I decided to plant a perennial flower garden this year, to reduce the amount of maintenance required on my own 1/2 size plot in Sarilia’s community garden. Last summer, we spent a lot of time camping with family, which made it hard to keep my plot in tip-top shape. Hence, why I’m keeping it simple this summer.
The perennials I chose this spring are not only drought resistant, but they thrive in hot, dry weather. I planted Russian sage, iris, peonies, tickseed, sedum, potentilla and oriental lilies. I’ve also lined the walkway with four o’clocks (which are annuals and very showy) and giant marigolds for pest control (they have a strong scent and deter rodents).
My neighbour, Will, has planted a whole plot of sunflowers, which will make for a beautiful garden backdrop this fall. Other gardeners have planted tomatoes of nearly every variety, squash, Spanish onion, carrots, beets, Yukon potatoes, beans, zucchini and cucumbers.
We have one large communal strawberry patch, and some shared garlic and winter onion (which are also perennials). We’re already dreaming up plans for our gardeners’ party to celebrate the harvest this fall. We’ve decided that all the food for our party will be from the garden (salsa, potato salad, zucchini cake, dill pickles, borsht, etc.) Perhaps Will’s beautiful sunflowers will be the centrepiece. — Gwen
We’re excited to introduce you to Patty and Lyle. Friendly, energetic and engaging, they’re recent transplants from Vancouver Island, although they’re born and bred Saskatchewanians. Having spent nearly eight years in Comox, they decided it was time to move home last year, and their path to Sarilia was somewhat serendipitous.
We recently chatted with Patty to learn a little bit about her and Lyle—why they decamped from BC, how they spend their free time, and what drew them back to Saskatchewan and their new home at Sarilia.
What was the catalyst behind the move to BC?
My son and daughter-in-law were living in BC temporarily, so we went to visit in January 2014, to escape the -40 temps. We discovered that there was a place in Canada that had temps in the teens in January and no snow!
In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that experience puts a different perspective on things. Even though I had been working for the government for 30+ years, once we returned from Vancouver Island that January, we started thinking seriously about how we could relocate and try life somewhere else. None of us know when our expiry date will be, but we all have one.
Lyle had worked for UPS for 25+ years at that time, and in May of 2014 they were opening new locations up on Vancouver Island. He applied to relocate and we made the decision to go to Comox as it would allow Lyle to have a better schedule than in a larger community. His work life balance had been almost non existent with minimal time to be involved in any evening activities or events.
It was a risk to leave a stable government job but we made the leap of faith in fall of 2014 and never looked back. We got into new activities pretty quickly which helped us to meet friends and within a year or so Lyle was jamming with several local musicians and starting to help with the local minor football program.
Fast forward through years of great friends and fabulous memories and many visits out to see us from friends and family. Then the global pandemic hit and again we found ourselves re-evaluating our priorities which resulted in our decision to move back to Saskatchewan.
Lyle is winding down to retirement and I was lucky enough to bring my remote work that I had in BC, back to Saskatchewan with me. And here we are. Meeting new friends again and learning about new opportunities and activities we can be involved in.
How does it feel to be back in Saskatchewan?
It feels good. It feels right. We have a lot of family here. We have two granddaughters now. My husband and I were both married before, so I have two kids in Saskatchewan and he has three in Alberta. They’re all within a decent driving distance now and we’re happy about that.
Tell me about your new dog—Honey.
We visited a local rescue shelter WANAR (We All Need a Rescue) on July 2 to see what they might have available. We lost our dog of over 16 years about a year ago and we were ready to find a new housemate. Honey was 9 months old at that time. We fell in love instantly and she has settled in really well. Still training to do as she’s just a puppy but she’s learning every day, and so are we.
When and how did you hear about Sarilia?
I’ve known Gwen Lepage, Sarilia’ s developer, since the late 90s when we did some work together in La Ronge, where I lived at the time. We had stayed in touch and then when I moved to Saskatoon in 2005, we connected again. Around 2010 we were looking to move out of Saskatoon to a nearby community. Sarilia was just being developed at the time and we made the trip out to see what it was like. We really loved the idea of living there but with our jobs in the city and longer hours, it just wasn’t the right fit for us at the time. We ended up in Martensville but never forgot about Sarilia.
What was it about Sarilia itself that made it feel like a good fit for you and Lyle at this point in your life?
I am from La Ronge and lived there most of my life, and Lyle is from Snowden (near the Choiceland-Nipawin area) We both grew up in the bush line with lots of trees and I wasn’t into moving onto the bald Prairie. We were so used to trees and nature being around us and that’s what we were looking to come back to in Saskatchewan.
Our new house is surrounded by trees. Our deck is quite high and it’s almost like being in a treehouse now because it’s enveloped in trees—it’s like a jungle in the spring/summer. There are so many birds—we’ve had robins nesting on the deck this summer and the bird feeders are always busy! We have chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits too as well as the occasional deer, not to mention the coyotes and bears. It was a lot about the geography and the fact that the river is right there as well. I’m a paddler and I love the water so that was also important.
The purchase of your new home was somewhat serendipitous. Can you tell me about that?
When we were living in BC, and thinking about moving back, we were looking online just to see what real estate was like here. A house came up for sale at Sarilia on the SaskHouses site and we both fell in love with it instantly. It was surrounded by trees, and it was the style that we liked. It didn’t have a garage and the basement wasn’t done, but we saw all of the potential. I connected with Gwen and she filled me in on how Sarilia had grown since we last visited. This was back in January of 2021 and we weren’t ready to make the move yet but we planning to list our home that summer. In the meantime, the house we had found had sold so that was off the table.
We sold our home in BC in July 2021 and planned to move back in spring of 2022. We made a trip back in August to see what was available then. We considered building at Sarilia but after fully researching options and with the volatility in the construction market at the time we decided against it and returned to BC still not knowing where we would end up. We wanted to be near water and trees, and we also looked at a place at Blackstrap that we were very close to putting an offer on. Right at that time, in September of 2021 Gwen gave us a call and said, “You’re never going to believe this—the house you guys fell in love in January is back on the market.”
The home now had a finished basement and a garage. It was exactly what we were looking for—fairly close to the water, nestled in the trees. We “viewed” the house via FaceTime with our realtor and made an offer. The rest is history.
What do you both like to do in your spare time?
As mentioned, Lyle is winding down towards retirement. He always wanted to coach football and to be in a band…so it was a hope when we moved to BC that his new schedule could allow for that. He coached minor football in Courtenay/Comox and has already connected to the Martensville Maddogs football club and will be helping them with some coaching.
He also started a garage band while we were in BC, literally in our garage. They played different gigs around town in pubs, at wineries, and special events. So that’s his next thing—he’s got to find some other musicians and get back into that.
Lyle loves to garden. He was one of the first people this year to plant anything in Sarilia’s community garden and has enjoyed having that garden option. It’s also a great way to meet your neighbours.
The River Ridge trails are only a couple of kilometres from us, and the trails are for summer and winter use. Lyle has been taking full advantage of the trails this summer and Honey loves to go for walks out there too! Hopefully we can get into some cross-country skiing and/or snowshoeing as well. We certainly know what Saskatchewan winters are like so we need to embrace all of the things we can do in the colder weather too.
I hear you were a competitive paddler—tell me about that.
I started paddling in Saskatoon in 2013 on a breast cancer dragon boat team, a sport which I knew nothing about at that time, but I had canoed and loved being on the water. Once we settled in BC, I was quickly connected to a team there, consisting of all women who were survivors of various types of cancer. Paddling is year-round on Vancouver Island so dragon boating is a huge sport there for all ages, genders and levels.
After paddling with those amazing women for a couple of years (and I continued with that team as well) I was introduced to high level paddling and in 2017 started working towards a goal of competing with a competitive club coordinated out of Victoria, but with paddlers from across the island. This was not specifically a “cancer team” but consisted of paddling enthusiasts who were willing to put in a lot of time and work to build their skills. We competed mostly in BC in various regattas and qualified to race in Europe in 2018 in the Club Crew World Championships (held every two years). We brought home several medals and it was definitely the trip of a lifetime. The connections I’ve made through the sport are amazing and will be lifelong friends. I’m hoping to get into other types of paddling out here but it’s been a busy summer!
“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.
Wowzers—it is my favourite 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.
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.
Jade and Devin are our newest soon-to-be residents at Sarilia. With two daughters (Sloan, age 2, and Neve, 5 months old) and a dog named Philly, they’re eager to start their new life in our river valley community this summer—they expect to move into their new A-frame-style home by July. We chatted with Jade to learn more about her family, what drew them to Sarilia, and how it felt to meet some of their future neighbours back in October.
How did you first hear about Sarilia? We were looking at acreages online and we stumbled across one that was for sale at Sarilia. We drove out there and we realized how beautiful it all was, and how there was all this other property that we could look into.
I got out of my vehicle and stood there, and I was like, “Okay, we are going to be moving here.”
How would you describe your first impression? We felt like we were at the lake. It felt like we were at the cabin—instantly relaxed and laidback and just where we wanted to be. It felt like home.
Where are you both from originally? And where are you moving from? I grew up in Martensville and Devin grew up in a little town called Frobisher, just outside Estevan. We live in Warman right now, so we will be moving from here.
What was it you were looking for that you found at Sarilia? When I grew up in Martensville, it was a small town. And the community that Devin grew up in has about the same amount of people that Sarilia has. We both wanted that for our daughters.
When we moved to Warman it was a bit smaller. Now, all the sudden, grocery stores are behind our house, Dairy Queen is right there, and the highway is right there—everything was just too close. It was too city-like. We needed to get away.
Right now, we have the street lights shining in our house all night long, the grocery store lights are on 24/7 in our house—we just need to be in the dark for a little bit! (laughs)
Was there one feature at Sarilia that solidified your decision to move? It was a number of things. We didn’t know about the river access until we met with Gwen. We just thought we’d have a view of the river and we didn’t know everything Sarilia had to offer until we met Gwen.
Our first impression would have been that we just want to be out there for the calmness and the view. Upon talking to Gwen a few days later, we realized the (little free) library, the river and the little nature reserves all around were just kind of bonuses.
Is there something you’re most excited about in regards to your new home? It’s a little bit of everything. We’re really excited for the small-town community feel, and to feel like we can go and talk to our neighbours. Our girls can go down the street and ask a friend to hang out and we don’t have to be breathing down their necks or watching them all the time to make sure they’re safe.
And the laidback lifestyle. Because you come home from a long day at work and it would just be really nice to go down to the river and have a wiener roast—just feel like you’re at the lake every day.
Can you tell me about the style of your new home? We’re going with an A-frame. It’s going to feel like a cabin/cottage. We’re trying to go with that mentality—so a stone mantle above the fireplace and the A-frame overlooking the river.
Why did you decide to hire Griffin Properties to build your home? I’m good friends with Sarah (Reid, the co-owner) so I’ve known them to be extremely hard workers. I’ve seen all the houses that they’ve built for themselves and all the time and energy they put into all the little details to make the house perfect for their family.
I know when Sarah started looking at designs for our family, she was thinking about our family—not what everybody else would have wanted, but what our family needs and wants. Every little detail was thought of. They put a lot of TLC into the project.
What do you and Devin like to do in your spare time? We like to travel a lot and we like to be outside and go to the lake. We have a cabin up at Chitek Lake with my parents, so we love to be up there all the time.
I like to snowshoe, cross-country ski and snowboard, and Devin likes to snowmobile and downhill ski, so we’re very wintery people. We like to be outside more in the winter than probably in the summer. I run too—anything to be outside really. We’re always up for trying something new.
Do you think you’ll get out on the water at Sarilia? Oh yeah. Devin wants to buy a canoe. He wants to do that and I like to (stand-up) paddleboard. We’d like to do more of that.
My dad taught me how to fish, so I’d like to do that with the girls and teach them how to do things like that and appreciate nature.
Do you plan to get involved in the community garden? Yes. I have two garden beds right now so I am definitely going to be doing that.
Even now, I know they’re really young, but we have raspberry bushes and in the summer Sloan likes to go pick them and eat them. That’s kind of what I want to get my girls into—just being more with nature.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? We came out to Sarilia for a potluck at the beginning of October and it felt like home. We were like, “We don’t want to drive back to Warman.” (laughs)
It was really nice to meet everybody and we had a really warm welcoming. Everyone was so relaxed and laidback. I don’t know if that’s their personalities always or if being there brings it out of them, but I also felt like it was more of a family—like I could rely on some people to help out if need be and that kind of feeling. It made us more excited and we are very eager to be out there.
Shayna and Sheldon both originally hail from Hudson Bay, Sask. Like many of our residents, they relocated to Sarilia from Saskatoon to rediscover the small-community lifestyle in which they were raised.
They settled into our river valley community last July with their two young daughters: Gemma is four and Daisy is 13-months. Sheldon works in Saskatoon, and Shayna is a stay-at-home mom who runs a part-time daycare from their new home base.
We chatted with them to learn more about their decision to move to Sarilia, and how they envision their family’s lifestyle here—this summer and beyond.
What was it about Sarilia that made you decide to build a home here? Shayna: The natural landscaping. For close to a year we drove around Saskatoon and looked at several different estate developments and when we drove out here… just the views, like when you come down the road into Sarilia, you can see all the rolling hills and you can see right down to the river. We drove around and Sheldon knew he was in trouble—I fell in love with it.
My heart had made a decision already, but we didn’t make a final decision for a little while. We obviously talked about it and we met with Gwen, but I knew pretty instantly that I wanted to move here and Sheldon knew quickly that he was going to have to figure out if we could do that!
Was there an urge to get out of the city? Sheldon: We’re both from a small town, so the city was not really for us. Shayna: We had done the city thing. We both grew up in a tiny town and thought that we wanted the exciting city life and we enjoyed it for a couple of years when we were first married and we didn’t have any kids.
Eventually, we realized it wasn’t quite for us. Especially after Gemma was born, we started feeling that calling to have more space and be more connected to outdoors and have a smaller community feel.
Now that you’ve been here almost a year, how has your lifestyle changed? Shayna: It’s just a little bit quieter. It’s easier to enjoy the outside time.
In the city, to enjoy nature, to see the river you go down Spadina, or you go for a walk or go to a park, but that was really the only way to get that nice, quiet outside time.
And even then, it’s still busier, whereas here, we just go out onto one of our many decks or go into the yard or walk down by the river. You don’t need to drive anywhere to get that peace, it’s right here. Outside of that, we’re homebody-type people so our lifestyle didn’t change a whole lot.
Where do you work? Sheldon: I work in Saskatoon. Shayna: I’m a stay-at-home mom but I do have a part-time daycare. I’ve got a few different families who bring their kids out part-time, so usually three days a week I’m open.
So, you’ve already spent one summer here at Sarilia? Shayna: We did, but we didn’t. We had a baby the previous May so when we first moved out here she was still quite fresh and delicate so there was still a lot of working around her naps and feedings. We couldn’t go outside for too long, so this summer is going to be kind of a first.
What are your plans for your this summer now that you’ll have more flexibility? Shayna: Just going for walks down by the river and those basic things—just spending some time outside as a family without having to go anywhere. We don’t have to pack up the kids; we don’t have to pack up all the things and go. We just put on our shoes and our hats and go outside.
As your kids get older, what kinds of activities do you want to do with them at Sarilia? Shayna: We’re going to be putting in a garden this year. We both love getting our hands dirty and Gemma’s looking forward to being able to put in a much bigger garden this year.
Last year we missed the opportunity because when people were planting in May, I was 40-weeks pregnant and couldn’t touch the ground! This year we’re excited to put in a larger garden.
When the kids get older we’ve talked about canoeing and other activities, but some of those things right now—the safety and logistics of doing it—we’re not quite there yet. But as they get bigger, being able to explore the river is definitely high up on the list.
What do friends say when they come to visit? Sheldon: Shayna has a friend from Ireland who just loves it out here because it reminds her of home. Shayna: Yes, with the rolling hills and everything.
How did you come across Sarilia? Sheldon: We went to Dalmeny, Delisle and Dundurn… Shayna: We went every direction outside the city. We visited Warman and Martensville too—some of their development areas… Sheldon: And I came across Sarilia on Google… Shayna: In one of our many searches, Sheldon found Sarilia online and on one of our weekend drives of exploring, we came out here and the rest is history as they say!
Al and Annette are two of Sarilia’s longest residents, having moved to the river valley community over seven years ago to experience what Al calls “pre-retirement.” We chatted with them to get a glimpse of what that lifestyle transition looks like.
What made you decide to move from Dalmeny to Sarilia? Annette: The beauty of the river valley and the new community that was being developed here.
Al: I thought we should try to experience pre-retirement.
What pre-retirement looks like: Al & Annette enjoying a glass of wine and a Sarilia sunset
How does living at Sarilia contrast with city living? Annette: We really like the socializing and being able to know our neighbours. People look out for one another: they watch out for your property, and do nice things for each other here.
What would both of you say are your favourite aspects of living at Sarilia? Al: My favourite aspect is just being near the outdoors without having to go far—compared to the city.
Annette: You don’t have to drive anywhere to go to a park—it’s right outside your door. You’re surrounded by nature and wildlife.
Al: The other aspect I like about Sarilia is, some years ago when we were looking at recreational properties elsewhere, prices were starting to skyrocket. We couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on a property at the lake, maintaining that, and maintaining another house. But here, it’s kind of like being at the lake. It’s the same sort of environment but without the expense and the driving and all the rest that comes along with lake property.
Annette snowshoeing at Sarilia
What are your favourite winter activities at Sarilia? Al: We like to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. When we have decent snow, our neighbour Dale cuts ski trails down to the river.
Annette: There are nice trails down by the river and we hike them a lot. It’s fun to see all the changes that are happening all the time—the change of the colours with the seasons, the migration of the birds.
What are you favourite summer activities? Annette: Gardening in the summertime is fun. We always see some of our neighbours at the garden—we chat and play music. There’s a nice social aspect to it that I really enjoy.
We also like watching the skyline at night—we can still see a faint light on the horizon in the evening and the stars shine brighter. Al has a telescope and he likes to gaze at the sky—picking out different clusters and planets.
Al: We also try to get out in the canoe a couple of times in the summer.
Annette: Canoeing from Borden Bridge to Sarilia is a lot of fun. It takes 2-3 hours usually—more if you want to sit and have a picnic on the side of the river.
Al enjoying Sarilia on two wheels
Al: I try to get out on my bike. Once you get down in the river valley you can bike the trails that are down around the river easily enough.
Annette: Biking down a country road is kind of fun—there’s not a lot of traffic that you have to worry about.
Can you tell me about curling in Langham? Annette: Al’s been curling in Langham a little bit longer than I have, but the last couple of years we’ve both been curling.
Al: They’ve got a new rink, and a pretty good club there.
Annette: It’s a really nice facility. Al and I curl there in the mixed league, and when we can, we’ll take in a bonspiel. Even for those who don’t curl, if they like watching curling there’s an opportunity for people just to come and have a beer and watch curling because they have a nice little bar. We’ve enjoyed socializing with people from Langham at the rink.
Blue bird captured by Annette at Sarilia
You both take a lot of beautiful photos around Sarilia. What inspires you? Annette: It’s just the natural greenery and the colours out here that we really enjoy. Especially in the springtime, the leaves are starting to pop out of the trees and the blue birds are coming back.
Al: Because we’re at the river, you get migratory birds. You see them coming and going all the time. Here we might see a few more unusual birds because there are less people than in the city. In our book, we write down every spring and fall what we see, and I can go look in my book and I can say, “yeah, we saw that last year, and the year before.” It’s almost always within plus or minus a week.
Annette: And there’s a lot of deer around here as well, so we know where they are and what time of day to watch out for them.
We love seeing all the signs of spring at Sarilia. The robins are out; the crocuses are blooming, creating beautiful patches of purple; and most importantly, the sunshine is drawing everyone out of their houses. Our residents are revelling in the warm weather with sunset drinks on their patios, walks along the river trails, and even stand-up paddle-boarding.
One of the most popular outdoor spring activities here is gardening, and our community garden seems to gain more green thumbs (from experienced to aspiring) every year. We recently chatted with two of Sarilia’s community gardeners, Kathleen and Dennis, to learn about what they’re planning to grow this year, what they’ll make with their fresh produce, and what they like best about gardening as a community.
How long have you been a gardener, and how long have you gardened in Sarilia’s community garden?
Kathleen: Growing up, I helped on the farm with gardening. It was just part of our job to help. I’ve gardened all my life, on and off, depending on where I was living. When I was living in apartments I wasn’t, but otherwise, if I’ve got a house and a yard, I garden.
I’ve gardened at Sarilia since 2012. I didn’t garden in the community garden last year, but I gardened in my yard. However, I found that I couldn’t grow what I wanted on my patio, so I’m going to go back to the community garden this year.
Dennis: I’ve been gardening since I was a child of about eight years old. I’ve gardened at Sarilia’s community garden for three years.
Kathleen & Gwen in the community garden
What are you planning to grow in Sarilia’s community garden this year?
Kathleen: I’m going to grow all the things I need for salsa. And then potatoes, peas, beans, some squash, some other root vegetables, lettuce and that sort of thing. I’ll also grow some flowers for the bees, and marigolds to keep pests away.
Dennis: Potatoes, beets, carrots, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, white onions, yellow onions, multiplier onions, dill, Swiss chard, yellow beans, green beans, cabbage, garlic, zucchini and some herbs.
What do you make with the food you grow?
Kathleen: I make salsa every year and the veggies and lettuce I eat fresh. Everything else I freeze. Potatoes and Spanish onions I usually keep in the garage where it’s cool and they last well into the spring. I really like having lots of fresh organic stuff on hand.
Dennis: I eat the fresh produce, can pickles, freeze beets and make salsa.
What’s your favourite thing to grow in the garden?
Kathleen: Probably tomatoes because it doesn’t matter how nice they are in the store; you just can’t get a tomato that tastes like a tomato if you buy it. So that would be probably my most favourite. It actually tastes like a tomato when you grow it.
Dennis: Cucumbers, beets and onions.
What have been the benefits of community gardening for you, versus gardening in your own yard?
Kathleen: Absolutely the social aspect. Getting out to see your friends and neighbours. Getting tips and tricks from people. It’s nice to be up there alone, in the quiet, and it’s also nice to be up there and be able to take a break and have somebody to chat with.
It creates a sense of community and I think that’s important. Anything that you can do in a community to create that sense of community is always a win-win.
Dennis: Joint tilling, friendship and sharing produce. It provides time to share different planting techniques and the outcome of the harvest.
Kayla and Chris, along with their daughter, Wren, and their English Mastiff, Gus, are some of our newest neighbours at Sarilia. Hailing from southwest Saskatchewan, they met in high school, were married in 2013, and baby Wren was born last May. We chatted with the busy couple to learn a little bit more about them, and how they’re planning to enjoy spring in the river valley.
What do you both do for a living?
Kayla is a social worker and Chris is a journeyman instrument technician.
How did you first hear about Sarilia? We Googled “river lots,” and one popped up for sale on Kijiji, so we went for a drive and got the contact information for the developer (Gwen Lepage) while we were out there.
What made you decide to move to Sarilia?
We had talked about getting a cabin and were getting tired of being in the city, so Chris brought up building something on the river to live in full-time and we both felt it would be a great fit for us.
What company did you choose to build your house, and what was the experience like? We went with D.W. Elash Enterprises, a small company out of Martensville. We had a great experience with our builder. Alanna was very agreeable to work with and she made sure we got what we wanted.
What are you most excited for about spring at Sarilia? We are looking forward to having our first garden in the community plots!
What do you like to do in your spare time? There’s not much spare time anymore with a little one running around, but we love to go for walks along the river and are really looking forward to enjoying the beach this summer.
Has moving to Sarilia changed your day-to-day lifestyle at all? We are definitely more content just being at home and looking out at the amazing views. We never want to go into the city!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? We are looking forward to getting to know our neighbours once everyone is outside a little more with the warmer weather.
Sarilia’s community garden is a favourite spot for many residents to socialize, tend to their flowers, veggies and fruits, and learn from one another. We sat down with Sarilia resident, Annette Horvath, to learn what she—and others—grew this year, what flourished, what didn’t, and what she’s learned from her fellow green thumbs.
What did you plant in the community garden this year? I planted lots of flowers—mostly zinnias—and lots of vegetables too: lots of carrots because they can keep for a long time, peas, potatoes, beans, corn, onions, garlic, the usual.
Garlic and dill in the community garden
Garlic is always such a nice treat in the garden because it keeps for a long time. It takes a little longer to grow. You plant it the season before (at the end of the season) so it’s always amazing to see what comes out and it’s so much better to have fresh garlic from your garden than buying it from the store. The texture is so creamy and the flavour is so much better.
When you have a vegetable soup from your garden, it’s just amazing how much flavour is in the vegetables—it’s so good. I also planted a whole row of beets. We had a few issues with some chipmunks—they are really fat in our garden because we feed them very well. They stole all my beets! (laughs) Just mine. Other people didn’t have problems with that.
A well-fed Sarilia chipmunk
Raspberries were a big thing. My raspberries did very well this year because of the rain. It was really nice to have fruit in the garden. Pretty much everything did quite well. Everybody had a good harvest of peas, beans, carrots, onions, beets, and all the things they planted.
One of our neighbours always plants sunflowers and they’re such a nice addition to the garden too. They’re just such a happy flower and they do so well.
Sunflowers in bloom in Sarilia’s community garden
What are some of the benefits of community gardening? One of the benefits is that a lot of sharing takes place. One of our neighbours had grown an abundant amount of kale. I didn’t know this, but when you pick kale, it grows back. You don’t pick it from the root, so it keeps on giving back, week after week. She had so much more than she could use, and luckily the chipmunks didn’t like the kale, so they stayed away. We tried making so many different things—like salads and kale chips, and I juiced a lot and now I’ve frozen it to use it for smoothies.
We also have some extra room in the garden that nobody has claimed yet, so we grow pumpkins and potatoes, and we share them with our neighbours if there’s extra. And of course zucchini. There’s always more zucchini than we need, but that’s kind of nice.
Have you learned any lessons from your neighbours who you garden alongside? Always. You’re always learning, because nothing is ever the same. It’s always different from year to year and it’s so interesting to find out what other people are growing that’s working for them.
One of our neighbours plants a lot of garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers. It’s always interesting to see the different coloured peppers in his garden—from green, orange, yellow, red and even a very dark aubergine colour. I imagine a lot of them are really hot. He’s even grown habaneros (not in our community garden, but at his house). So it’s like a salsa garden where you grow all the ingredients yourself to make an amazing tomato sauce or salsa.
My garden is such a small part of it because it’s such a community effort. I really like wandering through other people’s gardens and enjoying what they’re growing. The sharing of the harvest is always kind of special—when somebody says, “here, I grew this, you gotta try it.” Just seeing what they grow and thinking, “well, I can do that next year.”
Have you planted anything new this year that you’d never tried before?
Jerusalem artichoke potatoes
We planted Jerusalem artichoke potatoes, which we’ve never had before. It’s like a gourmet potato. They don’t look like a traditional potato plant. They grow into this beautiful, tall flower that looks similar to a sunflower, but they’re small flowers. They grow over six-feet tall. The idea is to harvest the tubers after the frost, so that they’re a little bit easier to digest. It must bring out the sugars in the tuber. We haven’t tried them yet, because we haven’t had very many frosts yet, but we’re going to try them soon. You can roast and cook them like a potato, so we’re looking forward to trying those.
Zinnias in bloom
I talked one of my neighbours into growing zinnias. She tried out different varieties than I did. They’re very hardy flowers and they’re beautiful. To me, they’re a little bit like a gerber daisy, but they have vibrant colours and come in different varieties. Some are really big, some are like pom-poms, and they flower all summer long—so that’s a really nice flower for the garden. And the bees really are attracted to them.
Do you have any favourite recipes for your garden veggies? A lot of times, if I’m making a vegetable soup, I make it up as I go. I know some people really like recipes because they get consistency and they make the same thing over and over again, but a lot of the time I just clean up a whole bunch of vegetables, throw them in a pot, and see what comes out! For pumpkin pie I usually find a recipe, and I don’t normally use the same one all the time. I check my old church parish books—I’ve got a lot of of old ones—because those are tried and true.