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

Mark and celebrity shearer Donny "Top Gun" Metherall with rowsies hard at work in the background

Vernal Equinox

Our wishes for a mild winter have been fulfilled but you have to be careful what you wish for – our current worry is winter damage to hay and pasture caused by lack of snow cover and now unseasonably dry ground conditions. My father is always saying, "You Farmers constantly seem to have something to moan about!" He is right of course; nothing is ever perfect and I suppose the art of management includes making the best of sub-optimal conditions.

On the plus side, the ewes came through in good shape on a limited hay supply, supplemented with more corn than usual and the frost damage has broken up the surface of the ground for the legume seed that we are now "frost-seeding" in several fields using a broadcaster on the back of the four wheeler.

We shore the ewes last week. They were in good condition and we got our best wool clip ever. Heavy fleeces, very clean and bright with no stains from rain or snow and very little vegetable matter in the wool. With keen and cheerful help and good sheep we shore 800 in two very enjoyable days. As added entertainment Donny demonstrated with an old hand-cranked shearing machine that we had just rebuilt. The machine has an original set of clippers and must be at least 80 yrs old.

We will shear our hoggets (replacement ewes) at the end of April. There will be room to house them after the winter lambers and their lambs are sold at Easter. The hoggets have just been pregnancy scanned and 12% of total exposed in December were "open". These were shipped as heavy lambs and fetched a good price.

We have had a lot of welcome feedback on our website, which covers a mix of different business activities. On a family farm a lot of different enterprises do tend to overlap and are hard to separate. Our core business is the production of market lambs and commercial breeding stock. The by-products of the business include wool and the guard dogs that we breed to protect our sheep from coyotes. Less obvious, but still connected, is the rental of the cottage and the farmhouse.

More and more people are discovering the beauty of Amherst Island and the farming scene is part of that. It is often difficult for the urban population to keep in touch with farming and we welcome the opportunity to explain what is happening here. It’s a win-win situation - family holidays and educational opportunities for children and the extra income and a chance to promote farming for us.

Many people ask us about the name of our farm. Why "Foot Flats"?? Well, the farm is flat and it lies at the foot of Amherst Island. When the explorers and traders were traveling up the St. Lawrence they referred to the upstream ends of the Islands as the "head" and the downstream as the "foot". It can be confusing though - one friend left the "s" off footflats and ended up at a site for a foot clinic in South Africa!!

Keep the feedback coming - questions, improvements and ideas are welcome. Here’s hoping for an early spring (although we do need a good warm rain).

There I go worrying again!

Cheers, Cherry and Mark