Folded Hills Farm
As featured in Beautiful British Columbia Magazine
“A Different World on Kuper Island
The woods and waters of Lamalchi Bay on Kuper Island have long echoed and reflected the sounds and sights of nature.
Man came here first as the Indians of the Penel-akut a, Yekol-oas, and Lamal-cha bands of the Cowichan Indians.
Man made war in the bay, with Indians fighting whites, and, in later years, the two races met on the beach and raised their voices in praise
He came with saws and hammers and internal combustion engines. From barges in the bay he unloaded domesticated animals and birds.
In the person of Swiss-born Rene Moeri he came with gentle Brown Swiss cows, and the animals’ soft lowing, the tinkle of their Swiss bells, and their serene nature, created p pastoral haven from the world of cement and neon. Mr. Moeri would yodel and sing and call the cows by name, and they would lick his hands and face with sand-papery tongues because everything was going so well.
The one day a flying machine roared low over the island. Mr. Moeri was standing beside his big Brown Swiss bull. The animal jumped in fright, striking and wrenching Mr. Moeri’s shoulder. The injury never did mend fully and no longer could he properly tend to his herd. An era ended when his friends, the cattle, were shipped to a buyer in South America.
Restricted in his pursuits, but no less energetic, Mr. Moeri now spends much of his time gardening. In 1967, when Canada was celebrating its centennial, Mr. Moeri laid out a huge centennial symbol and the words CANADA 100 YEARS in flowers. His “centennial project”, the giant design drew airplanes like bees to honey. Many people who had seen the emblem from the air returned by boat to bring Mr. Moeri aerial photographs of his creation and to ask him how he was able to lay the garden out so well. Mr.Moeri had a practised answer: “I am Swiss precision.”
All of Kuper Island is Indian reserve except for 100 acres owned by Mrs. Audrey Ginn. Mr. Moeri continues to manage the farm as he has done since 1952 under an arrangement with the late Mr. Roy Wilfrid Ginn, a Vancouver marine lawyer, who purchased the property in 1933. The farm, known as Folded Hills, looks across Stuart Channel to the mountains of Vancouver Island and the communities of Chemainus and Crofton.
Mrs. Ginn, who confesses to being a former “city slicker”, resides at the farm because “it’s so beautiful, because of the sunsets and the sea, because it’s more satisfying than city life and – it sounds silly, maybe – but I can hear God’s opera here.”
A charter member of the Chemainus Valley Historical Society, Mrs. Ginn expresses concern about local history and exhibits her own concern by collecting and preserving the artifacts and natural curiosities of Folded Hills.
Old stone weapons are evidence of early Indian history. They serve as reminders that Chief Tzouhalem of the Cowichans was killed and beheaded on the island at the hands of the Lamal-cha band when he tried to add to his collection of wives.
Another piece of history is a cannon ball believed fired at the Indians on the island in 1863 by the gunboat Forward. The vessel had anchored in Lamalchi Bay while searching for the murderers of a Saturna Island family, and a tense confrontation erupted in violence.
Today’s Indian residents of Kuper Island are regarded as fine neighbours and tributes to their character emerge in every conversation at the farm.
Mrs. Ginn has records tracing the history of her property back to the 1880’s when it belonged to “The Company for Propogation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America”, commonly known as The New England Company.
An old, brown building on the edge of the beach is known as the Mission. Built in 1880, it was not just a church, but also a community hall and school. A small cemetery nearby was given to the historical society by Mrs. Ginn. The Mission’s construction is an interesting reflection of the craftsmanship of the district’s pioneers who milled lumber more than a century ago where the present saw-mill complex of MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., is located at Chemainus.
Both the Mission and the farm’s family house, at the end of a crushed-shell path, are full of the bits and pieces of yesterday.
Around the buildings are the fields where Mr. Moeri’s cattle once browsed and where timid deer now come to feed. The orchard includes apple, pear, quince, plum and cherry trees. On the grounds around the house are holly, maple, juniper walnut and Spanish cork trees. There are vegetables, flowers, grapes and mushrooms – and fish from the sea.
Visitors, especially those who are more sincere than simply curious, are made welcome at Folded Hills. If time can be spared, they will be given a tour of the fields and forest, and if the season is right they might leave with preserves of last year’s fruit crop.
If the visitor is wise, he will drink deeply of the island’s natural attributes, and he will soak up what he can of the philosophy that reverberates in the old home and among the trees. He might well conclude that these Gulf Islands, which have drawn together so many interesting people, should send out missionaries to those who are poorer.”
Quoted from the fall 1968 edition of Beautiful British Colombia Magazine