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.

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.