Monday, September 22, 2008
Swiss bliss in the Shuswap
Upper photo: Milena and Vreny Middle photo: One of Vreny's lovely table settings. Lower photo: Marco and Ruedi sharing a bit of music.
Look up. Look waaaay up to a Shuswap mountain side and you'll find Swiss Family Bieri.
They are one of the finest Swiss imports Canada has every been blessed to receive.
They are like chocolate that original comfort food. They never fail to make you feel better.
Swiss chocolate contains free radicals, right? The free radicals up on the mountain may be Swiss but they are barely containable.
The most radical of the bunch, our dear friend Ruedi Bieri, is in the process of becoming a 60-year old as I write.
He hasn't been celebrating alone. His 80-year old mother, his baby brother from Switzerland and his brother from California arrived in time to celebrate this wonderous event. As well, Ruedi's mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, and a dear friend from Ruedi's school days and that friend's wife, also flew from Switzerland for the "do." In addition to the international guests, more than thirty Canadian friends (okay, so a lot of them are Swiss-Canadians) gathered at Bieris' farm.
It was a perfect Swiss Family Bieri party. An outdoor smorg under the stars with baked hams, sooo many different salads and exquisite home-made Swiss breads. Then, the crowning glory of the meal, especially for Ruedi -- a Black Forest Torte -- as well as another torte and two Swiss cheesecakes. Fabulous.
There was music. Guitars. Talented Nick of the Dreadnoughts, Jenna-of-the-amazing voice and green hair, Werner Gysi singing the blues. Soo fine. All of this happening by the best campfire in the Shuswap.
This is bear season in the Shuswap. Our region's black bears are busy now getting extra grub to build a nice layer of fat for the winter. The bears are especially busy up at Bieris' because there are lots of nice things for them to eat there, berries and apples and plums. In deference to Ruedi and his birthday celebration, the bears took the night off and so there were no barking dogs. Just music. The bears, bless them, were active in the afternoon so the Swiss guests had a chance to see them.
Bieris' farm is a hobby farm. Let me tell you -- this is all about love as a lifestyle (with apologies to Werner Gysi) and it is critter heaven for those critters lucky enough to be residing there.
When the Bieris purchased this acreage on a Shuswap mountain-side, there were some chickens that came with the place. That was like maybe 12 years ago.
The chickens were already 'mature' when Bieris acquired them. Real farmers keep chickens to lay eggs and then when the chickens aren't laying eggs anymore, farmers keep them (quite temporarily) in the freezer. Not the Bieris. Those lucky hens were allowed to live as long as they wanted.
The oldest of the hens, Ms.Henny Penny, died only a couple of years ago. Prior to her passing on, Ms. Henny Penny, quite understandably, became frail and elderly. That in and of itself was a rare and amazing feat for a hen.
Henny Penny had no idea her life was so unusual. She thought her way of life was her due.
(I am making a large assumption there. I don't know that Ms. Henny Penny did a lot of thinking. So, let me rephrase that, Ms. Henny Penny acted like her enchanted way of life was her due.)
How is it that Ms. Henny Penny managed to be the oldest hen on the planet?
She managed because Vreny Bieri got up very early each morning (for a long time) and gently picked-up Henny Penny from her roost, took her to the food and water and protected her while she ate her breakfast (Hawks out hunting early in the morning, coyotes not yet home from their evening out would have shouted with glee -- "You're toast Henny Penny!"). Always Ms. Henny Penny was cared for before the other chickens were let out. Age has it rewards at Bieris' Paradise (just ask Ruedi).
Then, after the day's dinging around as a free-range chicken, Ms. Henny Penny was picked up again and placed back on her roost for the night. Ms. Henny Penny passed away under a bush at Bieri's Paradise. She died of old age. Now, how many hens get to do that?
Besides Mommy and Daddy Bieri, there are two children Bieri.
First-born is Marco Bieri. He came home from his teaching at Simon Fraser for his father's birthday. He is Marco the Celtic punk band drummer, SFU first-year physics instructor, CERN atom-smasher project physicist and beloved son. And he brought the lovely Chelsea home as well. Chelsea is Marco's partner. She is a dear friend to everyone and so gracious in the face of so many old poops thinking they are cool and funny.
Milena, the Bieri family baby, arrived home from Switzerland just in time for her father's birthday weekend. Gentle Milena's return home was a great gift in itself. She is now a full-fledged social worker prepared to help the homeless in Vancouver.
The Bieris' farm is also a year-round bed and breakfast farm. So, anytime you wish, you can experience their hospitality and the good times at the farm. Check out Bieri's Paradise Bed and Breakfast on the web.
Happy birthday, Ruedi!
(Did your visiting family bring me any chocolate?)