Proactive & pragmatic: How one home builder manages pandemic-era projects

Proactive, pragmatic, and detail-driven, Karen Flasch has been earning accolades from both her clients and the Sarilia community. Over the past year, she’s steadfastly managed a successful build here at Sarilia—in a way that minimized disruption to the neighbours.

Karen Flasch outside her new build at Sarilia

When construction material prices skyrocketed and shipment delays became the new normal, Karen stockpiled materials for her client’s build in her own garage, in order to keep her project on time and on budget. “It was fully loaded up to the ceiling,” says Karen, with a laugh. 

We’ve heard nothing but good things about her through the grapevine, so we decided to reach out and learn more about Karen, her company, and the home she’s building for her client here in the river valley. 

Tell me about your business. 
I am a co-owner of Flasch Contracting. My son and I operate this business together. His name is Colton Flasch. I have been in the construction industry with an incorporated company for the last 16 years. So I’ve been a woman in this industry for quite a few years. 

Karen’s son, Colton Flasch

Tell me about yourself, and Colton. 
I enjoy spending time with my children and granddaughter. I love to travel and am looking forward to hopefully doing that again. 

When Colton isn’t working, he is a professional curler who trains very hard. He has won several provincial titles, two Canadian titles (one at junior level), and a one-time silver at world’s in 2019. In the summer, you will find Colton on a golf course in his off time. 

Can you describe the lot that you’re building on at Sarilia?
It’s a riverfront lot. My customer, Nickie, decided to buy two lots and we parcel-tied them together so she has a larger than average lot. The lot is perfectly set up for a walkout basement, so that’s what we chose to do.

What were Nickie’s priorities for her new house?
She definitely wanted that view of the river, so the A-frame design, expansive windows, the loft, and the two decks helped us achieve that. It was all about the view, and the serenity and peacefulness of watching the river and the wildlife.

With two decks on either side of the house, “Nickie is going to have a really nice birds’ eye view of the river,” says Karen.  

Sarilia residents have been very impressed by how clean you keep the job site. Is that always a priority, and how to you keep neighbours happy during a build?
As a general contractor, my priority is to communicate a lot with my subcontractors to make sure everybody is on the same page with the timeframe.

Even if we’ve had to temporarily store lumber somewhere while we’re waiting for the bin to be dumped, we make sure there’s nothing laying around (either materials or garbage), and that we’re parked in the right spot. 

Aside from stockpiling materials in your own garage, how did you manage the challenges of building during the pandemic?
Luckily, I have very good subcontractors who have been very proactive. As an example, my plumber said he wanted to order the furnace and ducting early on in the project. I’m very happy he suggested that, because it saved our customer a ton of money, and if we hadn’t ordered early we would probably still be waiting now.

Would you consider building at Sarilia again?
Absolutely. We know what is expected out there. Gwen (the developer) is good at communicating and letting us know what we need to do. And the inspector from the RM of Laird has been super helpful. 

I just want to make sure we do the best job possible, and that we are following the architectural design standards, out of respect for the beautiful grasslands and the river. It’s an honour to be able to work out there. There aren’t many places like that anymore. It’s a beautiful spot, so to be part of it is exciting. 

Nickie will have a panoramic view of the North Saskatchewan River from her home.

Seeking river valley views: Q&A with Kelsee

We’re thrilled to welcome Kelsee, Gavin and their five kids to Sarilia this January. Having lived in Warman since they were married ten years ago, the couple weren’t even considering moving to a new neighbourhood, until Kelsee—an avid runner—was inspired by a beautiful river view she saw on one of her frequent runs. 

“I had done a few runs close to Swift Current at Beaver Flats and that area has a river view,” she says. “So, when we were talking about updating our current house or building new, we decided the only way we would move is if we could get that river view.”

They found that vibrant river vista here at Sarilia and we couldn’t be happier to have this energetic family as new neighbours. 

We recently chatted with Kelsee to learn more about her family, their new home, and their plans for their new life in the river valley. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself, and your husband Gavin.
I was a teacher, but since having kids, I have done personal training out of my home. I also have a degree in music—and I do balloon animals. Basically, if there’s something weird out there for a hobby, I do it. My husband is an engineer.

Gavin is quite active—he does slow-pitch and curling and he likes to play rec hockey. I used to be a long-distance runner. We like to go hiking and we’re so excited that the River Ridge trails are close to Sarilia. We went out there last winter and we were just amazed by how great they were. We have lots of family close by, so we like to hang out with them. We’re quite social.

Gavin is from Osler and I’m from North Battleford, so neither of us went very far from home. 

Can you tell me about the lot you purchased here at Sarilia?
The lot is fantastic. It’s about 2 acres. We are at the top of the hill with panoramic views. I didn’t want to be surrounded by trees—some people love that, and it feels like a cabin—but I wanted river views. We also back the nature preserve.

The front yard is over an acre, where the kids can play. That was always the point—if we built, we needed room for the kids to run, but we still wanted to be in a community. On a larger acreage, I’d be driving my kids to see their friends, whereas here, they can just walk down the hill. 

What are your plans for the yard?
We were hoping to put in a zip line. And maybe a BMX track on the hill.

Tell me about your new home.
We’ve built a big white farmhouse style with two-storeys and a walkout basement. It’s got a covered porch and covered deck. We’ve got an oversized three-car garage so that I have space for my gym in there. 

How old are your kids?
Our oldest, Bradley, is 8, and Mark is 7. Felix just turned 5, and we have a 4-year-old, Moe, and an 1-year-old, Deuce. 

What did your kids think about the move to Sarilia?
We told them about the zip line, so they’re excited about that. Our new home isn’t a lot bigger than our Warman house, but it looks a lot bigger because we put the garage beside it, not in front of it. And so they think we’re moving into a mansion (laughs). 

You decided to work with Westbury Homes on the construction of your new home. What made you choose them for your builder?
We sent an email out to several builders after we found this lot. We gave them our budget and must-haves, and asked, ‘Can we afford to do this?’ And lots of builders gave a very generic response. 

Ben at Westbury got back to us and was so down-to-earth. He said the budget would work and showed us some projects they had done and gave us a rough price per square foot. He did so much research. He had already contacted Gwen (Sarilia’s developer) before responding to our email, to find out about building at Sarilia. 

He was just great from the beginning and his wife, Jenn, is a designer and they work together. I have a definite style but could not put it together on my own, and Jenn is so great because she gives me a couple of options and I can’t go wrong either way. 

What are you most looking forward to about your new life at Sarilia?
I am looking forward to it being quiet—not seeing cars coming and going all the time. I’m just going to become one of those slow-moving coffee drinkers.

What do you think Gavin is looking forward to?
I think he’s looking forward to the quiet too. Just kind of sitting, looking at the view, and knowing we don’t have to worry about the kids running into traffic or anything like that. 

What about your kids?
Digging holes. It’s very specific. In fact, when the excavating was done for the basement, my kids almost peed themselves because of the big dirt piles. They asked if the piles were staying. But there are enough hills and dirt that I’m sure they’ll build like gophers. 

Do you think your family will get into canoeing or kayaking on the river this summer?
We went to camp last summer and the kids were all kayaking and canoeing, so we thought, ‘Sarilia will be a good fit for them.’ We didn’t want a riverfront lot because I was a bit concerned about the kids and the water, so we have access to the water without it being too close. We own a camper, so (buying) a kayak is probably the next step. 

Do you remember what your first impression of Sarilia was?
It was gorgeous. Not all of the lots have river views, but there is definitely a type of lot for every person. Some people really like that closed-in cabin feeling and there are lots of those kind of properties that are tucked into the trees. 

The lot we ended up getting was my favourite part of Sarilia.  When we first visited, I parked my car at a lookout point, and I was like, “oh this is the million-dollar view.” But it wasn’t for sale (it was marked for future development).

But, after chatting with Gwen about the type of lot we were looking for to build a home and raise our kids, she decided to sell it to us. 

What kinds of activities will you do as a family this winter?
I can see us getting into those river trails (at River Ridge). They have snowshoeing out there, so I could see us doing a lot of that. We could easily get into the cross-country skiing there too. Although arming my kids with spiky poles is concerning (laughs), maybe I’ll just pull them on their skis. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We’ve very excited to meet everybody. It seems like the residents do a really great job of building community and hosting events and we love stuff like that. It will be a really nice change for us. 

We had family photos taken recently and the photographer mentioned that there are several other new families here so that’s exciting. We won’t feel like the only new people. 

Finding my nature fix

“If I imagine hell as a physical place of torture and pain, it’s not the heat that troubles me most; it’s the noise. Hell surely means living in the unceasing din of a construction zone with no time limits, where earplugs and noise cancelling headphones are banned. In the Middle Ages, Christian scholars believed noise was used as a weapon by Satan, who was bent on preventing human beings from being alone with God or fully with each other, alert and listening.” – Julia Baird, Phosphorescence

Sarilia’s glorious fall colour

When new residents move from the city to Sarilia, it doesn’t take long for them to notice the soothing effects of being immersed in nature here in the country. Often, the first comments I hear from our new neighbours is how much they appreciate the quiet, and the calming feeling that envelops them as they descend into the river valley after a day of working in Saskatoon. 

It’s a sentiment echoed in Florence Williams’ bestselling book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative.

“Yes, we’re busy,” Williams writes. “We’ve got responsibilities. But beyond that, we’re experiencing a mass generational amnesia enabled by urbanization and digital creep.” She explains that, today, American and British children spend half as much time outside as their parents did, and we have lost more than we’ve realized because of our “epidemic dislocation from the outdoors.”  

She explains that “we don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization.” 

Although it is terrific to walk our river trails listening to some tunes, it is a completely different experience to walk in solitude and awaken all five senses. Listening to the rustle of the leaves in the wind, smelling the fresh air, and simply breathing in the feeling of Mother Nature on your skin and in your body—it’s both calming and revitalizing. 

Hoar frost blankets the trees along the North Saskatchewan River

Before we lived in the country, I would experience this nature fix once or twice a year when we went camping at one of Saskatchewan’s northern lakes. I’m now keenly aware that spending time in nature once or twice a year is not enough.

Ronn and I have been settled in the river valley for nearly eight years now. Living within nature has had a calming, quieting effect on my life. It’s made me slow down and appreciate a more peaceful, easy, relaxed pace.

While I still enjoy spending time in the city, there’s nothing like returning to my home, nestled within nature with a view of the winding North Saskatchewan River outside my door. 

I’ve found my nature fix right here at home, and I’m happy to receive a daily dose of it. 

-Gwen

From acreage living to river valley vistas: Why one young family chose Sarilia

Chelsey, Dustin and their two children are some of Sarilia’s newest transplants—having moved here from an acreage near Hepburn this fall. Although Chelsey says they loved having “a lot of space for our 4-year-old to run around,” the downside was a feeling of isolation. “The closest neighbour was actually my husband’s cousin and they were about a mile away,” she says. 

When the couple learned they were expecting their second child, they considered making an addition to their two-bedroom home. But financially, it didn’t make sense, so they started searching for a larger home. They began by looking at houses in several small Saskatchewan cities and towns, but eventually ended up right here at Sarilia. We recently chatted with Chelsey (and her son Thatcher!) to get to know this vibrant young family and why they decided to relocate to the river valley. 

Tell me a little about yourself and your family.

Thatcher is four, and Lachlan is three months. My husband, Dustin, works for Acadia Paving. He is a heavy duty mechanic and he’s the shop foreman there. I’m a stay-at-home mom as of right now. That might change. 

What are some of your hobbies?

My husband’s hobby is easy: cars—anything automotive. And fishing. 

For me, it’s camping—we do a lot of camping in the summer. We typically go to Sask Landing. This summer was the first year we got our own trailer so we went out to Martins Lake for September long. We want to do more exploring around the province. 

What was it that you enjoyed about acreage living, and what were the challenges?

We enjoyed the space—having a yard for a bonfire and my son loves soccer, so space to kick the ball around. Although I enjoyed not having neighbours right beside us, on the other side, it felt secluded and I didn’t really enjoy that. Not having a community was probably the only downside. 

What kind of selection criteria did you have for your new home?

We were just looking for a larger house, with four bedrooms and a garage. That was pretty much our only criteria. In the long run, that probably made it harder for us because we didn’t have a specific location in mind. We were looking in Warman, Martensville, Waldheim, Osler—we were looking everywhere.

How did you find Sarilia?

My sister, who lives in Swift Current, sent me a listing for a different house at Sarilia, but it didn’t have a garage. Then I just started looking at other houses in the area and found the one that we bought. We knew about Sarilia, but in all honesty, we didn’t think it would ever be in our price range so we didn’t even consider looking out here.

Do you have any plans for meeting your neighbours once you’re settled in?

We have a dog, so we’ve been walking him, and people are out on their decks and they say hello, so we’ve been chatting with people that way. I’m also hoping, with Halloween coming up, that will be another way we get to meet people. 

Tell me about your dog. 

Our dog is a big, old man. We got him from someone who lived in Warman so he was a city dog and then we converted him to acreage living. Now that he’s older he’s going to be more of an indoor dog. His name is Rocky and he’s a Burmese Collie. 

Thatcher, what do you like most about your new home?

Thatcher: The paint. 

Chelsey: What about your bedroom? What’s in the window of your bedroom?

Thatcher: The moon!

Chelsey: The previous owners left a moon decal on the window, so it’s perfect for him.

What kind of activities do you want to do as a family this winter and next spring and summer?

We want to teach Thatcher how to skate. I know that in the past, the community here has made the little ice rinks so we’re excited to do that. We try—once a day—to walk up to the park at the top of the hill. And just a lot of fishing. My husband loves to fish so he and Thatcher are excited to go fishing down at the river.

Thatcher: I caught a fish.

Chelsey: Yes, you caught a fish at Petrofka. 

You must be very good at fishing. 

Thatcher: Yep!

Were you aware that there are a lot of young families at Sarilia before moving here?

We didn’t really know. We actually thought it was an older community. So we were definitely pleasantly surprised. To have our windows open and hear the kids playing outside—I like that. 

What was your first impression of Sarilia?

It’s beautiful. You come over the hill and you see all the trees. We saw it at the end of August and the beginning of September, so just all the greenery starting to turn for fall—it’s just gorgeous. And just driving around, you drive by someone and they wave to you. Again, it’s that community feel.

Tell me about the river view you have from your new home.

It’s amazing. Especially the balcony off of the master bedroom. It’s beautiful. We can also see it from our kitchen window on the main floor. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We are just really excited to meet people. The more walking around we do, I’m sure the more people we will meet. 

How Sarilia got its name

“Sarilia” is a name that carries historical significance.  It’s a variation of the name Savilya Demoska, one of the early settlers on the land where Sarilia Country Estates was developed. Savilya was a Doukhobor and the name means “spirit wrestlers.” It’s an apt description of the 1,500+ Doukhobors who settled along the North Saskatchewan River valley over 100 years ago.

Some parts of Sarilia still look like they would have 100 years ago.

These Russian religious descendants sought harmony, making a new life of peace and contentment for their families. They established villages in the area and farmed their land together.

The Doukhobors farmed together as a community, and today, Sarilia residents garden together in the community garden.

When Ronn Lepage was a young child, his father, Laurier, often took him to this part of the river valley to spend quality time outdoors together. During these outings, Laurier taught Ronn about the things that truly matter. Things like love for the land, respect for the river, and the importance of a healthy community.

Years later, Ronn realized these childhood experiences with his father had influenced the man he has become. He is passionate about outdoor activities like canoeing, camping, fishing and snowshoeing, and he has passed down his love and passion for the outdoors to his adult children, just like his father did before him.

Today, Ronn and Gwen often walk the land and talk about Laurier. What would he think of the community they’ve created? They think he would appreciate how they’ve worked to preserve and respect the river valley’s ecosystem, and how the peaceful, community-minded philosophy of the “Spirit Wrestlers” is not forgotten.

Gwen and Ronn think Ronn’s late father, Laurier, would be proud of the tight-knit community they’ve helped create. They named a street at Sarilia—Laurier Crescent—in his honour.

Escape to the country: Q&A with Vaughn Krywicki

With four new builds kicking off at Sarilia this spring, we felt it was a good time to check in with local resident and Realtor Vaughn Krywicki. We’ve all read the articles about Canadian urbanites escaping the city for a new life in the country this year, and we were curious to hear if Vaughn was witnessing the same trend here in Saskatchewan.

Vaughn & his son Huxley at Sarilia’s Community Garden

In your work as a Realtor, have you seen more people leave Saskatoon for a new start in the country?

It’s been going on for years with some of the smaller centres surrounding Saskatoon. If you go to Warman, Martensville or Dalmeny, you go out on the streets and there are kids everywhere, right?

The next step is to the smaller communities like Sarilia. I’ve even fielded a few inquiries about Sarilia this year from people who are coming from larger centres outside of Saskatchewan—from Ontario primarily. They are typically younger people moving to Saskatchewan for work or coming back home after a short stint out east. They’re looking for a community like Sarilia.

Stacey and Huxley in the community garden

Does living at Sarilia provide a sense of normalcy during the pandemic?

COVID has been a terrible thing that’s happened to our world. But at Sarilia, sometimes you don’t feel as affected by it emotionally because you have all that natural space right outside your door. You can kind of forget about it—even if it’s only momentarily.

When people contact you about looking for a home at Sarilia, what are they looking for?

That’s a difficult question because it’s a lot of different things for different people. It could be an adventure, it could be peace and quiet, it could be just wanting to join a small community and make a difference within it. Sarilia is an interesting place because—I was thinking about this the other day—nobody is from Sarilia. Right? You might say, “I’m from Saskatoon,” or “I’m from Prince Albert,” or another city, but no one is originally from Sarilia—they’ve moved here from somewhere else. It’s kind of like being a pioneer (laughs).

Huxley picking beans

There are four new homes being built at Sarilia this spring. Can you tell me about who is moving here?

There are a couple of young families with children, there’s a young professional, and a mature professional. Overall, Sarilia is very young community—if you look around, there are lots of kids running around. We also have residents who are semi-retired or fully retired. It’s a vibrant community with a great mix of people.

What can you tell me about the types of homes being built this spring? 

It’s exciting because the new builds are located on all the different types of lot styles available at Sarilia. There is a build on a riverfront lot, a river view lot, and one of the more private (well-treed) river ridge lots. There is also a new build on one of the two acreage-sized parcels available at Sarilia.

It covers all the bases. It shows that there’s a spot, style and size for everyone. And different budgets of course. Which is great—Sarilia is a diverse community with some large, beautiful higher-end homes, as well as houses that are more of a modest price point. But they all flow with the architectural design standards to keep it all harmonious— and that’s good too because it helps build value and create community in unison.

Of the Sarilia residents you’ve talked to, what inspired them to move here?

It seems like it’s a connection to the river valley—the area and all the outdoor space. Living next to water is a powerful thing. I’ve always felt that way—that we are drawn to it. We’re just drawn to that as a human race; it’s embedded in our subconscious, I think. It’s a unique location in the river valley.

It’s also the sense of community and the outdoor space. Since the landscape is kept natural, residents have a lot of outdoor space, but don’t have to take care of all of it. You don’t have 5 -10 acres of manicured yard that sucks away your weekend. And that’s fine too, for some people. Some people take great pride in their yard, as people at Sarilia do. But it is not such a large parcel that it’s overwhelming.

Sarilia’s beach on the North Saskatchewan River

You’ve lived at Sarilia for six years now. Can you tell me about the sense of community you feel here?

Getting back to the point I said earlier about nobody being from here, the people who move here are often like-minded in one way or another.

There always seems to be something you can connect over, with your neighbours, young and old. Not everyone is a hardcore outdoors person though—some people just love being in the country and they enjoy the views. There’s a lot to see.

I personally just love watching the wildlife. Whether it’s driving to and from work or even at home, sometimes I will bust out the binoculars and look out the front window across the river and see something and it’s kind of neat. You can’t do that in the city—bust out the binoculars and look out your front window. If you’re not lucky your neighbour might catch you and think you’re pretty weird (laughs).

What kind of reaction do you get when you take people on guided tours of Sarilia?

I had a couple out here in February who were looking at properties and they said, “Oh gosh, it’s so beautiful.” They’d never been to Sarilia or the area before, and they said “I can’t imagine what it looks like in the summer if it looks this beautiful right now.”

Golden hour in Sarilia’s river valley

The Gathering Place: Carving out space for our community

With warmer spring weather finally here, and a year into the pandemic, we’ve come to understand the importance of having safe, outdoor spaces—like our community garden—to gather together at Sarilia.

So, it was timely that several of our residents banded together in 2020 to create another outdoor community space—a new park that is “attractive and accessible to all residents, their kids and pets,” says Carissa, the Sarilia resident who spearheaded the initiative.

We recently chatted with Carissa, her husband, Joe, and a few other community-minded residents who pitched in to create our new park, which is called The Hollows. We wanted to learn about how it came together, how residents are using the space, and its significance during a year like none of us have ever experienced.

Carissa: I’m a community planner and one day I was looking at the satellite image of the municipal reserve areas at Sarilia. These areas are dedicated to be used for recreation and other publicly accessible uses. The location seemed to be the perfect spot for a walking trail.

What were the next steps to set the plan in motion?

Carissa: In 2019, I approached the Sarilia Community Association (SCA) about the idea of building a trail through the municipal reserve and the opportunity to create a space for some playground equipment. The SCA felt it was a great idea and that was the spark to move forward with The Hollows.

How does the community band together for improvements like this?

Carissa: We simply send a few text messages and people show up—it’s amazing! It’s usually the same folks, but they work well together and enjoy the chance to help build something for the community! I know everyone feels their community has great spirit, but the people here genuinely care for each other and want to help.

Tell me about the community efforts involved in creating The Hollows.

Carissa: My husband, Joe, put in many personal hours carving out the trail and clearing the trees along with help in-kind from the RM. I was simply the supervisor! When it came to installing the playground equipment, the fire pit and the gazebo, the usual suspects in the community showed up to help—there are always those folks in a community who want to help. We are very fortunate we have several individuals and families who enjoy getting involved in positive community projects.

Joe: We cleared paths that follow the contour of the land. I handled a lot of the trail blazing and removal of the dead brush. We created a design for the swings, fire pit and gazebo. We received funding from the RM of Laird for those elements. I also poured a rink, which some of the kids are learning to skate on.

Jordan & Dessa: The park wouldn’t have happened without the awesome volunteers at Sarilia. People sacrificed their time and weekends to make this happen, and we all enjoyed the social aspect of working on it together.

Jade: We were informed when they were planning on building the playground, and if anyone could come and help they were welcome to. Devin went down and helped build the swings and gazebo.

How are Sarilia residents using the park so far?

Carissa: People use the park casually and formally: to walk the meandering trail through the trees, to exercise their dogs, to meet up (in small groups), for the kids to play, and to catch up with neighbours. This winter, Joe hauled several loads of water to create a small rink for the little kids to use—there’s even a hockey net that someone thoughtfully placed there.

One family even left Christmas chocolates out in the park for everyone! It’s amazing how people are using the park, and it makes me happy to see it bring people together—when so many things are trying to keep us apart right now (for good reason, of course!)

Jade & Devin: Every weekend it is full of people coming and going! People are either skating, having a fire, playing on the swings, or just visiting. It’s a great meeting place.

Can you tell me about Halloween in the park last fall?

Carissa: We decorated a “treat trail” that we called The Haunted Hallows and hung treats in the trees for the local kids. It was a big success in a time when everyone was trying to figure out how to safely trick-or-treat.

How is your own family using the park?

Jordan & Dessa: Our favourite part is the ice surface Joe made. We like to go shoot pucks and have a fire.

Jade & Devin: We use the park to get together with other neighbours and have our own family get-togethers. We also used the park for our daughter’s birthday party.

How old are your kids and what do they think of the park?

Jordan & Dessa: They are 5 and 9. They enjoy the park—they like shooting pucks, finding trails to slide down and throwing snowballs at Joe!

Jade & Devin: Our kids are 2 and 4. They LOVE the park and are always asking to go down into “the forest” (that’s what we call it in our house).

What was it like to see the park come to fruition?

Carissa: It makes me so happy to see my neighbours enjoying the space with their kids and dogs—to see them connect with their neighbours and build the community. There’s been birthdays and other informal gatherings since the Hollows was established.

Joe: It’s rewarding, because it brings the community together. We had a good turn out from residents who want to help.

Jade & Devin: It was awesome to see people work together and create something that will be used and appreciated for years to come.

Does the park have more significance now, due to the pandemic?

Carissa: As neighbours, we enjoy each other’s company so much that we miss being able to visit. The Hollows provides people with a way to safely visit outside their homes around the fire pit—it’s really important for some of us to continue to connect and support each other during this time.

Jordan & Dessa: Yes. We went down there on Boxing Day and ran into three other families. On a normal year, that probably wouldn’t have happened. It gave us something to do while we couldn’t spend Christmas with our families.

Jade & Devin: YES! Since getting together outside is more safe, we are using it a lot more for gatherings.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about The Hollows? Carissa: We’re not finished yet—we still have some other improvements we’d like to make.

Jordan & Dessa: We are hoping to add to the park this summer. Stay tuned!

Ski, hike, paddle & bike: How one Sarilia resident enjoys the great outdoors all year long

Having moved to Sarilia almost 11 years ago, Dale Prefontaine is one of our long-term residents. As one of the first Sarilia residents, he spent a summer cutting Sarilia’s river trails with his son, Matt, and building boardwalks with a group of other residents in the early 2000s. “It was a community effort,” he says, “The community here is very good at supporting each other. We rally together for events like this, to try and improve the park, trails and community garden.”

We recently chatted with him to discuss the new improvements being made to the community, his active, outdoor lifestyle at Sarilia, and how he’s seen our community develop and change over the years.

What was it about Sarilia that made you decide to move there?

Being able to have a home on a riverbank in Saskatchewan is a great opportunity.  It’s a unique property, in a beautiful setting—the river valley. I have deer running through my yard and rabbits and squirrels. It’s just awesome.

The former Langham golf course has been taken over by the River Ridge Nordic Ski Club. They have groomed trails for classic ski, skate ski, snowshoeing and hiking. The scenery is beautiful as the groomed trails follow the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. I hike and ski there frequently because it’s less than 5 minutes from Sarilia.

I’m a canoeist, so I’m on the water as much as I can be in the summer. I’ve canoed with my son from here to Prince Albert. We left from Petrofka, and I think it took three days to get to PA.

We’ll also get someone to drop us off at Borden (that drive takes 15 minutes) and we launch from there and have a nice two-hour paddle back to Sarilia. I go for daily walks down on the river trails. I’ve taken photos of porcupines and ruffed grouse on the trails—it’s a nice nature walk.

If it’s a nice day without much wind, I’ll go for a bike ride. You can either go to Langham or cycle east of Sarilia. I try to spend more time outdoors than I do indoors.

What kinds of changes have you witnessed during your 11 years at Sarilia?

The developers, Gwen and Ronn, originally thought it would be more like a retirement community with people in their 40s or 50s who could afford recreational properties (as a secondary home). But in the last 5-6 years Sarilia has become popular with a much younger demographic of people who want to move out of Saskatoon and live the country life. So, we have lots of babies and puppies (laughs). It’s really nice—I like that.

A group of Sarilia residents cleared out an area in the spring and put in a nice fire pit with a patio around it. We built a pergola and added a swing set for the kids. We’re going to add a horseshoe pit and we’ll be also be adding a skating rink. It’s a nice place for Sarilia residents to gather because it’s sheltered in a little dip in the landscape, and it’s enveloped by trees. Every year the community likes to enhance something that will help us enjoy the four seasons outdoors.

As a long-time resident, what is it like to live at Sarilia?

I am so enthralled with Sarilia. I think it’s a great opportunity to live in the country. A small city lot is 5,000 square feet, and most lots here are around 15,000 square feet. It’s the perfect fit if you want to live in the country.

The lots here are spacious, but with the xeriscaping, there’s very little maintenance compared with an acreage. When people move to an acreage, all they’re doing is maintaining it—there are ditches to cut and grass to mow. Here, it’s just laid back and you enjoy life a little more because you have the opportunity to. For me, getting rid of my lawnmower was one of the nicest things I ever did in my life (laughs).

How nature lovers experience Sarilia

Scott Enns has always felt drawn to the river valley and the serenity it offers. “I always liked the river life—the North Saskatchewan River and all the wildlife. It’s always been in my heart to live on the river,” he says.

Four years ago, Scott and his wife Pam made that dream a reality, when they moved to a riverfront lot at Sarilia. After discovering the lot for sale online, the couple drove to Sarilia, took one look, “and we called the Realtor and said, ‘we’ll take that lot,’” he says. “It was that quick.”

Although he grew up in Martensville, Scott spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ farm 15 km north of Sarilia, so he was familiar with the area. Today, Scott is an avid outdoorsman and the owner of Hook in Mouth Outfitters & Tours.

We recently chatted with him to learn how he experiences and appreciates the great outdoors right here at home.

I’ve heard that you find getting out into nature to be therapeutic. Can you explain that?

It really has been. Every single day I am outside in the wilderness. I’m always down at the river and I try to get on the water or on the trails. I’ll take my boat over to the island and go for a long walk. (The island is in the middle of the river).

I like that there’s no light pollution here—there are no street lights. When Gwen and Ronn developed it out here they didn’t want that. I was like, ‘wow, that’s brilliant.’ They did an awesome job.

What’s the island like?

There’s a trail that goes from one side to the other and it’s approximately 7-km long. There are all different species of trees—you’ll walk to one spot and it will be a whole forest of a certain tree and then you get to the north side and there’s all these really cool cottonwoods that are growing crooked.

Can you tell me about the famous cottonwood?

It’s right across from Sarilia on the island. It’s a black cottonwood. It’s 100-feet tall and it’s 20 feet in circumference at the base.

Is it one of the biggest trees in Saskatchewan?

It’s one of the biggest urban trees. There are pine and spruce up north that are probably over 100-feet. But it’s definitely one of the largest.

There is another tree on the island that is likely going to be called the most distinguished tree in Saskatchewan. It may have been struck by lightning and burnt out in the middle, so you can stand inside it. It’s really cool.

Besides the island, are there other parts of Sarilia you find relaxing?

Yes—the river trails. They stretch from one end of Sarilia to the other and it’s really nice down there. When it’s windy, you can go down there and be sheltered from the wind. We’ve had a fire down there with the neighbours a couple of times this summer. It was really fun.

What kind of wildlife have you spotted at Sarilia?

This morning I saw a big moose on the island (from my house). There are probably 5-6 moose on that island. Last year we saw two bears. There’s coyotes, elk, mink and red foxes. There are lots of different birds too—hawks, pheasants, owls, bald headed eagles, blue jays, woodpeckers and whiskey-jacks (AKA grey jay).

How would you describe your perfect day at Sarilia?

Just being outdoors, fishing, hiking and mountain biking. I try to get outside every day. I just love the peace and serenity of being in the quiet, hearing the coyotes and the birds.

How young professionals are building new—A peek inside the Humble Home

As an architectural technologist, it makes perfect sense for Taylor Freemantle to custom design her own home. Although she enjoys working in the city, she knew she didn’t want to live in Saskatoon. She recently purchased a lot right here at Sarilia, and since making the purchase, she’s been refining her house plans.

She’s building a Humble Home—the brainchild of VOCE Developments, a local Saskatoon home building company, where she happens to work. Humble Homes are an affordable, portable solution that can be adapted to suit your lifestyle as your needs change.

We recently interviewed Taylor to learn more about the Humble Home, and what makes it a perfect fit for her.

What made you decide to build a Humble Home and move to Sarilia?

I’m a  young professional with only one income. To try to find a house to purchase in Saskatoon is just not realistic. Everything is just so expensive. At Sarilia, the lots are affordable. To build something like this and move out there is actually in my budget. It’s realistic. I know there are a lot of people like me—young professionals who are looking to just get started and Sarilia is an awesome opportunity.

Other than affordability, what was it about Sarilia that made it a good fit?

I was raised in a small town in northeast Saskatchewan. I love working in the city but I’ve always wanted to live outside the city. Lots of my hobbies are outside. I like hiking and fishing, whereas in the city there’s not much opportunity for this lifestyle. Sarilia was perfect—it’s beautiful, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful.

The Humble home show house.

What kind of floor plan are you working on?

Right now, I’m designing a three-bedroom home. One bedroom for myself, a spare room if I have guests or family come to stay, and a smaller room to use as an office.

I’m focused on an open concept. I like entertaining—I have friends and family that I like to have over so it’s important to me to have an open-concept, multi-purpose space. Incorporating outdoor space is also important for me because I like fresh air and being outside.

Although the Humble Home is a permanent structure, can it transition with its owner if they decide they need more space in the future, for example, if their family is growing?

As your personal life changes and your family expands, you can transition the space—we can design for future additions if people are interested in doing that.

That’s my thinking right now. I’m doing this on my own, so my budget isn’t huge. I’m designing something that suits my needs right now and down the road as things progress and I need more room, I have that option.

Also, as your lifestyle changes or family grows, your Humble Home can be moved off site and replaced with a new one that better suits your needs.

VOCE has 12 customizable Humble Home floor plans—what distinguishes them?

We have floor plans targeting every different demographic. So, we have floor plans designed for the lake life where you don’t need a lot of closets, and we have other floor plans that are a bit bigger to accommodate full-time living. Some of them are one-bedroom floor plans and we have all the way up to 3-4-bedroom floor plans.

What kinds of neighbourhoods or settings are a good fit for the Humble Home?

Acreages and developments like Sarilia are a good fit. We’re familiar with Sarilia’s architectural design standards, and can easily work within those parameters to ensure the homes fit in aesthetically and respect the river valley ecosystem.

Will you build your home and then move it to Sarilia, or build on site? When is the big move?

I will be building it on site! I’m planning to have it finished for next fall—that way I can take my time with the design as I’m doing it in my spare time. View from the loft.

To inquire about available lots at Sarilia, contact Vaughn Krywicki at 306-381-9161.