Favorite blueberry patch shuts down

MONITOR, Wash. — Some might say Crazy Larry came to his senses. He’s retired for the second time.

Crazy Larry’s Blueberry Farm, a favorite Wenatchee-area U-pick, is no more.

“It was too much to keep up with. We want to go see our grandkids (in Pullman and Astoria, Ore.) but for the whole month of July, we always had to be here,” says Larry Rawls, 73, affectionately dubbed “Crazy Larry” by his daughter and granddaughter when they helped him plant blueberry bushes some eight years ago.

Rawls had retired from 40 years as a metal fabricator at Van Doren Sales, a tree fruit packing line manufacturer in East Wenatchee.

He was looking for something to do in retirement. He always liked blueberries. He and his wife, Carolyn, would sometimes buy 30 or 40 pounds at Pan-American Berry Growers in Mossyrock on their way home from Astoria.

So they planted 1.75 acres of their place at Monitor to blueberries and sold U-pick berries for six seasons.

Near the small town of Monitor about five miles northwest of Wenatchee, it quickly became a favorite of neighbors, friends and the public via word-of-mouth.

Rawls enjoyed greeting people and showing them where and how to pick. Carolyn ran the check-in and check-out stand.

“It started as a hobby, but the more we got into it we found out it’s a whole lot of work,” Rawls said. “It’s not that I couldn’t do the work. It’s just very time-consuming.”

Every winter, they pruned the blueberry bushes.

“You do everything you do with tree fruit only you don’t have to climb ladders,” he said. “I didn’t have enough production to warrant hiring help.”

They made enough over the six seasons to recoup their investment and have a little left over, he said.

A year ago, the Rawlses were debating how much longer they wanted to stick with it. They discussed selling the whole place but doubted they could find a buyer wanting to do the work.

So when pruning time arrived they cut down almost all the bushes, saving a few for neighbors, and then sprayed the stubs with brush killer in the spring when the bushes began to sprout.

“We had a pretty good kill, but I have one variety hanging on out there,” Rawls said. “I’ll probably spray it again this fall.”

In the last week, the Rawlses have been fielding five to six calls a day from past customers asking to come pick. They’re disappointed to learn of the closure.

Another U-pick blueberry operation, run by a Leavenworth pear grower, has also closed, Rawls said.

That leaves Blueberry Hills Farms near Manson, on the north shore of Lake Chelan, as perhaps the only one.