Family Outings

PREPPING THE SHEARING FLOOR

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.

Over 200 blankets take up lots of room, not to mention the pure wool woven throws and lap robes.

Prepping the Shearing Floor

Shearing Actiopn

 

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.

Prepping the Shearing Floor

Our wool bags on ferry

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.

Prepping the Shearing Floor

Carrying blanket boxes back up in the barn

Visit Amherst Island

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.

Ferry emerging from the mist

Frontenac ll in morning mist

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.

The Lodge, Foot Flat Farms and the B&B, Poplar Dell (613 389-2012) rent rooms or cabins. The Neilson House, Summerlea and The Stone Cottage (613-389-3545) are available too.

Two women at market stall with berries and baking

Barbara and Leslie with fresh-picked berries and baking

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.

Chickadee feeding from a hand in the Owl Woods

Chickadee in the Owl Woods

  • 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.

    Goup of sheep with guardian dog

    Rosie Peeking Out

Music abounds when you visit Amherst Island

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 aislandartist@gmail.com 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.

 

Cardboard-clad colourful 'warriors'

Cardboard Wars

Colourful chairs grouped by water

Water, rocks, sun and shade await

 

Visit Foster Lambs at Topsy Farms

 

VISIT FOSTER LAMBS FROM MID-MAY UNTIL EARLY JUNE

Visit foster lambs at Topsy Farms for young children to enjoy young animals

Foster lamb nuzzles Finn

 

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

$10/family

www.topsyfarms.com

 PHONE/EMAIL IN ADVANCE FOR AN APPOINTMENT

  613 389-3444, 888 287-3157 info@topsyfarms.com

Wool Shed will be open with all products on-line and more

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.

Foster Lambs Entertain Visitors

2 lambs on leashes, eating

Wee Lassie (in red) and Littlefoot, grazing

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).

tiny lamb on lap

Wee Lassie, 1 day old

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.

child, 2 lambs, play on rock

Queen of the Castle game

Child feeding lamb from bottle

Cute feeding cute

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.

Two girls,Topsy banner, lambs on leashes

Ready for Canada Day Parade

lamb and child touching noses

Nose to Nose

boy and lamb snoozing in chair

Boy and Lamb, sound asleep

They can quickly distinguish peaceful people, enjoying massages and armpit rubs especially. Wee Lassie even put this visitor to sleep!

dog, woman and 2 lambs

Calm with visiting Golden

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

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

Topsy Farms Invites you to Come to Us on Amherst Island

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.

Coloured skin on white sheepskin

Coloured Lambskin on Two White Sheepskins

What To Do On Amherst Island? Come to Topsy Farms.

It is a large sheep farm with an at-home store, the Wool Shed, which offers pure wool and sheepskin products for sale.

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.

Child with Topsy Hat Nuzzled by Orphan Lamb
Child with Topsy Hat Nuzzled by Orphan Lamb

Topsy Farms invites you to help nurture our orphan lambs in May and June, a fully accessible activity.

Kids carrying Wool and Knit Topsy sign

Canada Day parade, Topsy ‘float’

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.

Red Lilies

Red Oriental Lilies in Topsy Farms’ garden

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.

Jar of Liquid Honey

750 ml jar of Topsy Farms Raw Honey

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.

Mauve, Purple and Pink throw woven using Topsy Farms yarn

Woven Throw by Pat Frontini with Topsy yarn and mohair

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.

Great Outing to Amherst Island – Day or Weekend

There are so many reasons why people enjoy a great outing to Amherst Island. It’s beautiful, with bountiful nature and water on all sides. It is a warm community, with an ‘old-fashioned’ feeling of people mutually supportive and closely interacting. There are many stimulating, interesting events taking place, places to go, a choice of accommodation, places to eat, public parks by water with picnic benches, and peaceful beaches. And there is a multitude of birds and animals.

The Island is very easy to access from Highway 401, points east or west, or for a day trip locally. It is about 2 hours from Ottawa to the ferry dock; 2 1/2 from Toronto; 1/2 hr from Kingston.  See contact us for details or call us at 888 287-3157.

The Island website is www.amherstisland.on.ca/. If you wish to stay overnight, contact Foot Flats Farm, The Lodge, or Poplar Dell B&B at http://www.amherstisland.on.ca/accommodations.htm .

Great outing experience - Chickadee feeding perched on hand, feeding

Chickadee feeding from hand

Nature

In the privately owned Owl Woods,

chickadees will perch on your head or hand to feed.

The public is given free access, asked to be respectful, and offered treats of sighting new species. The Ontario Field Naturalists own a good stretch of shoreline where many other bird species may be seen. As we are on a main flight path, we’ve had some unusual avian visitors all over the island. Photographers abound.
It is a fine cyclist destination also, with miles of shore road with limited traffic beyond the occasional tractor in working season.

Other creatures may be visited. Percheron wagon rides may be booked while thoroughbred trotters watch curiously from fields. We’ve several beef farms and one active dairy farm where one can see young calves in spring. The only known ‘cow count’ spotters in Ontario went out by horse wagon last year, gently spoofing our birders. We’ve had llamas and donkeys and goats. One of our neighbours even has a pet, litter-box trained, pig – named Kevin Bacon. The Island has free-range pigs too.

For a great outing experience, visitors may bottle feed and cuddle tamed foster lambs at Topsy Farms

all spring and summer. Later, the bigger galoots still enjoy an ear scratch in autumn. Contacting info@topsyfarms.com will guarantee your being on a mailing list for invitations to shearing, to foster lambing and other specially planned events. See https://topsyfarms.com/seasons/family-outings-to-visit-lambs

Events

Canada Day great outing zany celebration

Emerald Canada Day Float

Summer events pile one atop another. Canada Day is celebrated with a wonderfully wacky parade followed by games, strawberry shortcake and truly impressive fireworks. We have Fish Fries, and Spring and New Year’s Dances and others ‘just because’. Our Island museum recently had its first annual Island Fiesta, a day of over 20 workshops offered by a wide variety of talented Islanders. The St. Paul’s Garden Party is an annual joyful event, with renowned A.I. pie for sale by the slice or whole and many ’boutiques’ and events. The Wooly Bully race along the shoreline in August,  http://www.amherstisland.on.ca/WoolyBully/ includes a 1 k for kids, as well as 5 or 10k distances. The Fall Festival, once a 4-H event, is still rooted in the rural active farm tradition. A Parade of Lights heralds Christmas, as does the ecumenical carol service.

Music is a vital part of our existence. The Waterside Summer Series www.watersidemusic.ca/ brings top caliber classical performers to the beautiful setting of St. Paul’s Church. The Emerald Music Festival http://www.emeraldmusicfestival.com/ in August provides informal camping facilities and an impressive lineup of Bluegrass, Country and Celtic music performers for a 3 day event. The older generation of Islanders grew up learning to dance with an Island band; we now have a group called The Islanders that performs at many big gatherings.

Attractions

There are places of interest to visit. Topsy Farm’s Wool Shed https://topsyfarms.com/wool-shed

has the largest selection of pure wool blankets in eastern Ontario

as well as many sheepskin and other products hand-crafted of wool, as well as marvelous supplies for weaving, knitting and felting with wool. One of our venerable former stores has a new life. The Neilson’s Store Museum has professionally designed displays of our history, hosts Back Room Talks monthly on a wide range of topics, and houses our Weasel and Easel quality shop for hand created products. Artist Shirley Miller has recently published a book of her work, and welcomes visitors to the gallery in her home. She teaches painting to many eager students.
An additional service from Islanders to Islanders and visitors alike is the Internet Café, where expert computer assistance is available for a toonie donation.
Stella’s Café is a joyful informative oasis for visitors and hungry farmers alike, with some food locally sourced. Boaters who use our safe, deep harbours and fine public docks dine there. The owners fill their space with history and present day places of interest to visit, people to see, and a Friday night feast and singalong.

For a small population (about 450) our service groups abound. Visitors may enjoy the Women’s Institute bake sales on long weekends; the Amherst Island Men’s Society-sponsored weekly market; the Recreation Committee food, available at many events that pays for our Canada Day fireworks; the three churches services and wonderful feasts and bake sales. The Emergency First Response Team train intensively to provide quality support in an emergency ensuring safety for all.

Beautifully built stone wall - great outing discovery

Stone wall at Coulter-Burke’s

Honouring our history, the W.I. trained volunteers in Irish traditional stone wall building. The group beautifully restored 5 walls. In Sept. 2014, the first of several planned weekend stone wall building workshops took place. In September, 2015 a Dry Stone Wall International Festival will happen.

CJAI, www.cjai.ca/ our local radio from a barn, features a vivid range of programming. It operates 24 hours/day, staffed entirely by volunteers. The Island Beacon, http://www.amherstisland.on.ca/Beacon/index.htm a monthly newsletter published by Topsy Farms, has been in production for over 40 years, bringing good news and sad news (but not bad news) to Islanders. Both are excellent sources for additional interesting activities for visitors.
A couple of things to remember if you are visiting: trust the ferry crew, they are skilled at their job. Have a wonderful time exploring but please – wave back to us.

Family Outings to Visit Lambs

I’m writing with a shivering lamb on my lap. Soon he will be one of the gang for family outings to visit lambs.

A lamb can lose its mama for many reasons. Triplets may be born, and the ewe may have only enough milk for two. The ewe might seek shelter in a storm, and the stronger lamb, perhaps older by less than half an hour, will stick to her heels and the younger lamb will get lost. Two ewes might lamb close to each other, then later claim all but one of the lambs for their own. Hypothermic conditions aggravate the vitality of the newly born.

close up of lamb bottle feeding during family outings to visit lambs

Lamb learning to bottle feed

So the shepherds check the fields several times a day and bring to the homestead any who are lonely, hungry and very cold. When a foster lamb is first introduced to the warmed reconstituted ‘milk’ it doesn’t taste right; smell right; feel right. Usually the first reaction is either passive resistance, or ptoooey.

Their instinct is to go under a warm ewe’s belly, to find a full but flexible nipple, to bunt hard if necessary to encourage the milk flow, and to sip often. Instead they are offered a powdered ewe’s milk substitute reconstituted with warmed water, a black rubber nipple & a beer bottle (old ‘stubbies’ which fit nicely in the microwave; they are of strong glass so easy to clean).

children with nuzzling lamb, during great family outings to visit lambs

lamb nuzzling Wyatt

But hunger is a wonderful motivator to accept change; to learn new skills.

We encourage family outings to visit lambs and to discover our Wool Shed. In our urban, disconnected world, people like to have a chance to nurture small animals, and to learn about the source of what they purchase.  Folks prefer to know that some farms care a great deal about their animals.

It is fun for kids to cuddle and bottle feed a lamb.

After a couple of small feedings the lamb’s natural vitality almost always helps it to revive. Cuddling and insulation help. Soon they join the bouncing 3 or 4 day old lambs in their pen, who yell for food whenever someone passes.

Lambs will follow at heel, gluing to the person who is now the source of all good things.

This Spring the lambs have been a wonderful source of entertainment for family outings to visit lambs.

You are invited to pet and feed the lambs. We will keep two fosters on the farm for the pleasure of visitors during the summer. The others go to small farms who are building their flock by bottle feeding orphans, sometimes on goat’s milk.

The one on my lap is shivering less, and starting to holler for food. Perhaps this year’s Lazarus.

Lambing and a Foster Lamb then more

Lambing this year resulted in a foster lamb then lots more. At Topsy Farms, our official count was 1457 lambs, born in May and early June to about 1100 ewes.  Despite very regular checking of the 6 groupings of birthing ewes, perfect parenting does not always occur.

Two Hungry young lambs

Two Hungry young lambs

We often have triplets, and some mamas just can’t raise all 3, especially if they are of very different sizes.  Sometimes a ewe ‘loses count’, nurturing the first lamb born and neglecting the second, who becomes weak and hungry.  For those and other reasons, the occasional lamb is brought to the house for bottle rearing, becoming a foster lamb.

 We had just two for the first couple of days – but one evening six suddenly appeared, the result of a bad mama muddle when some ewes moved to new pastures.  We’ve had up to 16 at a time in the outdoor pen.

Feeding Four

Feeding Four

Mama?

Mama?

The foster lambs are bottle fed 4 times a day, with a powdered sheep’s milk formula that approximates ewes’ milk.   It takes surprisingly little time for the lambs to learn to come running, blatting and eager, when our grandsons appear with their bottles.   Some lambs learn quickly to follow at heel, seeking food and play.

A few foster lambs may be adopted back into the field – our shepherd is good at persuading a ewe that this is the one upon which to dote.  The rest stay with us for a few days until strong enough to go to a new home.

We have adoptive families lined up to provide a home for the foster lambs once they are strong and well-established on the bottle.  They will raise a small flock, or just keep them well and happy for the summer.

Cuddling

Funny, Caramel and Trina provide wonderful entertainment for young families visiting Topsy Farms and the Wool Shed www.topsyfarms.com  Please phone ahead if you can:  613 389-3444/888 287-3157.

Topsy Farms on flickr


In the spring of 2009, Sherri (an avid knitter) came to see us just after the lambs were born and took some photos of her visit. Her Topsy Farms flickr album can be found here.

Our pure wool yarn is soap-washed only to retain lanolin and to avoid chemicals. It is available at the Wool Shed, our at home store, or on-line. We also have fleeces, roving both natural and coloured, cheeses of pencil roving and knitted wool items for sale. Come visit, on line or in person, and take a look.

 

Foster Lambs, One Week Later

Does everyone’s living room look like this? Thank goodness it was only for a few days.

When a foster lamb is first introduced to the warmed reconstituted ‘milk’ (called lamb-o), it doesn’t taste right; smell right; feel right. Usually the first reaction is either passive resistance, or ptoooey.

The foster lambs  instinct is to go under a warm ewe’s belly, to find a full but flexible nipple, to bunt hard if necessary to encourage the milk flow, and to sip often.

What they are offered is a powdered ewe’s milk substitute reconstituted with warmed water, a black rubber nipple, a beer bottle and people. (The beer bottle is used because we have a collection of old ‘stubbies’ which fit nicely in the microwave. Thanks to one Islander we have a lifetime supply.)

Here are our techniques to feed a reluctant lamb.

Hold the lamb under an arm, snuggled closely to the body. (It is easier on the lamb to not have struggle options.) Use the same arm to support the chin, using the thumb to open the mouth gently, and support the chin in line with the neck. Insert nipple. Wait patiently. Sometimes, Kyle baaaas gently, trying to find the note that mama might use. When the first trickle slides down the lamb’s throat, it may be all that is required for the lamb to start sucking eagerly. However, it often takes a lot of patience during the first feeding, occasionally squeezing the nipple to release a little more milk, just to get enough into the lamb to warm and encourage it. We are as gentle and comforting as we can, but it is obviously a foreign and scary experience. However, hunger is a great teacher, and most foster lambs are eager for the bottle (though still unskilled at finding it) by the next feeding. Ideally within a day or two, the lambs throng out of their nighttime cage, thumping eagerly at the knees of the person holding the bottle, and stand on their own feet to suck a bottle dry in no time.

Mike, bottle-feeding Tuck on our screened verandah. (Kyle named the lamb for Friar Tuck as he had an obvious tonsure.)

What a difference a week makes.

We were all delighted to move the foster lambs operation out to the screened front verandah and wash the living room floor for the last time. We have two big dog cages on the porch; one for special needs. We change the newspaper bedding several times a day, and feed them four times a day – roughly every 5 – 6 hours. (Sally is up early; Kyle stays up late.) We also have a large outdoor pen for a ewe and twins, and a smaller fenced area for the fosters lambs to romp on the grass.

Although we lost a few foster lambs to illness, five fosters have now gone to one good home, and five more left yesterday. Some have been adopted back into the flock to a needy ewe, if Christopher can find one. Only one is at home at the moment, eagerly following the heels of anyone carrying a bottle, puppy-like.

Nathan, comforting one, closely watched by another.

 

 

 

 

Three Foster Lambs

We have three healthy foster lambs now. (We lost a couple, and 6 have gone to another home on the Island where they will be raised all summer.)

They stay in a big blanket-covered dog cage on the verandas at night. The wind still blows cold off the lake, and this gives them warm cuddle space. I move out there about 6:30-7 am, with my coverall pockets stuffed with warmed milk replacer, and my balaclava on my head (almost the end of May!).

When I opened the cage this morning, two lambs jumped into my lap in the big old scruffy armchair. The whiteface lamb is a Cheviot cross, whose sire breeds smaller lambs than the others we seek. We always put him to the first year ewes, for easier birthing. Another characteristic of this breed is their feisty, eager life force. This little guy sucks so hard he tends to aspirate the liquid, so I had to change to a new hard nipple with a tiny hole to keep him from drowning. He is thriving now, and almost too eager to get what he wants. After a few minutes intense pushing, he settled down on my lap, downing his bottle.

The black faced lamb is a Suffolk cross. They tend to make good calm mothers, and are very steady. A Suffolk lamb tends to be a bit dozy at first, slow to learn to recognize the nipple, and to open his mouth. Once I convince him that this IS what he is looking for, he’s like a steady little vacuum.

The third lamb this morning was new yesterday. Mom had three, and he just wasn’t getting enough milk. (That’s our most common reason for getting fosters.) He didn’t recognize me or the bottle yet as the source of all good things, so I had to burrow into the cage to lift him out. The best position for feeding a lamb is to tuck him under your left arm (if you are right-handed) with your hand under his chin, and thumb lightly around his nose. Usually I have to tuck a finger into the side of the mouth of the learner, as the rubber nipple doesn’t feel right to his instincts. Nipple inserted, I hold his muzzle gently but firmly, so he can’t lick or chew, but has to suck. Sometimes I’ll squeeze just enough to trickle a bit of milk replacer into his mouth. Today, that did it. He was off and sucking, and downed the entire bottle.

The other two meantime were kicking up their heels on the veranda, cavorting in that utterly joyful lamb-like way.

The three are outside now, wind-protected, enjoying morning sun. They’ll be calling for more in a couple of hours.

Foster Lambs

During lambing at Topsy, we often have ewes who birth triplets-potential foster lambs. Some ewes who are in great shape and have lots of milk, are able to raise all three. This only works if the lambs are of similar size. If one is much bigger, or more frequently, much smaller, one must be taken away for the health of the others. Chris, our main shepherd, has been very successful in arranging adoptions with a ewe who only had a single lamb. Occasionally, a small hungry lamb has no acceptable mother. So, our son Kyle and I are back in the foster lamb business. One Mother’s Day present was sitting with a blatting baby curled up on my lap (butt end wrapped in an old blanket) learning to suck, then proceeding to do so, busily. I started at 5:30 am on a gorgeous spring morning, sitting outside, listening to the dawn chorus of birds and watching their busy mating rituals and (for the early birds) nest building and/or feeding squawkers. There is so much COLOUR right now. Our huge wild plum tree is a mass of white flowers, that are just starting to scatter its confetti-like petals when the breeze hits. We have a big wire dog cage set up on the front verandah for overnight warmth for the foster lambs, and put the babies outside in the daytime in a small pen with the front yard ewes and lambs nearby. The second day, a couple of three year olds and their moms came to visit the Wool Shed. Kyle gave them all bottle-feeding lessons, then they trailed after him, Pied Piper-like, as I visited with their moms in the Wool Shed. Grandson Nathan was leading the tour to visit the egg-laying hens, but stopped at the highest point of interest, a parked tractor, and announced “that is the Alice Chalmers 185 but we don’t climb in it as it has a tippy seat.” (He just turned three.) Day three, we have 5 healthy fosters.

Nous vous invitons à communiquer avec nous en français à info@topsyfarms.com, ou par téléphone: 1-888-287-3157. Demandez à parler à Sally.