Why Bear River

Emily Bronte has found a new nesting place

Twenty years ago our dream was to make a life changing move. Living at the time as craftspeople meant that we could become part of an Ontario wide community of people that worked with their hearts as well as their hands. With our two young girls, we grew gardens, raised chickens, planted fruit and nut trees on an acre of land. It was a satisfying lifestyle.

Everyone took part. Here our younger daughter Kris was apprenticing to be a bricklayer

Planting melon seeds .The picture testifies to how long ago it was taken.


This was our acre homestead in Ontario with the studio in the foreground

When the time came for our daughters to try their own wings, our new freedom offered us the opportunity to look for the one thing missing in our lives, having artists and craftsmen near us. Ontario has a a truly rich arts community, just not close enough to discuss ideas over morning coffee. It also seemed a natural time for change.

Some of our work

We made a wish list for this new imaginary life. A small lively artistic community was at the top. Next was to try another part of Canada. Being near the ocean would offer shorelines to explore. Lakes to kayak would be fun. The boats had not seen water for a very long time. Inspiring views could awaken new ideas for our work. We would need all the amenities, library, theater, hospitals close at hand. Obviously we wanted everything. Beyond all else though we were looking for people who really lived their lives. This sounds like a fairy tale, but here is the thing, we found all of that and more.

The ocean along Brier Island. Shorelines to walk in Nova Scotia are endless and varied


How is this for an inspiring view? Bear River in the fall.


The Bear River market happening on Sunday afternoons, brings together this vibrant community. Look how much concentration is involved at the moment as craftsmen demonstrate their skills. Available here is local produce, freshly roasted organic coffee, pasture raised Berkshire pork and much more. If you get the chance, come and enjoy an afternoon.

The adventure began with our first vacation in years. Two things inspired us. The first, believe it or not was a children’s book “Miss Rumphius“. This story contained a dream of its own, to live by the sea and grow a beautiful garden.

The second thing was a conversation with a friend, an artist who lives in Bear River Nova Scotia. He suggested that we come and check out the place.

Our artist friend Rob Buckland Nicks stands on the right in this picture.
Behind is his gallery of fine art and craft “Flight of Fancy

As tenters we camped our way around the province, coming at last to Bear River. Our friend had let everyone know we were coming. We were greeted in the village and nearest town by people totally unknown to us. It felt a bit strange but somehow quite wonderful. Our artist friend played another important role. He spoke of of a piece of land that just might be for sale close to his home. He walked us over to have a look. Even in the fog that morning it felt right. Coming back the next day we discovered it’s panoramic view of the Bear River Valley and the Annapolis Basin. From the hilltop the only houses to be seen were across the valley. By building our home here it would be invisible from the road. We now had landing gear for our dream.

This is what the view looked like on the hill without the fog. You can see that we had already made a start on our first building, the studio, at the point this picture was taken.

When we finally arrived we were given a home to stay in for the time being. People kept showing up to willingly help unload all our worldly goods. There were some very strange looks as people noticed some really ugly pieces of wood in the moving van. Unattractive on the outside, inside the wood was very special. It was carefully selected for the boxes I make. Without an explanation, it looked like poorly chosen firewood . Nova Scotia has no shortage of trees. Behind the wood was a piece of limestone brought to grace a garden. If there is anything that Nova Scotia has more of than trees it is of course……rocks! To everyone’s credit, no one actually said anything, at least to us. At the end of the day our closest neighbor came out to tell us that supper was on for the entire crew. If ever we needed final assurance that we had made the right decision that moment provided it.

This is the homestead where we stayed when we first arrived.

During the time that we were waiting to be in Nova Scotia we spent hours custom designing our new home. Having built once before, we wanted this one to be more than just a box. We did not do it all ourselves of course. We had help from many skilled friends. Things like electricity needed to be in hands of experts.

Robert worked on the studio roof while I preferred to have both feet on the ground. It would be great now to have a place to bunk up at night when we wanted to stay on site

Since then life has been an adventure. Do you remember the book “Miss Rumphius”. It was her dream to see the world, move to a place by the sea and make the world a more beautiful place. Here are some pictures of our efforts.

This arbor path leads up from the studio toward the front of the house


These are two of the garden paths

So now we have come and checked out Bear River. We have found everything that we were hoping for, especially a good community. The ocean is visible out our windows. We have built the home we designed and gardens for the pure joy of it. That just leaves seeing more of the world.

Robert will turn 70 before long. We think that there might just be time for one more grand adventure.  We now have land beside a lake bordering Bear River. We want to build a  very, very, tiny cabin as a close to home retreat. We have never lived near a lake in the wilderness. We could cross country ski and snowshoe in the winter, swim every day that the weather permits, cycle on roads with little traffic and visit with fine friends a short walk away. The boats are waiting, since the stars must be just spectacular when seen from the lake at night. Even now we are starting to wonder. What does a rain storm sound like in a forest, what bird will be the first to welcome the dawn? Will a resident frog find the tiny pond we built…..?

In our early days in the province we spent many days kayaking in Kejimkujik National Park.

As an after thought some of you may question the idea of such a small cabin. We think it could just work. We have spent long periods of time living together in our “Westy Girl”. We are also eager to see a bit more of the world.

That is us on the right

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