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.

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The almost lyrical descriptions of the farm in the early days has been replaced by this urgency to clear the land and get as many beef cows as possible.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.