VICTORIA PARK UNDER RECONSTRUCTION: Beavers are a common sight on the river in Saskatoon but there seems to be a particularly industrious clan that has moved into Victoria Park. They've built a home practically on the doorstep of the Racing and Canoe Club and have been felling trees at an impressive rate. Many of the downed trees are close to the riverbank but the beavers have also made a start on a number of huge trees further into the park, pushing the city to put protective wire fencing around some of them.
ANOTHER HISTORIC LANDMARK COMING DOWN: It's been a bad time for historic Saskatoon buildings. The century-old Farnam Block and the Barbie Doll-sized "Merry Mansion" next door, have lost their battle with Father Time, and now the iconic agricultural landmark, the former Quaker Oats Mill, is also coming down. The plant was built by the Saskatoon Milling Company in 1909 at Avenue N and 18th Street, and was taken over by the Quaker Oats company in 1912. It closed in 1972 and was later operated by its current owners, Parrish and Heimbecker, another grain milling company that, coincidently, also began operating in 1909. While much of the mill remains standing for now, demolition is quickly proceeding at the north end of the complex. Human history buffs will not be the only ones sad to lose the old mill. It has also been home to countless generations of pigeons that live in the nooks and crannies and grow plump from the grain that gets dropped along its way into the plant.
Passersby leave personal remembrances Monday night on posters outside what is left of the former Lydia's Pub
FARNAM FAREWELL: If you'd hoped to get a souvenir photo of a pair of Saskatoon landmarks before they're demolished, you're too late. Demolition began in earnest on the Farnam Block at dusk on Monday, Mar. 16, while the iconic "Merry Mansion" next door was flattened Friday, Mar. 13. The Farnam Block was built by Arlington Ingalls Farnam, an early Saskatoon real estate speculator, who put up the impressive brick apartment and commercial building at the corner of Broadway and 11th Street back in 1912. The Farnam Block, with 10 apartments, along with commercial businesses on the main floor and in quaint, below-street-level shops, has been a prominent anchor of Broadway Avenue. In later years it became better known as home for entertainment businesses, most recently Lydia's Pub; venues that helped kick-start careers of many local musicians, ranging from a young Joni Mitchell to the Sheepdogs. The current Farnam Block owners also owned the tiny house, cum store, located immediately West on 11th Street. The pint-sized building was labelled as the Merry Mansion in a song by Humphrey and the Dumptrucks. Future plans for the site have not yet been announced, but don't be surprised if (at least temporarily), in the words of Joni Mitchell, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Aside from the riverbank, Saskatoon is not exactly known for having any natural, dramatic lookout points where young lovers can go to gaze out on the world and dream about tomorrow. However, countless couples have compensated for more than a century by adopting a man-made structure that offers one of the best views in the city -- the CPR bridge. Built in 1908 and with the pedestrian walkway added a year later, the bridge offers a panoramic view of the weir, the university and the downtown, and a tempting place to leave a permanent reminder of one's true love. (NOTE: The love locks have since been removed, having fallen prey to the city's spring cleaning crew.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES: People may not be crazy about Saskatchewan winters but try being a bird, like the flocks of pigeons that make their home on Saskatoon's bridges and buildings; spending most of the time huddling in the cold, freezing their butts off, waiting for the occasional mild day when they can thaw out before the snow and frigid temperatures settle back in again.
GRAFFITI WARS: There's a non-stop battle raging throughout Saskatoon for "artistic" control of prime public real estate. You may not witness it happening but it's going on constantly, usually at night, but by day you will see the aftermath almost anywhere you look throughout the city. It's a multi-foe battle being waged between numerous graffiti artists, the police and the workers tasked with the never-ending job of painting over the art or eyesore, depending upon one's perspective. Judging by the amount of graffiti on Saskatoon's bridges, walls, buildings, fences, etc., it's clear the battle is not being won by the police or the cleanup crews. Even the taggers are in conflict, not being content to leave other's work alone, they feel compelled to deface that as well. The photos below are from one popular graffiti location, the support pillar on the eastern end of the railway trestle adjacent to the weir. They show the results of the ongoing nocturnal battle that's taken place from mid-2011 to the present, and the incarnations the pillar has been through during that time. (Click on photos to enlarge)
COULD ONE OF SASKATCHEWAN'S LEAST POPULAR BERRIES BE THE NEXT SUPERFRUIT?: Buffaloberries (AKA bullberries) have been used for food and medicinal purposes by First Nations people for centuries. The berries make delicious pies, jelly, syrup and wine, and while they are plentiful in Saskatchewan, many people are unfamiliar with them. Others who are aware, often ignore them because they are tart when eaten raw, and picking them is tricky -- like plucking a porcupine. Researchers have been studying the bright red berry and its potential health benefits, and it's being touted by some as the next superfruit.