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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Intention for Happiness

Augustin did arrive safely onto the Ferme Fleur de Lys and so began a long relationship with Edmond.  Together they wrote a letter to Renee for her birthday in March, which begins with Edmond wishing "that all the villages could be transported to one corner of the world so that we can easily send our thoughts from one corner to another".
He advices his mother not to come to the farm during the winter as it was not very funny going across the lake in the cold winter temperatures.  Summer would be much better because if the motor boat stopped working they could always swim across the lake to get her. 
Augustin writes that on the farm there is more than enough work and projects to do.  He believes that they have "eyes that are too big for their stomachs".  There is discussion of building another house and improving the stables, all before the end of the summer. 
Renee's parents, Edmond and Augustin all write that they hope very much that she will be on the farm for her next birthday.  Edmond hopes to make whipping cream from the milk from Olga for the birthday cake.  At this time Olga is due to calf in May, which he declares would make Renee a grandmother.
There is a light hearted feel to the letters and a new sense of optimism.  Edmond does not appear to be so homesick.  It seems that the arrival of the young Augustin has created a sense of hope in the family.  An intention for happiness. 

Caroline Fleur de Lys walking on the ice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through it's black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source
from which we drink
the secret water, cold and clear
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for
something else.

David Whyte

Jean, Renee and Michele

Jean, Renee and Michele

Monday, March 22, 2010

10,000 Joys and Sorrows

Renee left for Canada soon after her daughter's marriage in June of 1948.  I am under the impression that she took a leave of absence from her position with the Red Cross in Geneva so was meant to return. However, it would be many years before she would be able to make her way back to Switzerland.  As the story goes.....apparently Uncle Leon only bought a one way ticket and she could not afford to travel back.  An important lesson to remember if anyone offers you a free trip anywhere - make sure it is return.
Renee left behind her young son, Jean,  who she would never see again nor be able to return for his funeral.  He died within two years of her departure in a car accident. Her daughter, Michele,  was left to cope with the death of her brother alone as well as the challenges of  marriage and starting a family. 
Renee found joy and love in Canada after so many years of being a widow in Switzerland.  She and Augustin would fall in love and marry.  She also had the love and support of her parents that she had gone without for so many years after her departure from Montreal as a young widow with her three children.  I wonder if Charles Fleur de Lys had bought the farm in an effort to try to reunite his family.  Renee's brother, Horace, would eventually settle in Salmon Arm.  Perhaps there was a hope that Jean and Michele would eventually join the rest of the family although I have never seen or heard any evidence of that.  Maybe it was a silent wish that Charles and Caroline had within them.

Life is...10.000 joys and sorrows....

Michele and Jean


Michele and Paul, June 1948

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Enjoy the Simple Things


What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

Judy Sorum Brown

Friday, March 19, 2010

All you need is Love.......

As Augustin slowly made his way to Sicamous the family back on the farm were trying to organize Renee's return to Canada.  In a letter written by Caroline to her daughter she begins with an apology for taking so long to respond to Renee's letters; "there is always something to do.  The days are too short and once the evening arrives I am obliged to go to bed early".  A plan had been created that Renee would travel to the farm with Uncle Leon.  Caroline and her husband approved with the plan but suggested that Uncle Leon have his cataract surgery done in Switzerland and not wait for the operation to be done once in Canada.  As Caroline explains to see a specialist once on the farm "1. You have to take a wagon 2. Take a train either to Vernon which is 3 hours, Salmon Arm which is 3/4 of an hour or Kamloops at a travel time of 3 hours.  To any of these places you have to stay in a hotel except for Sicamous as it is only 41/2 miles by motor boat. " Caroline then goes on to warn Renee that if Uncle Leon wanted his brother Andre to follow him that it would be very difficult in B.C. for him to live as you need to know English very well.  Caroline and her husband as well as Renee were fluently bi-lingual.  She suggests that he may be able to find work in Montreal in a Catholic business however there could be a problem because Leon is a foreigner and a Protestant which " is impossible to hide. " She explains that "Quebec does not want foreigners".  To find work in an English business you would need to be able to speak English.  She goes on to explain that once in Montreal they could purchase a ticket for the 3 night and 4 day journey to Sicamous.  She explains that with a sleeping car, which is very comfortable, the cost would be $90.00.  She suggests that at the Windsor C.P.R. station to be sure to ask for the Rockies passage as it is a "spectacle grandiase".
Caroline reports that Edmond is looking forward to seeing his friend Augustin. They will stay the night at the C.P.R. hotel which is in the train station.  There they will be able to take a "bon bain" - a good bath.  Something to look forward to apparently as Caroline tells her daughter that nobody has baths on their side of the lake.  She explains that Edmond baths in the lake just until October and in the house they have no running water which she feels "should be installed as quickly as possible".   She ends the letter with a promise to help with the voyage as much as possible,  "Maman, Papa C.C.F.L."
All you need is Love.......

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hockey is our game!

Augustin seemed to enjoy his trip to the farm when he was finally able to put his immigration papers in order. His letters sent to Renee in Switzerland describe stopping in New York for 8 days where he stayed with my father's cousin, Mounette.  He describes that 8 days in New York is hardly enough time due to the size of the city.  In his letter he describes his impressions of Montreal "even after New York it is a large city, the roads are large with trees which don't exist in New York.  The apartments are not as tall as in New York.  Montreal does seem very cultured but I don't think it would compare to Geneva.  However the people are very nice and I have met some wonderful friends.  In fact last night some of them invited me to a hockey game.  It was fantastic.  I have never seen anything like it. Our national team would of been extinguished by a team so fast and rough.  Apparently they are all professionals and were in St. Moritz for the Olympics.  It is cold in Canada.  It has been frozen for a long time now.  Yesterday it was -18.  I can promise you it is impossible to go for long walks.  I came across a Canadian woman all dressed in a fur coat and boots.  That is the only way to go for a walk here.  I have seen that in Sicamous it is less cold.  I leave Tuesday night and will arrive Friday night.  It is a short voyage of 4000 kms.  I have received a letter from Edmond who waits impatiently for me.  Also a note from your father wishing me welcome to Canada and assuring me I will well looked after. "

A note that the Olympics that Gus is referring to in St. Moritz were the first Olympics that athletes had gathered for in 11 years due to the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 games because of World War II.  The Canadian Team had seven wins and one tie against the team from Czechoslovakia who also had won seven games.  The tournament was decided in goal differential.  Team Canada had outscored their opponents 69-5.   Canada won gold by a 2 goal margin.  The Swiss Team earned a bronze.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"The Happiest Moment?........Now."

"For happiness, how little suffices for happiness, the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, a lizards rustling, a breath, a wink, an eye glance - little maketh up the best happiness.  Be still."

The farm at that time was a quiet place with few diversions outside of the natural world. In letters my father writes extensively about the animals; pig-pig, the old chickens, the horses and the cow Olga "who is very nice and gets lots of pats from your son". This strong connection to nature would stay with my father his whole life.

Carlo Fleurdelys and Olga

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Settlement

By all appearances in this photo my father seems to be "settling into" his life on the farm.....maybe going a little odd in the process. 
In letters to his mother back in Switzerland it is clear that he is quite "homesick".  He writes about constructing a new room to the house so there will be space for her as at the moment there is not.  I recall the original farm house which was 2 bedrooms with a small living room and kitchen.  There was a full attic to the house which you accessed through a narrow flight of stairs that were in the closet in one of the bedrooms.  The attic was not a welcoming space and that was where my father slept and planned to install another bedroom for his mother.  This room was never made.
He also writes that when Augustin arrives they hope to build a new house if they can get the wood and nails.  This home would be constructed using a small cabin as the beginning and would eventually become the home of Augustin and Renee. 
He reassures his mother that his English continues to improve and the neighbors have taken upon themselves to correct him which he appreciates.  He states that he has started to write a little in English.
The letter ends with another request that she come to Canada.  He assures her that Michelle (his sister) will soon be married and independent and John (his younger brother) will be occupied with his studies at University that will take all his time. 
Renee is under a lot of pressure to leave Switzerland and return to Canada.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Canada is a refuge still"

Augustin was a young man in his 20s when he arrived on the farm.  I don't know if he had planned to purchase land before his arrival or if it was more of an impulsive decision.  Whatever the circumstances it started a life long love affair with Canada that continues to this day although he has not lived here for some time now. 
The problems with immigration did eventually get settled.  Augustin's father wrote a number of letters on his behalf.  It appears his family was very supportive of his decision to immigrate to Canada.  His father wrote numerous letters explaining that they did not understand that a visitor would not be able to buy land unless he/she had an immigrant visa.  They were anxious that Gus could return to Canada by that spring to start work on the farm.  Gus had planned to travel by the end of January but in fact it would be early March before the immigration issue was settled and he would be allowed to depart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Delicious moments

The summer of 1947 saw the arrival of the first of the Naef family for a visit.  This family would form an important part in the establishment of the farm.  Augustin Naef (or "Gus" as he would become known in Canada) would be arriving in a few months and fall in  love with the property and purchase the farms around the "Ferme Fleur de Lys".  The Naef family is a well established Swiss business family who were acquaintances of the Miege family in Switzerland. 
This photo portrays one of Augustin's brothers with his wife and Carlo and Caroline Fleur de Lys. This photograph was sent to Switzerland to Renee Miege with a note on the back exclaiming his delight in the visitors; "This photograph recalls the many delicious moments we have passed together...the days passed quickly".  It has been over 15 years since Carlo has seen his daughter Renee.  He writes that given his old age he is hopeful that she will be arriving on the farm soon.  My father and his grandparents would actively encourage Renee to come to Canada in many letters to follow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A commitment to joy

Letters and photos sent back to family in Switzerland are full of descriptions of the animals that shared the farm life with the humans.  In a letter from my father to his mother dated February 1 1948 he describes the animals and how much joy they bring. At that time they had two old chickens that would roam around the house and rest on the wood pile.  The animal that seemed to leave the biggest impression was "pig pig".  My father found her to be extraordinary.  She would come like a dog when called and was very clean - never making any mess in the house.  If dinner was too late being served she would call "for service". 
In this photo my father comments that "pig pig" seems to find the view of the lake to be very splendid.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A very special pig

Despite the isolation there were many significant relationships created on the farm, not only between the family members but also the neighbors.  The Fleur de Lys farm was surrounded by the Woods Family farm and Mr. Brownings.  My father quickly learned English in order to  enjoy these connections. The other important relationship was with the animals.  The farm at that time had dairy cows but there were other creatures that became an important part of life on the farm.  The horses of course provided all the transportation and assisted with the farm work. Dogs were also an enduring part of farm life and there was also a very special pig.
Charles Fleur de Lys with two of this dogs and my father with one of the dairy cows in the background.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sicamous, December 20 1947

In what other climate does the Queen of Silence
Show us more splendor?
I Love, Oh Canada, night, the vast plain
Shining with whiteness.
Francois-Xavier Garneau

In a letter to his mother in broken English my father explains that it started snowing today and the water on the lake has started to freeze, but the entire lake will not freeze until January or February.  He writes "it is not too bad, we can with boat in Sicamous go".  He tells her that every Monday and Friday he and his grandfather go to Sicamous but because of where the lake is frozen they must first take the horses to Mr. Wood's place and then go to Sicamous with his boat.  In the letter he describes that one week ago he went to Sicamous with his grandfather "and we have one petit petit bateau" (little little boat) which became swamped by water.  It appears that would be the reason that they now use Mr. Wood's boat.  The Woods family were well established on their property.  They had constructed a boat house that they used to build their own boats. 
My father then writes "There is no girls, mens and mens, and no movie pictures, no dancing, no what you will".  My father was after all 18 years old and it seems had enjoyed some of the activities of the big city of Geneva.  He concludes the letter by asking that his mother come to Canada; "I can no learn english, I can no you kiss and there is best for you".  He makes an argument that Switzerland could one day be invaded by Russia and she would lose her job with the government, "and finish the funny day, finish the liberty, finish the job". 
I would guess that my father was homesick.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Departure

My father was given the gift of encouragement from his grandparents to leave his life in Switzerland and return to Canada.  It seems that Canada had left it's mark on my father despite his young age when he left. My grandmother struggled financially to support her three children.  She did eventually find work with the Red Cross.  My father spent much of his youth with his Uncle "Mico" who was a doctor in Geneva.  Uncle Mico provided opportunities for the children that their mother was not able to do given her limited income. For example, in the photo above Eddy is enjoying a day skiing.
My father was fortunate with his immigrant experience.  He was returning to the country of his birth to live with his grandparents.  He had the security of a home waiting for him, and a future planned.  In contrast, my husband's grandfather left Scotland at the age of 13 as a stowaway on a boat.  He was an orphan with no family to leave or come to.
It appears that my father left Switzerland in the fall of 1947.  The other photo is on the day of his departure with his brother, Jean and his Aunt Jacqueline.