Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by Tina Hennigar
The circumstances that brought Tracy Franken to Lunenburg County from Ontario with her husband Mark and their three kids, Paisley, Ben and Connor, could read like a screenplay for a comedy. Especially when you learn they arrived with a school bus filled with 18 dogs, 3 goats, a tank of fish, 7 cats and a mini pig. Oh, and also a few horses.
“We had always wanted to retire in Nova Scotia. What would happen
if we decided to do it early?”, Tracy wondered.
The family first vacationed in Nova Scotia and everything that could have gone wrong did. Still, that did not deter them. “We put in an offer on a property in Cape Breton, raced home, put our farm on the market. We got a call that we lost the Cape Breton property on the same day that we received word that we sold ours,” Tracy said.
Everyone back home in Ontario said they were crazy, that they were walking away
from success, but with their minds already made up, they looked online and picked a property that had land in Lunenburg County. They’d have to figure out how to move their entire farm, something that they would quickly learn traditional moving companies don’t do. Then, running out of options and discussing what they were going to do and how they were going to do it, they bought a school bus to help with the move.
The successful move here was the result of a carefully crafted plan fraught with errors that fell apart multiple times along their journey. But they finally arrived at a house they’d not seen in person, and it was better than they could have hoped.
“We love it here. We have amazing neighbours, the kids love it and their school is amazing,” Tracy said. Mark is a driver for Maritime Bus. “He loves it,” Tracy said of Mark’s job. “The entire family is very content.”
Tracy is an award-winning speaker and comedian, as well as a dog trainer and professional member with the IACP (International Association of Dog Trainers). Right now, she’s focusing on getting her dog business, Beyond Obedience, up and running. Tracy offers so much more than dog training. Her services read more like canine behavioural therapy for the whole family. She works with dog owners from all over the world, including Holland and Switzerland.
The only hiccup - “I just didn’t realize there was very little internet before moving here.” Tracy credits Work Evolve, a co-working space in Bridgewater for being her life preserver. Providing not only great internet but also a business network. “All the entrepreneurs who go
there are amazing. They’ve helped me a great deal.”
“This place will see us out,” Tracy said of what she describes as their idyllic life in Lunenburg County. “We are so grateful that we did this now for our kids and they get to explore this province. We are constantly talking about how beautiful this place is,” Tracy shared.
“I always believed that we belonged here,” Tracy said of taking the leap to Nova Scotia. “Now I know I was right.”
To learn more go to: beyondobedience.ca
Story by Alex Hickey
The story of “Stone Soup” is about a community gathering
and pooling their resources to make a delicious, nourishing soup together, when individually none of them have enough food to make a meal for themselves. The story of the West Dublin Community Market is similar: a group of people banding together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The first necessary ingredient was the West Dublin Community Hall itself. The hall is a classic example of a Nova Scotian community space that was built with care using local materials over 100 years ago.
Around 2010, events at the hall were occasional, fitting in with the needs of the community. Then, random circumstance brought together a handful of people who had decided to move back home to Nova Scotia and settled near the hall. They shared an enthusiasm for creating events at the hall, including a community market that everyone in the area could enjoy.
The market started small, occurring a few times, with just a few vendors, in 2011. Over the next three summers the market grew to a bustling hall full of vendors and customers meeting every Saturday morning from spring to fall. “Nine-ish to noon-ish” the marketeers sometimes say, capturing the relaxed spirit of the market and of the community itself.
The market provides an opportunity to vendors to sell baked goods and crafts, soaps and herbal teas, vegetables and eggs.
The market has been a driver of economic development in the area. “It allowed us to incubate our skills and our clientele,” says Stefan Kirkpatrick. He and his partner Desirée Gordon have been selling their pastries and sourdough bread at the West Dublin Market for seven years. Four years ago, they started their bakery and dairy bar, Ploughman’s Lunch, just around the corner from the West Dublin Hall. “Having this community hold our hands while we got our feet under us — we were able to open our store.”
For many new arrivals to the area, the West Dublin Market has been their starting point for meeting people and building a sense of community. On Saturday mornings at the West Dublin Hall, you will find kids running around and playing together. People from different age groups and backgrounds chat and laugh together about their interests and their daily lives. The market is a place to hatch plans for work parties and projects and to share ups and downs and joys and sorrows.
The stone soup of the market is made up of hugs and open hearts, skills and tenacity, growth and tradition. It’s about building something together. It’s about growing and sharing and being together. And it feels like home.
Inquiries about the West Dublin Market can be directed to Kerriann Croft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Tina Hennigar
King Street in Bridgewater has been going through a transformation over the years, with the addition of Pijinuiskaq Park and Kings Court, two craft breweries and a variety of restaurants. Now we can add ‘twisted barbershop’ to the mix.
Erica Gyldenbjerg and her husband Mike are originally from Ontario, just outside of Ottawa. They arrived, quarantined, bought a home and found a space to open her barbershop, The Twisted Barber – the name appears to be derived from a fun, albeit slightly twisted, sense of humour played on with some of the décor and custom t-shirts. She found her ideal location near breweries and restaurants in the growing community of Bridgewater. Erica liked what the street offered. It checked a lot of boxes.
There is no mistaking when you walk in – you’re in a barbershop. It feels masculine, but also really fun, fresh and hip. There’s
a video game table and an industrial feel that is offset by the bright and airy décor. There’s an impressive selection of razors, oils and grooming products for the beard bearing man in your
life. But what makes this place most inviting is Erica herself. Walking in her barbershop feels a little bit like walking into your friend’s house. The treatment she offers, including a steamy hot towel to make you feel all warm inside, was a nice touch, according to my son.
Erica and Mike were looking for a more leisurely pace and looked to Nova Scotia in search of the familiar feeling she had when she visited growing up. Her dad was from Annapolis. When she and Mike arrived in Nova Scotia, they drove around and visited other communities hoping to find where they wanted to settle. But it was her sister who suggested that they check out Bridgewater. “It’s your kind of town. It’s just the right mix- not over developed but still growing,” she said of her sister’s recommendation.
“I’ve been a barber for 28-years, but it’s very much like starting over,” she said of bringing her business here. “It’s challenging anywhere, but COVID just makes it that much harder because we don’t know what to expect,” Erica said. But she’s really happy with the positive response she’s had so far, and invites everyone to experience a barber service with the added option of playing a game of PacMan.
Story by Tina Hennigar
A listener of the band Caribou Run might have trouble pin-pointing their genre. And that’s ok with them. But if you had to narrow it down they’d suggest they’re a 6-member neofolk band inspired by 70’s rock with a little jazz and folk mixed in. However you classify them, to see them live is to experience something special. We’re lucky to have them as one of our many “house bands” with their home base in Mahone Bay.
Its members are Danielle Noble - Keys/Vocals, Drew Moores
- Guitar/Vocals, Mark Gillis - Drums, Peter Visser - Bass, Corey Thorpe - Lead Guitar/Vocals, Mike Brunelle - Trombone, Guitar/Vocals
“Why Lunenburg County,” I asked in a phone interview. Their answer was unequivocal.
“It’s the best spot in the world.” I’m not sure who said it first. They all chimed in in unison. The Nova Scotia music scene appears to be bringing people here. Bandmate, Corey, for example, came for a visit and has been here for three years now.
“We are never bored here,” Danielle explained. “There is always something cool happening.” The band hopes to do a West Coast tour once they’re able, and they have a music video in the works. Like all musicians, they’re anxious for music festivals to get started again. Everyone is missing live music, they said. The band credits a resurgence of young artists moving to the area who are inspired by the creativity. “More young people are able to work remotely, so we tell our friends, come here, work from home and play music.”
To learn more, go to: www.caribourunband.com
Story by Tina Hennigar
According to Caila Russell, licenced Optician and owner of CR Optical, if you’re going to open a small business, do it in Bridgewater. “I feel very supported here,” Caila said after her first official year of business. As soon as her business opened, she had people at her door who wanted to support her because she was an independent business owner who lives in the community. “I feel like people want me to do well here, and that means a
lot. It reassures me that I made the right decision to start my business here.”
Her successful first year in business might also be because Caila knows a thing or two about helping people pick out their glasses. It’s her superpower. “As soon as someone walks in, I’m already picking out what glasses would look good on them,” she laughed. “Often they already have something in mind, and that’s ok, but
if they need help, that’s what we do.” Picking out glasses is the type of thing that is not a spectator sport. “You really do need to try them on, and we encourage that.” Caila and her trusty staff member and fellow Optician, Dayna Bowman, personally sanitize each pair of glasses as they have been handled. It’s safe to try on glasses at CR Optical.
Caila has been doing this since 1996
and has deep family ties to Lunenburg County. She’s fitted generations of families for glasses. But she’s also seeing new people in the community. And when they come here, they’re going to need an Optician. In almost 25 years in this line of work, Caila has seen a lot of trends in eyewear. Comfort though is something that never goes out of fashion. “Your glasses have to be comfortable. They need to feel comfortable on, and they should make you feel comfortable wearing them.”
Picking out new glasses isn’t something you do every day, so it ought to be an enjoyable experience; one that you look forward to. “I love it when people leave and say, ‘Thanks girls, that was fun!’ It should be fun.”
Finding community through coffee - Caffeine Nation brings together random coffee lovers amid pandemic
Story by Tina Hennigar
If you’re Facebook friends with Tony Lantz of Conquerall Bank, or even if you’re not and do a search using the hashtag caffeine nation, you’ll find a community of coffee drinkers he’s created.
It began on March 23rd when Tony, who would typically commute to Halifax where he works in Admissions at NSCC’s IT Campus, was forced to work from downstairs in his home while his wife was teaching primary and grade one students upstairs.
“It started [as] a satire of my new commute.” Tony explained he would take a picture of himself drinking coffee in a sometimes unique mug in his backyard for his lunch break or during his coffee break in the laundry room. He’d hashtag the photo Caffeine Nation and encourage others to do the same with their ‘mug-shot’. “It just took off.” Some Caffeine Nation posts have received as many 108 mug-shots from people, including 19 pets, and contributors from all over Canada and the world, from as far away as Dubai. “I’ve met a lot of people and it helped me get to know others better,” Tony said.
Tony is confident that Caffeine Nation will outlive COVID-19. There are people who participate every Friday. And when Tony attaches a theme request, such as the time he challenged people to dress in a Halloween costume, his followers did not disappoint!
People get creative with the vessel they drink their coffee out of. Tony has even been gifted a mug or two. “I try to support local businesses where I can.” Tony said that he’s used Fancy Pants, Wiles Lake Farm Market and Town of Bridgewater mugs in his Caffeine Nation posts. But Tony admits, this is about more than mugs and the coffee that is consumed from them. It’s a way to check in with others.
“It really comes down to not knowing who needs what you’re putting out into the world. I just did what millions of people do - posted a picture of me with my coffee. I didn’t anticipate that others would start to look forward to it,” Tony said of what he’d call a small act. Tony believes that even simple things can go a long way to help lighten the heaviness of a pandemic. “You may perceive something as being inconsequential when it’s making a real impact on others.”
Story by Chelsea Bush
Grad 2020. That has a nice ring to it. I’ve been told that it will be a great year to graduate since I started high school, and in my mind it still is. Friday, March 13, 2020, I left math class so antsy to get out and hop on that plane down south. Little did I know that was the last time I would walk those halls as a Grade 12 student. The last 4 months of high school are said to be the best and most precious months. I, as a 2020 graduate, wouldn’t know. That is now something I actually laugh at and here’s why. During quarantine, I gained time with my parents that I may never get again. I adapted to a new normal quickly and I learned valuable life lessons.
In the beginning, I was mad. I was mad that I was losing time with people I may never see again. I was mad that rights of passage as a grade 12 student were cancelled. I was mad that my Grade 12 year was ruined by a virus. But what good comes from being mad? Nothing. Instead, I found the positivity it brought me.
Graduating high school is a huge accomplishment and it was recognized by very many people. I get to say that I had a video speech played at my graduation dedicated to 2020 grads by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and MP Bernadette Jordan. I have letters I get to keep written by Minister Zach Churchill, Hon. Bernadette Jordan, MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft and Premier Stephen McNeil dedicated to 2020 grads giving congratulations and best wishes. I was even given virtual graduation speeches featuring Barack Obama, Kevin Hart, LeBron James and Oprah Winfrey. That’s just a few of the amazing stars honouring 2020 graduates. Not many previously graduated classes can say the same, and for that, I am thankful.
Although graduating during a global pandemic wasn’t ideal,
in the end, it truly wasn’t that bad. As a 2020 grad, I’m walking away from high school not only knowing how to solve for X
but also with more patience, maturity and appreciativeness. A better perspective on the world and how little you really need to survive and to be happy. I’m walking away with a never seen before graduation and prom ceremony that was live-streamed and watched by many people in the community whose hearts were saddened for us. I am walking away being able to adapt quickly to new changes and lifestyles, with many people congratulating me on this huge accomplishment through tough and uncertain times. I am taking this learning curve and using the strength it has given me and putting kindness back into the world. I have confidence that my fellow classmates and our generation will be more open-minded, will see the good in any situation and encourage others not to take things for granted. A lot has been taken away from my graduating year but that does not define me and what I have and will continue to accomplish.
Finding balance in beautiful places - Couple and business partners forced to slow down to discover what’s important
Story by Tina Hennigar
Before interviewing Cody Whynot from Whynot Adventures,
I felt it was important to experience one of their adventures firsthand. Together with a few girlfriends and our guide, we canoed out on the headwaters of the Mersey River, the longest river in the province. We learned how to properly canoe and read a compass. We camped in tents. We ate like queens, even drank freshly ground coffee. We gazed at a night sky full of magnificent stars and a milky way so bright it brought tears to my eyes. We drank wine. We swam. We heard coyotes. And for the first time, I used a thunderbox (portable toilet). In other words, I committed to the role of writer for this story.
Our guide Carlene Gallant, a self-described nomad, demonstrated the perfect balance of teaching and listening. We were more than a decade her senior and she is no dummy. She took in as much as we did. She’s an equal part ‘survivor-girl’ and foodie. “I hope you don’t mind, but due
to COVID, I have to insist on doing all the food-prep and cooking,” she informed us, as she adorned her gloves and mask. We laughed. “And we won’t stop you,” said someone in our group of moms tired of cooking.
We drank wine from our camping chairs
and learned how Carlene lives half the year here working as a guide for Cody and his wife, ironically also named Karlene, and the other half of the year travelling to Australia or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or somewhere else in the world. It might not be our perfect life, but it is hers, for now. She talks of her bosses, Cody and Karlene, and what they’ve built, with admiration. Lunenburg County is a good place for a vagabond to settle.
Cody Whynot and Karlene Hauer met in BC while taking Adventure Tourism. In 2013 they submitted their 14 lb application to run Jacobs Landing, where they’d rent kayaks and offer guided tours out of Nova Scotia’s treasured National Park, Kejimkujik. To their surprise, they were accepted, and with the help of South Shore Opportunities and their loan manager, they were up and running in 30 days. “They were paramount,” Cody said. “They were the only lending agency that treated us like adults and didn’t require our parents to co-sign.”
Things were running along smoothly. They bought a beautiful piece of land off Boot Lake, which happens to be our camp for the night. They adopted two dogs, Gulliver and Huckleberry, both Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. 2020 was looking to be a good year with pre-bookings expected to be about double 2019.
Then, COVID-19 hit. Everything slowed. They had to refund payments as guests wouldn’t be permitted into the province.
“COVID has forced us to reimagine the future,” Cody shared. “We were ‘grow at all costs’”. COVID forced them to look at how to be more efficient and put their energy in places that brought them joy.
Although visitations are down 65%,
team morale is up. Business is more efficient. Guests are happier. Cody and Karlene went blueberry picking and visited the Annapolis Royal Farmers Market for the first time in 8 years.
“Work-life balance doesn’t really exist in the summer as an adventure tour company. We work hard on the weekends and rest on Mondays,” Cody said. They take pleasure in small things, like giving their
staff craft beer on non-pay week Fridays. Cody said this place in time has forced people, including himself, to look at what’s really important, the often illusive work-life balance.
“When you can’t buy a bike, a kayak or a flower to plant because people are going outside and playing in their gardens and doing what is important, that’s as close to balance as we’re going to get.”
Story by David Sorcher
In 2017 my wife Veronica and I finally made a seventeen-year dream come true. We bought a house in Petite Rivière on Nova Scotia’s famed South Shore and began making our plans to permanently relocate to Lunenburg County. We did not, of course, choose such a life-altering course without some serious thought and planning. This was a homecoming for Veronica, who was raised in nearby Riverport. Her parents still live there in the same house where she grew up. As a lifelong American, however, it was perhaps a greater leap into the unfamiliar for me.
There was a lot to consider before we actually made the physical move. Yes, we had certain safety nets in place. We had family and friends both in the county and scattered about the province. Knowing this move was a goal for nearly two decades, I had also spent some time fostering relationships in my field as a photojournalist since my earliest visits to the region. But when it came right down to it, once my path to permanent residency was in the works it was not really possible for me to seek or secure any work before our arrival. Veronica found herself in a similar position. Finding jobs was something that would have
to wait until we were actually settled. And as much as we know Veronica’s parents love us dearly we certainly could not count on dining at their house every night. That’s a welcome that would wear thin quickly. So as our plan developed we knew we needed to create our own financial safety net and a large part of that plan depended upon becoming energy self-sufficient.
Going solar presented itself as the obvious solution to a number of our problems, so it was in our minds before we even bought the house. First and foremost it just makes sense to build solar technology into every new building – why not add it to older structures as well? A network of privately owned panels feeding the web is just one of many ways to embrace green living. In concert with wind, tidal and geo-thermal sources, living with only renewable power supplies is a fully achievable dream.
The second benefit is the ideal of going net-zero for our yearly electric usage. That is, of course, the financially sustainable part we were searching for. With no mortgage and minimal energy bills we could deal well with the circumstances of uncertain employment from a much stronger position.
The south-facing, unobstructed roof made our new home
a perfect candidate for solar. So we began preparing it for installation even before we found the right company for the job. The first thing we needed to do was swap out the old fuse box for a new breaker panel system and upgrade our electrical system to 200 amps. This was also
necessary for the heating system
we were planning to replace our oil
We started researching solar
companies and looking for
grants or subsidies that could
help us. At first we could
not find much in the way of
government programs. But
the fates seemed to be with
us by the time we were
ready to roll. Efficiency
Nova Scotia was offering
rebates of up to $10,000
for grid-tied solar
arrays. We initially
had thought it
would be great
to go off-grid, but
after checking into the
price and storage area needed for the
battery system necessary for running an entire
household and weighing that against the rather large rebate on offer we decided that feeding the grid would not be such a bad way to go after all. Our timing was perfect. This rebate program is still in place, but now only offers rebates of up to $6000. Still a good deal in my book, but we were able to save quite a bit more.
We did get a few quizzical responses from some of our contractors. Oil is relatively cheap. Heat pumps and solar panels are not. How would we ever see a return on our investment? Were we planning on living to be 100 (actually yes, we are, but that’s not the point)? The bottom line here is that, thanks to
the sale of the Cincinnati house, we had the money to do this now. Who knows what our incomes will be in years to come. I suppose we could have stashed that surplus cash away in an account slated for paying out our yearly oil bills, but how does that help the planet? With privilege and good fortune comes great responsibility and we knew that going green was just the right thing to do, even if the money systems we have installed. We all need to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint as best we can, and going solar is certainly one viable path to follow. For anyone wishing to investigate these possibilities, I would say the best place to start would be the Efficiency Nova Scotia website. They will lay out the steps for you, provide a list of approved installers, and show you how to get yourself approved for the rebate. They also have a list of helpful resources and informational videos available on their site. www.efficiencyns.ca/residential/services-rebates/solarhomes
Story by Leena Ali
It’s a Thursday afternoon at Rezan Iso’s tailoring shop and a steady pace of customers drop off items for alteration or repair. Pants to be hemmed, curtains to be fixed, and garments to
be picked up. In between customers, Rezan works on orders and we chat about his work, shifting back and forth between speaking English and Arabic.
As I sit in the shop, I think back to when I first met Rezan, his wife Shahnaz Hamo, and their young son during their first summer in Mahone Bay. My father and I went to their home for a barbeque. I had heard so much about them from my dad and was looking forward to finally meeting them myself. I learned that the Syrian-Kurdish family had lived in Damascus where Rezan worked as
a manager in a clothing factory, and Shahnaz was studying law, before fleeing to Turkey during the Syrian civil war.
This fall marks four years since the family arrived in Lunenburg County, and many have come to know Rezan as ‘The Syrian Tailor of Mahone Bay.’
“Coming to Canada was a surprise,” says Rezan “Good surprise.”
“They told us, there’s a group that wants to sponsor you from this small place called Mahone Bay,” he says in Arabic, referring to the Mahone Bay and Area Refugee Sponsorship Group.
It was on his birthday when the family hopped on a flight headed to Canada.
“In the beginning, it was difficult – a new language, different habits – but there were people who I felt were trying to help me so that I could adapt to a new life,” adding that his sponsorship group also helped organize get-togethers and activities to help introduce the family to their new community.
After seeing that there were no sewing factories in the area, Rezan set up his own workshop in the basement of his Mahone Bay home. It was there that he designed and created women’s dresses, coats, children’s clothing and more. You don’t have
to spend much time with him to see the talent and passion he has for his craft. He says that his work was a key part of helping him get through the challenging transition of moving to a new country, adapting to a new culture, language and life.
During his first year, he also began sewing hats for Anna Shoub, owner of The Hat Junkie, in Lunenburg, and later worked on a line of yoga pants for local yoga instructor, Anastasia Akasha Kaur, among various projects for other community members. He later began operating out of a workspace above Ali’s General Store in Blockhouse, where he spent most of his time creating designs for the future.
“Here is good, there is work” he says, adding that if you have an idea, “you can do it.”
Today, he owns two businesses located in the Bridgewater Mall. In 2019, he purchased an established tailoring business, offering a range of services including custom tailoring, alterations and repairs. Just a few steps across from the tailoring shop is Rezan Clothiers, a venture he launched in February, selling men’s suits created from his original designs and manufactured in Lebanon and Turkey.
Since their arrival, Rezan and Shahnaz also welcomed their second child. In just a few years, it feels as though they’ve all become a part of our family too. Rezan even refers to my dad as his uncle.
Both Rezan and Shahnaz tell me that Lunenburg County has been a “nice and quiet” place to raise their children.
“It’s very good here for kids. Here it’s safe,” says Shahnaz, adding that her son really likes his school. At first it was “hard and new for us,” she says. “But we got support from our group and in the community here. People here are so nice and helpful.”
Rezan continues to study English and says that interacting with customers day-to-day has helped him improve his language skills. In the future, he plans to sell his men’s clothing line internationally, and one day expand his business to open a manufacturing facility of his own.
“When I want to do something, it starts with idea,” he says in Arabic. “The idea starts small and each year it gets bigger and bigger.”