visit Amherst Island
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.