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.

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