Lots of lambs
Visit a working sheep ranch north of Kamloops for a taste of pioneer life.
Early in the 20th century, Theodore Moilliet discovered a beaver meadow along the North Thompson River, 135 miles north of Kamloops, and opted to spend the winter there. After scything a stack of hay for his horse and starting to build a cabin, he was besieged by a freak fall flood which washed away his haystack. He built a raft from his cabin logs and followed his haystack 35 miles downriver, where he ended up filing homestead applications on 320 acres by 1905.
This is now the Aveley Alpine Ranch, the oldest and largest family-run ranch in British Columbia. Travel north of Kamloops to Vavenby, an easy scenic drive through many attractive small communities along the way. The Moilliet family, the third and fourth generations of the original homesteader, still live and work on the ranch. The people at Aveley Ranch know what they’re doing when it comes to sheep—as they should, since sheep were introduced to the ranch in 1913.
Farm holiday packages
No hot showers here. Guests are invited to enjoy a touch of pioneer living and are welcome to stay in a 100-year-old cabin, with just an outhouse and cold running water. It’s the way the family lived in past generations, and as Karen Moilliet said, many people really enjoying staying in the cabin. Not to worry, it’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds. The cabin sleeps three and has the all-important coffee maker, a fridge, a cookstove and a wood-burning fireplace to keep the chill off.
Guests are welcome to pitch in and help these hardworking ranch people with milking a cow or collecting the eggs. Better yet, sign up for a tour that will take you up the mountain where the sheep graze during the summer months.
Alpine sheep tours
Aveley Ranch has the only alpine grazing block left in Canada, with the sheep sometimes grazing as high as 8,000 feet. A day trip with a guide includes visiting the shepherd and his camp, checking out his covered wagon and having a cup of tea and lunch sitting around an open fire. It’s a great event for everyone and physical ability isn’t an impediment, since you’re driven up the mountain in a four-by-four vehicle.
Phone ahead before you arrive and get permission to tour the historic structures on the ranch, where every building has a story. Grab a map at the gazebo and take a self-guided tour of the buildings at your own pace, stopping at each one to read the signs telling you what the building was used for or who lived there. Payment is by the honour system, so just drop your money in the box provided and take your time learning about the history of the farm and this interesting family.
Ranching is a year-round occupation and it seems that every month of the year there are all kinds of things taking place. From watching sheep being shorn to cuddling pet lambs in the spring or enjoying a hayride, there’s always something to see and do at Aveley Ranch.
Shearing is done in May and takes about three days.
“We don’t encourage drop-ins,” said Moilliet, “but if anyone wants to see how it’s done they can phone ahead and we’ll accommodate them.”
The Aveley Alpine Ranch is a picture-perfect place to visit during the month of April when the baby lambs are being born. No appointment is needed for this event.
“Either park at the top of the road or drive down towards the bottom,” said Moilliet, “where the first thing that will be noticeable are the 100-plus little lambs running around or lying with their moms.”
Stroll down to the dropping field where the pregnant ewes are waiting to give birth. (Sheep birth their babies standing up, which is where the term dropping comes from.) Wouldn’t it be exciting to be there when one is born?
Other than April there are no drop-in tours, since the ranch is six kilometers from the highway and not always prepared for visitors. They do encourage anyone interested to phone and arrange a tour that includes a hayride and a guide to show you around the farm.
Wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing and let your curiosity guide you as you explore the farms and ranches in the Thompson-Okanagan, and make sure Aveley Ranch is at the top of your list.