Friday, 22 January 2016

My seventies show. Christina Lake, part 2 We buy land!

Warning. I am writing this for my own pleasure, not for publication. I never took many pictures back then. Much of what I did take was destroyed by moisture and mice in the attic of the old house. This will be the verbal equivalent of filling an album with snapshots. I will shamelessly indulge in as much detail as I remember, which may be boring. Links can provide illustrations. 

The start is here.

Going for a walk in a landscape designed for the car often leaves few options. In Christina Lake the choice was Highway 3 or take Fife road uphill and see where it goes. Fife road climbs steeply uphill to a lovely little plateau with some farm houses and fantastic views. One day, in an ambitious mood, I crossed the plateau and continued past the railroad crossing. The road meanders into the hills, and at some point took me to a small old house where people were hanging out in the yard. The same kind of people that we had met at PX ranch. How did we end up visiting? What follows is my memory, which may be faulty. Carol Nye and Roy Leon, please comment with your version!?

Most likely I waved, they waved back or the other way around and I sort of barged in. I don't remember. I do remember we were invited to dinner and went. The house did not have electricity or running water. Cooking was done by wood stove, water was carried up from the creek. The space was divided by hanging sheets to provide extra privacy for the 2 families who shared it. I could not imagine living in it. They were renting the house and acreage for almost nothing, mainly the cost of property taxes. This place was a stop off point. They were planning to stay near civilization, earn some money, and eventually buy a place in the promised land: the area way up North near Telegraph Creek, where they wanted to live without money. Why there?  It would be far enough away from the main madness when the inevitable collapse hit. The region is beautiful but harsh climate wise. Years  later I met someone who had just left Telegraph Creek after twenty years as a homesteader and market gardener. He had loved it and only left because the grown children had all moved South. It turns out there is a valley in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains that is like an oasis, lots more sun than Dease Lake, good growing conditions. Fascinating.

Anyway......the very next day the younger of the two women showed up at my doorstep, complete with fat baby boy, in tears, asking for sanctuary, which was provided. We had an extra room in the basement. It turns out she was not quite prepared to see the official house policy of free love acted out in reality by her husband. Things got patched up and I don't even remember the girl's name. Roy and Carol on the other hand became close friends and we are still in touch. 

This was the second bug placed in my ear about buying land.
The first one had come when I picked up a hitchhiker during a three week solo car journey the previous summer, that will have its own blog some time.  I picked him up somewhere outside of Vancouver. We were both enroute to Calgary.
By the way, I was incredibly naive. It never occurred to me that offering to take him all the way back and share the accommodation of my tent might be misconstrued in some way. I thought all I had to do was state clearly that I was married and that my geologist husband was in the field to be totally safe. And so I was. Not the slightest whiff of assault anywhere, just pleasant companionship for three days.
Anyway....the young man was an Anglophone from Montreal who had come out West to look at buying cheap B.C. land.
It was a revelation to me that most of the immense nature we looked at was in some way spoken for. It had never occurred to me. I thought it was all just there. On the way to Calgary we stopped in Revelstoke so the young man could look at maps and available crown land. Then I thought no more of it. 

Just like in fairy tales the nudges came in three. The third one was an article in McLeans Magazine, late summer of 1970. It went on about how Americans, or rather USA citizens, were buying up recreational land in Canada, especially B.C. I even wrote a short a letter to the editor which was published. It stated that I was more worried about being fenced out of public land than about who owned the fence. Please, make sure we have enough public parks and beaches!
That was it. I was in no hurry to start homesteading, but somehow I became obsessed with the notion that we should buy a piece of land in B.C. before it became impossible. 

We used the Thanksgiving weekend of 1970 to drive a loop through the Kootenays, up through the Slocan Valley, through Nakusp, North along Arrow Lake and East past Trout Lake, down along Kootenay Lake. Along the way we noted For Sale signs of acreages. We had no money saved up for this, just Chris' good job. I went to the bank in Grand Forks to inquire into loans. All I wanted was information, but the manager insisted he wanted to talk to my husband. We've come a long way, baby. To make a long story short, our limit was $5000. I called the realtors about parcels we had seen and most of them were beyond our reach. Small parcels came with a house, which we did not need, and raw land mainly came in large chunks like 80 acres.

But Oli Bokis in Nakusp mentioned one small acreage that was only $3500, the price our Calgary friends paid that year for a new Volvo. It was ten acres, no house, no utilities, mainly cleared, just an abandoned field on a dirt road off a dirt road a few miles out of the village. We went and took a look. The place was more or less South facing,  sloping with flatter benches. The South side of the square opened to a large field, on the other three sides there was Crown land, just woods. The place had a wonderful sense of space and peace, and yet was close to the village. If we absolutely had to we could walk to work, a bit over an hour downhill, longer back home uphill. 

We were told honestly that the land was no good for farming, and water could be a problem on this ridge. Chris had taken a course in hydro geology. He borrowed an auger and drilled a hole in the field below us to see where the water table was. This was fall, after a dry season, as good a time to check as any. He concluded it should be possible to dig a shallow well at the bottom of the land. 

The rest, as they say, is history.