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.

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Faith and Courage

Blossom time in the Okanagan

Changes in the world
But flowers will open
Each spring
Just as usual.

Japanese folk Zen saying

 Charles Fleur de Lys

The 1950s would bring enormous changes to the Ferme Fleur de Lys.  The marriage of Gus and Renee would take place, the road would get started, and Edmond would leave the farm for stretches of a time seeking employment.
The farmers had to have courage to move ahead and faith in their futures on this piece of land. Courage to move through the travails of the winters having the faith that spring would come.

"Faith is the quiet cousin of Courage.  Faith is willing to put its foot out when there is no guarantee that there will be a step to support it. " Judith Lasater

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Secwepemc Nation

Renee wrote in her letter to the editor of the Salmon Arm Observer in 1949 that the lack of road made their lifestyle like that of the early pioneers with all the original hardships "except there are no more Indians about to make the scene perfect".

The Indians to whom she refers are the Secwepemc people, known by non-natives as the Shuswap, are a nation of 17 bands occupying the south-central part of BC who have lived in the area for at least 10,000 years.
From the website:
At the time of contact with Europeans in the late 18th century, the Secwepemc occupied a vast territory, extending from the Columbia River valley on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains to the Fraser River on the west and from the upper Arrow Lakes in the south. Traditional Shuswap territory covers approximately 145,000 square kilometers.

The Nation was a political alliance that regulated use of the land and resources, and protected the territories of the Shuswap. Although the bands were separate and independent, they were united by a common language - Secepemtsin - and a similar culture and belief system.

The traditonal Secwepemc were a semi-nomadic people, living during the winter in warm semi-underground "pit-houses" and during the summer in mat lodges made of reeds. The tradional Shuswap economy was based on fishing, hunting and trading. Shuswap diet consisted of fish, meat, berries and roots. The lifestyle, based on respect for nature, depended on traditional aboriginal skills and knowledge handed down from generation to generation by oral tradition. However, in the 19th century
the Secwepemc culture was transformed with the appearance of fur traders, missionaries, gold miners, and settlers.

Diseases, introduced by the white man, decimated the native population after contact. In 1862 a severe epidemic of smallpox devastated the native people of B.C., wiping out the 32 villages of the Shuswap. Around the same time, The Hudson's Bay Company fur trade monopoly was ended and British Crown authority was established to maintain order and control settlement. Indian reserves were established during this colonial period.

In 1871, B.C. became a province of Canada and the federal Department of Indian Affairs took over responsibility for every aspect of the Secwepemc social, political, and economic livelihood. The Catholic Church, in conjunction with the federal government, looked after the religious conversion of the Secwepemc people. In the 1890s two large "industrial" schools were established in Secwepemc territory at Kamloops and near Williams Lake. The Indian Residential Schools closed in the 1970s but have been the centre of much controversy in recent years. Their legacy continues to be felt in the lives of Secwepemc people.

The Secwepemc people traveled the Shuswap extensively.  The residents of Ferme Fleur de Lys recall families canoeing up the lake and stopping in at the bay for the night where they would all enjoy a visit. There is much evidence that some of the bays were popular resting places with a large amount of artifacts.  The other enduring signs are the pictographs that can be found on flat rocks along the shores. "Cedar Man" is one such symbol that is close to the farm.

Cedar Man

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ten thousand flowers

"Kuddly" circa 1970s, sitting in front of a patch of violets.

Only color could express the full exuberance of spring.  The sweet relief of old bones feeling the sun at last hot on the skin. 

As the letters to the editor expressed living at Canoe Point during the winter months involved stress and lots of hard work.  There was a certain amount of "suspense" about the ice .  As the author explains about the transport of the hay across the lake from Sicamous; "The next day, March 19th, it rains so much that even a duck would hesitate to go out, but they must still cross over to the freight car in order to unload it and stack the hay somewhere - but how it will come across no one knows yet- it may thaw, it may freeze again, who knows? In such a suspense have people been living on the Canoe Point all winter".

Despite these appeals it would still be a number of years before a road was started, and it would actually be Edmond himself that would build those last few miles.  Edmond discovered that he had an insatiable love for machines and would be in a good position in the near future to offer his contracting services.

The stillness of that time living without the distractions of the greater community would be coming to an end.

Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
A cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter,
If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
This is the best season of your life.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sweet relief of spring

The residents of the Ferme Fleur de Lys were ill prepared for the challenges of living in the isolation and physical challenges that the winter brought to Canoe Point.  They described it being a "rather big pill of ice to swallow".  Even their address, Sicamous, was identified with a place that had a road.  In a sense it was the presence of a road that made a place come into being.  They became intimate with the surface of the lake during the winter; the time when the lake is covered with ice but yet not strong enough to support anyone, or when there was too much snow on the ice to allow for passage, or when it becomes "milder and the surface of the ice is wet slush like ground salt". 

In these conditions spring was welcomed with relief as much as joy.  In this photo Charles writes of his wife Caroline who "walks with her cane without too much valor but loving the hot days and surrounded by the pure air that smells like pine and springtime flowers".