“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
Where did the idea for The Hollows come from?
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!
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.
What kind of year-round recreation do you participate in at Sarilia? In the winter, I’ll either cross-country ski or snowshoe. With the early snowfall this year, snowshoeing was just automatic—I’ve probably been out snowshoeing about 15 times already.
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.
Tell me about the latest enhancement to Sarilia—the new park. It’s called The Hollows and it’s been a real community effort. One of our residents came up with an overall plan last year. Our parks & recreation committee pitched the plan to our local RM, and the RM was very supportive of our ideas.
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).
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. I love it.
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.
Taylor, 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.
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.
To inquire about the Humble Home, or to visit the Saskatoon Show Home, contact Duane Hill at 306-384-5599 or visit vocedevelopments.ca
To inquire about available lots at Sarilia, contact Vaughn Krywicki at 306-381-9161.
Wowzers—it is my favorite season! I seriously enjoy autumn—breathing in the crisp, cool air, the trees changing colour to brilliant oranges and reds, a time of looking forward, a fresh start and making changes. It always makes me feel optimistic and energetic. Just thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas just weeks away—there’s so much excitement, planning and family celebrations to look forward to. Also, let us not forget that it is the season for jeans, fun socks, scarves, cozy sweaters and boots.
A few weeks ago, we organized a photo shoot to celebrate harvest in our community garden. Even though we needed to keep our physical distance, it was wonderful to be together again.
I love the expression on Emma’s face when her mom picked a fresh strawberry for her. I love how surprised Huxley was to find yellow beans and a ginormous zucchini, and I loved seeing adult gardeners digging in the dirt, happy with their produce.
Maybe I enjoyed the garden more this year as it offered me a “pause for reflection.” It’s a time of feeling blessed and grateful for good health and well-being and for fellow gardeners and friends who are not only growing vegetables, but also growing a community. That makes my heart happy.
A lot of the people who make their home at Sarilia were originally searching for an acreage near Saskatoon. Usually, that desire originates back to how they grew up themselves—on a family farm or acreage-style property. The lots for sale at Sarilia are less than an acre, but some residents have combined two lots to create an acreage property. Either way, our river trails, nature reserves, community garden and playground provide lots of communal green space to enjoy without the extra upkeep.
Our newest neighbours, Courtney, Keith and their two kids, found that Sarilia was the perfect place to “meet in the middle,” after moving here from Hanley, SK in December. Keith had been wanting to move to an acreage, and Courtney wanted to move to Saskatoon—and Sarilia ended up being the perfect fit for their family.
We recently chatted with Courtney to find out what else attracted them to our river valley community, and how they plan to spend their first summer at Sarilia.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? I’m a mom to two. I have a 3-year-old, Kinsley, and 1-year-old, Lincoln. I am married to Keith and he works in the construction field. Generally, he is on the road, but right now he is based in the office because of everything that’s going on.
I also work in the construction field as a manager. I’m partly working from home but I have the kids right now. Once construction picks up, I will be back to work.
What do you both like to do in your spare time? My husband loves anything outdoors. He loves to go fishing, build things and go for walks. I like to go for walks too, but I don’t really have a whole lot of spare time because I have two small children.
What made you decide to start looking for a new home? And were you looking for a new home, or a different kind of community? We’ve had our eye on Sarilia for a while. A couple years ago, we put in a bid on another house out here, but we didn’t get it. And this house, (the sellers) actually contacted us because they knew we had put a bid in on the other house at Sarilia. We kept an eye on the listing and they dropped the price, and we jumped on it because this is where we wanted to be.
What was it about Sarilia that made you both want to move there? I had really wanted to move to the city from our small town and my husband really wanted to move to an acreage. So, we found Sarilia and it just met us both in the middle, because, although our lot is less than an acre, we have that feel of an acreage, and we still have the amenities of being in the city as far as your garbage pick-up. It was a way we could meet in the middle and we were excited that we found this place for sale.
In regards to the house itself, did it have something in particular you were looking for? Oh, yeah—a big white kitchen. I was looking for a big white kitchen. It was on my must-have list and it had the furnishings we wanted. It has the dream master bathroom. It basically was everything we wanted, and it backs onto the river, so that’s also a plus.
Did you look at any other communities like Sarilia? We couldn’t find any other communities that were like Sarilia. There’s really nothing else where you have the river right there. There’s nothing else like it.
Was the proximity to the river a big attraction for you? Another reason we moved to Sarilia was so that we could be closer to our cabin at the lake. It cut down our drive by a whole hour—so we are definitely water people. We like the lake, and being able to look out onto the river every day—it’s calming for us.
What were some of your first impressions of Sarilia? Since we’ve moved here, we’ve met some really great people. And I’m excited for a time when this (pandemic) is all over and we can all get together more often and have barbecues.
Were you and Keith concerned about using a septic and cistern system? Do you have experience with either? We do, because that’s what our cabin runs off of. So, we have experience with it. Not full-time living with it, but we didn’t have any concerns.
What are you most looking forward to doing at Sarilia this summer? I hope that we can eventually get together more with our neighbours and visit and have parties and barbecues. I would love to have get-togethers because I’m a social person. And just walks along the river.
Jeni, Cass, their two kids, Draeden and Emma, and their dog, Saydee, moved to Sarilia on February 14th this year, and it was “probably the best Valentine’s Day gift ever,” says Cass. They moved here from Saskatoon, but they’d had Sarilia in their sightlines for several years—ever since Jeni’s brother Brad and sister-in-law Tessa moved their own family here from the city.
We recently chatted with the couple to find out what enticed them to move out of the city, what their kids think about their new home and what their plans are for their first Sarilia summer.
What made you decide to move away from Saskatoon? Cass: We are both small-town/farming people. Jeni grew up on a farm in a very small community and I’m from a very small town so the country is exactly where we wanted to be.
Did you look at other developments and acreages around Saskatoon? Cass: We did look at acreages, but once Brad had scoped out Sarilia, and showed it to Jeni, she had her heart set on it. That would have been six or seven years ago. And then, when we met, she brought me out here, and I was like, “oh my goodness, this is beautiful.” Once we really looked at it, we knew we wanted to be out at Sarilia.
Was there something specific you were looking for in regards to a new home? Cass: We wanted space—a bigger yard. We didn’t want to be side-by-side with our neighbours. Just to get away from the pavement and be out in nature.
After talking to Gwen, we knew it was the type of community we wanted to be a part of. It has a small-town feel, and like-minded people. There are lots of young families, so we knew there would be kids who would be going to school with Emma—kids that she would grow up with. There were so many pros.
Were they any particular features that attracted you to Sarilia? Cass: The river was definitely number one for us. That’s why we built our house right on the riverbank. We wanted to be as close to the river as possible.
How has your lifestyle changed since moving from the city to Sarilia? Cass: The main difference is just being out in nature and having that ability just to go out and be exposed to fresh air. It’s very quiet and you can hear the coyotes. We had a moose pass the front of our house the other day. You can hear the owls. You can hear the geese. You don’t hear people—you just hear nature.
What do your kids think of about living at Sarilia? Cass: They love the space. There’s so much more to do out here versus being in the city. We’ve always been very outdoor people, so it’s given us a lot of freedom to be out and exploring. We’ve got a pet beaver down on the river trail that we see often. It’s a cool experience being back out in the country. It’s exactly how I grew up and I’m so excited for my kids to grow up in the same type of environment.
Jeni: It’s almost like letting kids go back to being kids. In the city, you always have to keep a close eye on them—watch where they’re going, and pretty much be with them all the time. When we’re out here—not that we’re not paying attention to what Emma’s doing—but we can sit on the deck and she can run and play around and we’re not concerned that there are dangers lurking around the corner. We both grew up on a farm/small town, so I think it’s just great for kids to have all that nature to explore and not have to be cooped up inside.
What do you think the transition has been like for your dog, Saydee? Cass: Saydee is very happy to be out in the country. As a family, we love going out for walks on the river trails and just out on the road to get some exercise. She just has so much more freedom being out of the country and she loves to swim in the river.
What was it like to work within Sarilia’s design standards when you built your new home? Jeni: We are happy with how (our house) looks and we’re actually glad that there are standards because it makes the houses look that much more appealing.
Did you have concerns about using a septic and cistern system? Cass: We weren’t concerned because of where we grew up. Jeni has a septic tank on her farm where she grew up, and where I grew up (at Crooked Lake), we also had a septic tank so it was nothing new to us. And (with the cistern system) you don’t even have to be home when they deliver your water. You just tell them how much you need and they fill up your tank—it’s simple.
We also put in a great greywater system, (which means) our freshwater is recycled to be used in our toilets, so we don’t go through a lot of water. I think we’re on week 12 right now without a septic pump-out so we’re doing really well. The greywater system isn’t a requirement at Sarilia, but you’re definitely saving a ton of money in the long run if you install one.
What activities do you plan to do at Sarilia this summer? Cass: We have a garden plot (in the community garden) so we are going to be gardening, which I’m excited for. In the city, I only had little (garden) boxes so I’m excited to actually have a garden plot and harvest some vegetables and fruit for our family.
And we have a canoe so we are definitely going to be out on the river. Maybe try a hand at fishing. There’s so much to do—we’re just so excited for our first summer.
What has the commute to work in Saskatoon been like for you both? Jeni: It’s really not that far. It’s about 25 minutes and pretty much double lane the entire way. When we were living in Willowgrove it was still a 15-18 minute commute so what’s an extra seven minutes to be out at Sarilia? It’s well worth the extra seven minutes.
Cass: Honestly, it’s the greatest thing to see the lights of the city in your rearview mirror.
In the last few months, we’ve had a lot of renewed interest in Sarilia from people looking to simplify their lives. They’re looking for a connection with nature and a strong community spirit. They’re seeking more space, cleaner air, less noise and less stress. The river view and water access are the icing on the cake.
We’re also fielding questions about whether now is a good time to build a new home. It turns out, lots of people are still buying and building their dream homes in and around Saskatoon. We recently chatted with Myles Li, a personal banker at Affinity Credit Union’s Langham advice centre, to get a sense of what’s going on in the real estate market locally, and if now is a good time to get a new mortgage.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. I’m a personal banker at Affinity Credit Union. I’ve been with Affinity Credit Union since 2016. I really enjoy reading and watching movies. I was born in China and immigrated to Canada in 2012 and I completed my bachelor’s degree in finance in 2015. I live with my wife and my 1.5-year-old son in Saskatoon.
What makes Affinity different from the big national banks? Affinity is different from big banks because we’re a Saskatchewan-born co-operative financial institution owned by our members, for our members. We only operate in Saskatchewan, so you can be sure our advisors understand your local needs.
We believe people come before profits and are dedicated to looking out for your financial health by offering great products, competitive rates and genuine, professional advice.
Affinity exists because of and for our members. That’s why we’re committed to giving back to the communities we serve. We do this in a lot of different ways including sponsorships, donations and community funding. We see our involvement as more than just writing a cheque—it’s a partnership.
What is happening lately in banking when it comes to new mortgages? Is it a good time to buy a new home or property? At this point, the housing market appears to be holding up quite well in Saskatchewan. Affinity is seeing a significant number of mortgage applications, including construction, in the local market at the present time. Mortgage rates are currently low, which makes it a very good time to consider purchasing a home, whether that’s buying an existing property or building new. Affinity Credit Union is very familiar with construction financing, including ready-to-move homes (RTMs), and we have the expertise to help make the entire process easy and uncomplicated.
What else are you seeing in the real estate market? Any trends? We’ve seen an increase in numbers of home equity loan applications recently. I believe two main reasons are:
People have been spending more time at home because of COVID-19, and are finding that they’d like to make some upgrades to better enjoy their home time going forward; and
Mortgage interest rates are low. We’ve seen more home equity loans to consolidate other high interest rate debts as well, which can be a great strategy to pay down high interest debt and improve household cashflow. COVID-19 has impacted many people’s incomes and made it challenging for them to keep up with payments.
Are there any common themes or conversations you’re having with clients? I talk with members a lot on how to save for retirement or down payments for purchasing a home, also about downsizing debts to build up net worth, etc.
I know Affinity is dedicated to supporting local charities—which charities does your advice centre currently support and how? It’s about working together to make a difference and finding ways to improve life in our communities. For example, we recently provided $30,000 in funding to the Food Banks of Saskatchewan because we understand the growing and demanding need for them in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also contributed $20,000 to the Royal University Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 Hospital Fund to help provide the resources its dedicated medical and support teams need to respond to COVID-19 now and into the future.
Aside from that, we’re involved in our communities’ local assets, such as rinks and centres, sports teams, as well as community events and organizations from literacy programs to environmental sustainability and more.