Tag Archives: Sarilia photography

Q&A with Cass & Jeni

Jeni, Cass, their two kids, Draeden and Emma, and their dog, Saydee, moved to Sarilia on February 14th this year, and it was “probably the best Valentine’s Day gift ever,” says Cass. They moved here from Saskatoon, but they’d had Sarilia in their sightlines for several years—ever since Jeni’s brother Brad and sister-in-law Tessa moved their own family here from the city. 

We recently chatted with the couple to find out what enticed them to move out of the city, what their kids think about their new home and what their plans are for their first Sarilia summer.  

Cass, Jeni & daughter, Emma

What made you decide to move away from Saskatoon?
Cass: We are both small-town/farming people. Jeni grew up on a farm in a very small community and I’m from a very small town so the country is exactly where we wanted to be.

Did you look at other developments and acreages around Saskatoon?
Cass: We did look at acreages, but once Brad had scoped out Sarilia, and showed it to Jeni, she had her heart set on it. That would have been six or seven years ago. And then, when we met, she brought me out here, and I was like, “oh my goodness, this is beautiful.” Once we really looked at it, we knew we wanted to be out at Sarilia. 

Was there something specific you were looking for in regards to a new home?
Cass: We wanted space—a bigger yard. We didn’t want to be side-by-side with our neighbours. Just to get away from the pavement and be out in nature.

After talking to Gwen, we knew it was the type of community we wanted to be a part of. It has a small-town feel, and like-minded people. There are lots of young families, so we knew there would be kids who would be going to school with Emma—kids that she would grow up with. There were so many pros.

Were they any particular features that attracted you to Sarilia?
Cass: The river was definitely number one for us. That’s why we built our house right on the riverbank. We wanted to be as close to the river as possible.

How has your lifestyle changed since moving from the city to Sarilia?
Cass: The main difference is just being out in nature and having that ability just to go out and be exposed to fresh air. It’s very quiet and you can hear the coyotes. We had a moose pass the front of our house the other day. You can hear the owls. You can hear the geese. You don’t hear people—you just hear nature.

What do your kids think of about living at Sarilia?
Cass: They love the space. There’s so much more to do out here versus being in the city. We’ve always been very outdoor people, so it’s given us a lot of freedom to be out and exploring. We’ve got a pet beaver down on the river trail that we see often. It’s a cool experience being back out in the country. It’s exactly how I grew up and I’m so excited for my kids to grow up in the same type of environment.

Jeni: It’s almost like letting kids go back to being kids. In the city, you always have to keep a close eye on them—watch where they’re going, and pretty much be with them all the time. When we’re out here—not that we’re not paying attention to what Emma’s doing—but we can sit on the deck and she can run and play around and we’re not concerned that there are dangers lurking around the corner. We both grew up on a farm/small town, so I think it’s just great for kids to have all that nature to explore and not have to be cooped up inside.

What do you think the transition has been like for your dog, Saydee?
Cass: Saydee is very happy to be out in the country. As a family, we love going out for walks on the river trails and just out on the road to get some exercise. She just has so much more freedom being out of the country and she loves to swim in the river. 

Cass, Jeni and their dog, Saydee

What was it like to work within Sarilia’s design standards when you built your new home?
Jeni: We are happy with how (our house) looks and we’re actually glad that there are standards because it makes the houses look that much more appealing.

Did you have concerns about using a septic and cistern system?
Cass: We weren’t concerned because of where we grew up. Jeni has a septic tank on her farm where she grew up, and where I grew up (at Crooked Lake), we also had a septic tank so it was nothing new to us. And (with the cistern system) you don’t even have to be home when they deliver your water. You just tell them how much you need and they fill up your tank—it’s simple. 

We also put in a great greywater system, (which means) our freshwater is recycled to be used in our toilets, so we don’t go through a lot of water. I think we’re on week 12 right now without a septic pump-out so we’re doing really well. The greywater system isn’t a requirement at Sarilia, but you’re definitely saving a ton of money in the long run if you install one.

What activities do you plan to do at Sarilia this summer?
Cass: We have a garden plot (in the community garden) so we are going to be gardening, which I’m excited for. In the city, I only had little (garden) boxes so I’m excited to actually have a garden plot and harvest some vegetables and fruit for our family. 

And we have a canoe so we are definitely going to be out on the river. Maybe try a hand at fishing. There’s so much to do—we’re just so excited for our first summer.

What has the commute to work in Saskatoon been like for you both?
Jeni: It’s really not that far. It’s about 25 minutes and pretty much double lane the entire way. When we were living in Willowgrove it was still a 15-18 minute commute so what’s an extra seven minutes to be out at Sarilia? It’s well worth the extra seven minutes.

Cass: Honestly, it’s the greatest thing to see the lights of the city in your rearview mirror. 

A nostalgia for home

I was born and raised in Whitewood, a small town in southern Saskatchewan. My childhood home was over 100 years old and situated on a four-acre parcel of land close to the edge of town. The land was well treed, hilly and had a small creek that ran through the bottom of the property, close to the garden. The house sat on a hillside, so we had a great view. 

My childhood home in Whitewood, Sask.

I was one of four kids. We spent our free time building forts, making rafts to paddle on the creek, playing ball, hosting picnics, picking Saskatoons and helping our mum garden and our dad cut grass.  

My husband Ronn and I have owned this 86-acre parcel of land, that we now call Sarilia, for about 25 years. We always planned to retire here. About 13 years ago, we decided to sub-divide our property and began researching how to build a village. 

While I was working on promoting the first phase, I met a couple, Walter and Eileen, from Saskatoon when they came out to look at the available lots. While the three of us were standing on one of the riverfront lots, Walter got really quiet, and eventually broke the silence.

 “I was born and raised on land like this and I just loved it so much,” he said. 

 I told him, “I get that. So was I.”

A nostalgia inducing view at Sarilia

I don’t think I consciously understood what I was doing until that moment. I realized that I have always had this hankering to go back home. I had wanted to raise our kids the same way I was raised. 

A place with a lot of space and trees. 

A place where you can ride your bike everywhere because you know everyone and it’s safe.  

A place where there is a strong sense of community, and that community becomes your family of choice.  

I guess you could say I was a little late to the party as our kids were all grown. 

My grandkids, admiring the spring crocuses at Sarilia

But today, we have ten grandchildren that beg to come out for sleepovers and cry when they have to go back home.

When they visit, we build forts. We drag our blankets and pillows onto the back deck so we can look at the stars. We sing and play guitar in the sun porch. They help me with my garden, they go fishing down at the river and for walks at the nearby golf course. We fly kites. We pick crocuses together in the spring and go sledding in the winter.  

We’re creating memories that I hope they look back on, just as fondly as I look back on my own childhood memories. 

It’s a pretty good life we’re able to share with them, and oh boy, that makes me happy.

Q&A with Sarilia resident, Vaughn Krywicki

Vaughn and Stacey Krywicki moved to Sarilia five years ago this fall. A year after settling in, their family expanded with the birth of their son, Huxley.

Vaughn has a unique perspective on river valley living, given his role as a Realtor, and as a board member of the Sarilia Community Association. We recently chatted with Vaughn to find out what’s new and exciting at Sarilia, the new lot sale ($10,000 off every lot until Sept. 23!), and what kind of lifestyle the river valley offers him and his family.

As both a resident of Sarilia, and a Realtor, what do you see as the main reasons people move to Sarilia?
The people who are have moved to Sarilia recently are a lot of young families that are looking for more space and freedom. A lot of them come from smaller towns or farms and have lived in Saskatoon or even smaller bedroom communities, like Martensville or Warman, and they are looking for something more.

It’s a good opportunity to buy property at Sarilia now to build a new home. Gwen (Sarilia’s developer) and I have put together a plan where every lot has been reduced in price by $10,000 until September 23.

It’s more like pricing from 10 years ago. So, that’s a good opportunity, and builders are also aggressive right now with their pricing.

You’re a member of the Sarilia Community Association. What kind of community improvement projects are underway right now?
I’m on the Parks and Rec committee, and we just cut a new trail system this winter with the approval of the RM—we received some funding through the RM to make it happen.

We’re also in the process of building a new playground and an outdoor recreation area for kids and adults. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. That’s something exciting that I’m proud to be part of. And it’s exciting for the community and the residents. We’re looking at estimates for features like park benches, playground equipment and maybe a basketball net and a horseshoe pit—any sort of outdoor recreation. It’s nice because the area is sheltered in the tree belt.

There will continue to be more improvements and interesting things like that in the future.

What kind of person would appreciate the lifestyle that Sarilia offers?
Someone who appreciates nature. Someone who doesn’t mind a short commute that they can use to wind down. I know for myself, that living at Sarilia with that short commute—it’s nice to have. Initially it was hard to get used to, because I was used to everything being 10 minutes away—but you can’t even get to everything in 10 minutes in Saskatoon anymore. It’s actually been better for me as it’s forced me to be more efficient with my time and planning.

A lot of people want to know how much it would cost to buy a property and build their home at Sarilia. What do you think is the entry-level price, when you combine the cost of a lot and home construction?
Lot prices are coming down, and in my opinion you can have a beautiful home for under $300,000. That’s very affordable for a brand-new house.

I hear you have a family cabin at Candle Lake. Some residents have compared living at Sarilia to spending time at the lake. Do you find any parallels?
It certainly has a lot of attributes that are like the lake. You can do all kinds of outdoor activities just like at the cabin—hiking and fishing and that kind of thing.

What kinds of activities do you do as a family at Sarilia?
We ride our bikes and walk. Our son is four. He’s a madman, so he’s always running around, doing whatever four-year-olds do.

What’s it like to raise a child at Sarilia?
In some ways, it feels a little bit safer. There’s less traffic and you know your neighbours. We know everybody. You look out for each other in that respect. There’s lots of young kids out here too—a lot of young families are moving in.

What are a few of your favourite aspects of living in the river valley?
The air is fresher. Just being outside. I’m a big advocate of getting outside. When we were kids we did a lot of that—camping and spending time outdoors and over the years I’ve expanded on that. Being next the river is certainly an attraction. That’s a mainstay for Sarilia. It comes back to that lake lifestyle.

Would you say you appreciate the outdoors during all four seasons at Sarilia?
Yes. You bundle up and get outside during the winter. Our son goes outside every day in the winter, even when it’s minus 40—briefly of course. He enjoys it too. And it helps you sleep well at night.

What kinds of activities do you do out on the river?
I fish quite frequently. It’s a passion of mine. Once every other week I would like to get down there this summer. And I often meet a lot of my friends from the city out here. They’ll come out to Sarilia to meet me, so they’re making a commute to where I am and the fishing is right in my backyard.

I would really like to get out on a canoe this summer. I went on a paddling trip as a novice canoer last summer up at the Churchill River and I kind of got hooked on that. I’d like to bring a little bit of that home. I know my neighbours are going to be reading this blog post so maybe they’ll invite me to go to Petrofka, or Borden, or something like that.

Vaughn currently has two beautiful listings for sale at Sarilia:

104 Saskatchewan Heights

426 Saskatchewan Road

What kind of winter activities does Sarilia offer?

We’re often asked about what kinds of winter activities our residents partake in here at Sarilia. In fact, that’s one of the most appealing things about living here in the river valley–nature is right on our doorstep. We don’t have to get in the car and drive somewhere else to experience it.

Here are a few things we like to do when Sarilia is blanketed in snow: cross-country ski, snow shoe, walk on our nature trails, ice fish, and warm up with friends around a bonfire by the river.  As they say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes.”

And the kids here love to head for the hills to toboggan. We asked a few of them (Gwen’s grandkids) what their favourite winter activity is. Here are their answers.

Jackson (age 11): Having fun with the people in my life that I care about the most.

sledding at Sarilia

 

Bentley (age 5): I love doing canon balls down the hill, being outside, playing with my cousins and racing up and down the hill!

 

Hannah (age 11, white toque): Just being with my cousins makes me HAPPY!

 

Sarilia’s Little Free Library

Sarilia is home to a lot of book lovers, so what could be better than building a Little Free Library (LFL) for our residents to share their love of reading?

This summer, a group of residents got together to create one of these “take a book, share a book” exchanges right here in our community. Our library is now registered on LittleFreeLibrary.org.

Kayla and her daughter Wren are two resident bookworms who love Sarilia’s LFL. We chatted with Kayla to get her thoughts on this new community building project.

What do you think about the new Little Free Library at Sarilia?
I think it’s a great addition to our community. Literacy is so important for everyone and it’s in a great area to just stop and grab something while out for a walk.

What was your daughter Wren’s response to it?
She loves the little library. Wren gets super excited when we go down to see what’s new.

Do you do a lot of reading at home with your daughter?
We are constantly reading, I’m a bit of a book worm and she’s definitely picked up that trait!

 

Sarilia lifestyle Q&A with Shayna & Sheldon

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.

Sarilia residents family photoWhat 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?Sarilia resident family photo
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!

 

Sarilia lifestyle Q & A with Al & Annette

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

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.

Annette’s Sarilia photography

 

The cows come home to Sarilia

Michael Pollan, a food writer and journalist, only eats meat about once a week. When he does eat it, he’s careful to purchase it from farmers who raise their animals humanely. “But it’s delicious, it’s nutritious and I think there is a place for farms where animals get to live a good life and, as the farmers like to say, have one bad day,” he says.

Sarilia is home to several cows. They graze freely among 120 acres of natural grasslands and drink from a natural spring. Overall, they have a great life, and when the time comes, they too have just “one bad day.”

The cows are co-owned between three Sarilia residents: Jordan, Joe and Gwen. We recently chatted with Jordan, to learn what it’s like to raise cattle in our river valley community.

How did you get involved in cattle raising?Sarilia cows

I was born and raised on a cattle/grain farm. I’ve always enjoyed the cow side of farming so it was kind of nice to have a little bit of agriculture at Sarilia.

How would you describe the pasture to someone who hasn’t seen it?

It’s really quite pretty down in the coulees and the natural spring that runs through. It’s really a great place for a picnic actually. It’s just peaceful. I take my boys out and they feed the cows. It’s just kind of nice. There’s no cell service so it’s quiet.

What kinds of cows have you been raising at Sarilia?

This year we had four black heifers and two black angus cows, one speckled park cross cow and one Charolais cross cow. We also had a bull, temporarily, that we borrowed from a friend.

How old are your boys and what do they feed the cows?

Jaxon is five and Nash is one. We take oats to them once and awhile. They like to do that. I wish they were a little more scared of the cows (laughs), but they like it.

IMG_0640What do the cows eat?

It’s just natural grasses, and a block of salt for them. I give them oats probably once every two weeks. Just to get them used to (people) coming up and keeping them calm.

Do you name the cows?

Jaxon likes to name them. The black and white cow (the speckled park) he calls “Chocolate Chip.” We actually had three calves out there this year so he called one calf “Joey” and the other one “Georgie.” We wanted to name it George, but it’s a girl so we named it Georgie. Gwen named our red cow “Emily.”

What is it like to co-own the cows with two other Sarilia residents?

IMG_0837It’s a lot of fun. We’re all partners. It works out really well. That way, if something happens to one animal, someone’s not out a whole animal, we’re all out a little bit. But that hasn’t happened. I’ve gotten to know Joe and Gwen really well through it.

What do you end up doing with the meat?

We make roasts, steak, ground beef and sausage. Joe likes liver so he takes the liver.

What have been the benefits of raising the cows here?

It’s good camaraderie with your neighbours. It’s good bonding with my boys, to take them out. It’s fun to watch the cows grow and how they really get used to you and learn to trust you. I really enjoyed checking on them in the summer and taking them oats. Just kind of watching their progress.

It’s probably nice to know where your food is coming from.IMG_0745

Exactly. And we know they range free all summer and they’re grass fed, so the meat is pretty lean. It’s nice to have control over your food.

What are your plans for next year?

We’re going to do a few fundraiser cows, with all the proceeds going back into Sarilia—whether it’s boardwalks or building warm up shacks for ice rinks down on the river.

Q&A with Annette: How does your (community) garden grow?

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 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.

chipmunk in the garden

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 blooming

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.

growing peppersOne 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?

community garden harvest

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.

growing zinnias

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.

One of Annette's favourite pumpkin pie recipes

One of Annette’s favourite pumpkin pie recipes

Sarilia from a bird’s-eye view

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to meet new people and give them a tour of our river valley community. By the time we’ve walked to the river, strolled through the community garden, and looked at the available lots, I’ve had a chance to get to know them one-on-one. Often, they’ll make a second trip with a few extra family members in tow. That’s what happened last month. I gave a tour to a wonderful family and they returned the next day with a few members of their extended family. One of them ended up taking some aerial photos and videos and they generously shared them with us.

Despite knowing the land like the back of my hand, these videos offer a fresh perspective of Sarilia. It’s one thing to drive along the roads and walk the river trails, but it’s another thing to see the whole community from a bird’s-eye view. Seeing the sunshine sparkling on the water and the way the homes nestle right into nature from a new point of view is really interesting.

I’m happy to share the photos here as a tour you can take without leaving home. Still, nothing beats seeing Sarilia for yourself, so don’t hesitate to contact me for a ground-level tour. 🙂

– Gwen Lepage

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