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, July 29, 2012

The Shuswap waters rise

The spring of 2012 on the Shuswap brought the highest waters since 1972, and many reminders of the strong force that water contains. There were boil advisories in parts of the area, but not for our farm. We have always used the water from the lake for drinking. We do have a couple of small creeks that run through the farm, but even in spring run off they make a gentle passage. For many years I had complete confidence in the water quality, and would of agreed completely with Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process that states on their website that the waters are "generally speaking pristine...with occasional water quality issues".  This report is somewhat contradictory to the International Lake Quality Committee that reports that the "water quality is variable. The Salmon Arm is the most productive area because of considerable nutrient input from agricultural drainage via the Salmon River. Levels of nutrients are highest in Salmon Arm and lowest in Ansty and Seymour Arms".
It is due to the "variable" nature of the water quality that in 1996 we put a water treatment system in our house.
I have felt very thankful that we have the water treatment system as the waters mounted the shores this spring. I imagine that many substandard septic systems and outhouses were flooded. This may account for the total coliform counts exceeding the acceptable limits as recommended by the BC Ministry of Health at the Sicamous Public Beach (Kramer Conceptual Projects). Our homes are all safe on the Ranch as they are all well above the high water marks. The only structure that I know of that ever fell victim to high waters was the old boathouse.

Circa 1940s, the boathouse with Eddy's boat in front.

View of the farmhouse bay with the boathouse, 1940s.

I have noticed that throughout history structures are often built on top of other structures. I do believe that where we put our beach porch is the same location as the old boathouse.

Early July 2012, high water, coming close to the beach porch.

The waters are slowly receding, but the water looks murky and is filled with debris. It is a good reminder that less than 1% of the world's fresh water is accessible for humans. It is a sobering thought that we can be surrounded by water but not be able to drink it safely.

"Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink" The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Cooleridge.

July 2012 - high water in Sunnybrae

The section of the road in Sunnybrae just below Mobley road.  I remember in 1972 that the school bus had to drive through a few inches of water on this stretch of road. The road has been built up since 1972 and this year the water did not completely flood the road, but did creep up to the shoulders. Historically this area always flooded. The Turner family that has a farm on this section of the road had to plow through the water all spring in the 1930s and 1940s. There are pictures of a horse and carriage going through the water in the Turner wine store that is now situated on the original farm property.  Like many other small farms the Turner family abandoned "traditional" farm practices in favor of establishing a very successful winery.

It is essential to embrace change. The waters of the Shuswap remind me of this as they rise and fall, taking with them all matter of things. With each loss I teach myself that I can live well despite the sadness.

Sadness has become my companion,
I no longer beat her away.
A feeling like when my old horse leaned into me,
saying enough.
His bones clear under the skin, legs uncertain,
but wanting to go to greener pastures.
Or the day my beloved Aunt passed, and I called her out in the garden.
A gentle encouragement to leave her body, no longer working,
but her soul strong and ready.
Then she was gone, and I was left.
I think of the waters where I live, crashing into our shores, tearing away,
dirt, grass, all matter of things.
Loss of all that we love comes to us, slowly over the years,
or in a sudden heart wrenching moment.
I hold that knowledge close, even in distress,
welcome the wisdom, the strength.
Yes, I have sadness as a friend.

My Aunt's garden, April 2012, Hermance, Switzerland

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trees as a weapon

Trees are powerful beings, both in their own right as a living entity but also in what they have contributed to humans over the millennium.  In the most basic form trees provide shelter and fuel for cooking and heat. This is true on the Ranch where parts of our homes are constructed from the wood in the forest and all winter long we only use firewood, once again gathered from around our home. Our farmhouse, which was originally the home of Jessie Herald, has a massive wood stove that came with the house. It is an Enterprise stove manufactured in Newfoundland. It is an elaborate and complicated stove, as it is connected to the forced air furnace and has numerous electronic controls. It took Brent and my father hours of work and much frustration to reconnect all the controls. In the end it all worked and the stove heats the house even on the coldest winter nights.

The Enterprise - manufactured in 1936

The forests on the Ranch have provided for the family since my great grandparents moved here in 1938. The forests were not actively logged for profit until the early 1960s. It was small scale logging with the money being used to benefit the families.

Eddy on his treasured bull dozer doing some logging.

I recently learned of a family in the Sunnybrae area that used trees as a way to seek revenge on a neighbor that they had taken a  disliking to. The incident took place many years ago now, but the story is that the family planted a long row of Willows to block their neighbor's view of the lake.  Willows are considered to be one of the fastest growing trees, 6-8 feet of growth in a year, but even so it was most likely over 5 years before the trees started to be effective in their purpose.

circa 1970s, the Willow trees in Sunnybrae that were planted as tool of revenge.

The same trees during highwater.  This year the lake is exceptionally high, going over the road in this area.

I believe that most people would see this as a stunning view rather than the act of revenge it was originally meant to be.  My father's Uncle Mico from Geneva in particular loved these Willow trees. Uncle Mico took the role of a father towards his nephews after the death of Henri Miege, his brother. Uncle Mico visited Eddy in the early 1970s, spending a few precious weeks together. Eddy had asked him to visit as he was very worried about my mother who had suffered a heart attack. Mico was a well respected Doctor in Geneva and Eddy called upon him for some assurance during this stressful time.

Overlooking Salmon Arm, Eddy, his Uncle Mico and Caroline.

2012, The Miege-Moffat family with Grandma Kathy at Aidan's graduation. The greatest revenge against those that harm you is happiness.

Are you ever afraid in the woods?
The winding dark paths, whispering trees,
So quickly we can imagine a cougar on a tree branch,
A fall, and a long frozen wait,
hoping for a rescue.
What was home becomes dark and dangerous.
Such is the nature of life, trust no one but yourself.
We don’t like to hear that.
There is a web of life that holds us close, an energy that starts
in our own heart.
You will always be there.
Believe that and there is shelter, anchored down deep,
with purpose, faith in the journey,
fear fades, happiness moves in.

The waterfalls above Totem Pole Resort