BASTION MOUNTAIN RANCH - TALES OF A FARM FAMILY


My family lived on a Ranch full time from 1993 until 2015. We were a 5th generation family farm.
I am writing this blog to share my experiences living there. It is best to read the blog chronologically by going through the archives, starting with the introduction in January of 2010.
The blog starts with the arrival of my great-grandparents to the farm in 1947 and will follow the families to the present.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Silence of Winter

Caroline Fleur de Lys was often alone the winter of 1961 when Gus and Renee were in Switzerland.  In the letters to her daughter she made reference to the various activities that drew Eddy out of the house.  One morning she is writing alone in the house and remarks to her daughter "Eddy has left two and half hours ago for Vernon. I cannot see the lake or the mountains it is snowing so hard".  The sense of isolation is palatable and I am thankful reading the letters so many years later that she had the two dogs, Cuddly and Sandy, for company.
The neighbors also played a significant role that winter and it would appear that they were often coming by the house to check in on "Grandmother Caroline".  Caroline was asked by Mrs. Berger and Mary-Lou to give them French lessons which would have provided some welcome diversion.
There is a deep silence to winter when the snow arrives and muffles all sound. Even the winter birds seem to lose their songs during the winter months.  The cold and the snow are challenges for an elderly person and the winter months bring health problems. Caroline developed a persistent cough that was immune to ministrations until she joyously proclaimed that Buckleys cough syrup had produced a cure.
The greatest marvel that winter seemed to be the furnace.  Eddy spent many hours installing the furnace "producing holes throughout the house" until the day that Caroline was able to write that "it is 32 degrees outside (f) and inside all through the house it is an equal temperature of 80 degrees" (f).
As I read the letters I am impressed by Caroline's stoicism.  She writes of how thankful she is for the care from both Eddy and the neighbors and the company of the dogs.  She makes light of her health problems and the challenges of her living conditions. In all her letters the closest remark she ever made to a complaint was about the lack of running water when she first moved to the farm.



Winter Scenes

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Moose Gift

It is a true pleasure to read in Caroline Fleur de Lys' letters the kindness that the neighbors showed to her and Eddy while Gus and Renee were in Switzerland.  Caroline writes "Eddy and I are certainly spoiled by our dear neighbors; Mrs. Woods, Mary Lou Tapson-Jones and Mrs. Berger.  A moose has been brought over all prepared, an excellent pie, raisin biscuits etc. etc." Caroline reports that Mary Atwater has come over twice a day to give the "little black calf" who is not very well a special food to strengthen it. The Atwaters were a couple from the States that lived in the very beautiful "Atwater Cabin" which they used as a holiday home.  They were very likely one of the first Shuswap tourists.  Ted Atwater was an avid hunter and the little cabin was "decorated" with the horns of deer that had the misfortune of coming across his path.  Caroline writes that Mary and Ted Atwater had managed to leave for their home in Spokane just before the first snowfall in November.   As a departure gift Ted gave Eddy a Golden Retriever whom he had named Sandy.  Ted had decided that Sandy was not going to be a good dog for hunting so he was given a new home on the Ferme Fleur de Lys.


Betty and Sandy in front of the Atwater's wood shed.

The Atwater Cabin circa 1950s


In "Berger Bay" - the home of MaryLou Tapson-Jones

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More romance on Canoe Point

Edmond had started a romance at about the same time that Augustin and Renee went to Switzerland for their honeymoon.  He had met my mother to be, Betty Tate, through mutual friends.  Coming from New Zealand with a good friend, the two had been travelling around the province nursing.  She had spent quite a few months in both Vancouver and Prince Rupert and was nursing in Salmon Arm when they met. It was my mother's intention as well as that of her friend to visit Canada and return to New Zealand after their adventures.  Both would end up marrying and becoming Canadian citizens.
Eddy and Betty were not together long when they became engaged.  While Renee and Augustin were in Switzerland, Grandmother Caroline wrote to Renee that she has heard "talk" that Betty might return to New Zealand before the marriage for six to eight months.  Caroline reported that Betty is working hard trying to save the one thousand dollars for the ticket. This proposition seems to have been a worry for the grandmother.


In the end, this was not to be.  Betty would sell her treasured MG to help pay for both her and Eddy to go to New Zealand after their wedding.  In any case, such a creature would not last long on Canoe Point Rd.


Caroline Fleur de Lys in front of the farm truck, a vehicle more suited to the roads then the delicate sports car.  Note the mud on the wheels.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cow Bells


The cows in the Wood's Dairy Barn

Dairy cows were the first animals on Ferme Fleur de Lys.  In Switzerland the cows are all adorned with bells.  These bells originally allowed the herdsmen to listen for the cows and collect them off the mountains for milking.  It has now become more of a cultural habit than a practical one as even in the smallest of pastures the cows are all wearing bells.  It is also typical to see smaller animals such as goats and sheep with bells.
The new farmers on the Ferme Fleur de Lys also used bells.  We have an assortment that made their way over from Switzerland.  The farmers quickly discovered that the terrain was much too rough for such adornments.  The cows would get the bells caught up in branches and the farmers found themselves constantly looking for the gorgeous bells in the undergrowth.  These bells can be quite massive and are decorated very beautifully.  
The bells were given to my husband and me as a gift to celebrate our commitment to the  ranch.  We moved permanently to the ranch when our oldest son was three months old in 1993.  We now use their glorious rings at New Years; ringing out the old and bringing in the new.  

A picture taken during our family's trip to Switzerland in 2003.  We were in the mountains below Verbier.



New Years, 2000.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Iron Horse

Horses by Wendell Berry

"I learned the other tongue
by which men spoke to beasts
-all its terms and tones.
And by the time I learned,
new ways had changed the time.
The tractors came. The horses
stood in the fields, keepsakes,
grew old, and died.Or were sold
as dogmeat. Our minds received
the revolution of engines, our will
stretched toward the numb endurance
of metal. And that old speech
by which we magnified
our flesh in other flesh
fell dead in our mouths.
The songs of the world died
in our ears as we went within
the uproar of the long syllable
of the motors. Our intent entered
the world as combustion."

Two of the three horses on the farm

Gus brought the first horse to the farm.  It was a long walk from the horse's home in Sunnybrae to the farm, over 24 hours.  The path to the farm at the time was even challenging to walk on and was slow
going with the horse.

Looking after animals on the farm in winter time is challenging still today.  It is hard work to walk through the snow with feed and water.  I have been without horses for one year now.  Given the changes on the farm it has become impossible to have horses.  I kept my horses very healthy over the many winters I had them- this due to winter foraging which is when a horse uses it's feet to paw at the snow to reveal the grass underneath. This would be supplemented with hay and horse pellets for the seniors.  Even with this vigorous exercise of the winter foraging my gelding was deemed too fat when the vet came that last February of my horse ownership to give them all a clean bill of health.  The older two horses were in excellent health considering their age and state of their teeth.  The older of these two horses actually died that spring with the assistance of a vet which revealed another problem that the Ferme Fleur de Lys also had to contend with.  It is very difficult to bury an animal that size without a machine, something that we discovered ourselves that winter.  
I found through my years of riding, especially in the later years when I did dressage, that the union between horse and rider was riveting.  The line in Wendell Berry's poem "And that old speech by which we magnified our flesh in other flesh fell dead upon our mouths" describes the communication very well.
There is a merging between horse and rider as they move together through their tasks. 
Gus with one of the farm horses.

With the arrival of the machines on Ferme Fleur de Lys the horses were sold except for one that died on the farm.  The "uproar of the long syllable of the motor" is such a different sensation from breathing in the softness of a horse.  I would find just standing amongst my horses to be deeply calming.  
However, in the machines' defense, they moved through the work on the farm at a much faster and steadier pace.  As my father noted he could clear land so fast that he ceased to give thought on how to use the wood.  The machines that Eddy used a lot did develop a character of their own and an affection of sorts would grow between worker and machine.  



Friday, September 24, 2010

Talk to the Animals

The trip to Switzerland that Augustin and Renee went on took place in 1961, eight years after their marriage, that was a long time to wait for a honeymoon.  The letters that Edmond writes to them while they are away are very different from his early letters.  He writes completely in English, and signs himself off as Eddy.  "Maman et Augustin" have become "Mom and Gus".
Artist Tracey Kutschker's rendition of the Woods Dairy Barns.  

Edmond, or Eddy as he is now known, has also become much more focused on the "bottom line".  The horses have given way to machines and the milk cows to meat.  The dairy barn that the Ferme Fleur de Lys used was built by the Woods family.  The property and the barns were purchased from the Woods, complete with quite a sophisticated dairy.  The barn had automatic waters as well as a trough that was built into the floor to make clean up easier.  There was a quiet intimacy with these early dairy cows, with the necessity of handling the creatures twice daily.

The Wood's Dairy Barn


view of the barn roof.

Eddy writes to his Mom and Gus about some of the pressures in this "new" way of farming; "We have to get as many cows per acre as we can. As that's going to be the only income, then will have to farm in volume.  Once we get the machinery our expenses per head will get less after we have a certain number".  He goes on to explain that they have to take into account the machinery depreciation, interest, repairs, gas, oil and twine, but with 50 or 60 cows the expenses would be about the same as 30 cows. At least then we may be able to make a living.  Eddy states that he is "going to forget about clearing little by litte but close his eyes and push everything in a pile and burn.  We got to hurry as time right now is not easy with my creditors".
The almost lyrical descriptions of the farm in the early days has been replaced by this urgency to clear the land and get as many beef cows as possible.  Caroline Fleur de Ly's letters may have been a welcome contrast as she described the wonder of the central heating, the kindness of neighbors, and the funny antics of the farm animals.  In one of her letters she admits to having fallen into the habit of talking to one of the dogs, Sandy, who looks back at her "with her big brown eyes with close attention to every word."

"If you talk to animals they will talk with you
and you will know each other
If you do not talk to them you will not know them,
and what you do not know you will fear."
Chief Dan George

Machines cannot be talked to. 

`

Monday, September 13, 2010

Horses make a landscape more beautiful

"We had no word for the strange animal we got
from the white man - the horse.  So we called it
sunka wakan, "holy dog". For bringing us the
horse we could almost forgive you for bringing
us whiskey.
Horses make a landscape look more beautiful."
Lame Deer, Lame Deer Seeker of Visions

Peggy, Paddy and Molly on the Ferme Fleur de Lys.

Farm horses, like the boats, also were set aside with the introduction of machines and the road.  Horses  enforced a mindful and measured response to work.  Machines, as they don't tire in the same way as an animal, allow people to push themselves longer into the work day.  A horse requires rest and care.  The working relationship with an animal adds another element to a task as one needs to make allowances for their mood and general health.  If the weather is breathtakingly cold or hot to the point of suffocation, it is only humane to not work whereas a machine allows people to work through most conditions when possibly it would be better to take the day off. Farm accidents occurred, of course, utilizing either animal or machine, with fatigue having played a large part.
My father had his fair share of accidents with machines.  At this time Edmond was spending a few months of every year working away from the farm.  One of the ventures was a logging truck company that came to an untimely end when the truck he was driving went off the road.  Miraculously enough in all the accidents over the years he was never seriously injured.  He had strong innate sense of machinery. At his best as an operator the machine was like an extension of his body and mind.
I am guessing that he did not feel this connection with the horses as strongly as he did with the machines to follow.  Horses would not appear again on the farm until many years later when they were purchased for his children.  As children we were given little instruction on riding the horses and learned through trial and error, predominately riding bareback.  Horseback riding would become a passion for me, continuing for many years until just recently when I gave my beloved horse away.
They are truly "Sunka Wakan".

 Mr. Ed and I.  He was a retired cattle horse who became a reliable companion for me for many years.  He died during my third year of University.

Griffin was an Arabian that we purchased when I moved back to the farm as a young mother.  I was terrified of him for a few years until I finally decided to sell him.  He was for sale for many months with no offers. At a loss of what to do with this unruly and dangerous horse I decided to put him in the care of a horse trainer, Rennie Zimmer.  It was under the patient teaching of Rennie that I was finally able to ride him properly.  We had many hours of fun together under Rennie's guidance.  Griffin died suddenly of cancer in 2004.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Black Widow

The "farm boat", would, occasionally make a departure from it's work duties, be cleaned up and used to transport it's owners to social events.  A popular destination was Sicamous. 
 Sicamous has a long history of social activity, being first inhabited in the 1800s by the Secwepemc nation.  In this area they were called the Schickamoos, with the Narrows between the Shuswap Lake and Mara being known as a "meeting place of Indians".  Upon the driving of the Last Spike of the CPR rail at Craigellachie in 1885 Sicamous became home to settlers, arriving primarily at first from Finland. 
The people of Ferme Fleur de Lys benefited from the various services and activities available in Sicamous.  A store and jail were constructed in 1892, and a post office in 1904. The first school was constructed in 1908. In the early 1900s the CPR added to their famous chain of hotels by constructing the gorgeous Sicamous Hotel.  The hotel was Tudor style with 75 rooms and a large elegant dining room.  The hotel was demolished in 1964. It was in this hotel that  Augustin, Renee, Edmond and other locals attended the wildly popular dances.  Renee became known as the "Black Widow" at these events due to a very becoming black dress she wore combined with her love of dance. 
Dressed up to attend the popular dances at the Hotel Sicamous. Edmond and friends moored in front of the Hotel Bellevue where the store and post office were also located. 


The Hotel Bellevue, circa 1910 from the Bedford Collection. Photographer Rex Lingford. Credits to www.oldphotos.ca


The Hotel Bellevue with the surrounding business area; general store, post office and boat houses.  Circa 1910, photographer Rex Lingford from the Bedford Collection. Credit to www.oldphotos.ca


The CPR Sicamous Hotel, circa 1929, Wilson Collection. Credits to www.oldphotos.ca

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boats I have loved......

There is a nostalgia associated with the use of boats as a farming tool as well as a uniqueness.  These work boats differed drastically from the speed boats we see on the lake today, with their closest cousins being the current tug boats that slowly troll the lakes.  There was an honesty and simpleness to their construction that emphasized frugality and practicality over a showy appearance.  The road brought an end to these boats on the Ferme Fleurdelys as well as the use of the lake as a transportation route which no longer made necessary the risky passage of farm goods over the frozen expanse of ice.
Edmond and friends in one of my favorite boats.
The little work boat being loaded up with farm products ready for departure to Sicamous.

People traveled in their boats for visiting with others along the lake no matter what time of year.  In this photo a mother with her children stands on the shore with Renee. The snow along the lake shore is an indicator of the cold weather.

Traversing the lake with supplies and products in the winter months.

"Many shores I have sailed to in my canoe,
often against strong winds.
Choose the tree well my brother,
if it is to carry you to distant shores."

Chief Dan George

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Til Death Do Us Part

Caroline and Charles Fleur de Lys

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over,  I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply visiting the world.

Mary Oliver


I find myself reflecting often on the union between Charles and Caroline.  Charles was an eccentric, deeply religious man who was disciplined with his personal rituals. For example, he went for a daily walk, no matter what the weather or even his health.   I imagine that he was quite singular with his pursuits and he was fortunate that Caroline complied.  His choice to make major life changes was not always in the best interests of his family.  He left Switzerland at a time when Caroline's health was not strong and she was not able to join him in Canada for many months, thereby leaving Renee alone.  The decision to move to such an isolated farm at the other end of Canada at their ages was unusual.  Caroline was a woman that developed and maintained deep relationships and like her original departure from Switzerland she would of once again had to leave these supports and rely on written correspondence.  Caroline was an avid letter writer, and she did quickly establish new friendships on Canoe Point. For a woman who worked in her own beauty salon, however, and who had been surrounded by people all day, the contrast to the isolation of the farm would have been dramatic.  Furthermore, Caroline's mobility was quite restricted; I rarely see a picture of her without her cane.  It would have been challenging and quite constricting to negotiate the rough terrain around the farm.
Despite all of these challenges there is no doubt that it was the purchase of the farm that brought the Fleur de Lys family together again, bringing great comfort to Caroline and Renee.
 Life being always a combination of joy and sorrow the establishment of the farm also created an expanse of physical distance between members of the Miege family.  It is a constant sorrow to be so far from beloved relatives, which continues to be felt today.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Today is a good day to die.

It was fortunate that the "trail" had been built connecting Canoe Point with the road to Salmon Arm as on November 23 of 1960 Charles, or "Carlos" as he was called by Caroline, suddenly took ill and was taken by car to the hospital.
Caroline wrote down the details leading up to her husband's death on a small piece of cardboard that for some reason I did not automatically throw out when sorting through the documents.  Her daughter had also written about her husband's death many years before and kept that as well, a paper that I found over 20 years ago.  The written accounts differ greatly.  Caroline writes in a factual manner: "Monday night Carlos started to feel very weak.  On Tuesday Augustin drove him to the hospital.  At about 5:00 PM he came back to the farm and drove Renee to the hospital.  Carlos had been up but not very long as he felt very weak.  Dr. Willliams had hope that he would be better but suddenly he passed away in a calm manner with Renee and Augustin beside him. "  This tiny scrap of paper is clearly not addressed to anyone but she continues: "you can imagine the shock that I had when I learned of his passing this morning.  Fortunately, I was able to cry this morning, the 23 of November, 1960".
Renee's note was in more of a letter format to her recently deceased husband.  The letter was written in ink and it looked to me like water had smeared some of the letters.  I had always imagined this to be tears.  The letter is now with Renee's daughter in Switzerland so I am unable to translate it but from what I remember it was more poetic, speaking of how Henri would be watching over his children like a "star in the sky", and what her hopes were for her family.  Renee had been alone in her home with her husband during his illness for fear of it spreading to others.  I regret now not speaking to my grandmother more about this experience of nursing her husband in these isolating conditions.  Death, like birth, is a passage that is such an honor to attend. 
Caroline's note describing the death of her husband.

"Today is a good day to die for all the things in my life are present" - Native American saying.
 Charles Fleur de Lys collecting fruit in his orchard.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Burning the Forest

The Machines allowed the farm to expand, and forest was cleared to make way for pastures. Edmond writes to Augustin, on his honeymoon in Switzerland,  explaining his latest project: "I started to clear land from Worrall to the big field, we have now a long wide strip and I think that we have to keep on pushing as much as we can even if we have to push away of lot of trees that I wish we could save".  There is a sense of urgency in the letter; pushing forward no matter what the cost.
I feel that my father was quite driven with his work and contained an energy and vision that would propel him forward at quite a velocity.  He alone would determine farm projects and Augustin would be accommodating enough to move along with his plans.  He maintained a pace to his work life that could be quite overwhelming for those working with him.  It became difficult for him to ever be able to take a day off, even significant holidays such as Christmas.  This became a challenge when my husband and I moved to the Ranch with our newborn son and would want to take a day off for a family activity.  However, his confidence in his abilities and his drive to move forward with a project also fueled many significant events such as the move of our home from it's location at Herald Park to the Ranch.



Burning the forest to make way for the pastures.

I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and west are mine,
and the north and south are mine.
I am larger than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

Walt Whitman

Monday, June 7, 2010

The cost of doing business

Ferme Fleur de Lys started on the path of modernization both in the homes and with the farm operations. By the winter of 1960 the house had central heating and machines of various sorts began to appear, replacing the horses. These technological advances came with a cost, increasing the pressure on the family to make a profit on the farm. Edmond continued in these years to work off the farm logging and also began to establish his "custom work" with his machines, helping neighbors with various projects.
The "capital costs" of the farm were in part paid for with the appearance of the Naefs. Augustin's family was well established in the Swiss business community and a financial relationship of sorts developed over the years. Thus, they became more benefactors than business partners.   


Edmond, Augustin and Monsieur Naef inspecting a farm implement. 

Nourished somewhat with the influx of the Naef's family support the farm continued to clear land and make plans. 
Madame Naef and Renee


Monsieur Naef


Augustin, Renee, Monsieur Naef, Charles Fleur de Lys, Edmond.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Family ties that bind



 Renee, second on the left, with family in Nyon, Switzerland.



Christmas at Claparede;  Edmond's Uncle and Aunt, Mico and Jacqueline. In front: Michele, Jean, Edmond and their cousin Mounette.

There is much focus on the immigrant experience and not much said about the people they leave behind. In a letter from Jean, Renee's youngest son, to his grandparents and his Uncle Leon, he writes; "Uncle Leon, how do you find this new life, is it more agreeable than Switzerland?...I hope for you, grandmother, that this winter will go well and for the two men, with this life of Robinson Crusoe, that you will not be too tired." There is a tension between the family that chose to stay and those that made their life elsewhere. What is it about this new country, Canada, that would draw their family away? Is this "new life" so much better than what was offered in the old?
Caroline and Charles Fleur de Lys never would have the opportunity to return to Switzerland to visit family or friends. Edmond himself would return in almost twenty years time and it would be about ten years before Renee would find herself returning to her homeland.
Caroline Fleur de Lys kept a dedicated correspondence with her cousins in her birth country. In one of the many exchanges, her cousin writes: "I hope, dear cousin, that you will come back to live in Switzerland, as it is your birth place." Another cousin writes: "it is too bad that I am not younger as it has been a long time that I have wanted to come to Canada as I love animals so much." Their letters are filled with updates about the activities and health of family members. I admire the dedication demonstrated by this flow of letters, sometimes between people that have never met, such as the case with Jean and his grandparents. At the end of one such letter a cousin has detailed all members of the families that are living in two different towns, perhaps in an attempt to keep Caroline up to date with the many births and deaths that have occurred over time.

 Family playing croquet.

The departure creates an absence at those significant family events - marriages, births, funerals, family parties. The new immigrants also have their challenges as they recreate meaningful celebrations away from the structure and traditions of family.  Families are resilient, however, and new traditions are created and with that comes a certain freedom.

"Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you've been bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see."
Rumi

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What one fears one destroys

If you talk to animals they will talk with you
and you will know each other.
If you do not talk to them you will not know them,
and what you do not know you will fear.

What one fears one destroys.

Chief Dan George


Edmond and "kuddly"




Edmond did hunt when he first arrived on the Ferme Fleurdelys as portrayed in the above photos.  There was a definite moment however when he stopped hunting completely and the farm became a refuge for animals and was actively protected from hunters.  It is unclear to me due to the passage of time but the story somehow involved the shooting of a deer which would become his last kill.  In his later years his mission to extinguish pesky coyotes became actually comical in nature as he would drive around with the gun in the truck as a mute warning.
Most of the animals of the farm did need to be killed at some point and that has always been a burden.  There is no way to reconcile the sacrifice of one life for another. It rests uneasy on the soul.  My preference has always been "on site" slaughter and that is how the Ferme Fleurdelys operated for many years out of necessity due to the lack of a slaughter facility.  It is extremely difficult to put to rest a friend which the farmers discovered when it came time to slaughter animals like "Pig-Pig".
The modern slaughter house, although thankfully removing the farmer from the task, also places a lot of stress on the animals due to transportation and then the "process" within the facility itself.

"Dying, like birth, is begun by the body and completed by the heart"  Stephen Levine

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sleeping in the Forest



"I have sat many hours
on the steps outside my house,
and while I whittled
I tasted nature
and felt her throb of life.
Yet the strangers walking by
thought me lazy."
Chief Dan George

Edmond may have started at a slower pace of life but as he started to move beyond the farm his life quickened.  At one point he started a trucking company that in the end did not do well and also resulted in what would become one of many machine related accidents.   Primarily he logged and in the process made friends closer to his own age and achieved some needed separation from events on Ferme Fleurdelys.  Economics were a significant driving force because it did not take the new farmers very long to discover what is still true today - that farming does not pay.




Edmond with his two friends from Revelstoke


Bill Campbell, Raymond Vaucher (who is a friend from Switzerland) and Edmond


Renee describes on the back of this photo that Edmond now has a "pretty aluminum
helmet to do his work in".  He is working on clearing the road to Canoe Point.

Edmond spent many months in the forest doing this type of work which deepened his love of nature.    There were times during the work when they would camp in the forest.

Sleeping in the forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness,
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning,
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The chapel of love

 August 29, 1953

The marriage of Augustin and Renee was unconventional due primarily to the age difference. I believe it was rather a shock to my father to have his friend marry his mother.  These are details that were forgotten during the many years of their marriage.  There seemed to be a connection between them that may have started in Switzerland, the evidence being in the number of letters written by the young Augustin to Renee describing his voyage to Canada.  Renee then kept those letters and brought them back to Canada, signifying to me their importance in that she included them in with her limited possessions. 
Augustin once explained it was the death of Renee's son, John, that drew them closest together.  Renee must have decided to take hold of this promise of happiness despite what family may have thought and finally commit herself to this new life on the farm.

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with it's stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to save
the only life you could save.
    Mary Oliver

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"You can't always get what you want"

click on image to enlarge.



I love this letter for some many reasons.  The casual, chatty nature of it on government letterhead reminds me of today's e:mails.  I also like knowing that the "fellow over there with a bulldozer" is actually my father.  My father almost unilaterally undercharged for his work, propelled forward by the joy of another project and in the words of Chief Dan George "When a man does what needs to be done, he does not know the meaning of time." Others may say "workaholic" and there is a fine line perhaps.  My father loved work the majority of the time especially when it involved a well running machine (although he was not a patient man when it came to maintenance and repairs).
I find it interesting in the letter that there is constant reference to a trail rather than an actual road.  I don't recall the residents of Canoe Point asking for a trail.  To this day many would say parts of the road are very much like the original trail.  This humble beginning seems to have perpetuated years of dissatisfaction bringing truth to the words:
"You can't always get what you want
  But if you try sometimes you might find
  You get what you need"
The Rolling Stones










Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Age of Machines

Edmond loved his machines.  On this photo that he sends to Michelle, his sister back in Switzerland,  he exclaims: "The bulldozer is constructing a road behind the house.  Look at the quantity of dirt that it can move!".  Certainly more than shovel by shovel.....



Edmond would be drawn into the world of machines, eventually supporting both the farm and his family through his contracting business, installing septic tanks and building roads for the majority of the residents on Canoe Point.  His first contract would be the opening of those last few miles of road to Canoe Point.  Machines come with their own complications, one being desire. Edmond would wish for machines with a passion.  On the photo below he writes to his sister "here is  the bulldozer that we work with in the forest. It makes it's own road across the forest. It is a machine like this that I would like to buy."







Friday, May 14, 2010

Boating on the Shuswap

In 1953 the few residents of Canoe Point presented a petition to Mr. Phil Gallardi, Minister of Public Works, Kamloops, B.C., asking the Government to open a road to the Point.  Apparently there had been promises to send survey crews and to start blasting "but to date there is not even a trail leading out of Canoe Point to any other town."
The author explains that should the lake stay open between Sicamous and Canoe Point as there is no ferry service the residents must use "their smaller crafts and undergo the risks of storms and floating pieces of ice."
Boats took the place of cars, in a sense like Venice.  Pictures were taken of these crafts with obvious pride.

Edmond taking Renee for a ride in his new boat.  Renee tries to explain to family in Switzerland that the boat is made of "plastic and moulded fiberglass".





Another one of Charle's boats






The very lovely Mary Lou