Monday, 16 January 2012

How I came to be in Usk

 I will start with a little bit about Usk, and how I came to be here.

Usk is an small older community.   At one time Usk was a thriving commuinty.  It had a trainstop, Saloon, Hotel, Store, a Mill, a school, and even a tennis court.  I love the history of Usk.  It's really neat, sometimes when you are digging you find things.  And it makes you wonder who's it was, and what happened to them.  

The Modern Usk was actually built on a very ancient site, I have read about in history books called Klew Nu, which means, "The place where the Moon hides behind the mountain."  The village of Klew Nu was wiped out when the Kitelas natives moved into the area, burnt inthe middle of the night.  The few surviors fled over the mountains to the Nass.  Interesting history, I think.  

Klew Nu,The place where the moon hides behind the mountain.  Also, the view right out my door.  How could I not fall in love with it?

One of my favorite views.  This is Kitselas Mountain.  This picture was taken from the Ferry, early summer. 

There are only 21 (including all the kids) people that live here year round. 

There's North and South Usk.  South Usk being on the highway side of the river, and North Usk, being across the river.  

To access North Usk, you will either need to take the Ferry, when the river is at a good level, neither too high or too low.  The Ferry is a thing of beauty.  It is powered by Mother Nature herself.  The ferry is attached to heavy cables, and is pushed across the river by the current.  The ferry operator turns wheel in the wheel house, and a paddle dropped into the water, depending on which direction you are heading.  It holds 2 vehicles, (or 12 passengers) at a time and also can take foot passengers.  While crossing you get to hear the sound of the river rushing, and when the water is a little higher, you can feel the tug of the current.   

During low or high water times, North Usk is accessed by use of the Cable car (Ariel Tram).  You park your vehicle in the parking lot, ring the bell for them to come and get you and climb the stairs.  The Cable Car is crosses the river on a heavy cable.  It is run by a small motor.  The same Ferry operators run the cable car, taking people back and forth across.  It only takes about 6 minutes to cross on the cable car.  It's really pretty neat, and you get to enjoy a pretty veiw as you cross, looking up and down river.

Cable Car, High water.

Winter View from Cable car in the morning.

It's really not as bad as people imagine.  Usk is basically a 10 - 15 min drive out of Terrace, which is really in my opinion quite close.  Then you just have a little crossing to get to our place.  I find it quite funny that many people feel it is far out of town.  I guess I think of the distances and times people in cities drive, and feel that we don't have it so bad.

Ok, a little bit of our back history, on how I came to be in Usk.  Well, my husband and Mother in Law bought some property, out here before Rob and I were married.  There were 3 lots, and my husband bought the middle one, with the house on it.  My Mother in Law and Father in Law, wanted to build a retirement home out here, beside Rob.  Anyways, being a little bit of an old fashioned girl, I didn't want to actually move in until I was married.  To be honest, I wasn't sure I would like living out here.  I had been living in town since my teens and really enjoyed the acessabiliy and the socail part of being in town.  So, In 2000 when we married, I moved out here and began my life in Usk.

Our house was an old home built in the 1920's.  It needed a lot of work, but it was cozy and warm.  The house was quaint.  To go down stairs where the bedrooms and bathroom was, you had to go down some stairs on the back of the house.  In the olden days, these stairs were on the outside of the house, but around the 70's (I think) someone closed the stairs in.  But when we were there, you could still she the shingles that were once the outside of the house on the walls.  The main floor consisted of just the living room and the kitchen.

This copy of a picture of our old house was recently given to me.  It's shortly after our house was built in the 1920's.

Little back history on me.  Up until the age of 11, our family lived on a little sort of homestead that my parents built from the ground up.  We had no hydro or phone.  We had the pigs, and chickens and stuff.  I always really liked chickens.  So, living out of town after I was married, was only natural that I got a few chickens. 

Here I am, proudly showing off one of my new chickens and my daughter.

Now I will admit, it was hard for me to get used to living out here.  It was very quiet, and not a lot of people came to visit.  There were times, I felt very alone.  We learned to stock up on all the heavy things like flour, sugar, and canned during the fall so we didn't have to carry everything in the winter. So we would load all groceries onto a sled, and pull them across the field home in the snow.  Having snow makes things easier, so you can pull things.  We didn't have a winter vehicle then. I remember loading the back pack, carring the baby, and pulling a loaded sled behind me home.  

Almost everyone one out here learns to get themselves an what we all lovingly call "The Usk Mobile" . Most times, I still like to carry, or pull things home if it's just a few things, because we live close to the cable car.  We do have a quad now to use over here, but to me, it's often quicker to just walk across the little field, and over the train tracks to the cable car.  However, it is nice having our Usk Mobile for heavy loads, or before the snow comes and we can sled things.

When I first moved out here, I didn't can.  That was one thing, when I was married.  Don't expect me to be canning everything.  It's not going to happen.  And then, I discovered the berries, that grew by my house.  Well, the berries were just asking to be made into jam.  And how do you store Jam?  You can it.  Ha ha ha!  And our place had tons of apples, which needed to be sauced.  Especailly when the baby came.  So then I canned that.  Then of course there were plums, and other fruit.  Next I wanted to try my hand at Raspberry Juice, which of course had to be canned.  Then it all just snowballed from there.  This year, I canned chicken for the first time.  I have come to really enjoy canning.  I haven't bought a jar of jam in the last 11 years.  Plus, canning your own stuff, makes less that you have to pack home and it's so good to eat.

My neighbor and I, having a chat on the steps.  I'm on the right.

Our place is fairly close to the river, and in a flood plain.  The flooding leaves a lovely silt on the ground, which is great for growing things.  Everything out here in Usk is so lush and green.  People always comment on it.

We tended to flood every couple years.  You know minor flooding, where the back of the yard would fill up, and sometimes, lowlaying area's in the front.  We even had our lower floor flood every couple years.  Anywhere from a few inches, to a foot or so.  Not a huge deal.  We can clean that.  Keep an eye on the river and the weather.  And you sort of know to move things upstairs, or up onto shelves, off the floor.

Anyways, off and on, for the first 7 years, I always wondered if perhaps I would like it better living in town again.  Where I would get more company, and could come and go easier.  There was always that question.  

So, in 2007, we had a lot of snow that winter.  Like lots.  It came early and stayed late.  So, around the middle of May we started thinking.  Oh yeah, It's going to be one of those springs, when perhaps we will have some flooding.  I started packing things upstairs, and putting them on high shelves, as usual.  Well, June came, and we seen the river rise, and rise.  Oh boy!  The ferry had been out for high water for a little bit.  It does that every spring.  But, we watched our back yard fill with water.  Our chickes and rabbits were at the very back of the property.  I moved the rabbits up near the house, but the chickens were still back there.  First I was going to feed them, with my boots, a day or two later, it was the small little boat to go feed them.  The water, probably waist deep or so.  

The water was coming up fast.  Then came the phone call.  "If you are getting out of Usk, we are shutting down the cable car in about 10 minutes.  The river is too high for it now."  When the river is really high, it dangerous to use the cable car, because trees can come up out of the water and hit the cable car.  Well, I had 2 little kids.  And I couldn't stay there with them like that.  So I quickly grabbed some clothing, and my pregnant doe rabbit, best buck.  And released the couple rabbits we were going to eat, thinking they would run for higher ground, and I left.  My husband stayed behind to move the Usk Mobile, and the remaining things in the basement.  Leaving your home to the unknown is honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.  Anyways, I left.

The river rose much, much higher then any of us expected.  It rose into the second floor of our home.  I knew when it was half way up the first floor, because our phone jack was high up on that wall.  I kept calling home to try and keep touch with my husband to see what was happening.  When the phone quit ringing and went to busy tone, I knew it was bad.

This picture was taken June 6th, 2007  You can see the house where we now live.

My husband canoed to the chicken house, and literally had to throw the chickens out of their house.  The water was chest deep in there, and they were running around, ontop of the floating layer of hay.  He was there hero.  He also saved our cat in the canoe, by boating him to high ground.  The water, when it did come, came so fast he didn't have time to save anything else from the bottom of the house.  

Our home.

It was almost a month before I was able to return home, because we had to wait for the water to receed and the flooding had softened the ground by the cable car tower.  After a couple weeks, my Husband hiked out along the train tracks, to come to town.  We lived in a motor home at my Mother In Laws.  

I can't even describe to what I came home to.  Or the smell.  And the silt.  It was coating everything.  The mess.  Most of what I had packed upstairs was wrecked anyways, because the water was almost a foot and a half into our upper level of our house, and I had most things on the floor.  There was not power in Usk yet.  The mildew and mold was growing.  Rotten earth worms all over the floors and carpets.  Yuck.  It was bad.  Lower level walls were bowed, and the upper level floors were all wavy up and down.  I think it took almost 6 months for it to fully hit me.  It just didn't seem real.  I still get teary eyed when I talk about it.  

After, when we were trying to empty the house.

My Mother in Laws house that she was building next door to us was much better.  She only had about 7 ft of water in her unfinished basement.  Her place, still needed the electrical and plumbing finished.  But she kindly offered to let us stay in it, while we were trying to figure out what to do.

We had an inspector out to look at our place and, he said in the 30 years of doing his job it was the worst he seen.  He recommened taking the house down as it was in bad shape.  It had been a a few major floods before this, and minor ones tons of times.  

In the 30's the house actually floated up, and down stream to the lot, where it was sitting now.  We seen evidence of that when we took the cedar panaling off the walls in the living room.  There was still silt on the old wall paper.  The house had tilted.  On one side of the house, the silt was a couple feet off the floor, and on the other it was closer to the ceiling.  Neat to see.  We have a picture of the house floating in the 30's that someone gave us.  Cool.

1936, When our house floated from one lot to the next.  Instead of moving the house back, they bought the lot it settled on, and straightened out the house.  They then cabled the house to large tree's so that if it flooded again, it wouldn't float away.  Ours is on the right.

So we ended up taking down our house.  I still get teary eyed when I think of it.  Now, THAT is a hard thing to do.  

Anyways.  We also got some water and plumbing done in my Mother In Law's house so it was more livable with a couple small kids.  That was the longest summer ever.  There was no hydro for a long long time, and no vehicle access for months, because the ferry cable broke during the flooding, and we had to wait for the ground to firm up.

My chickens, most of them survived that summer, pretty much on there own, because it was a long time for the water to receed in the back.  I was surprised at their staignth.  When I could boat back there too them, They were through out the bush.  I was standing there, quiet thinking, and I could hear this "Peep, peep!"  I couldn't see any chickens, but goodness that sounded like a chick.  I followed the peeping, and found my little bantam hen, sitting on a nest. I felt under her, and I could feel eggs just starting to hatch.  I can't tell you how that uplifted my spirits.  Here she was, during the flooding, laying eggs, then sitting on them, and hatching them out, creating life, when all around her the world was falling apart.  The world is full of wonders.

We were planing on rebuilding here one day.  But it is harder to do big things like that out here.  You see getting things across, can be a challenge.  So that fall, we decided to buy a small place in town.  It was a small lot with a little trailer.  But it was something we could call our own.  And we left Usk.

So now was my chance to see if I really would be happier in civilization.  Of course my family was happy, because it was so easy to come over and see me.  

But everyday I was gone, I would think about Usk.  And I would wonder about how the snow was.  What was the mountain looking like at that moment.  Wonders, of wonders I missed it.  I missed it bad.  Sometimes you have to lose something before you truly know how precious it was to you.  This is soooo true.

After about a year and half in town, my Mother In Law decided that she wanted to sell her place out here in Usk.  And since it was right beside our property, she asked us if we wanted to buy it.  Well, of course.  That was the best day ever.  We had no problem selling our trailer, since my sister in law was in love with it, and when we bought it, she told us if we ever wanted to sell it, to let her know.  So we sold our tailer to my Sister In Law, and bought my Mother In Laws out here.  So things worked out pretty good for everyone.

Now I can truely say, when people ask me, "Wouldn't you rather live in town where things are more accessable?", I can say with all my heart "No.  Been there, done that.  It's not for me."  I did not enjoy, eating dinner looking out my window into the neighbors looking back at me.  I didn't like having drugged out, drunk people going by my house at all hours of the day and night.  I didn't feel safe when my husband went out of town.

I love the quietness, and the sense of security I have out here, where it's not so acessable.  You know who's going by your place for the main part.  There's no night time traffic, since the ferry shuts down for the night.  I would much rather face, a bear then a drugged out stranger.  (Yes, we deal with bears here, often.) I love looking out my windows at the mountains.  I love having my chickens, turkeys or pigs.  The opportunity to raise some of my own food.  I love the close knitness of my neighbors.  If you need or hand, I wouldn't hesitate to call on anyone of them for help.  They are like family.

I didn't write this post and include the flooding to make people feel sorry for me.  It's just all part of the story of how I came to be where I am today.  We each have our battles and things that happen in our lives.  Some of them good, some not so good.  It is part of what makes us who we are.

This is my home and I love it.  Everyday, I wake up, and am thankful for what I have and where I am.  Life is good. 

My house in the distance.


  1. Lovely first post! Great pics! Welcome to the world of blogging! ;)

  2. Thank you, Joan! I really appreciate that. Now hopefully I can find my voice and do some posting. Although this time of year, not a lot is happening.