Letters with Bob Bancroft

2013-06-01 PictouCoYoungNaturalistsWoodlotTour-June1,2013 007
June 18th, 2014, email
From: Leah Noble
To: Bob Bancroft

Hi there Bob,

It was so nice to see you a couple of weeks ago at the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society Annual General Meeting. I hope this email finds you and Alice well!

I found your presentation about the state of the forests in Nova Scotia to be very moving.

When we chatted, I mentioned my blog, Dream Big Cape Breton, and I’d love for you to check it out when you have a chance. You can find it here: https://dreambigcapebreton.com

It’s all about life as a (relatively–I just turned 30, haha) young person on Cape Breton Island, and has some interviews and stories about other folk, too.

I’d like to have a post with words by you, a little bit from your presentation last month and your view of forestry in Nova Scotia currently. Would you be interested?

Cheers and take care,



June 18th, 2014, email
From: Bob Bancroft
To: Leah Noble

Hello Leah,

Your blog makes a diary seem simple! Nice to see your positive uses of newer technology. I confess that I have no sites – Facebook or otherwise. Wind up spending too much time on the computer without them. I love emails because, unlike telephones, you do not interrupt the second party. And I’m locked into multiple telephone and email messages each day to and from folks who want to discuss wildlife issues. That’s a result of years of writing and being on CBC radio.

When I think of you, I feel optimistic about young(er) people staying in our part of the world. Then I’m reminded of a young friend working in Fort McMurray. He just bought a Harley. I fear that he’s is becoming hooked on the “big “paycheque.

When I think of Port Hawkesbury Paper, I see publically-owned future forests being trashed to subsidize company energy costs. I see government giving away Crown land wood for a pittance and ignoring the many other species that use old trees and dead tree habitats (that they eliminate). Forests are being willfully degraded, with no thought for future generations like yours, for private profit. And the public subsidizes reforestation costs. Plantations have been called “permanent deforestation” (Bernd Heinrich).

I have spent 39 years attempting to restore a healthy forest on 56 acres of former farm land here at Pomquet. It’s a substantial investment of time and money to bring a healthy forest back. Clearcutting takes away future seed sources. I thought that single-minded forestry was a thing of the past. Instead it remains a focus and the ecological degradation of the land continues. We have corporate-run politicians.

What will be left for you younger folk?

With all good wishes,


July 25th, 2014, email
From: Leah Noble
To: Bob Bancroft

Hi Bob,

Thanks for taking the time to write me back. It’s a difficult thing, staying positive and encouraged in the world we live in today! Especially when you care so much about the natural world. I definitely struggle with it.

I’d love to do a post on my blog, sharing a few photos of your woodlot in Antigonish, as well as the following paragraphs you wrote in the email:

“When I think of Port Hawkesbury Paper, I see publically-owned future forests being trashed to subsidize company energy costs. I see government giving away Crown land wood for a pittance and ignoring the many other species that use old trees and dead tree habitats (that they eliminate). Forests are being willfully degraded, with no thought for future generations like yours, for private profit. And the public subsidizes reforestation costs. Plantations have been called “permanent deforestation” (Bernd Heinrich).

I have spent 39 years attempting to restore a healthy forest on 56 acres of former farm land here at Pomquet. It’s a substantial investment of time and money to bring a healthy forest back. Clearcutting takes away future seed sources. I thought that single-minded forestry was a thing of the past. Instead it remains a focus and the ecological degradation of the land continues. We have corporate-run politicians.

What will be left for you younger folk?”

Would you be interested?


Aug 21st, 2014, email
From: Bob Bancroft
To: Leah Noble


Because of some quirk that seems to happen too often, I received your email but could not reply while I was on the Saint John River with my boat (and laptop) over the past month. I’ve been home for a few days and am catching up on my tower.

Yes, if you wish to put my thoughts on your blog, please do so. And I will send a few woodlot pic’s for you to consider. Some are well-sized because of the writing I do, so I will send one or two at a time and see what happens.

Should be up to Baddeck with family again over Thanksgiving. Will stop into the marina to ask if you are around.

With all good wishes,



Oct22 09 Pomquet 026
Habitat020 Habitat052

Aug. 25th, 2014
From: Leah Noble
To: Bob Bancroft

Those are beautiful! Thanks so much!!


Sep. 24th, 2014
From: Leah Noble
To: Bob Bancroft

Hi Bob!

I’m planning to run the piece about you and your woodlot on Wednesday of next week. I’ve been thinking about showing our whole correspondence, both my letters and yours. I think it would be a neat way to present the info we’re dealing with, as well as inspire other young people to reach out to more experienced professionals that they admire. Would you be comfortable with that, with my posting our correspondence?



Sep. 24th, 2014
From: Bob Bancroft
To: Leah Noble

Hi Leah,
I trust your judgement on this. Go ahead!

With all good wishes,


Bob Bancroft and his wife Alice Reed have long been local heroes of mine for their devotion to the natural world, and to living creative lives in sync with it. You can read an article Bob wrote in the Chronicle Herald in 2012 here.

For more information on owning woodlots, check out the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners’ website or the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association.

Posted in Day to Day Life, Environment, Outdoors, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Q+A with Emily Chafe and Steve Rankin


1. Name, age, where you live?

Emily Chafe, 27, Glencoe.
Steve Rankin, 30, Glencoe.

2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplants? (And however much biographical info you feel like giving.)

I (Emily) was raised in Port Hawkesbury and Steve is from Mabou. We are lucky that both of our parents still live in our childhood homes. After high school we went to college and worked in Halifax for a number of years. We eventually found ourselves coming home more often and dreaming about building a life in Cape Breton. Before we knew it we were packing up our city lives and moving into an amazing home, surrounded by trees, a river and peaceful solitude in gorgeous Glencoe. That was 3 years ago and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

3. What are you up to these days? (I.e what do you do for a living, are you a student, etc?)

Emily: I work full time at Chafe’s Flooring and Furniture in Port Hawkesbury, a business that my parents have run for the past 29 years. It is quite a special thing to be able to work alongside your parents on a daily basis.

I also am a graphic designer and operate a business called Take Note Graphic Design. I have worked with many local businesses, organizations and individuals on a variety of different projects. This line of work is really what inspires me and sets my heart on fire.

Steve: About 3 years ago Steve and I got a digital SLR camera for Christmas from our parents and I don’t think Steve has put it down since! He taught himself how to use it and has been able to create a full time gig for himself under the name Steve Rankin Photography. We live in one of the most beautiful areas on earth where there is no shortage of inspiration for him. We are also wrapping up our first year of shooting Weddings and I have to say it looks like Steve has found his calling!

4. Why is it so great to make a living as creatives?

I think we both value adventure and making a living as a creative, especially in Cape Breton, is full of adventure. In both design and photography every job is different. You meet amazing people, work on interesting jobs, and get a big sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. We love the people, landscapes and lifestyle in Cape Breton, and whether it’s photography or design we are able to use our talents to help promote the island in our own little way.

5. What is hard about making a living as creatives?

There’s no steady pay cheque. As much as we love the work and the freedom it brings, there can be a bit of uncertainty. We trust that as long as we follow our hearts, keep our wits about us, work hard and make sure we are having fun, things will find a way of working out. It can be hard to keep that perspective sometimes but doing what we love and living in a place that we love makes it worth it at the end of the day.

6. Favorite Five: what are your favourites of the following five categories, on or from CB?

  • Beach –We go on a lot of photo adventures together so naturally we spend a lot of time at beaches. Steve is quite fond of the sunsets and the views at Pig Cove and West Mabou Beach. My family owns a bungalow in Ironville along the Bras d’Or Lakes so I have a soft spot for that area. And Inverness beach because I am addicted to finding sea glass and my most interesting pieces have been found there!
  • Restaurant– Well the place we visit the most is definitely Sandeannie’s Bakery & Tearoom in Harbourview. Even if Steve’s parents didn’t own the place, I would still say they hands down have the best breakfast going. And it’s served all day! We also have a few other regulars that we love to go to when we feel like treating ourselves like The Clove Hitch Bar & Bistro in Port Hood, Papa’s Pub & Eatery in Port Hawkesbury and The Village Grill in Inverness.
  • Hike/walk/run/bike/snowshoe/snowmobile The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is an old rail line that runs from Port Hastings right through to Inverness and that is one of our favorite places to go. Each stretch has its own amazing views. We take the four wheeler out, go for walks and have had many photo shoots on the trail. There are so many volunteers who work hard maintaining it and we try not to take for granted that we have this amazing trail system right in our back yard.
  • Veggie – That’s a tough one! We have been working on our green thumbs for a few years in the garden in our back yard. We even built a green house with some friends of ours. Steve’s favorites are the potatoes we dig up every year. They taste amazing, last us most of the winter and go with just about everything! I was really impressed with the carrots we produced. They were some of the best tasting carrots I have ever had!
  • Band– Ou, another toughie! Haha There is a lot great local musical talent from here! We really enjoy Town Heroes who are from Mabou and Inverness. I also love Soho Ghetto. They are based out of Halifax but Shawn Burke who plays the drums is from my hometown of Port Hawkesbury. But how can we only mention two? It seems so wrong because of all the talent from the area. The Eddie Cummings Band, Lisa Cameron, Company Road, and the wonderful voice of Joanne MacIntyre, to name a few more!


7. Are you planning to stay in CB? Why, or why not?– 100% Yes! Cape Breton has everything we want in life. As long as we can continue to make a living here we will be happy staying right where we are. It will take a lot for us to move away again. The Cape Breton we know and love is full of interesting characters, hard working individuals and so many more adventures to be had. The best way we can contribute to helping this place grow is sticking it out, being creative in the way we make a living and committing to making this our home.

8. Dream big for a moment: what are your hopes and dreams for this place?

We would love to see the day when people our age not only want to stay here but can stay here. And we know we are not the only ones. There is no easy fix for that and it has to be a communal effort over time. But hopefully someday we can be rid of the “you have to leave to get ahead” mentality.

I also would love for this Island to break through the stereotypes. For many people, when they think about Cape Breton they hear stories about outmigration, unemployment, and other depressing statistics. While you can’t avoid these facts, we also can’t ignore all of the good things that are happening either. I would love for people to see Cape Breton the way I see it. I see committed hard working people, unique small businesses, effective shop local campaigns, events like Lumiere in Sydney, an abundance of Farmer’s Markets, and more of our friends moving back home every year. I believe that if you focus on the negative, that’s what you will get. More negative. If you focus on the positive, well, you get the idea. I think that there has to be a shift in mindset.Instead of people waiting for change we need to be the change. Life is what you make of it and we need more people to make a life here.

This Q+A with Emily and Steve is part of an ongoing series of interviews with people associated with Cape Breton in some way – mostly young people, but not necessarily. The complete list of interviews is here.

Posted in Active living, Art, Business ideas, Community, Design, Outdoors, Q+A, Sustainability, Towns + communities, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

multitude monday / sep 29


My friend and former design classmate Katie MacLennan writes a great blog called Polka Dot Soup. On it she writes a post some Mondays called “Multitude Monday.” She writes, “Mondays are about documenting the little (or big!) things in life that make me oh-so-happy. Let’s make Mondays a day to reflect on the goodies, and not the baddies.”

Also, last year I read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly: How The Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead,” in which she writes, “The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

(The last Multitude Monday post I wrote, last week, is here.)

The ten things I’m most grateful for right now:

191. A relaxed Friday night at home.

192. Sleeping in on Saturday morning.

193. Because Adam was working, I had the house to myself on Saturday. I did a massive pile of dishes that had been waiting and holding over from the previous three days. I cranked the tunes. I had the windows open. It was good.

194. A visit with a friend and chats about film-making, creativity, and community.

195. Lumiere!!

196. Art.

197. Community wishes.

198. Visiting with a blog reader in Baddeck Bay (picture at top of post is from her home).

199. Visiting with my mom and brother on Sunday afternoon. There really is nothing like family, for getting old in-jokes, for laughing at the weird things, for presence, for love.

200. Returning home Sunday evening and curling up on the couch with Adam. Football on the TV, takeout pizza, and just being there together = heaven.

Have a great Monday!

Posted in Art, Community, Day to Day Life, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

links loved special edition: Lumiere!


This is the glamourous life of a blogger: taking multiple selfies on a street while people drive by and think you’re a weirdo, in search of the perfect “casually reading the Lumiere guide” shot for posting to Instagram.

I say, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? LOL.

ANyway, it’s Lumiere day! It’s Lumiere day! For a person like me who loves art and community, it’s a little bit like Christmas!

In this week’s edition of Links Loved (a weekly roundup of rad links I loved from the Interwebs, inspired by Elise Blaha Cripe’s weekend links series), it’s allll about the annual art-at-night festival here in Sydney.

(By the way, I’ll be there tonight, volunteering as the social media assistant, posting stuff I see to my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #lumierecb. Of course, being there in person is the best, but if you can’t be there in person, follow along my and other’s adventures using the hashtag!)

Alright, here we go:

Artist Kate MacDonald: a painting and a video (quite different from one another). (She’s #21 in Lumiere this year.)

Michael McCormack’s project Beacon is #26. Here is a video of his lighting tests from earlier this year. This is his blog about the project.

Moire effects are pretty neat! (You’ll see them in #23).

This is the post I wrote last year before going out to Lumiere. It has pictures of the 2012 festival.

The meaning of “Cuimhneachadh” (title of Vixie Bee’s #33).

Through the Ear of the Teacup (#6).

Cool costume art by Arianne Pollet-Brannen and weather-inspired art by Carly Butler (together they are #3).

This article in the Chronicle Herald has some more info about what you’ll see tonight on the streets of Sydney, and the Lumiere website has the full guide, as well as a rad video showing some of last year’s festival!

Have a great weekend, lovelies.

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a trip to Blue Heron Farm

blueheronfarm1 Two weeks ago I drove out to Gardiner Mines after work, to visit with Marc Vassallo on his (and his parents’) organic veggie farm. It was an overcast day and there was a bit of drizzle, but I put on my rubber boots and traipsed around with Marc as he showed me all the land they have in production.


I had never been out to their farm before, but I have bought from them at the Cape Breton Farmer’s Market in Sydney, and I can attest that the vegetables and eggs are fantastic.

blueheronfarm3 (There are chickens in here! Also, this is called a “chicken tractor,” which makes me laugh, and imagine a teeny-tiny tractor with a chicken riding on it.)
blueheronfarm4 Look at this view! That’s the Lingan Power Plant in the distance. There are blue herons that usually hang out in this little inlet, hence the name of the farm.

blueheronfarm5 Marc shows me a patch of seaweed they pulled up from the beach, that’s both killing the grass under it to prepare new ground for growing, and being rinsed by the rain. Once most of the salt is out of the seaweed, in a few months, they’ll use it for mulch in other beds.

blueheronfarm6 Seedlings harden off in these frames, which are made out of old construction materials (Marc’s dad, Leonard’s, obsession is to collect these old door insets).

blueheronfarm7 blueheronfarm8 blueheronfarm9They grow the onions and the beets in clumps of three or four.


Cantaloupe! On Cape Breton! It can be done.

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This tunnel full of tomatoes is what I imagine heaven to be like. (I really really love tomatoes.)

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The property the Vassallos are living and farming on is close to where Leonard grew up in Dominion, and growing food here started out as their retirement project. (But quickly grew into much more!) Leonard’s wife Monique (Marc’s mom) is originally from New Brunswick. The two met in Newfoundland and lived in Cornerbrook for many years, teaching biology. Now they put their bio-smarts to good use with soil and seeds. Son Marc moved to Cape Breton in May from Toronto, and is taking on more and more of the work of the farm. He’s planning to do a full-run CSA next year, and the farm may become certified organic down the road as they expand.

Maybe Leonard and Monique will get to retire after all!

In case you’re curious, a pint of tomatoes is $4, kale is $5 for a 1/2-lb bunch, spinach is $5 for 1/2-lb, and carrots are $3/bunch. For more information, follow the Vassallos on Twitter @Blueheronfarmer or email Marc at marckvassallo@gmail.com . You can also join the Facebook group for the farm here.

Posted in Business ideas, Community, Environment, Food + agriculture, Markets, Outdoors, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

four simple goals: climate change

foursimplegoals-climate So on Sunday I went to the People’s Climate Forum in Sydney. (I wrote about it last week, before it happened, here on the blog.)

It was … good. I mean, to be honest, I find it hard to pick a word to describe the four hours I spent in the former gym in the Holy Angels building, with forty or so other people. I was going to use “interesting” first, and then “powerful,” and those are true, but those words each only describe just a part of the gathering. Because, I mean, it was about climate change, which, by the way, is quite real and happening, and is absolutely terrifying. (Or maybe that’s just me that feels that way? No?) But it was also a gathering of forty or so people ranging in age from two months old to eighty-something. There was food, we laughed and talked, and we shared news and stories. All of that stuff is wonderful and life-affirming.

So the forum was two things at once. Happy, and sad. Solutions (community), but also problems, so big as to seem insurmountable.

I came away from the Forum on Sunday feeling re-committed to reality, instead of denial. Not that I’ve been outright denying that climate change exists, but it is a lot easier on my head and heart to ignore it as best as I can, and that’s a kind of denial too. To go about my day, driving places, buying stuff, as though it’s all fine and good, as though we’re not on the brink of catastrophic changes to weather and world.

While I was at the Forum I was thinking, “OK, now that I’m going to be real about climate change, what can I do?” And it came to me quickly. I composed and then emailed myself this list for an updated “Four Simple Goals” list. (At the start of this year I wrote a list of four simple goals, and then I updated it with four new ones in July. New ones which, I’ll be honest, I haven’t done much with, except the last one.)

Then last night I wrote them out by hand. I scanned them and used Photoshop to make them into little graphics. So here they are, my four simple goals for the next little while, all to do with climate change:


foursimplegoals-climatechange-2 foursimplegoals-climatechange-3 foursimplegoals-climatechange-4

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes! And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Posted in Community, Environment, Leah's thoughts, Motivation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

praise for small steps



We moved into our house* two years ago. When you first move into a house you’re full of ideas and plans, and we talked a lot about the changes, big and small, that we wanted to make. Renovate the kitchen! Renovate the bathroom! Add another bathroom!

We made one or two small changes, like painting the living room, but then life took over. I was in school and Adam was working. We had a roof over our heads and a couch to cuddle on — the important stuff! — and the other stuff took a back seat.

Now I’m done school. I have a job. Adam’s still working the same schedule, and in fact is working a bit more than he was before, but I’m slowing my life down a little bit, stepping down from a volunteer commitment, and just generally focusing on home and on myself.

But when you’ve got a long wish list, where do you start?

It feels overwhelming to look around at the empty walls and the spaces where you dream of doing neat things. In a given week I really only have an hour or so in the evening that’s not making dinner or relaxing after dinner, to do some work on the home. There is one day a weekend (Saturday — because Sundays are for relaxing too).

So you start somewhere. Anywhere. Pick a thing and make a small change.

For example, I hated that the blind on the big front window in the master bedroom didn’t work, and was always shut, so that the room always felt dark and closed-off. So last weekend, I ripped the blind down. I don’t (or didn’t) know a single thing about curtains or hanging them, but I took measurements of the window height and width, and trotted off to Walmart. No blinds were wide enough by themselves for the whole window, so I picked out two sets of blinds that added up to the width of the window, bought them and brought them home.

Adam looked at them, and told me they were the wrong choice for the window we have (he was right — I hadn’t taken all the measurements. And this is how I learn!). So I took them back to Walmart. He suggested I exchange them for an expandable curtain rod and some curtains, so I did. Adam put the rod up the next day, and I hung the curtains. Done!

They are not “perfect”, and they will likely be changed again down the road. But they do what I want them to do — open and shut! — and best of all, it’s done. It’s a small change, but it’s something. And whenever I look at the curtains, or open them up in the morning to let light in, or shut them at night to curl up in bed and read, I feel proud, I feel excited, and I feel like more small changes are totally doable. And that, my friends, is the goal.

*Technically Adam’s house. But our home.

Posted in Day to Day Life, Home, Motivation | Tagged | 6 Comments