My grandfather believed that you should change your career every seven years to get the most out of life. And he did. Over the course of his lifetime, he went from participating in the underground resistance movement in Holland during the Second World War to a civil engineer in California to a real estate appraiser in Canada. He had seven children with my grandmother and he wasn’t afraid to move them around either. He wasn’t the perfect man or even the best father but he was a risk taker and I admire that.
Reworks Upcycle Shop will be ten years old this September. My business has changed quite a bit since I first opened in 2011. There weren’t too many shops like mine anywhere. Specializing in recycled products was so new that it was actually a lot of work to source enough products to fill a shop. On top of that, there were not many Canadian makers either. I had to import most of my inventory. Today, I’m proud to say that 95% of my products are Canadian made diverting thousands of pounds of materials from our landfills every year. Recycling or “Upcycling’ is finally starting to become mainstream along with ‘zero waste’ and ‘local made’. But, my career is past due. I want to try something new.
It is with great privilege that I am announcing that I will be moving back to my hometown, Nelson, and starting a new rural life building Bear Spring Eco Retreat in May of this year. I will be moving back into my childhood home on our family farm in the beautiful mountains of the West Kootenays. When I said I was going to go back to basics this year, I meant it.
Over the course of the next few years, along with my husband and parents, we will be transforming this 300 acre forested property into a beautiful, sustainable retreat where we’ll be hosting guests in our lodge and handcrafted sleeping cabins with edible food forests to forage in. We’re converting our barn into a gathering place for weddings or workshops offering stunning views and eco-friendly amenities for up to 50 people. (I not so secretly dream about hosting a party complete with live music in this barn to celebrate the end of the pandemic.) We’ll still have a little shop selling art and decor plus convenience items and, hopefully, the excess produce from our food forests. My parents already have a thriving peony farm providing beautiful, fresh cut flowers for your special event. There are so many recreational opportunities here too. Our property offers walking, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and snowshoeing trails that back onto even more developed trails on the crown land above us. Beside us is a deer reserve where hunting is not allowed. Below is in the river. We have our own clean water source and plan to install both solar and water turbine electrical generation systems. Our long term vision is for a completely off-grid, self contained, sustainable lifestyle complete with food, water and electricity.
To be honest, I really want to call it an ‘experiment’ because that is essentially what this retreat will be. Sure, I have learned many useful skills as an artist, designer and eco-retailer but I’m going to be learning many new skills too. Some of my goals will be easy, some will be very challenging. I will probably try things that don't work and will have to change plans from time to time. I am changing careers from working in a very niche market into an entirely holistic lifestyle and I am really excited to share my journey with you.
First up, we have to put in a proper septic system that is both eco friendly and sustainable. We don’t like to talk about it but a safe, comfortable place to poop is very important for making your guest experience the best it can be. Next, I am taking a permaculture course. It’s designed specifically for learning how to design and grow a food forest in the microclimate of the West Kootenays. I hope to learn all about the local indigenous plants and animals of this area. There is so much stuff I have to relearn that I have forgotten since childhood. There are also many new things to learn. The Sinixt (sn-səlxcin) lived successfully in this region for thousands of years. I aim to operate our retreat in alignment with their world view. I want to share what I learn and create to help us all to develop a more sustainable, inclusive way of living on this planet. To follow our progress developing the retreat visit bearspringeco.ca or follow us on Instagram @BearSpringEcoRetreat.
I will keep running Reworks Upcycle Shop and simply moving operations to Nelson. I will still have the best selection of recycled products in Canada and will continue to make many of my own items. You will still be able to shop online. I plan to decorate our lodge and sleeping cabins with my art, upcycled decor and refurbished furniture, all of which will be for sale. I want to continue to collaborate with others. I hope that I can host chefs at cooking workshops using food picked from our forest, host artist retreats inspired by the stunning views from our property or even crafting workshops utilizing recycled materials. I want to continue to host bike riding events and tours. Perhaps I’ll add hiking and skiing to that list. Feel free to offer suggestions or make recommendations. What activities would you like to see our retreat offer? What products are you interested in? What new skills do you think I should learn? Do you see an opportunity for collaboration? Feel free to contact me at both [email protected] or [email protected]
I am excited to share my transition from inner city living to rural life with you. My ReworksYYC social media accounts will continue to focus on products and living a green lifestyle while my Bear Spring social media accounts will have a focus on the retreat itself. We hope to open the first phase of Bear Spring Eco Retreat to guests in July, 2021.