local Ontario lamb

Topsy Farms Products are Available Elsewhere

 

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.

Pig and Olive logo

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:

New Yarn store owners with armloads of Topsy yarn, meet foster lambs

Brenna and Amelia of Yarns Untangled, meet Littlefoot (front) and Wee Lassie

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 Mobile Yarn Truck

L’Il Dorothy, Purlin J’s Mobile yarn truck

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.

Wool Shed and 3 young lambs, one on leash

Walking foster lambs in spring by The Wool Shed

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.

Sheep Have Bad Press

 

Lambs waiting to return to mama

Lambs waiting to return to mama

 

How many disparaging phrases have you heard about sheep?  “Led like sheep to the slaughter”; “The black sheep of the family”; “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”…

“Not fair” says our shepherd Christopher, and we agree.

Sheep’s instinct to herd is their protection.

Lacking speed, teeth or claws, hiding in a group is smart.  It follows that when shepherds want them to go into a pen or through a narrow gate, the sheep understandably feel less safe, and simply don’t want the same thing the people do.  That does not mean they are dumb.

A gang of lambs

A gang of lambs

They are individuals.  A stranger looking at a flock might think they are all alike, but those of us close to the animals can clearly see their personal characteristics.  There are mothers more skilled than others; confident leaders and obedient followers; ones who know the guardian dogs are to be obeyed fast while others are mavericks; the steeplechase jumpers who challenge all fences…

Some breeds have certain predictable traits.  A black-faced Suffolk ewe or lamb will be more calm and steady, whereas a lamb bred by a Border Cheviot will be feisty, almost high strung, with great ‘survivability’ skills.

On the road - photo by Audra

On the road – photo by Audra

Personalities vary also.  We fostered twins from one hour old, and one was far more skilled than the other at finding the food source.  It was first born, probably by just a few minutes, and was more playful and clearly the leader of the two.

Lambs being fostered have a high learning curve.   Their instincts say to go under a warm belly and feel for a firm warm teat, then drink milk of a certain flavour.  When they are fostered, they have to learn quickly to seek a hard black rubber nipple up high, with reconstituted powdered milk that doesn’t taste quite right.  A lamb who has been with a ewe for a few days will initially say ‘ptooey’ to the taste.  However, survival instincts rule, and usually by the second feeding they will move toward not away from the person with the bottle, thumping energetically at knees, seeking food.

Full tummies

Full tummies

Our two older foster lambs know “go for a walk” and “into your pen”.  (They like the first.)  I started to save the last bit of milk in the bottle to reinforce the latter directive. After one repeat they knew what to expect, and now enter eagerly.

The next time you hear someone disparage sheep, do challenge it.  Come and visit Topsy Farms and see for yourself.

Shearing Season on the Sheep Farm

"Traffic Jam"

“Traffic Jam”

 

These pregnant ewes are on their way to the barn to be shorn. Their instincts to protect their young lambs from bad weather is enhanced by mamas having thin coats too. Shearing time is the most challenging few days of the year for our farm: we can’t shear wet sheep. The weather can be dry (as it has been this spring) for weeks on end, but lo and behold, when the inflexible shearing dates approach the forecasts are full of wet and cold doom and gloom. Why is this such a challenge? The shearers we hire to do the job are popular guys this time of year: they are booked solid in advance and shearing must happen, regardless of weather.

Do sheep have to lose their coats? Yes, ewes have to be shorn yearly for their health and well-being. We believe that the best time is in the spring, just before they lamb, when (hopefully) the weather is warming, but before the lambs are born. That way, after they have babies in tow, they’ll seek shelter if it is windy or cold. They don’t feel the weather if their coats are still on.

We invite families to visit shearing.

It rained steadily all Saturday, and despite our best efforts, 68 of the 1250 sheep to be shorn got wet. Fortunately the shearers are finishing a job elsewhere on the Island, so will return on Tuesday. There is a glory in the teamwork activity however. There are 3 shearers and 6 “roustabouts” working in the upstairs barn shearing area, with another three people backing them up.

Three shearers and 'roustabout'

Three shearers and ‘roustabout’

The ‘rousies’ pick up and fling and skirt fleeces, and sweep floors. The space is purposefully snug, so people and animals aren’t travelling more than necessary. There is an almost ballet-like quality to the flow of action, with people keeping an eye on what is needed and who else is moving where, as they back each other up. The shearers finish each fleece in about 2 ½ minutes; nudge the animal out one gap so they can descend a ramp to the outside; click a counter to keep track of numbers; get their next ewe or lamb from their individual holding pen and start again. Meanwhile someone has to pick up the fleece in just the right way so it can be flung, right side up, on the skirting table. Someone else has to sweep the area so it is cleared for the next fleece, while not interrupting the movement of the shearer. It’s a dance. In the adjacent space, the fleece on the table is “skirted” with any dirty bits removed, then roughly bundled and put into an 8 ft hanging burlap bag, that is being solidly packed, then sewn and hauled up by block and tackle, then replaced by an empty one. A metal frame with ladder and a suspended bag takes the flow of fleeces while this is happening. Jacob or Kyle have been doing (or helping with) this job since they were about 5 or 6 years old. Meanwhile, Dianne prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner at her place and hauls hot water, coffee, tea, and snacks to the barn for mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks.

These are the ‘Bare-Naked Ladies – a variation on the theme – after shearing. Don and Ian keep the flock fed as well as moving unshorn sheep up the ramp into the holding pens on the second floor of the barn. They also moved the shorn sheep down the road to the shelter of our new barn. The action starts each day about 6:30 am. On the final night the men finished at 8:15 pm. Today, as forecast, there is rain and wind, mixed with snow – just an additional challenge. We do the best we can, providing barn shelter and wind-protected fields, and all the food they want.

Post shearing food and relaxation

Post shearing food and relaxation

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Topsy Farms is located on scenic Amherst Island, west of Kingston, in Lake Ontario. Our sheep farm has been owned and operated for over 35 years by 5 shareholders, and involves 3 generations of the Murray family. Our flock of about 2500 sheep graze on tree-shaded pastures, protected by over 20 miles of fence and numerous guard dogs. Natural farming methods without spraying pesticides, or using growth hormones, chemicals, or animal by-products, produce animals of the highest quality.

Morning Feeding on the Sheep Farm

The quality of food the sheep receive is reflected in the quality of the lamb we produce.

The sheep on Topsy Farm seem to think the quality is excellent. Our partner, Don does most of the morning chores (and takes all of the great photos). Here are his pictures of morning chores in seasons when the grass does not grow.

Enjoying the hay

Enjoying the hay

He gives them 4 large round bales of hay first thing in the morning and then Christopher comes up and gives them some grain. So at first you can see the sheep content with their feed of hay..

..that is until Chris shows up when the flock does what flocks do best, and flock toward the ATV.

Yearning toward the 'snacker', delivering grain

Yearning toward the ‘snacker’, delivering grain

This escalates to a general swarming of 800+ ewes encasing it – loudly demanding their ration.

The end result is a long line of ewes feeding pretty noisily on their grain – no more calling… just molars crunching corn and soya beans.

Military line ups... or grain on the ground.

Military line ups… or grain on the ground.

The 5 dogs in the field have learned (the hard way) to keep well clear of the flock during this operation or they will be mercilessly trampled. At any other time, the dogs hold pre-eminence… dog wants to drink, the ewes gives it room… the dog wants to lie on this hay, the ewes eat somewhere else.  Not so with grain.

Readers, you will have to come to visit to get the audio.

Don Tubb does all the layout for the Amherst Island Beacon, a monthly newsletter published by our extended family for over 30 years. Ian and I were away when Don was working to deadline so this is when he wrote the above text.

All photos © Don Tubb 2012.
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Topsy Farms is located on scenic Amherst Island, west of Kingston, in Lake Ontario. Our sheep farm has been owned and operated for over 35 years by 5 shareholders, and involves 3 generations of the Murray family. Our flock of about 2500 sheep graze on tree-shaded pastures, protected by over 20 miles of fence and numerous guard dogs. Natural farming methods without spraying pesticides, or using growth hormones, chemicals, or animal by-products, produce animals of the highest quality.
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.