38. Journey To A Doukhobor Cave

Going to a cave

Me who used to be claustrophobic

Water, sunscreen, food

Twentieth street to see a friend

Where the food wars are

Do I want to be near a war?

I saw Sacred Space XYE

No idea what that is

And my friend is not there

At nine am

Doesn’t start till eleven

Air Canada plane coming down

As we leave Saskatoon

Is seventy-first the last street now?

New buildings going up

Reflecting: if daughter had bought

House north of Saskatoon

How life would have changed

New businesses galore

Storage, storage, storage

RV’s are big in Saskatchewan

Green and sage green

The grasses outside the city

Lots of rain

Big houses in the distance

Can smell the country

Fox tail surrounds

As we go by Martensville

Sleepy time horses

Look at the map

Could be in a different country

Edenbud, Blumenheim, Rheinland

Schoenwese, Neuhorse, Gruenthal

Commune style villages? farms?

Crops may be up to knees

Some say six weeks behind

Rain never came till first of July

After a drought

Green oats, bearded barley, yellow canola

Patchy and bare

Lots of bin storage by Hepburn

Will it be needed?

Onto a grid road

See if we can find

Shekinah Retreat Centre

Roses in the bush by the road

Not recognizing some crops

Birch firewood pile

For sale in farmyard

Here canola out of bloom

U pick strawberry signs

Mounds of clay in a long row

Serious trenching or gravel pits?

Earth not put back as was

Caragana farmyards

Win rows in the fields

Skinny fence posts

Leaning this way and that

Two donkeys and two heifers

Salem Church Cemetery

1899 Families from South Dakota

Krimmer Mennonite Brethren


No sounds

Butterflies, birds and grass swishing

Someone keeps it clean and tidy

More strawberry farms

Crops like corn

Only a foot high

Beehives and bales

Great gravel roads

In distance must have had water

At one time

As trees dead

Wrong road obviously

As now my first experience

On a Hutterite Colony

“Look at the rigging,” my hubby says

Brand new combines in a row

Bins and more bin

Very well kept

New buildings all over

All neat and tidy

Lots of new vehicles

ATVs for running around

Twenty years they’ve been here

Says the guy we ask for directions

Big residential buildings

Six to ten of them

Too much to take in as we drive away

Goats in a cage in the ditch

About two miles away

And we find the right road

And the impressive building

Of reclaimed lumber

Foot wide timbers

Built this Mennonite retreat centre

And creaked through the night

Said the guy we met

In this river valley setting

Guarding the wedding preparations

For later that afternoon

Had a little tour

Saw where I slept in a bunk

Two decades ago

At the worship music retreat

Hermitage on site

Saskatoon berries not ripe here

Next stop

Springfield School Site

Forty-nine students

Year of 1935

Discontinued school in 1960

Backtrack past the donkeys

Blue sky and a thirty one degree day

Was 32 in Arizona this morning

To be forty-three by afternoon

This short-bearded wheat or barley

Turning color from heat we’ve had

Concerned I’m using plastic water bottle

Is it I’ve been educated

Care what people think or

Is water full of plastic

If left in hot car

Or sitting in cupboard since December

Back on highway to Blaine Lake

Don’t recognize farm machinery

Oversize load coming at us

Don’t know what it is either

Square box building

Clay oven bread sign

Petrofka Bridge

North Saskatchewan river

Orchard, trails, café, market

Golden barley swathed in next field

Canola all around as far as we can see

Turn on to the BIG TREE road

We’ve seen it already

Biggest tree in Saskatchewan

And here we are

At the Doukhobor Cave

First see a farmyard

1899 arrived from Russia

Just before freeze up


Pink and blue out houses

Park by a machine shed

Museum and Picnic tables

Quote by Leo Tolstoy:

“Those who own more land than they need

to feed their families

are guilty of causing the poverty of many other people”

Word Doukhobor means “Spirit Wrestler”

We walk around

An old chicken coop

Farm implement display

Sweat house tub and stove for sauna

Songbirds and view of the river

Meet at the flagpole

Dugout houses built in the riverbank

As emergency shelters as settlers arrived

Just prior to winter

1907 government took back homesteaded 250,000 acres

From those who would not sign allegiance to the British Crown

Fearing they’d be conscripted and they were pacifists.

Dugout house was mud and wattle

Things I learned: They were vegetarian

No alcohol or tobacco, prayed in homes

Christian with two commandments

And belief that the Holy Spirit dwells in every person

Gathered Seneca medicinal root to make money

Things I saw from my childhood

Wash lines, cream separator, cream cans

Egg crates, treadle sewing machine, crocks, threshing in 1950s

Head coverings, outhouses, farming

Cowbells, tin cups, a lot of home made

Forty-eight families at the site called Auspania

Built temporary shelters

One by one by one by two metres

By the river and by a spring

Where they washed clothes with rocks

They hauled in wooden trunks from Russia

Filled with rocks

Later used rocks to make sauerkraut

Sixty-seven sites in Saskatchewan

Thirteen in Blaine Lake area

Verigan, Saskatchewan

Demos a Duchhobor village

Wedding tradition; parents give away children

Wedding re-enactment will be on you tube

420 square foot home housed nine families

Of forty people for five years

We went inside it

Dirt from the hill on the back

Yard is a national and provincial historic site

Tours only four Saturdays in July each year

We had a plow the land demonstration

With a plow master, one holding down the single plow

Back then twelve women plowed

Side by side

Using their stomachs to pull

The stick holding the rope

And they sang as they worked

Men were away

Working to build the railroad

From Winnipeg on

Today the tour of eighty of us

Ended with the prayer home

If we wanted

Guide said their belief is

You don’t need church or structure

God lives in each and every one of us

Prayer home had a library, kitchen and a place

For their leader Peter Veregin to stay

Back in the day

Sunday school and a prayer service

With bread, water and salt

Singing and a sign saying to read the psalms

We enjoyed the tour

The homemade bread

A two inch slice with butter and jam

Could choke on the dust

Heading back to the highway


Not much different than my grandparents

Homesteading homes and life.


                                                            July 26, 2019


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