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, August 26, 2011

The farm looks quite important




Immigrants are pulled back to their countries of origin even after many years of living in their adopted country. When families are separated the need to return is usually even stronger. 20 years had passed before Eddy was able to return to Switzerland.  He made the journey with his wife and two children who were very small at the time. Whole families had been created in the years that he had gone. His sister, Michele, had four children that Eddy had never met.
Eddy made his return trip on July 27 1967. He wrote back to the family on the farm that "the trip over the Fraser Valley, Okanagan and Shuswap was really beautiful, the farm looks real well and quite important among all the trees and little lakes for miles around".


Arial views of the farm

As an adult I try to visit Switzerland annually to reconnect with the family there that I have, despite short visits, been able to create deep bonds with.  It is one of the sad things in my life that I am separated from my family that live in Switzerland and France. The visits are wonderful however very intense and it is not the same as experiencing the day to day in a family. Eddy had noted the same thing in his letters back to the farm, stating that the continuous visiting and pressures of seeing family and friends could get overwhelming at times. 

Caroline and Eddy with Eddy's Uncle, Mico (Dr. Amie Miege) in 1967. Eddy last saw Mico as a young man of 18 years of age and returned with a family 20 years later.


Caroline Miege with her Aunt Michele. I travelled to Switzerland for the first time as a family in 2003 when my children were all under the age of eight years. 

From left to right during the 2003 family trip to Switzerland;  Aidan, Caroline, Marlee, and Mico

Caroline Miege and Marlee Miege-Moffat, 2003, France.

The cousins getting to know each, visit in Switzerland 2003.

I have not yet been able to do another family trip to Switzerland and have been returning alone for the last few years.  This year I have been very fortunate and I will be travelling for a family wedding in Switzerland with my daughter.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Parties

The Ranch has the blessing of being waterfront, although from a farming perspective it is a challenge as the land quickly rises up from the lake to meet Bastion Mountain.  It is not the cherished valley bottom of optimal farming, but the water of the Shuswap is delicious.  At this time it is for most of the lake safe to drink and we hope with proper vigilance that it continues to be that way. In the early days of the farm the lake was the only conduit to town and essential for marketing the farm's products.  We have never irrigated our field crops but if we ever did so we would have an endless supply of water.  The lake is large, over 119,535 sq. miles and deep, 530 feet in places.  The water is replenished with the many rivers that run into it, replacing itself every seven years.
The lake provides hours of entertainment during the summer months and draws guests from all over the world.  Currently we are part of the Willing Workers on Organic Farms network and have a continuous stream of young people that are drawn to the ranch so that they can be beside the water.  The lake also provides a beautiful backdrop for summer parties which there have been many over the years.

July 23, 1965, Caroline Miege's first birthday party. On the deck at Renee and Gus's house.

Caroline Fleur de Lys at Caroline Miege's birthday party


Caroline Miege and her nephew Liam at their birthday party, 2010.

The lake is also perfect for boating and swimming.  The Ranch's early history made heavy use of boats but by the time I was born we were left with a small fishing boat. Even to this day neither family owns a motor boat although we do have lots of non- motorized floating devices.

circa early 1950s, from left to right; unknown woman, Gus, and Renee.

I have very few memories of my father swimming. He stated that the early years of having to use the lake for bathing cured him from wanting to swim, even when the water was at it's warmest.  He much preferred a hot shower.

Eddy and Caroline Miege, summer 1965.





Friday, August 12, 2011

I would set you all free.



The Ranch is rich with heritage, but like everything in life it fades in time, and eventually disappears all together. People become attached to items that hold the weight of the memory of a heritage, or tradition. The Ranch's farming heritage is that of an orchard.  When the Fleur de Lys first moved here the landscape was covered in a variety of trees, but primarily apple.  As the farm moved from fruit to cattle the trees gave away to pasture.  However some of these trees, or the children of these trees, still exist on the property and are well visited by bears.

Charles Fleur de Lys overlooking his property with the orchard.

Heritage is also symbolized in material items. Eddy brought with him from Switzerland cow bells and a horse harness. As part of the farming tradition in Switzerland many of the tools used on the animals are richly embellished.  The bells that made their way here were quite plain in comparison to some of the bells worn in Switzerland.  The farmers on the Ranch quickly discovered the bells could not be worn as they would get pulled off in the bush.  The cows in Switzerland did not have to contend with such rough country.

One of the cow bells brought from Switzerland to the Ferme Fleur de Lys.

The Swiss alps

Eddy had told us that the harness set was inlaid with silver which was richly decorated.  When the day came that the tractors replaced the horses Eddy sold the harnesses to people that were logging with horses in Seymour Arm.  Eddy was happy that the days of working with horses were over and he much preferred the machines to the animals. At the time he was content to have the money that was exchanged but many years later he regretted selling the harnesses.  Articles of the past had started to hold more significance for him however the harnesses could never be retrieved.  The horses had been working throughout the winter in Seymour Arm and on one of the crossings over the lake the ice gave away and they all plunged to their deaths, the weight of the logs giving them no choice.


The horses on Ferme Fleur de Lys with the harness set from Switzerland.

One of the most beautiful symbols of the past are the dairy barns that the Wood's family built and owned and then sold to Charles Fleur de Lys.  These barns are a masterpiece of craftsmanship and aesthetics. Unfortunately they are slowly making their way back to the earth as the cost of maintaining them is prohibitive.  Such as the case with many of our historical landmarks.

The Wood's barns.

The Wood's Barn with the aging roof.

I would like to visit one day,
at your lake bed.
Where you rest in the softness of the silt.
Finally, after all your days of hard work,
your bones lay quiet.
Still enclosed in the heavy harnesses, silver inlaid,
with Edelweiss, chalets and the alps.
The weight of tradition holding you down in those watery depths.
I would set you all free.
Retired at last, able to float where you will.
No past, no future.
The days of heritage, custom over.
The joy of inheriting nothing but yourself.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eddy, the "life saver"



Shuswap Lake can be a quiet calm lake with not a ripple and then without much warning a storm can move through with strong winds.  These weather systems can be very challenging for boaters, and the lake has been the scene of many deaths over the years. Weather is not always the cause of an accident and depending on the time of year the lake can be quite unforgiving.  A friend brought to my attention that the "quick actions" of my father, Eddy, had saved the lives of her husband's grandfather and uncle.  The story was told to the Salmon Arm Observer and took place in April of 1964.
The waters of the Shuswap are still very cold in April when the boat owned by Louie Rolin, 66, and son, "Lefty" Rolin, capsized while they were fishing in the Sunnybrae area.  They made the decision to stay with their boat rather than swim to shore however did not have their life jackets on.  They are quoted as stating "We learned the hard way it's best to put on a life jacket while your're still in the boat. It's just about impossible in the water."  Although my father was largely credited  for having saved their lives there were a number of people involved in the "rescue".  The first alert of trouble came from the Harms, who operated the Salmon Arm Resort.  They heard the shouts for help right across the lake and notified people in Sunnybrae that someone was in trouble on the lake.  The accident took place along the part of the road where the lake is clearly visible and my father saw the capsized boat. He realized that there were no boats close by that could mount a rescue and knew something had to be done quickly.  He remembered passing the Greaves in their boat up the road so immediately drove to their location and waved them down.  The Greaves were able to pull the two men to safety who by that time were, in the words of my father, "pretty well paralyzed".


Mr Rolin referred to my father as a "life saver" due to his quick thinking.  It is a wonderful story of neighbours coming together to save the lives of father and son and there have been been similar stories over the years on the Shuswap.


It is amazing how your life can be saved,
in so many different ways.
The quick actions of a neighbour, the deft cut from a surgeon.
Life is mysterious and precious,
all at once.
Oxygen is forced into us by complete strangers,
their mouth pressed to ours.
People will plow through flames, water, ice,
to rescue another.
The courage of the human spirit.
Even those who don't wish to live,
are pulled from death.
We can all be life savers.