Foot Flats Farm - Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada Foot Flats Farm Seasonal Newsletter

December 2009

Our apologies – we didn't turn out to be "bloggers" – I guess it's just not our thing as yet!

Last year was a bit of a blurr with the world seeming to spin faster and faster. Going back:

Fall 2008: In November we bought the farm next door. Eighty acres of land and an old farmhouse in need of repair. Then came the Economic Development Awards for Lennox and Addington County where we won the Agricultural Operation of the Year Award. It came as a surprise to us as we were up against a large poultry and cash crop operation and a well established dairy farm. Further proof that the Sheep Industry is being taken more seriously.

To round out November we completed the coyote proof fence on over 200 acres of the land that we own and are happy to report that this area has remained predator-free. Losses to coyotes in areas outside the fence continue. It was a bad year but we are not alone as losses appear to have been bad across the province with more reports of attacks on cattle, domestic pets and even people. It seems incredible to us that there is no good population data on coyotes in Ontario. No research has been done since the 1970's. There are qualified biologists available and keen to do the work but no funding.

As usual, December was a very busy month getting ready for the start of our new year. We put the ram out on December 16th and the cycle starts again. Then it's the Xmas rush and suddenly we are into the New Year.

Winter 2008: Dan Simpson (who's been with us for over a year now), Mark and I spent all of our spare time, when we weren't farming, working on the new property. We really enjoyed the "change" and by the end of April it was ready for the summer season. The Goodman House sits on 6 acres and has a lovely waterfront accessed by steps down a small cliff to a completely private pebble beach. The house itself is deceptive – it appears small from the outside but comfortably sleeps 10. There was shearing of course in March with  grandchildren Noa, Lucie and Finn on hand to help. They had the opportunity to spend a few months on the Island last winter and attended the Amherst Island Public school,  increasing pupil numbers by 10%!

Spring 2009: We had a really good lambing with the Prattley portable yards coming into their own again as we processed everything through the yards at the end of May and early June. Grand-daughter Rebecca arrived in June for the summer from  New Zealand – she and Noa revived and repaired an old dingy that had washed up on the shore and made it "pond worthy".

Summer 2009: Summer kicked off with another great family week and a float in the Canada Day Parade for a second year. Grandson Liam stayed on to work for us for the summer. It was a wet summer with hay-making challenges and parasite problems, although both seemed easier to deal with after practice last year.

Fall 2009: The fall was unusually dry (although what is usual is anybody's guess) and so we didn't have the flush of grass that we have come to expect. The ewes and lambs did surprisingly well however, staying on pasture until end of October/early November. We  were able to get away in early September to England for a family wedding. Dan looked after everything while we gone. When we left he lived on a farm on the mainland. When we came back he had sold that farm and bought a farm on the Island – we were only gone for 10 days!! This is really good news for us. Dan and his wife Joan are a great addition to the Island and he is no longer a ferry ride away.

Thanksgiving we started shipping lambs to Cookstown and just to make life interesting that coincided with the Frontenac II ,our ferry, leaving to go to Wolfe Island whilst their ferry was in dry dock for repairs. This left us with the Quinte Loyalist – a much smaller boat that our trucker couldn't fit onto. SO... every Sunday morning we had to transport lambs to the mainland to meet the truck. In order to get this done we borrowed a modified flat bed trailer (Hill Billy Hauler) from a friend and between the HBH and pickup we could get 65-70 lambs across the water.It was cold and less than ideal but the ferry crew were great and we made it back on the same boat every time except for one Sunday when the ramp on the truck was frozen. This continued until December 23rd.

Winter 2009: November and early December were mild, snakes still around the first week December, but lots of rain so all the ponds and creeks are full. We dug 2 new ponds on the new farm to provide water for the sheep . Ram went out on December 16th as per usual and then we were busy keeping hay and grain up to all the different breeding groups. There were families in the Goodman House for the Xmas week and the week of New Years. It's been very successful and people are already booking again for this summer.

All in all it was a busy year.

All the best to you and yours for 2010.

Mark and Cherry