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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pig Dogs

Eddy wrote long and regular letters to his family on the farm while on his extended honeymoon in New Zealand.  The letters gave news of his adventures which included pig hunting.  There were a large number of wild pigs and goats in New Zealand at the time and Eddy joined friends to go hunting.  He explained that the hunters used dogs to chase the pigs and capture them by pinning them to the ground.  The hunter would then use a knife to slash the pig's throat.  Guns were carried but only used in case of real "distress".
I am not sure if Eddy meant on the part of the pig, the dog, or the human.
Pigs were introduced to New Zealand in the 1770s by Captain Cook.  It is considered a traditional sport and dogs are specially bred to track the pigs and then pin them down until the hunter arrives.  The traditional way of killing the pig is with a knife.  The boars can grow to 100 kilos and have large tusks, they are predominately black.

Murray Ball is the author of the above cartoon strip.  He has been writing this highly successful comic series titled "Footrot Flats" since 1974.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring Planting

May long weekend is the preferred date for planting vegetable gardens in the Shuswap.  As I set forth to put my garden in I reflect on the history of gardening on the farm.  The first vegetable garden was in the corner of what is now the hay field.  It was a large garden that had the advantage of being naturally irrigated by the spring beside it.  The soil in that corner of the field is rich and dark.  The family produced large crops and preserved as much as they could for the winter ahead.  The farm did not have a tradition of producing produce for sale except for a one-time bumper crop of garlic.
The large garden in the corner of the hayfield.

The garden was eventually moved to a large area overlooking the lake in front of Renee and Gus's house.  Renee was the avid gardener in the house and spent many hours in both the vegetable and flower beds.  The gardens were the traditional long rows, which when Betty started to garden she duplicated.
Betty gardened more out of necessity than a true passion which is admirable in that it is difficult work.
However for Renee the earth was compelling and she was always enriching the soil of her gardens with special concoctions.  She had a large collection of geraniums that were brought inside the house for the winter, finding the spring sun when the time was ripe.  Her gardens produced a wealth of flowers and vegetables as love does make things grow better.

Renee's gorgeous vegetable garden with the view of the lake.

Renee and Gus display with obvious pride some large vegetable from their garden.

Renee's gardens resembled the "potager" style of french gardening with a beautiful mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers with the goal being creating a aesthetic product as well as edible. The gardens on the farm used the traditional row method with one type of plant placed in low rows.  This style of garden requires a lot of space which the farm was not short of.  When I moved to the farm and started gardening I very quickly moved to the raised bed system.  This is an intensive style of planting where plants are close together in blocks which yields more food per a square metre and allows fewer weeds to grow.  Other advantages are reduced soil compaction by keeping foot traffic away from the plants, earlier planting, easier frost protection, soil improvement and creating an architectural interest.  I also mulch heavily with straw which conserves water and also reduces weeding.   I don't believe that soil was meant to be bare.
My garden using the square foot method.

The house that my family is currently living in was moved into what was at one time the barnyard in the spring of 1994. It was also the location of the original farmhouse where Caroline and Carlos first lived when they bought the farm.  There were flowers around this old farmhouse however when we moved to the property all those gardens had completely disappeared.  The soil, although there was lots of manure, was of poor quality and very rocky.  I had not been living there long before I started to construct gardens around the house.  My father, Eddy, was my major assistant.  He used the excavator to move soil and rocks and slowly we created together a spectacular yard.  In those early years I loved planning out the gardens and spent many happy hours choosing plant compositions.  My son, Aidan, quickly developed a passion for the excavator and became inseparable from his grandfather when he is working in the yard.  All the soil came from my Renne's vegetable garden.  By that time Renee and Gus were living in Switzerland and we decided to plant a lawn where the vegetable garden was in order to make the yard easier to keep.  Eddy moved all the soil from this garden using the excavator and dump truck to our property.  The soil sat in a large, rich pile, and slowly was spread throughout all our gardens.  I credit the luscious growth of my vegetables and flowers to the skill Renee demonstrated in building up the soil.
My son Aidan and his grandfather, Eddy.  Early 1990s.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Eddy has obviously been charmed by New Zealand but his heart is still on the farm back in Canada.  He spends his days in the packing house where despite how many sheep and cows they kill during the day the yard is full the next day.  His letters are full of inquiries about the work on the farm as well as suggestions for projects that Gus could undertake.  He is anxious for progress reports on the road and the power.  Most important Eddy is starting to make plans where he and Betty will live upon their return.  He decided that old farmhouse, "grandmother's house", would be too expensive to fix up.  There is an old cabin above Gus's house that Eddy feels would work better and later on they would use some of grandmother's house to construct a cabin by the lake.
Eventually they would decide to build a house on the opposite end of the farm.  It is faintly reminiscent of a Swiss chalet style with it's panabode structure and fake shutters.  The house was given a New Zealand welcome name, Haere mai.  It is very typical of first generation immigrants to attempt to have their home's reflect something of their ancestry.

  circa 1960s

circa 1970s

The house does faintly resemble a swiss chalet.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Women as Leaders

Leadership is a quality that the Maori people actively investigated through song, dance and in writings.  There was a lot of movement between the “iwi” (tribes) and although there were times of peace there was also active conflict.  Women and men had active roles in leadership of their iwi (tribes).  Strong leaders were required to guide the people through warfare and when moving from one territory to another as well as in negotiations. Once the Europeans arrived the role of the leaders became paramount in protecting and advocating for their people.  My ancestor, Chief Tikitu, of the Ngati Awa, described effective leadership as being eight “puaha” (openings) of the heart.  Tikitu wrote of these characteristics in an article entitled “Nga Pumanawa e Waru” in 1898:
  He kaha kit e mahi kai, industrious in obtaining or cultivating food.
 He kaha kit te whakahaere I nga raruraru, abled in settling disputes, able to manage and mediate.   
 He toa, bravery, courage in war   He kaha kite whakahaere I te riri, good leader in war, good strategist.
5.     He mohio kit e whakairo, an expert in the arts especially wood carving.
6.     He atawhai tangata, hospitality/generous
7.     He mohio kit e hanga whare rim, waka ranei, clever at building houses, fortified sites or canoes.
8.     He mohio ki nga rohe whenua, good knowledge of the boundaries of tribal lands.
 Tikitu believed a strong leader was created from the “womb of the mother” and could not be developed in the “whare maire” (school of sacred learning).  (credits to

The colonization of Aotearoa (New Zealand) impacted the Maori in a myriad of ways, one being the leadership roles that women held.  There is much evidence that indicates that women held significant roles and were not considered the “property” of men. Traditionally, women did exercise leadership, both inherited and achieved.  However the Europeans would only negotiate with the males of the tribes and much of the literature reflects an assumption that males were in fact the leaders when they were not always. 
“Ina Te Mahi He Rangatira” – By her deeds a Chief is known. 
The literature, although not well developed due to a male bias, does reflect the esteemed roles held by women in their communities.  Hinematioro, for example, was a Ngati Porou leader during the time that James Cook visted New Zealand in 1769.  She was considered a Paramount Chieftainess  and had a wide sphere of influence, renowned for her kindness, hospitality and good management. (credits to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography).  Another noted leader that played an important role during colonization was Rangi Kuini Wikitoria Topeora of the Nagati Toa and Ngati Raukawa iwi.  She was famous for her waiata (song) compositions.  She was one of the estimated 13 women who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.  It is assumed that the British saw the treaty as a means to make New Zealand a British possession while the chiefs saw it as a guarantee of their independence, a strengthening of their relationship with the British and a promise of protection.(Credits to NZ history)
Rangi Kuini Wikitoria Topeora

A leader very active during the 1900-1930s was Te Puea Herangi who created initiatives to support Maori health and care for orphans.  She was an influential leader and fearless at spearheading projects.  For example she was firmly opposed to conscription thus when it was introduced in 1917 she provided a refuge at her farm for those who refused to be conscripted into the New Zealand Army.  Te Puea was a leader to support the  Māori King Movement or Kīngitanga  . This movement to establish a Māori king developed in response to the selling of Māori land to the Colonial government. It was believed that by having a monarch who could claim status similar to that of Queen Victoria, Māori would be able to deal with Europeans on equal footing. The establishment of the monachy was also designed to achieve unity among iwi of all regions of the islands and thus weaken the potential on the part of the British to "divide and rule"; and, in addition, it was seen as a step towards establishing Maori lore and order. (Credits to Wikipedia)

Te Puea Herangi

In my own ancestral iwi, the Ngati Awa, Wairaka is known for her fearless leadership.  One of her legendary feats of bravery is when she saved the Matatua waka and the Ngati Awa tribe after their arrival in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  The men had left their canoe to explore the land leaving the women alone in the boat.  The boat began to drift towards some rocks when Wairaka took the sacred paddle which she was not allowed to touch and prayed to her ancestors, "Kia Whakatane au i ahau (let me act like a man), paddling and saving the women from a certain death.  
A bronze statue of Wairaka on a rock at Whakatane to commemorate her bravery.

The Ranch also came to be due to the strength of the women that have lived here.  I reflect on my great- grandmother Caroline who left her family in Switzerland and many years later all her friends and business in Montreal to become a pioneer farmer.  My grandmother Renee who dared to embrace love once again after many years of being a single mother.  I draw strength from the love of these women as I cope with my current situation here on our farm. 
My great-grandmother Caroline, grandmother Renee (known as Mama), and me

They are there, our Mothers,
their caring arms reaching out,
healing, loving.
We are never abandoned.
They show up in our lover, daughter, grandmother.
Find them in the quiet forest spaces, the wind on your face
Or your own heart, beating softly, life giving.
With such abundance there is no need to cling to those who hurt, abuse.
There is the story of our birth,
what comes after creates Mother.
Any moment in any day you may come across one,
the boy in the coffee shop, your sister, those long dead.
Your walk on this earth is not alone, there are no orphans.
Be in Love.