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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An Anonymous Discovery

Unravelling the history of the Ranch has been an ongoing discovery of stories, some completely grounded in fact and others can only be called fictitious. Every story has a place and forms part of the complete picture of the intimacy of families working and living together over many years. The family farm is certainly not for the faint of heart.
One of the stories I would like to uncover is who initially farmed the original "Ferme Fleur de Lys" homestead. My great grandparent's lived in the house that was built by an unknown farmer as well as used some of the orignal outbuildings. Although the house was uninsulated it was quite substantial for it's time demonstrating a commitment to the little farm that was there. During my recent trip to Switzerland I questioned Gus about the history of this piece of the farm and he could not recall any information about the orignal homesteaders.

 The original homestead.

The barns of the original homestead.

Gus had no information about the people that lived and farmed on the original homestead. I find it sad to have lost this piece of farm history. I don't want our story to be lost which is one of the reasons I am writing this blog. It is an accomplishment to successfully farm on a multi-generational ranch and we did this for years. The complexity of the relationships as well as the added stressors of a business is incredibly challenging and requires a multitude of skills and patience.  This story will be told with all the love and compassion for each other that it deserves. We will not be anonymous.

The Miege-Moffat farm family, 2010.

Our farmhouse

Fall 2011

Dear Anonymous, faceless accuser.
I have a name.
Caroline Miege.
Behind that family, going back to other lands, will hold my hand.
When the day comes friends too will gather by my marked grave.
Without a name there is no identity, an apparition.
I would not want to let that go, and speak with no face.
It is in the voice, the many lovely movements of sound,
truth speaking through eyes, skin,
or the hand creating words, images,
laying claim to my thoughts, with courage.
I am not afraid to be my name,
with all the beauty and fragility of spirit.
Grounded in home and heart.
I love all that I am. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

On Thin Ice

I recently was visiting with Gus in Switzerland on his 90th birthday, and as we so often do we were reminiscing about the early days on the farm.  We were talking about the hardships of winter on the farm before the road and central heating.
I had asked Gus to tell me about any times they fell through the ice on their winter journeys to Sicamous to deliver goods or purchase supplies. Gus told me that they often travelled with the neighboring farm family, the Wood's, to provide greater safety. The Woods had years of experience on the lake and could read the ice better than the newcomers. One of the safety measures they learned from the Woods family was to walk on the ice carrying long poles. If one was to fall through the ice holding the pole perpendicular to the hole it could assist in getting out of the lake.
 Gus told me about one crossing where the families allowed themselves to be fooled by the ice. They had stopped in the middle of the lake for a rest when Gus suggested that they measure the thickness of the ice. It was 10 inches thick. They decided then that they could continue on without their poles and left them in a pile beside the ice measuring hole. They stopped again to speak with neighbors in front of the CPR hotel. They were enjoying catching up on each other's news when Gus's foot fell through the ice. They quickly discovered the ice was very thin the closer they came to shore and decided to head back and pick up their poles.

circa 1940s. The view of the lake captured by ice from Gus's house.

The young farmers were not so fortunate on another occasion when Eddy feel through the ice in "Berger Bay". This was the bay where the Neilson house once stood and it had extensive orchards surrounding it. It was purchased by the Lea and Louie Berger and they were living there when the accident occurred.
Eddy and Gus were not far from shore when Eddy feel through the ice. The ice was too thin for Gus to approach him to pull him out. Eddy was not able to secure a hold on the ice as it kept breaking away. Finally Eddy broke the ice in front of him and headed to shore. Gus went back to the shore and broke the ice as best he could to make a path to the dock. Gus said that when Eddy finally got out of the lake and onto the beach his clothes instantly froze to him. It was a short walk to the Bergers where he slowly warmed up.

"Berger Bay"

Even today we are not without winter adventures, but involving travel on the road, not the lake. Road maintenance has improved over the years but there is still times that the drive into town is a challenge. One of the more infamous stories is once when Eddy had to clear 7 snow avalanches that were across the road in order to get us to school. I have never encountered that with my family but we have declared "snow days" and stayed home from work and school. While Eddy was alive he would not only snow plow his own driveway but much on the main road as well as a service to his neighbors. There is no doubt that a machine is required to clear away the snow. In what I call our "seasons of loss" we have found that snow removal by hand is impossible, even with the reduced precipitation.

circa 1940s. Eddy and Gus attempting to remove a mountain of snow by hand, once again demonstrating the need for youth and good health when farming.

Today on my frozen winter walk,
the sweet smell of horse manure, only now released,
as spring starts it’s slow thaw.
An intensely comforting smell,
like my grandmother, or my father’s acrid pipe tobacco on wool.
That type of smell, not pleasant, but unfolding a memory,
of a horse’s quiet stillness, and the rhythm of being carried on a forest trail.
I wonder what else will be revealed under the covers of old snow?
There are many truths there, remnants of the seasons past.
Like life itself a mixture of the intensely beautiful and the horrific.
It takes courage to face all of that without turning away in disgust.
To keep your eyes steady, accepting what is.
Aware that your walk is on a thin skim of ice, under that waves of water,
wanting to sweep you away, to death, or life.
Make no mistake that each breath is precious, and the desire is strong.
Yes, the rush of spring will bring all of this to us.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Frontier of Ice

It is only recently in the farm's history that the cattle have not lived clustered around our house. Even before our house was moved to it's location the land around it was always the barnyard. The cattle had a glorious view of the lake and at times could make their way down to the lakeshore. In the winter of 1991 we were still living about a km. from the barns and thus were very surprised when we looked out one day to see the cattle walking on the frozen lake. Perhaps they had tired of the confines of their field and decided to explore the area. It took some effort to herd them back on the ice to their home.
The winter temperatures brought many extra challenges to farming in the winter. For many years our calving season started in January which meant keeping a close eye on the calves. We would often have to bring them into our maternity barn and nestle them under heat lamps. One of our house guests still vividly recalls having to step over a calf that was beside the wood stove on her way to have a shower. The cold temperatures brought many health complications and it was a huge relief to all when we changed to a spring calving season.
All of this is gone from us now and we are facing a different life than we thought all together. Life has a way of tossing you about and presenting challenges that you would of never imagined.

Barns burnt down
I can see the moon

Mizutal Masahilde

The above photo was taken in the 1970s. The barn has long since gone and the white house in the bay is no more. It is true that much has changed on the Ranch but the essence of the place remains.