From: Carla Allen – Saltwire

There’s the business of cutting down forests en masse for biomass energy production; then there’s the business of letting forests stand, in order to benefit financially from the environment, they create.

Barrie MacGregor, a resident of Canaan, Yarmouth County, is definitely among the latter group.

MacGregor is seeking ideas for making use of forests in ways that don’t require harvesting the whole tree.

“I think our woodlands are a tremendous resource for a lot of things besides timber,” he says.

He uses BoreA Canada as an example. The Quebec company extracts essential oil from balsam fir by steam distillation and sells the product.

MacGregor believes Nova Scotia woodlands are a tremendous resource for many things besides timber.
He uses the off-grid AirBnb, which he and his wife Sandra Phinney refer to as The Shack, as another case in point.

Nicknamed, The Shack, Sandra Phinney and Barrie MacGregor’s off-the-grid Airbnb in East Canaan has been very popular with guests looking for kinship with the forest. SANDRA PHINNEY PHOTO – CONTRIBUTED

“Usually when I take someone over to the Shack I stop and ask them to listen.”
“What did you hear? he asks them. “Nothing,” they say.
“That’s what you’re paying for,” he tells them.
“That always gets a smile,” he says. “I’m getting $85 a day for selling silence. Who knew?”

He shows a sample of Sandra’s macro photos of the forest as another business idea.  “These could be sold to nature magazines,” he says. “She plans to make some cards to sell.”


Nicola Roberts-Fenton, owner of Alder Wilderness Experiences, is introducing the curious to forest bathing, also known as Shinrin Yoku.

“Essentially it’s a practice that was born out of studies in Japan in the 80s, regarding the effects of nature on our health,” she says.

Youngsters painted rocks then hid them in the forest during Alder Wilderness Experiences Forest Playing workshop last year. NICOLA ROBERTS-FENTON PHOTO – CONTRIBUTED

“Scientific studies confirm that time in the forest is actually great for our mental health and physical health,” she adds. “The practice is generally a mindful, almost meditative time spent in nature. Paying attention to our senses and breath. Some studies found that being amongst conifer trees has stronger benefits.”

Last July she held a well-attended Forest Bathing event at Birchdale during ‘Buck Moon.’ She hung a hammock, laid out a spread of tea pots, lanterns with fairy lights and rhubarb cake treats on her overturned canoe with a wool blanket as the tablecloth.

“What I didn’t expect was the ‘all in’ devotion of the group to ‘being in the moment,’” she says.

The group sat on a fallen tree and were asked to focus on their breath, the night air and the natural silence.

“The rest of the evening was more social and was great fun, but those moments of stillness moved me,” she says.

Walking back after midnight, one of the participants pointed out the sap oozing from the evergreens, sparkling in the glow of their headlamps.

Roberts-Fenton has also held a Forest Playing (Shinrin Yoku) workshop with children, collecting rocks then painting them with fairies, gnomes, and pixies. The rocks were hidden in holes in the trees after lunch. Free play followed and the youngsters found mud, jumped in it, threw rocks in it, filled a bucket, painted parents’ legs with mud and washed it all off in the brook, a place that Roberts-Fenton played in as a child.

“It made me happy to see another generation exploring its magic,” she says.

Foraging table samples gathered by Gourmet by Nature. – CONTRIBUTED


Patrick and Pamela Wallace are owners of Trout Point Lodge, a luxury wilderness lodge in East Kempt, adjacent to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area.
Patrick says the pristine wilderness surroundings offer a wealth of outdoor experiences that are a highlight of any stay at Trout Point Lodge.

“Whether it be Forest Bathing, hiking, or paddling, these activities offer guests an immersive experience in nature. In the late summer and fall, we offer foraging and cooking classes focused on the natural ingredients found in our forests.”

Sean & Tara Laceby, owners of Gourmet by Nature in Port Williams, create unique wild food experiences for their guests by exploring the landscape, foraging or harvesting food from nature, and then sharing techniques on how to prepare these foods into some delicious gourmet tastes.

They follow nature’s cues and the season to build their experiences. Right now, they’re foraging with their guests for items like alder or birch catkins, sumac, chaga, and soon, maple. Last month they taught guests how to set a trap line for snowshoe hares, and then how to prepare this as a natural, local and organic food choice.

Sean Laceby identifies a chaga cluster on a yellow birch tree during a foraging outing. – CONTRIBUTED

Sean Laceby says the variety of what is available in our forests is directly related to the health of our forest.

“If the ecosystem thrives, so do our food options. There are many fungus, lichen and animals that require balance in nature to even survive. Nature provides barometers for us, you just have to understand where to look. We remind people of this at every opportunity,” he says.

He adds that many people have been forced to reconsider where their food comes from in this pandemic restricted world. Food security has become a real concern. Who would have imagined that visiting a grocery store could be a potential health hazard?

“We’re building an awareness that food can be found in the backyard, the forest and in nature,” he says. “Moreso, we are teaching people the importance of sustainable, beneficial harvesting and preparation techniques, and our guests love it.”

  • Posted in Media highlights
  • Comments Off on Money grows beneath the trees in Nova Scotia