Tag Archives: Q&A

Coming home to Saskatchewan

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. 

Lyle and Honey relaxing on the deck nestled in the trees.

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!

Building affordable and green in the river valley

How one Sarilia family designed their new home with the planet in mind

Having recently moved to Sarilia from Saskatoon, Kelly, Andrew and their 4-year-old son, Logan, have successfully settled into their new home. Their new bungalow was designed to tread lightly on the planet, while taking advantage of the sweeping river views outside. 

We recently chatted with the family to get to know them, to learn how they’ve incorporated environmentally friendly features into their new home, and how they’ll continue reducing their footprint with their future plans. 

“It’s really important to become more self-sustainable,” says Kelly, “as we face the challenges of climate change as a society.”

Can you both tell me a little bit about yourselves?

Kelly: I was born in Saskatoon, but I actually grew up in the States and lived in China and Australia. I ended up back here to do my Masters, and I have a background in conservation biology. 

My hobbies are anything to do with nature—I’m a big plant nerd, I love hiking and cooking and going on adventures with Logan and Andrew. That’s what drew us out to Sarilia— being in nature. 

I also grew up near the Beaver Creek Conservation Area in Corman Park (from ages 3-10). I really enjoyed being able to run free, and just being on the prairies. When we went out to Sarilia for the first time, we just fell in love with the space even though it was the middle of winter. It definitely felt a lot like where I grew up as a child.

Andrew: I was born and raised in Saskatoon. I’ve always wanted to live in a smaller space, out of the city but not something terribly far away. We really loved the idea of being outside Saskatoon and being immersed in nature. 

What do you do for fun?

Logan: Trick-or-treating and Paw Patrol.

Kelly: In the winter, we love to snow shoe. We definitely want to take up canoeing and kayaking. And as Logan gets older, he can do that too. 

Andrew: We’ve been out on the river ridge trails—it’s a nice, accessible park. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back into some outdoor sports this summer. I want to get to that middle island (in the North Saskatchewan River). I’ve only fished a few times as a kid but it’ll be nice to have that river access, and that will probably be of interest. 

Kelly & Andrew’s house has an R-value of 41.

What was it that attracted you to Sarilia?

Kelly: Originally we were looking around where I grew up (near Beavercreek) but the lots were very expensive. Andrew had seen Sarilia on Reddit of all places. 

Andrew: We noticed it was north of Langham and decided to go for a drive. 

Kelly: So, we drove out there, and it was just so beautiful. We just fell in love with it. It was so peaceful. I went from living in the country to living in really big cities and I remember when we were standing out there, Andrew said, “there is no noise.”

We lived in Saskatoon at the time. It wasn’t like this 10 years ago, but now, you’re constantly hearing noises in the city. 

One thing I missed was seeing the night sky in full, or seeing storms coming through. It’s just something that you don’t get unless you live in the country. And so we started researching Sarilia a bit more after we drove out there and we saw how affordable it was. 

Andrew: There are tons of young families at Sarilia and that was what really sealed the deal for us. With Logan, there are lots of people our age who have kids—so we are all in that same stage of life together, and I think that’s great to have that kind of community of people.

Can you tell me about your new home?

Kelly: It’s a bungalow with a vaulted ceiling. There are large windows in the front and there’s an overhanging roof over the deck—that’s the part that looks out over the river. And we have a walkout basement. We really wanted to have those big windows to bring in a lot of natural light and expand the view as much as possible—because it’s quite an amazing view that we managed to get. 

I understand it was built in an energy efficient way. Can you tell me about that?

Andrew: The house is built with ICE (Insulated Composite Envelope) panels. They are made of styrofoam and steel. We really liked the concept of a very tight, well-insulated house. It’s pre-engineered, so it’s typically a faster build because the walls are pre-cut, and basically it’s like a LEGO set, to put it all together. It will really reduce the cost of heating. 

For the roof, we decided to go with metal instead of shingles. 

Kelly: Metal roofs are a lot better for insulation and deflecting the sun—and it’s able to support solar as well.  

Were there other environmentally friendly features that were important to you?

Andrew: We really wanted to do solar and we’re still planning to do that. It’s just that to build green off the bat, it’s not at a viable stage yet (cost-wise). There are a lot of incentives in terms of retrofitting, but there’s not a lot when it comes to building green upfront.

We’re not going to water the grass—we are going to keep it natural Prairie. It’s so much nicer than having to worry about that in the city. We’ll also try to improve the land with some trees.

For our long term plans, the garage will be retrofitted to support an electric vehicle, to take into account the rising gas prices and the commute between the city and home—it is a way of offsetting that. 

Kelly: We’re also incorporating a lot of native species into our landscaping. We’re trying to restore the Prairie that we dug up when the house was built. Hopefully planting more native species will help increase the biodiversity. 

As we face the challenges of climate change as society, we need to become more self-sustainable—for example, growing your own food and maybe having a home that’s not completely off the grid but is capable of doing that in the future. 

A lot of what we do personally and professionally, we do to make the world a better place, for not just our son, but generations in front of us—at least we try to.

For more information on ICE panels—a new, technologically advanced building envelope developed in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, visit their website: https://gsbp.ca/blog/what-are-ice-panels

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. 

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. 

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.

Meet the neighbours: Courtney, Keith, Kinsley & Lincoln

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.

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.

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.