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, December 23, 2011

The Hopes and Fears of all the years....



I love the Christmas carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and over the Christmas season the words "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight" are sung silently to myself. The winter days before the Solstice are dark and bring with them a time of inner reflection. Our world becomes smaller or less distracting without the long evenings that can lure us outside into our gardens or far long walks. The insides of our homes become more of a focus with the gardens under snow and the earth frozen. With the darkness comes nostalgia, grief, reflection. There is also the hope as the light returns, "Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light."
Each year as I prepare for the holiday season, and the gathering of friends and family, I like to give my house a good "rub down". I am very much bound by the seasons when it comes to the rituals of housecleaning. I have always done a "spring cleaning" although many years due to the contraints of time not as thorough as I would of liked it to be. At Christmas I also like to wipe down the house to prepare for our guests. Most years find us with a houseful and many adventures. This year it is not to be and there will be a different kind of celebration, and with work in town and the schedules of our busy teenagers I found myself unable to do the usual winter clean of our home.
I discovered many years ago that one of the ways to avoid the pressures of the holiday season was to let go of as many expectations as possible and to focus on the welfare of others. I am very fortunate in my work as a Social Worker to have a lot of opportunity to do that and there is much that can be done to ease the stress of the holidays for others. This year I reflect on our home and despite the lack of security that we have I feel the strength of our family and friends and that becomes our true "home for the holidays."  I have a strong image of the homes in Japan being swept away in the tsunami, and know that we are not alone to feel such a threat of loss. Home is truly where the heart is.
Despite the transient nature of our homes it is still a delight to decorate them for Christmas. This in itself is a path to memories of past family celebrations and people who are departed and those that live far away. One of the most impressive Christmas celebrations I have ever attended was at my father's Aunt Jacqueline's home in Switzerland. Her husband was a well respected Doctor in Geneva and she was a concert pianist thus their apartment was often used for entertaining. The large rooms lent themselves perfectly to gather in entire families. She purchased a tree that brushed the ceiling and decorated it herself. The tree was revealed by dramatically flinging opening the doors of the parlour.

The Christmas tree in Tante Jacqueline and Uncle Mico's apartment in Geneva.  Tante Jaqueline gave us some of her decorations that she used that year. The tablecloth on the small round table is now used as a tree skirt on our tree.

Our Christmas tree on the farm, 2011.


Some of the Christmas decorations that Tante Jacqueline gave us, they are now almost 40 years old. 

I am listening to Tante Jacqueline play the piano. I may actually be sleeping here but I do recall going into a deep dream when she would play. She had incredible talent.

Tante Jacqueline's living and dining room would be full of tables for the dinner.

My cousin Caroline and I in the matching plaid dresses. We were always given matching clothes during these family trips.

I close this passage with a Christmas poem about our house. May everyone find their light in this season. May everyone be happy.

To fall in love with your house,
gazing, lost, at a light fixture.
Or onto the knots in the wood ceiling,
allowing the very essence of that building into your heart.
The many marks of time, growth, victory.
All of that and suddenly more,
the light as it falls on the windows, the soft yellow of the kitchen.
All this time I thought the being mattered more than the matter,
but now I don’t know.
The armchairs sit like old friends, slightly hunched and waiting.
the table is calling for work, food and flowers.
Floors, chipped and needing a good washing.
I want to take it all into the bath with me, a good long soak.,
shake it out and hang it into the sweet breeze.
All of this living, it just doesn’t seem possible that it has been with us this long.
The corners where the mice lived, the wood carved by the pet bird,
Not everything has been kind to this house.
Indeed it has been threatened and harsh words have been said.
For all of that I am sorry now,
deep in love.
Will you forgive me?






Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Past and Present


I started collecting family recipes in 1983. My Aunt Karen, my mother’s sister from New Zealand, started my collection by giving me a small recipe book with a few of her favorite recipes. She wrote;


I am not a good cook, I did learn that through trial and error.  I quickly become overwhelmed in the kitchen, especially when constructing a large dinner.  I decided very early on to specialize in a few dishes and learn them to perfection. I followed my Aunt’s advice and never followed measurements, and so have mastered a small repertoire of dishes that I will start sharing on this blog. The most well used, the French salad dressing, was last week.  With Christmas approaching I thought it timely to reveal our Christmas dinner staple.
The recipes that came after the recipes from New Zealand were dishes that my grandparents, Gus and Renee, often prepared. I would watch them cook with my little recipe book in hand, carefully trying to record the steps they took to prepare a number of savory specials. Although I started recording this recipes 1983 it would be many years later before I would actually try them. The Leeks au Gratin made it’s debut as our Christmas dish in the year 1993.  Brent and I were living on the farm in the Atwater Cabin and were celebrating our first Christmas with a child, our son Mico. There was such a sense of optimism as we settled into our lives on the farm with our own family, and for many years we could host the major holiday celebrations.
The original recipe is as follows;

 Our first Christmas as a family on the farm, 1993, my father, Eddy, and my brother-in-law, Byron, helping themselves to dinner that included Leeks au Gratin.

Christmas 1993, Caroline, Mico and Brent.


Christmas 1994, our table has gotten bigger. Soon we would outgrow this cabin.


Christmas 1994 finds us with two sons, Mico and Aidan, pictured here with their Uncles Burke and Byron.

True to my Aunt Karen's suggestion I have made modifications over the years. Following are the instructions to how I have modified the dish, unfortunately perhaps adding quite a bit of calories in the process.
 It is important to take the time to clean the leeks as the dirt gets right up into their stems. I cut the leeks in half and then run water over them.


 Slice the leeks and boil in water. Do not overcook.

O.K. here comes the calories. To make the dish creamier I use a Bechamel Sauce.


Add the cheese to the sauce. I use the leek water to help thin out the sauce and add more flavour. Also add fresh ground black pepper. 

Now we come to the sad part of the recipe. I only use Gruyere cheese in this recipe and I have not been able to find good Gruyere in Canada. For some demented reason Switzerland exports the very worst cheese possible. Below is the true Gruyere that was given to me during my last visit in Switzerland. The cheese is grated and put into the sauce, saving some to put on top of the dish. 

Every visit back to Switzerland my family purchases this beautiful cheese for me. The only place they buy the cheese is in the little village of Hermance. The grocery store there has always purchased their supply of cheese from the same farm in Gruyere. 

The sauce is mixed in with the cooked leeks and allowed to bake well over an hour, particularly if the sauce turned out to be a little runny. I like it to be cooked until it has a nice brown cover. 
This dish was produced for our office Christmas party however it will be made again on the 25th. 

Christmas is not always a happy time for people. In fact in my work as a Social Worker the end of November until Christmas is one of the more challenging times to support my clients. People grieve for what was or what they wish could be. The stress of trying to make a celebration with limited resources creates a terrible strain on families. The emphasis on cheer can make those suffering from loses feel their grief more acutely. 
Christmas has become a time for me to acknowledge my own loses and honor the stories that people share with me about their own sad times. I look back with love to those family dinners with my family, and allow the grief to take a seat at the table too. Allowing the truth to be recorded on these pages brings back to me my history on this farm and brings with it the challenge to accept the present. I still will have people I love dearly and deeply at my dinner table, and we will have the Leeks au Gratin, where ever that may be.

Christmas 1996. We now have a much larger dining room to host the celebrations in the Herald House.

Christmas 1996 brought much to celebrate with the addition of our daughter, Marlee.

Christmas 2004.  We are doing a good job of filling up a generously sized dining room.
Christmas 2010.  The beauty of a full table.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Family Secret Revealed


One of the common immigrant rituals that comfort people who have moved far from home is the creation of familiar foods from their countries of origin. Even as a  second generation immigrant  I enjoy eating food that my family consumes in Switzerland. The recipe that is made regularly and exactly like my family does in Switzerland is the following salad dressing.  I was brought up on this salad dressing although my mother used French's mustard for many years instead of the traditional Dijon.  My children will not eat salad with any other dressing other than this family sauce. When I do my yearly trips to Switzerland to visit the family I find a keen pleasure in making the salad dressing, knowing that it will be just like they are used to having.
I apologize in advance for the lack of measurements.  My mother always made the dressing by using her tablespoon but I abandoned that technique years ago, opting instead for a visual feel.


I use a good quality Dijon mustard. Put a couple of generous spoonfuls into a bowl.

I then add some olive oil, Extra Virgin cold pressed. I put in enough so that it covers the mustard, and then a bit more than that.


I then mix in some Apple Cider Vinegar.  The Bragg is my favorite brand.  I also use Balsamic vinegar, and sometimes a combination of the two. It is nice to drink red wine while you mix up the sauce.


Some freshly ground black pepper.


As Canadians we have to put a new twist to the European traditions so we serve the sauce on the side. My Swiss family always dresses the salad, and often makes the dressing in the salad bowl itself. We prefer to keep them separate as then if there is salad left over it can be saved.  One of my endearing memories of childhood meals is having to finish the salad so it wouldn't be wasted.  My father could not see food being thrown away so there was always a lot of pressure to finish the salad, which is actually good for the health.
As I was making the above salad dressing my daughter commented that it reminded her of Aunty Michele, my father's sister in Switzerland. That is when you know you have made a family recipe.




Monday, November 28, 2011

Piano Women


Pioneers in all parts of the world rarely embrace where they live. Most often they attempt to recreate the places where they came from, often with disastrous consequences. Objects are moved with the pioneers in order to assist with the creating the illusion of a home similar to the one they left behind, the piano being one of the pieces the most challenging to transport.
I found it interesting that two of the first families on the Shuswap had brought pianos with them.  I have very little information about Jessie Herald’s mother, Edith, who created with her husband, Dr. Herald, the farm on what is now Herald Park in 1908. I wish I knew how Dr. Herald met his bride from Ontario as he was farming in Medicine Hat at the time. Jessie told me that her mother was a very cultured woman who had no previous training in farming. She was an accomplished pianist and painter.  Jessie kept a cabinet of finely painted bone china tea cups that her mother had done in her farmhouse. 

Edith and Dundas Herald

The piano that she had moved to their farm was a grand piano. I only every saw the piano in the new house, which I am currently living in. It has a large living room and I remember that the piano took up most of that space. I don’t understand how they fit the piano in the original farmhouse which I remember as only having two small rooms with a half loft where they lived as a family of five.

The Herald living room as it is today as our home. The grand piano took up much of this space.

The piano had been shipped from Alberta in the 1920s. The piano, including it’s 30 inch legs had all been crated separately and loaded onto a log raft and pulled by motor boat to the farm.  Neighbors were called in to to unload the piano and put it on the rollers that brought it to the house (As reported to the Salmon Arm Observer).
The Wood’s family also brought a piano with them to the farm when they moved to their property at the turn of the century.  The piano travelled precariously balanced on boards between two row boats.
The piano in the Herald home was only played by Edith.  Jessie choose to play the guitar until her fingers became too arthritic.  The piano is a potent symbol of culture and societal status. A guitar or other such portable instrument is certainly more practical for the pioneer lifestyle but many people insisted on bringing their pianos despite the significant transportation challenges and the ongoing issue of keeping the instrument tuned and in overall good condition in the damp and cold farmhouses. 





Sunday, November 20, 2011

Miss Jessie Herald, the farmer


The words "Family Farm" create a number of images for people, more embedded in nostalgia than in the reality of living on one. The essential definition of a family farm is one of family members working together cooperatively on a property that is passed on from generation to generation. Our Ranch, for example is 5th generation, but no longer in the true essence a family farm. In fact very few family farms survive the economic and social factors that work to dissolve this age old tradition. It is only in developing countries that the family farm model continues to thrive.
The Herald Family farm is a good example of a farm that did not go past the second generation. The family moved to the Shuswap in 1906, and unlike my great grandparents that purchased a farm that was already in existence, the Heralds carved their farm from virgin forest. They had three children; Jessie, Buster, and Art. Our family and the Heralds spent quite a bit of time together socially and also exchanging farm help, including pasture. Jessie was the last person left of the family to live on the farm. Her parents and Buster died on the farm. Art left the farm while he was still a young man to live in Vancouver.
Edith and Dundas with Buster and Jessie, 1908.

Jessie, 1915

Dr. Dundas Herald was well known as a reclusive man. He had last practiced medicine in Quesnelle Forks from 1896 to 1901.  To reach this isolated miner's town of 200 the traveller went by stagecoach from Ashcroft to 150 Mile House, a 3 day journey. Then a connecting coach to Harper's Camp at Horsefly and finally by coach or horseback to Quesnelle Forks. The town had several saloons and the Tong House for the people from China. Opium was legal and widely used. It was a challenging practice with few resources for the Doctor. A couple of deaths of miners, the news of which was quickly broadcast, led to Dr. Dundas losing the confidence of his patients. One of the miners had been caught in a rock slide. He was admitted to hospital in agonizing pain and died 4 days later, likely from peritonitis from a perforated bowel. The 1899 Bullion Mine Journal noted that after a night of delivering twins, Dr. Herald road 10 miles to the Bullion Mine to pronounce the death of the miner at 6 Am. The next miner death was a young worker that died from pneumonia. These events most likely led to Dundas retiring from medicine. He established a cattle ranch with his brother at Medicine Hat and from there moved to the Shuswap after marrying his wife, Edith. (Credits to "Dundas Herald: Forgotten pioneer doctor by Eldon E. Lee, MD, FRCSC").
Dundas most likely enjoyed his isolated farm. He undertook the schooling of his children and constructed a substantial farm. He became known for his odd beliefs which my family at the time struggled to understand, especially in his care of Jessie who we were very fond of. One instance of his eccentricity was the lack of treatment when Jessie fell out of an apple tree as a young girl. She believed this caused a severe back condition later in her life which resulted her in being completely doubled over when she walked. 
Jessie rarely left the farm and lived there alone for 30 years after the death of her mother. It was a struggle for her to care for such a large property on her own. She ceased to have any animals other than a dog however did maintain a large vegetable garden. For many years she continued the seasonal burning of the grass around her farm until one year the fire got away from her and caused a small forest fire. 
The bond between the two farms remained strong despite somewhat reserved feelings for Dundas.  Many years later when my husband and I adopted the house and moved it to the barnyard at the Ranch, Art commented "I would have liked to have seen it stay on the site, but since the house is going to family friends who love and have good memories of the house it is a good compromise". He went on to say his sister would "be glad the house is going to Caroline and Brent". He felt honored that the house could continue to be a farmhouse with a couple that was committed to the area and the workings of a Ranch. It was a tangible connection between the two pioneer farming families that he thought would continue for years. (Credit to the Salmon Arm Observer).
Jessie Herald was unusual for the time in that she lived alone on the farm for so many years and that she was recognized in her postion as the female descendent rather than have her postion usurped by her brother. There still exists on some family farms the archaic notion that the farm be passed down to the eldest male, an unethical position and not at all harmonious with a democratic society. 

Jessie Herald and Eddy Miege, 1990s.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Profession: Farmer

Eddy was only 16 years old when he wrote in his Swiss Military Service book that his profession was a farmer. He had identified himself in this role from a very young age and retained it until his death.


Eddy's military service book stating his profession as "Agriculteur"


Eddy's Canadian passport, 1967, with occupation stated as "Farmer".

I started to think about occupational titles when I was viewing some old documents from 1971 that were outlining a water line easement between my grandfather, Gus Naef, and the Woods family. Gus had bought a portion of the Wood's farm that included their beautiful dairy barn. The Woods had been farming on the Shuswap since the turn of the century, the oldest of their three children was only a baby when they moved to their farm.  I was curious why the two sons, who had farmed since they were very little,  did not describe themselves as such on the documents, but instead Alan Woods stated he as a "Contractor" and his brother, Bob, a "Scaler".  In these same documents, Gus states he is a "Rancher". 

I asked a friend who was more familiar with the family and she explained that as the parents aged and could no longer farm the family had made the decision not to continue the farm. It is well documented that farming in this area is a struggle, and has been aptly described as "hobby farming". The definition of Hobby Farm from Wikepidia " is a small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income". The other term that is used is "part-time" farmer as the major bulk of the income is earned "off farm". The main operator of a such farms reports 190 days or more of off-farm work and whose farm did not employ any year round paid labour. Approximately 16% of farms in B.C. are considered hobby farms where the farm earns little or no profit, sometimes running at a deficient. In B.C. 68% of hobby farms report a 0 income.(credits to statcan.)
The other description is "subsistence farming" where a farm produces enough to feed the family living there, leaving little for surplus or trade. 
The Wood's family had tired of this type of farming and had moved on to other ventures, bringing an end to one of the family farms on the Shuswap.  
Eddy supported the farm for many years through logging and as a contractor.  He spent approximately 2/3 of his working time on these enterprises, and thus a more accurate description of his occupation would be "machine operator".  When we moved to the farm in 1993 my husband gained employment at the Ministry of Social Development however for all those years that we actively farmed on the Ranch he always went by the title "Rancher". 
In order for the Ranch to support a family we would have to run approximately 350 cow/calf pairs (credits to the Ministry of Agriculture). The most we have ever run has been 85. The farm does, however, have the immense good fortune of being set along the shores of Shuswap Lake. Tourism started to develop in this area in the 1950s, and today is one of the major sources of revenue in the area. It was for this reason that we developed an RV park on the property. Our philosophy was to have the income from the RV park allow us to spend more time on the property while we develop our farm to be sustainable. Sustainable agriculture "integrates three main goals-environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity'. (Credits to the University of California ANR). Our goal was to develop farm practices that were in harmony with nature and to farm within a economically viable framework.  The farm has always required substantial subsidies from off farm income and the Naef family in Switzerland. We wanted to work towards a farm that was financially independent. 
At this time in our farming history our farm is in fallow, resting to regain it's strength. In this interim my husband is describing himself as a "human resource specialist". and I am a Social Worker, a description I have had for myself in well over 20 years of working with the most marginalized, disenfranchised of the population. I do still have my farmer's identity card, and hope to revisit that part of my life again. 


Circa 1990; Bruce Loy, Brent Moffat, Caroline Miege, and Eddy Miege.  Brent and Eddy had fixed the brakes on the tractor and Brent was going to 'try it out" to see if the repair worked. Note the helmet!

Brent, the crash test Dummy.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fruits of our Labour

On July 12 1912 the farm and the land around it was surveyed by the federal government and deemed "Land is suitable for fruit farming".  By the turn of the century this remote area was already being settled and planted in fruit trees.  When my great grandparents moved here in 1938 there were already well established farms in the area producing fruit and milk. Fruit farming was slow to take hold in the Shuswap area as early settlers preferred the valley bottom land to the higher benches. Despite the challenges of farming here the area did start to receive some recognition as early as 1904, when the farmer's institute sponsored well received exhibits at both Kamloops and New Westminster. By 1907 a processing and marketing facility was established, the Salmon Arm Farmer's Exchange. Dairy followed suit in 1915, creating the Salmon Arm Co-operative Creamery Association. Output in the first year was 28,000 pounds of butter, rising to 480,000 pounds in 1944. (Credits to Okanagan Historical Society/Denis Marshall). The small farms on Canoe Point contributed their products to these facilities, laboriously transporting their goods by boat and then rail.
Plan of N.W.1/4 Township 21, Range 8, West of the sixth Meridian
Department of the Interior, Ottawa, 12th July 1912

There was a small processing plant in Bastion Bay that later became the home of the Tapson-Jones. The Neilsen and Wood's farms both contributed products. Gus claims that they were marketed under the name of the Ranch.

By 1946 the local packing plant in Salmon Arm topped 400,000 boxes and production remained steady until what became known as the "Big Freeze of 1949" that killed off half of the fruit trees in the area. Most growers did not recover and in 1958 the packing plant was shut down. (Credits to the Okanagan Historical Society).

Circa 1939, Charles Fleur de Lys in his orchard.


Fruit trees were slowly removed from Canoe Point and the focus of farming became cattle, with logging as a subsidy. It is difficult to destroy something that you have spent many years developing. I read with interest a recent article in the Salmon Arm Observer by Martha Wickett who interviewed Ronald Turner about his orchard. The Turner family was one of the major fruit growers in the area, starting their orchard  in 1895. This year Mr. Turner cut down the last of his family's fruit trees as he found at the age of 98 that he was unable to care for them anymore. He stated that he was not "so much saddened as satisfied". He no longer had to worry about taking care of the trees, "it might be a bit of a relief".  Mr. Turner's actions reminded me of my father who after a long illness found he was no longer able to care for the cattle herd.
My husband was doing most of the care of the cattle by this time but my father still needed to symbolically remove himself from the responsibility which he did by selling the entire herd. We then purchased a new breed, the Murrary Grey, from Alberta to start a new herd.

The Murray Grey, with their soft colors and deep dished faces.

 Spring 1993. The last remaining trees of the orignal orchards. They stand behind what used to be Eddy and Betty's house.

Fall 1994. My son Mico surrounded by apples from the old orchard.






Sunday, October 30, 2011

Give Death his due......



The Ranch has known many animals over the years and mourned the losses, at times intensely.  Dogs have been the most endearing creatures to share our lives, but pigs, chickens, goats, horses, rabbits, cats, guinea pigs, rats, birds, fish and mice have all found places in our hearts.
Dogs can be a very practical addition to farm life. We have never been able to train a dog to herd, but our Great Pyrenees was very skilled at protecting the home. Our cat most recently has gone missing and if our Great Pyrenees had been alive we would not be worried about a coyote or cougar killing our pets. Dogs are foremost companions and really serve very limited practical purpose. They can't even be relied on to bark when someone approaches the house.
Renee with one of the farm's first dogs.

Brent and I met in 1989, and spent our first summer as a couple on the farm. In the ensuing years, until our permanent move to the farm in 1993, we moved back and forth, spending months, sometimes years on the Ranch. Our dog companion at this time was Kio Ora, who we were hopelessly devoted to.

My horse Griffin who learning to ride was a very rewarding process. We have been forced to give up our livestock and although my husband misses the cows the most, I miss the horses.

Our goat herd, circa 2004.

Murphy, who has been missing for a few days and we are very worried about.

This post and the following poem, by Joan Ward-Harris, is dedicated to my friend Susan who has lost a very sweet dog companion.

---Patience! Time will blur
the aching sorrow
And one day sweetly she will
come to mind.
In gently playful guise; and
having smiled-
Aware and not denying, you
will borrow
From yourself at each new
need to bind
With love a helpless creature
Give death is due
Or else to emptiness be
reconciled.