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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Work at what pleases you.

"Qu'il est bon de travailler a sa plaire.  Meme en travaillent en peut parler de Dieu. Nous l'avons fait" - It is good to work at what pleases us.  Even while working we can speak to God.  We have done it.

Charles Fleur de Lys, September, 1952

This note from Charles affirms his joy at finding the farm work so late in his life.  A deeply religious man   that was often seen as being " in prayer" as he went about his work.
The concept of work as part of a spiritual path is common amongst many religions: to use our gifts in work to serve others and for the "greater good".  Mother Teresa would be one of the most iconic symbols of this belief in finding spirituality through work.  For over 50 years she worked in the streets of Calcutta serving the sickest, the poorest, and those dying without dignity or love.  "God doesn't ask us to do great things. He asks us to do small things with great love." Mother Teresa.
To love your work and to use your gifts to serve others brings a spiritual dimension to the everyday.
Nineteenth century Jesuit poet Gerard Manly Hopkins observed, "it is not only prayer that gives God glory but work.  Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, lift hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his God glory too".
Eddy followed in his grandfather's footsteps although I would describe him as spiritual rather than religious.  He approached his work with a reverence, a striving for excellence and a commitment to serve others.  Recently we have had to approach people to recall their memories of our work on the farm.  Their recollations confirmed for me how much work my father did for his community.  My husband, Brent, worked with Eddy for many years both on and off the farm.  Many people commented on this partnership and how well they worked together, obviously expressing mutual respect and love for their work.  Work was an extension of a personal spiritual purpose.  There were certainly times when it was challenging to sense this "greater dimension" as often the work was humbling in nature, such as shoveling or working in a sewer tank.  No project was "too big or too small" and it was a joy to watch them together discussing the "next job".
An essential component of "spiritual work" is that it be "non harming" or righteous and serves the greater good.  I think that is why Eddy was so disturbed when he was first clearing the land on the farm and would push all the trees into a pile and burn it.  He did not like the waste of the good wood but felt so pressed to get the land cleared.  It is often in our work that we have to ask ourselves if we are indeed doing the right thing.
Brent working with Eddy fixing the sewer system at Totem Pole Resort.  Brent actually became unconscious in this hole from the fumes.  Fortunately Eddy noticed and pulled him out, saving his life.  Eddy really did love his son-in-law who he would introduce to others as his son.

Eddy and Brent vaccinating the cows.

A Farmer's Goodnight Kiss

if I had only known that time would be so short,
it is all an aching memory now.
The silver night walk to the barn, the cows ice coated,
their breath lying frozen above them, waiting,
the quick cut through the string releasing fragrant grasses,
July let lose in the December air.
The heat, the push with tractor and bale, all here now,
in the dark of the winter.
The animals so hungry too for that sweet memory,
of warm air and sweet grass.
Then once again in the house, the wood fire smoldering,
the whole house asleep, deeply asleep.
I am deliciously alone now, work done, day gone.
A Farmer's goodnight kiss.   

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I only count the beautiful days.

I visited Switzerland after a two year absence this October 2010.  For a number of years when visiting my father's sister, Michelle, I would encourage her to talk about the family as well as identify the people and places in old pictures.  I was very thankful that I had done this research when I started my blog over one year ago.  On the last visit I enjoyed hearing once again the family stories and as always there were new ones and deeper understandings.  I learned that Caroline Fleur de Lys did return to Switzerland once after immigrating to Canada whereas I had thought she had not.  She travelled alone, leaving the rest of her family back in Montreal. The majority of my trips to Switzerland  have been alone as well although I did go back once with my children and husband and another visit just my husband and I.

I reflected often during my visit on the nature of these family visits.  I shifted through the photos and letters at my Aunt's home where many of the earlier visits with Eddy and Betty are recorded.  I saw picture after picture of family groups and dinners.  These short visits are very intense in nature as family tries to catch on the years as well as offer a memorable visit with dinner parties and special outings.
My Aunt Michelle lives in Hermance, a historic village about half an hour from Geneva along the Lac Leman.  Gus also lives in this village too and it is a short walk between the houses.  This walk takes me by the home that once belonged to my father's Uncle, Mico.  The home was used as a vacation retreat for Mico and his wife, Jacqueline.  The cousins often spent their summers in this chalet as it was perfectly situated along a river and beside a large forest. The large chalet burned down, taking with it what Uncle Mico called the Miege museum.  The top floor of the chalet housed much of the family memorabilia and photographs.  We are fortunate for the photos that remain that may of been duplicates or were with other family members.  Mico and Jacqueline then constructed a new home in the chalet's place.  This home is stunning.  On one of the outside walls Jacqueline designed and painted a sun clock with the inscription "Je ne maiqerant que l'heure des beau jours" - "I only remember the hours of the beautiful days".  Jacqueline Blancard, as she was known in her role as a concert pianist, was extremely talented.  Her accomplished musical career included a role as the Laureate of the International Faure Contest which was held in Luxembourg.  She also appeared as soloist with Symphony Orchestra in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Ireland, presenting a most extensive repertoire from Bach and Mozart to Ravel.  Her American debut at the Town Hall in 1948 proved one of the most exciting events of the New York musical season.  The following years she played in several American cities like Cincinnati, Boston, Baltimore, Rochester and also in  Canada.
I often reflected on the sun clock's inscription during my last visit and felt that it encapsulated the essence of the family gatherings.  After a large family gathering or when reflecting on our visits to the "home country" we remember the beautiful days.  The trials of the "day to day" fall away.

Jacqueline's sun clock.

Mico at his home in Hermance playing croquet with his nieces and nephews in the courtyard in front of the wall with the sun clock.

Family dinner during visit to Switzerland, 2003

Monday, January 3, 2011


Caroline Fleur de Lys had a long history of writing letters.  As a young woman living with her family in Nyon (Switzerland) she kept up regular correspondence. Caroline had a fondness for postcards and became a collector.  She had a large collection established before she immigrated to Canada and brought them all with her to Montreal and then to Canoe Point.
Postcards were sent back and forth between people on a daily basis.  People would use a postcard to announce their arrival at a friend's home later on that same day. Mail delivery was three times a day and people could rely on their messages being received in a timely fashion.
Caroline was a dedicated supporter of Esperanto. Esperanto was developed during the period of 1877-1885 by L.L. Zamenhof of Warsaw, Poland.  Esperanto, which means a "person who is hoping", was developed with the intention of becoming a common language which Zamenhof believed would resolve many of the problems that lead to strife and conflict.  He felt that the major languages at the time could not be used as they would give their native speakers an advantage and the "dead" languages, Latin and Greek, were too complicated to learn.  Esperanto had the advantage in that it was a neutral language lending itself to be able to be the property of everybody, and that it was easy to learn.
Caroline had an active correspondence with other people learning Esperanto as a means of practicing the language.  People supporting Esperanto believe that language inequality gives to communicative inequality.  The use of Esperanto as the official international language would allow for democratic communication and a world without borders, where every country is home.
A postcard written in Esperanto, dated 1909.

A Person who is Hoping

The use of Esperanto will bring
hope, truth, unity.
Let rest the other words, the sticks and stones,
simply rest.
With that will come immeasurable peace.
Children are leaving, the chickens are coming home to roost.
The language is a splinter in the heart, hurting who?
Not me, I hold each moment close to heart, deep in love.
I know,
precious time is marching, each breath could be the last.
We have thrown open windows, door, gates.
We have nothing now, but happiness.
and that we will share.