8 hr 10 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min
Serves: 8 servings
• 1 de-boned Leg of Lamb (approx. 5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
• 5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
• 2 cups Greek-style yogurt (regular yogurt, at least 3% butterfat)
• 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 3 to 5 dashes hot pepper sauce
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a paring knife, make several small slits over the entire surface of the lamb, and stuff the slits with the sliced garlic. Add the mint, garlic, cumin and hot pepper sauce to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add yogurt and mix by hand. Place the lamb on a large baking sheet. Make several shallow cuts into the skin side to allow marinate to seep in and rub the entire leg with the yogurt mixture. Cover or place in ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Preheat the grill to high. Remove the lamb from the marinade and season well with salt and pepper. Place the lamb, skin side down, on the grill. Grill until the skin side is golden brown, then turn the lamb over, and reduce the heat of the grill to medium so that the grill maintains a constant temperature of 350 degrees F. Continue grilling until a thermometer inserted deep into the meat reaches a temperature of 145 degrees F for medium-rare about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove lamb from grill, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the meat on the bias into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Use the marinade as a basting sauce while grilling. Rather than trust the cooking times above –except as a guide for done-ness– trust your instinct and the feel of the meat, checking with a meat thermometer from time to time.
We’ve used this recipe for over 40 years, and it was called Caucasian Lamb in our Russian Cooking book.(Bantam ed) c. early 70s Rick and Janina Prociuk
For lamb from Topsy Farms see http://topsyfarms.com/lamb. Or call the farm at 888 287-3157. Thanks to our friends and customers for this recipe.
The Wool Shed at Topsy Farms was visited by a life-sized, needle-felted Sir John A. Macdonald.
He is an amazingly realistic, life-sized, well-dressed sculpture, who rides in the front passenger seat of a car, or in an antique ‘push-chair’.
He ‘lives’, much of the time, clutching an empty glass, awaiting his next refill.
This needle-felted Sir John A. Macdonald was made entirely of wool.
The sculpture of ‘the Father of Confederation’ was made by Gesina Laird-Buchanan on the 200th anniversary of his birth, for an International Bridge Tournament in Kingston.
Gesina said “it took 8 small fleeces to create him”. Some days I felt so obsessed, I worked on him non-stop from 8 am until after midnight.”
Gesina is an experienced sculptor in clay (see http://studiogesina.weebly.com/). Working with wool was new to her, but she learned fast, finding many similarities to clay sculpting.
She said “I started with his head and face. If I couldn’t succeed in finding his true likeness, there was no point in working on his body”.
Peeking boldly under his cuffs and under his pant leg, one finds felted wool everywhere.
He graciously (well, grumpily) agreed to let go of his glass for a few minutes to hold a great armful of washed and carded wool or ‘roving’ in the Topsy Farms Wool Shed, demonstrating the medium from which he was built. We didn’t ask him to hold felting needles, thinking he might be sensitive on that point.
Creator Gesina purchased a giant bag or two of roving wool from Topsy in anticipation of her next project.
Topsy Farms has a huge range of needle felting supplies: 4 natural and 20 colours of washed and carded wool roving, beginner needle felting kits and hundreds of felting needles, available here: http://store.topsyfarms.com/product-category/craft-supplies/.
Sir John’s hands have a wire armature, so adjust readily. He was glad to let go of the wool armfuls, and to again clutch his empty glass.
Gesina says “at home, he prefers to sit near the fireplace – it is also rather near the liquor cabinet.”
Two foster lambs entertain visitors to the Wool Shed at Topsy Farms each year.
This year, from spring until Thanksgiving (when they retire to a smaller free-range farm) Wee Lassie and Littlefoot have helped make a visit to our farm and to Amherst Island more interesting. Here’s how.
In spring, when about 1300 lambs are born at Topsy Farms, there are always a few problems. The ewe forgets she had two, or she may have 3 or even 4 babies, and just can’t raise them all successfully. That’s where the Rescue Program for foster lambs fills the gap. Cold, hungry lambs are brought to the barn ‘playpen’. The lambs are cuddled and warmed and fed a powdered ewe’s milk substitute. As the lambs thrive, they move on to small free-range farms whose owners are building a flock (but can’t afford adult sheep).
This year, Wee Lassie came to us, May 14th. She was about 10 hours old when she first warmed up under my sweater, ate well, then fell asleep in my lap. She came just in time for the Victoria Day flood of visitors, winning hearts and teaching young people about the realities of baby animals on a farm. She was joined over the next while by about 30 fosters, all of whom found new homes except Littlefoot, chosen as her companion.
The public is invited to come and participate during the spring nurturing season.
The lambs grew fast and learned new skills. They enjoyed playing king of the castle on a big rock with grandsons and visitors, and nimbly climbed straw bales, stacked for bedding.
They adapted easily to wearing dog harnesses and walking on a leash – we just reinforced nature’s instinct of sticking close to mama’s heels. They even managed to walk in the Canada Day parade.
They can quickly distinguish peaceful people, enjoying massages and armpit rubs especially. Wee Lassie even put this visitor to sleep!
They adapted early and easily to visiting dogs deemed safe. Some interactions were a great pleasure to watch.
Even wee children can ‘take a lamb for a walk.’ It’s a pleasurable experience for all, as ‘the girls’ get to graze and explore a new area.
We’re saying goodbye to them after the Thanksgiving weekend however. They’ll retire to one of the great free-range farms we know. They will be the most chubby and affectionate lambs in the flock.
Watch a 6 second lamb and child interaction at a daycare picnic at https://youtu.be/kb7cH7slmDM
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 http://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!
Topsy Farms products are more fun to buy at the farm; more convenient to purchase on line. However,
Topsy Farms products are available elsewhere too.
Our excellent lamb is carried exclusively in Kingston by the Pig and Olive butcher store, with 2 locations in Kingston, downtown and in the west end. Aussi Al has a supply year-round, more choice of individual cuts than we can offer, and cheerful, helpful staff. They also provide a drop-off, pickup service for smaller wool items requested by Kingston area customers.
Our yarn and Eucalan can be found now in several locations:
• Knit Traders in Kingston carries a range of choice, and has skilled staff ready to advise.
• Lettuce Knit in Toronto will be closing but two of their staff will reopen in October at the same location, renamed
• Yarns Untangled. They have a mini-mountain of our yarn. They say “We love your yarn. So sturdy, warm, and practical for everything in the depth of winter!”
Two new yarn stores in Ontario will be carrying our yarn:
• Ewe Can Knit in Verona, and
• Aberdeen’s Wool Company in Lindsay.
• CloseKnit Quality Yarns in Stratford, ON, has carried our yarns for several years also.
• On a smaller scale, we have someone in Paris Ontario and on the Queen Charlotte Islands who have extra inventory that they will share will friends. (Contact us for more information).
• Purlin J’s is a mobile yarn store in a former firetruck, rechristened L’il Dorothy. Joan Sharpe proudly includes Topsy yarn in her inventory, and has had to restock this year.
Living Rooms in downtown Kingston, offers healthy living choices. Their inventory of Topsy Farms products includes queen blankets and throws, sheepskins and lambskins and Eucalan.
Active Orthopedic Solutions Inc. in Kingston now carry medical sheepskins, single bed cotton-encased wool mattress pads, and a selection of hats for cancer survivors.
Local Family Farms, or Food Less Travelled, is a most interesting store in Verona, which carries blankets, throws, sheepskins, lambskins and adult sheepskin mitts. You can get meat including our lamb in season, and a wide range of other items, including Kim’s
great homemade pies.
In cottage country Fibres in the lovely Haliburton Highlands sells some blankets and throws.
We are pleased that several stores are proud to carry Topsy Farms products. However, you will have way more choice of wool products, yarn, sheepskins, craft supplies, and craft products if you purchase on line or directly at our Wool Shed at the farm. We sell lamb seasonally (November – March) directly to customers in the Toronto to Ottawa areas, yearling in the summer, and mutton on occasion. You save 13% – we pay the HST – when you buy any items directly from our Wool Shed at the farm.
When you come here to the farm, you’ll have more fun too.
Amherst Island has one of the largest concentrations of historic Irish dry stone walls in Canada, many over 150 years old. Skilled Irish craftsmen no longer working at the Rideau Canal wandered Eastern Ontario, seeking work. Our upcoming Irish Canadian Dry Stone Festival is designed to celebrate and to continue that good work.
Our Island ancestry is strongly Irish, many original settlers coming from the Ards peninsula, so it was natural that some of the stone workers found their way here. Our mainly limestone, shallow-earthed Island felt like home.
We understand that in some cases glorious walls, and one set of stone pillars were built just in exchange for room and board.
Our Women’s Institute honoured that history and skill, hiring a Kingston dry stone waller and mason to train a group of volunteers on the Island a few years ago. They spent three summers rebuilding the walls of the Pentland cemetery, our oldest one, and those of a private home.
In 2014, visionary Andrea Cross initiated the work to truly honour and preserve, restore and build many other stone walls on the Island. Several were certified ‘heritage’. She spearheaded Island fund-raising to send Jacob Murray, an important member of the family at Topsy Farms, as our emissary to the first Irish Dry Stone Wallers weekend workshop in Co. Donegal.
She invited the Dry Stone Canada Association to come to the Island, and they were hooked. They ran a very successful weekend workshop in September, 2014, rebuilding a stretch of very old wall at the home of descendents of original Irish settlers.
And now we are proud to announce the following:
Dry Stone Canada and the Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland are holding the first ever Irish-Canadian Dry Stone Festival, on Amherst Island from September 25 – 27th.
Free Events will include:
1. Children’s Workshop – learning to build with items lighter than stone
2. Displays of stone structures in the Community Hall
3. Watching the building of two new dry stone structures
4. Two women stone carvers will demonstrate their art and craft
5. Harvest Fest – traditional Island farm event
6. Irish music and dancing throughout the weekend
7. A storyteller will relate the history of Irish settlers coming to the Island
8. A self-guided dry stone tour brochure
9. A guided walking tour of Stella (our ‘downtown’)
10. Displays at the Neilson Store Museum
Two-Day Stone Wall Workshop under the direction of world-renowned dry stone wallers from Ireland: Patrick McAfee, Sunny Weiler and Ken Curran. More information and registration is available at www.drystonecanada.com . Information also at: www.facebook.com/drystonewallingassociationofCanada
VIP list includes His Excellency Dr. Ray Bassett, Ambassador of Ireland to Canada, author Jane Urquhart who wrote “Stone Carvers”, Norman Haddow, The Queen’s Own Dry Stone Waller for Balmoral Estate, and so many other expert dry stone builders and carvers. Our Island will also welcome two musicians from Ireland, Blackie O’Connell and Cyril O’Donoghue as well as Irish-Canadian groups.
The Irish Canadian Dry Stone Festival will build two stone structures.
1. An Irish Sampler Wall showcasing a variety of dry stone construction techniques, with stones donated by Island residents. Special events will take place Saturday evening with participation of Jane Urquhart, the Irish-Canadian ambassador, and musician Cyril O’Donoghue.
2. A structure using 200 tons of stone, donated by Upper Canada North, will be designed after the creations of the Celts and Mayans. The intent will be to frame the setting sun Sunday evening to highlight a special item of significance to the Irish and to Canadians.
For further information please contact www.drystonecanada.com, www.facebook.com/drystonewallingassociationofCanada, or Andrea Cross: email@example.com.
And, while you are here on the Island, discover Topsy Farms’ Wool Shed too.
Our neighbours and friends had quite an adventure at Topsy Farms recently.
We have about 1000 ewes and over 1200 lambs now after lambing (with one or two waddling pregnant ewes still holding back). So many mouths require lots of food, and we were running out of pasture on the home farm.
Moving the mature girls with their lambs through the woods to fresh pasture was easy. They just know what they are doing.
However, herding 600 one- and two-year old ewes plus about 750 new lambs presented a challenge, creating an adventure at Topsy Farms.
We had to move them more than a kilometer, down our gravel road past flower beds, lanes, enticing bush and other lamb traps to our next quality pasture.
We sent out an appeal to those householders (keep the dogs in, bring all the visitors out) a family new to the Island, and a few other Island friends. 38 adults and a pack of kids joined us for a brief pep talk and to be assigned yards and flower beds to protect. Several people were chosen to walk behind, carrying 8 ft. burlap wool bags, creating a ‘wall’ to encourage forward momentum and with fleet runners at both sides to turn back escapees.
Ewes want to move forward, seeking fresh grass. Lambs want to move backwards to where they last saw mama. It can be a tough combination.
Our farmers erected temporary fences wherever they could along the route but everyone from a babe in arms to a septuagenarian visitor jogged along, reinforced by our ATVs, to keep the pack moving.
One group of over 200 mavericks managed to outmanoeuvre everyone and head towards home. It was an adventure at Topsy Farms to head ‘em off at the pass. The photo (left) shows most sheep and lambs headed to the left; with a ewe and lamb heading right. People are heading in both directions. About 200 more of the pack followed that ewe.
Our desire always is to produce high quality wool products and meat. Our customers value our wool products year round (available here) and the wonderful quality of lamb and yearling. The most important factor in achieving that goal is to provide good pasture for happy healthy animals protected by guardian dogs.
Sometimes it can be an adventure to get there.
Our four foster lambs were hungry, so I went out early, with extra formula. They are tucked into a rebuilt corner of the barn, the ‘Lambs Playpen’, deeply bedded in straw, safely protected from any predators.
A family farm outing to Topsy Farms includes time to:
- interact with young animals and ask questions
- visit a Monarch Way Station garden
- explore a store with ethically produced natural wool products
Table manners don’t seem to be easily teachable to lambs, so the first few minutes are a feeding frenzy until everyone latches on to their own bottle. (I can feed 4 at once, with the help of my knees.)
Wee Lassie is head lamb (eldest by 4 days). She wears a harness, so I attach a leash and we head out as a pack of 3 (youngest won’t follow safely yet) to join my grandsons as they wait for the bus.
Orioles chatter and swoop and Kingfishers rattle as we head down the road to the neighbouring cemetery. Nathan observes that Lassie doesn’t mind mud or puddles so all 5 stomp.
Lassie gets her sip of formula for great behaviour on the leash, and all are freed to romp and explore. They are just discovering the joys of clover blossoms so the romping is brief, milk sloshing in tummies, and they settle to discovering what is edible.
Mike learned his letters on gravestones a few years ago now. We three decipher the aging markers and talk a bit about old Island families and history and which kids now in school might be descendents of the old Irish names.
With the bus due, we close the gate firmly, reattach the leash and head back.
The barn swallows dive, and pigeons softly chortle and the grass smells so very green after the wonderful rains.
Another new lamb game is to follow a boy up on the stack of straw bales, with a suck of the bottle reward up high. I think they enjoy being challenged and having the stimulation of new places and things – as long as they feel safe. Much like people.
Families who have come for family farm outings at Topsy Farms express joy at the range of experiences and learning for adults and kids alike.
One home-school mother drove from Ottawa to Topsy Farms on Amherst Island, to visit the Wool Shed and to cuddle lambs. She felt it well worth the time and distance, saying:
“Thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful slice of land on Amherst Island. It was wonderful, inspiring and enriching.
Also, thank you for being so genuinely open, kind and intuitive with our four small children. I’m thinking back of you sitting with them on the lawn answering the many questions that popped into their curious minds. This was definitely a most memorable field trip.
We are cuddling up with our gorgeous new wool blanket and feeling so grateful.
The three year old would like me to tell you “meg wich”!
Thank you for doing what you do and sharing your passion…”
Choose us as a destination. Amherst Island is a lovely place to visit.
Ask to sign up for our mailing list for Family Events at Topsy Farms, by writing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investigate our on-line store and wander through our pages of history and stories.
Come visit our two growing lambs (the others graduate to a small free-range farm) and explore our Monarch Way Station garden and our farm world.
Discover the Wool Shed and explore the wondrous pure wool and sheepskin products we offer.
The loons are here, calling.
It was a day to remember! I will be telling all my friends about Topsy Farms as a fabulous grandchild destination!”
“Meredith, Megan, Jack and I want to thank you so much for your wonderful sharing of time and knowledge this morning. The girls were so thrilled with the experience and will remember this day forever I am sure. Megan…the younger one could not stop talking about it and Meredith a typical ‘cool’ teenager thought it was the best thing ever! We were thoroughly charmed by your beautiful spot on Amherst island and particularly your welcoming way…
We lunched on the rocks at the bird sanctuary and then befriended the bulls in the nearby field.
It was a day to remember! I will be telling all my friends about Topsy Farm as a fabulous grandchild destination!”
– Veronica, Picton, June, 2015
Thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful slice of land on Amherst Island. It was wonderful, inspiring and enriching.
Also, thank you for being so genuinely open, kind and intuitive with our four small children. I’m thinking back of you sitting with them on the lawn answering the many questions that popped into their curious minds. This was definitely a most memorable family field trip.
We are cuddling up with our gorgeous new wool blanket and feeling so grateful.
The three year old would like me to tell you “meg wich”!
Thank you for doing what you do and sharing your passion…”
– Chantal, Ottawa, May, 2015
Topsy Farms invites people, young and old, to help nurture orphan lambs at our farm on Amherst Island.
We will have over 1000 lambs born in May and early June in the neighbouring pastures. You and your family are welcomed to watch from the road, the bonding between mama and baby. It is a joy to see the ewes gather peacefully while the young ones frolic in a pack, bounding happily.
But there are always a few birthing accidents, or multiple births that the ewe can’t manage. In nature, those lambs often die.
At Topsy Farms we do our best to nurture orphan lambs.
After a few weeks, these lambs move on to young farmers who wish to build their flock but who can’t afford adult sheep. Those farmers will continue to feed and care for the lambs until they can be self-sufficient on grass.
We invite your help to care for the newborn babies.
WHEN: daily from May 16 – June 7
WHERE: 14775 Front Rd, Amherst Island
HOW: email email@example.com
or call 888-287-3157 for appointment
HOW MUCH: $10 per family or carload
WHO: kids encouraged, but no pets please. Accessible on lawn. Old and young invited. Please wear casual clothes.
WHAT ELSE: Ensure your camera batteries are charged for impossibly cute family photo opportunities. Bring Hand Wipes.
“I just received my three wool blanket order and am very pleased with the quality and prompt delivery.
Thank you very much!”
– Mary, Nanaimo, BC, March, 2015
“I believe that any animal product I use must come from an animal that is treated with respect and honor and your farm is exemplary! “
“I believe that any animal product I use must come from an animal that is treated with respect and honor and your farm is exemplary! Your communication is personal I feel like I am talking to my neighbor just down a province or two. Your farm is truly a Canadian gem!
Cheers look forward to receiving the products of your passion and would love to help out with a review.”
– Barb, Alberta, April, 2015
Bedsores can be caused by poor circulation. They can be a grave problem for people who are required to sit or lie in one position for long periods of time. The suffering of someone not fully mobile can be increased by bedsores, friction irritation, chilling and sweating. There is a solution.
Topsy Farms’ Canadian Medical Sheepskins help prevent bedsores, and promote their healing.
Canadian medical sheepskins can significantly ease the discomfort of pressure friction. The wool has been trimmed so that the short wool staple stands upright, providing more dense support. These Canadian skins have come from Ontario farms, and have been processed in a small Ontario town to be soft and supple yet sturdy.
Wool has a natural resilience. It contains masses of tiny air pockets so it “breathes”, unlike man-made fibres. This air movement encourages healthier blood circulation in the body. It helps a person maintain a more comfortable body temperature – neither too hot nor too cold. It wicks away moisture and is naturally resistant to molds, mildew and dust mites.
And… Canadian Medical Sheepskins from Topsy Farms are WASHABLE.
Areas that are lightly soiled can be sponged off and dried with a towel. It may also be machine washed with care, following our washing instructions, preferably using Eucalan. A final brushing will fluff it up to its previous beauty and resilience.
These sheepskins have also been used for sitting comfort in wheelchairs or on motorcycles, snowmobiles, tractors, cars and trucks, recliners and couches. They are also enjoyed by well-loved dogs.
A Topsy customer recommends our medical sheepskins.
Over the past 15 years, I have had many opportunities to purchase medical sheepskins from Topsy Farms. They have brought comfort and ease to people who were struggling with their health, and were amazing at preventing bed sores and providing cushioning while keeping people at a comfortable temperature. The sheepskins are easy to care for and easy to use. As beautiful as they are comforting, I would recommend the use of Topsy Farms sheepskins to anyone who has a loved one who is required to stay in bed for long periods of time or who suffers from pain-related illnesses, and for those who are in need of palliative care.
“The wool blankets and throws are perfect for our needs – warm, soft, cosy and very well-liked by all.”
“Wool Wow. I just want to say thank you, Sally & Ian for having such wonderful products from the farm. The wool blankets and throws are perfect for our needs: warm, soft, cosy and very well-liked by all. We will enjoy them for a long, long time!
– Bill, Sherwood Park, Alberta, February, 2015
Why visit Amherst Island? There are lots of places to stay, to feast, to laugh, to walk or bike or sail, and there are harbours for your boat or for your soul. Topsy Farms invites you to come.
What To Do On Amherst Island? Come to Topsy Farms.
We pay the tax on items purchased at the store, saving you not only the HST but also the extra costs of urban retail outlets. The wool is processed in a traditional manner, using only soaps, not chemicals, so people who seek true quality are pleased.
Topsy Farms invites you to come to shearing events at the farm in March and April.
Topsy Farms invites you to help nurture our orphan lambs in May and June, a fully accessible activity.
Tamed foster lambs interact with visitors throughout the summer, and participate in playful Island events like the Canada Day parade.
We publish the Amherst Island Beacon monthly and have done so for almost 40 years. Many Island resources and activities are listed at amherstisland.on.ca .The advertisements at the back of the Beacon include information about rental accommodation available in addition to The Lodge and Poplar Dell. For those choosing to rent housekeeping options, we sell individual lamb cuts at the Wool Shed. There are fresh food sources at the weekly market, and sometimes at Topsy. We intend to offer fresh cut bouquets this year for your table.
Island women’s pies are reputed to be the best you can eat, available through the Presbyterian Women at the annual Garden Party, or from the Women’s Institute on the Fridays of long weekends at the corner in the village.
Another fine source of information is the radio station CJAI 92.1FM, ‘radio in the barn’ which helps keep people informed through their live morning broadcasts, their website, and their facebook site. The Presbyterian Church maintains a calendar of events on Island, and they and the Anglican Church welcome Sunday worshipers.
Topsy Farms is a certified Monarch Way Station. To those who care about the environment as we do, we give out free samples of seeds for nectar flowers which are supportive of honey bees. The raw natural honey at the Wool Shed is gathered by our Island chiropractor and one of our sons.
For those who care about birds, we sell nesting materials – belly wool with colourful scraps of yarn at cost. The Island abounds with wonderful land and water birds, and many folks will advise you of some of the best viewing options.
Topsy has some wonderful examples of new and traditional dry stone walls. This year September 27 – 29 there will be an Irish-Canadian Dry Stone Festival on the Island, with free music and activities for kids and adults. We are honouring our heritage by linking with Ireland, the source of many of our original settlers.
The creativity doesn’t end there. Samples of creative work of our writers, our weavers, needle felters and potters are available for sale at the Wool Shed, most using materials from Topsy Farms. The Weasel and Easel is another outlet for Island creative skills, open seasonally in the village of Stella.
Music abounds. Our older son is stage manager for the Waterside Music Festival and has contributed to the Emerald Music Festival. An earlier incarnation of our Wool Shed housed our younger son’s band.
We have an Island rich in people and natural resources. Topsy Farms invites you to come to visit us and our community.
Following the rhythms of the season, our sheep were bred during the late winter. Now they need to be shorn in April for their health and the safety of their lambs.
Their fleeces contribute to the amazing range of wool products available at The Wool Shed at our farm.
For a full range of our products visit our on-line store.
We enjoy making people welcome on our farm, but we need to know when you are coming in advance. Please call or email.
Enjoy a family outing to Topsy Farms to watch shearing.
- Monday & Tuesday, April 20th & 21st
- children welcome; no pets
- reservations in advance required: firstname.lastname@example.org / 888 287-3157 see Contact Us
- no fee
Then in May, the lambs are born directly on pasture – hundreds of them. Occasionally there are birthing or parenting problems, but we rescue those in peril. We have an orphan lamb program, bottle-feeding and nurturing lambs before they move to small farms to be raised.
You are invited to a family outing to Topsy Farms to visit orphan lambs
“We just got our latest queen wool blanket and we love it. (We have one of your wool throws and would like to get another matching throw.) We are also looking to purchase two or three more queen wool blankets as birthdays come around. Thank you so much!”
– Syd and Cathy, Allenford, ON, February, 2015
“Our new wool blanket was a huge hit and is permanently on our main bed as an extra cover-up for this bitterly cold winter. “
“Our new wool blanket was a huge hit and is permanently on our main bed as an extra cover-up for this bitterly cold winter. I am really impressed by the subtle colouration of the green tweed. It makes it look very traditional and reminds me of blankets my grandmother had, making it an instant heirloom to be used and enjoyed for generations to come.
An added bonus is the washing liquid. The blanket does not need it yet but I did a number of small items — hats and wool scarves — and was delighted by how easy it is and how well it restores the original lanolin feel to the wool.
I do hope to see your place one day and you will always be in mind for “special” gifts for people.”
– Richard, Milton, ON, February, 2015
Sleeping on wool bedding, cotton-covered, is as close to sleeping on a cloud as you’re ever likely to experience.
Why does wool bedding help you sleep?
- cool in summer, warm in winter
- hypoallergenic; chemical-free
- natural resilience gives cushiony comfort
It has such a natural resilience, that it does its own fluffing. All the fibres trap masses of air pockets making the insulation factor amazing. Somehow, wool keeps you cooler in summer (akin to switching to a cotton instead of nylon shirt). It breathes. It also wicks moisture away from a person’s body – no sweaty boggy feel. It is gently warm in winter, not requiring many layers or the press of weight. Each of those characteristics in our wool bedding promotes sleep.
The cotton covering is unbleached, with a thread count of approximately 200. It is cotton “sheeting” which breathes better than ticking (a higher thread count.) It provides the casing for the pillows, mattress pads and comforters.
The wool bedding uses prairie wool, cleaned without using sulphuric acid, fire retardant or bug repellant.
There is no need for that toxic stuff.
The natural lanolin that remains in the wool after washing acts as a deterrent to dust mites and other microscopic ‘critturs’ that can proliferate in bedding. An added bonus is that wool is fire resistant – you can’t burn it. It is also hypoallergenic, and as renewable a resource as you could get. Topsy Farms is able to offer a special service of vinegar rinsing products for people with extreme sensitivities.
Instead of sleeping on a petroleum by-product as in all artificial fibres, your body will relax into sleep more readily if sleeping on an unbleached cotton-covered wool mattress pad. Just click for more details or to purchase this on line. The mattress pad has been stitched in such a way that the wool cannot shift, even after many washings. The wide elastics firmly stitched at the corners keep the mattress pad in place.
Then at the Topsy on-line store, add to your cart the pleasure of a cotton-covered wool pillow. For a comfortable sleep you need to be able to keep your spine aligned when on your side, with your neck not pushed up or sagging down. Topsy has two choices of density for those with big shoulders or for those who prefer a firmer feel. Both are available in Queen as well as Standard dimensions too.
Then top it off with a cotton-covered wool comforter also at the store. The comforter is comfortably warm, but not hot or sweaty. The amount of wool has been determined as the ideal volume to drape over you softly. Any more filling would make it stiffer, creating cold air pockets.
All these products are washable, using Eucalan and Topsy’s “Care and Feeding” instructions .
A great sleep is a gift.
“I look forward to receiving the sheepskin mitts as they are the only thing that keeps my hands warm.”
“I look forward to receiving the sheepskin mitts as they are the only thing that keeps my hands warm. Unfortunately my last pair were eaten by a dog we were dog sitting so I appreciate the reduction in mailing costs. Hopefully we can make it to the island again this summer … If we do we will most definitely come visit your farm.”
– Ruthann, Kitchener, ON, February, 2015
“I was delighted by Topsy Farms yarn! I knit three hats and a head-band for Christmas gifts and I made this one for myself out of the leftover wool. Knitting is only a winter activity for me, but I’m looking forward to getting more of your Topsy Farms yarn when the knitting bug strikes again in the fall!”
– Claire, London, ON, February, 2015