Wow. Where do I even begin.
This all seemed so simple back in the "total and complete lack of planning" stages. We are the Sorensen family from Manson, Washington. A little Norman Rockwell community nestled quietly on the sunny banks of beautiful Lake Chelan. My parents are Roger & Linda Sorensen, and my name is Kari. I'm the youngest of 2 girls. My sister, Kim, (who is WAY older than me by 18 months) is married & living the "American Dream" (she would disagree!) 1.5 hours North with husband & 3 daughters. I'm under the impression that she reads magazines while languishing on the sofa, eating bon-bons & watching TV all day. (Far from the truth--but we joke about it! Her life is nuts too! Cows, pigs, chickens, horses, dogs & kids with soccer in 3 different directions! Ahhhhhhhhh!)
I'll skip the formality and bottom line it for ya', folks! We're a small, family owned & operated, working 13+ acre u-pick berry farm & restaurant that specializes in down-home, scratch country cookin. Stuff Gramma would be proud to serve for Sunday supper with the folks! Now, I want ya'all to hear me on one thing. If you packed the whole fam in the cadi, found your way over the pass, came to our farm, relaxed on the deck, took in the gorgeous, serene berry fields that the restaurant (barn) overlooks and hung out to have the best down home scratch country cookin' around--that'd be great! Fine 'n dandy. Hunky dory. Our job would be done. BUT...you would have left, in my opinion, without experiencing the most important part of what the "Blueberry Hills experience" is all about. Let me tell you a little bit about that. So grab a cup of coffee. Take a load off. And sit a spell. (Or, to borrow a phrase from Don Vey ..."let's flip the long ash a bit 'eh?") :)
We are built on our original family homestead from the early 1900's that was originally settled by my Great-Great Grandparents. I, Kari, am 5th generation from right HERE. How COOL is THAT?! And all the "stuff" (aka "Junk", if ya' ask Gramma) hangin' from the ceiling & in the displays here at Blueberry Hills all came out of Grampa's Shed. Now, folks, what you must realize up-front...Grampa never threw anythin' out. Neither did his Dad...or HIS Granddad. (5 generations, remember?) PACK-RATS!
A Bit 'a History
Back in the early 1900's this farm was originally planted with apples and continued in apples until the fall of 1999. My Grampa, Paul F. Peters, worked this apple orchard since he was a small boy up until he and Gramma, Carol (Waite) Peters, retired. This farm was his whole life, as it was his fathers and his grandfather's before him. Here's a picture of him in 1944 with his sister Vera (on the ladder) pickin' apples. He's about 17 here. I was there with him the day when we stood and watched as Dad pulled out the apple trees in pursuit of planting blueberries. It was the first time I ever saw Grampa cry. He tried acting like he had somethin' in his eye, but I was on to him. It made me cry too. I knew what this meant. He grew up here. He'd replanted all these trees. Cared for them. Pruned, picked, fertalized, watered - year after year. And they let him down once in awhile. But they'd also provided a good living for him and his family most of the time. They'd taught his children a good work ethic. How to budget. How to help a neighbor. How to live right and work hard. How to do what you say you were going to do. How to live in a Norman Rockwell society. Doin' business on a handshake. Sounds like a lot just because of an orchard, but that's what we learned. Grampa's journals prove it. So I understood the tears. And it made me cry too. But I understood. Sacrifices had to be made in the name of "progress". Apples weren't making money anymore and they hadn't for years. It was a really tough decision to be made. Grampa knew it too.
So. Dad pulled the apple trees and went on to plant 13,000 blueberry plants. Everyone thought "those Sorensen's are crazy" (the jury's still out) as the viability of blueberries had never even been considered in the valley before. It's pretty well known that blueberries love "boggy, wet soil" and the Lake Chelan Valley has a high dessert climate. Hum. Not very compatible, one would think. But Dad planted those bushes the Spring of 2000 and they're growing and producing great and loving the climate! With the hot days and cool nights that make apples so high in sugar content -- IT'S HAVING THE SAME EFFECT ON OUR BERRIES! You can definitely taste the difference in our berries. The proof? We use less than 1/4 cup of sugar in our homemade blueberry pies! You know the saying that the "proof is in the pudding"? Well, out here at Blueberry Hills, folks, we say the "proof is in the pie!"
Truth be known, I was pretty freaked when Dad said "blueberries", because frankly (I shouldn't even admit this) I pretty much hated blueberries. To me blueberries had a mushy, mildew flavor. I could never understand why people were so crazy about "blueberry" in jelly beans, yogurt, etc. I couldn't stand it! And I had come up with a menu around these things?! Rats! (kick dirt). Well -- guess what? I had NEVER tasted blueberries that taste like OURS. (I actually got away with not tryin' ours for nearly 2 years...then I did.) They are FIRM, (we harvest at the peak of ripeness...not green because we're planning on shipping them across the United States) SWEET (hot days/cold nights of the Lake Chelan Valley) and FULL OF ROUND, WONDERFUL FLAVORS (we don't over water or grow 'em in a "bog") and they pop when you bite 'em! I'm not kidding! (I NEVER joke about food - that's serious stuff.) I am still so surprised! And now I LOVE blueberries! And it's not just ME that notices...everyone that tries them has noticed the difference in our berries! It's all about the climate! Hot days and cool nights - it makes for an optimum sugar content of the berries...just like it does on the apples. Father DOES know best! ;)
If you build it
We broke ground on our "Barn" in March of 2002, when the berries were 2 years old. We anticipated opening in July of 2002, but July came and went, as did August... September... October... (yawn) ... November. Wow. Dead of winter and now we're ready. ARE we ready? We were terrified. People kept stopping by while we were still building and asking us "What the heck are ya?" or the occasional "Whatcha doin' way out here? Ya been hit in the head?" We really had no answer to any of them. We planned on being a "Fruit Stand" and selling a few pies & soup 3 months out of the year when the berries were being u-picked -- and we'd have our "normal" (what's normal?) lives the rest of the year. But by the dead of November...we had spent everything we had. And, unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to make any money in the summer. Now what do we do?
I got on our local radio station's morning call in show KOZI's 2nd Cup of Coffee Program (35+ year locally famous buy, sell, trade, swap, rant, rave, call in show -- nothing else like it across the US!) (Oh - and you can listen live on the internet!) and talked for about 10 seconds -- about what - I have absolutely no idea. I was horrified. I sounded like a deer stuck in the headlights. The following morning we went to the Barn and put out our shingle. And waited. People actually showed UP! It was so cool. We had talked of maybe putting a phone outside the front door and if someone wanted to come in they could call us and we'd go over. We had no idea the support we would receive from "the locals" as well as the local resorts that were filled with off-season vacationers. We were so relieved - and grateful!
Ignorance is bliss
It was actually a blessing that we started out slowly in the off-season. We didn't know ANYTHING about the restaurant business (and arguably still don't)! We just really loved to EAT and I have always had a PASSION for cooking. You should have seen it. It was kind of like "Who's On First"... Where do we put the glasses? WHAT? Wha da ya mean - no glasses?! Who's makin' the coffee? I'M not makin' the coffee! Where do the dishes go? DISHES? WHAT dishes? We got dishes?! Who DOES the dishes?! How do we git' 'em to the kitchen? Should we cut a hole in this wall?! Deposits?! What deposits?! Who does the books?! Books?! WHAT books?! Unclogging the toilet - WHAT?! Gross!! Go get Dad!! It was insane! We had absolutely NO idea what we were getting ourselves into -- it just all came together (well sort'a).
We started with a VERY limited menu (meant simply to torture, mind you)...for breakfast we only had Danish Yeast Waffles (with or without our pie filling on top with whipped cream) and my top secret BLINTZ recipe - that I get lots of requests for. It's truly fabulous! (Oh - and I'm modest - did I mention that?) For lunch we only served AWESOME burgers with hand cut fries, and wonderful scratch soups. Mom baked pies (and baked, and baked and baked pies) and somehow...quietly (except for the plungin' & thrashin' around comin' from the women's room!) we made it through the winter. Today we still serve all of our original menu items, but we've expanded to include other items as well. You can take a look at a sample MENU. (Note: It changes. So don't hold me to it.) (We reserve the right to change pricing and menu items at any time because, frankly, this is a small town and we gotta' create our own excitement. Honey, we'd go to a dog fight if we got wind'a it ahead a time.)
Yep. We're different ;)
Now, mind-ya we're not 'cher runna' the mill kind' a place either. Now-no sir. If there's any work at all we can git out of -- believe YOU me, honey -- we'll do it. When ya come on in, we have ya grab yerself a menu hangin' on the post. (If there's a big crowd ya jest use yer elbows a little.) We have ya help yerselves to somethin' to drink -- free refills -- (we actually call 'em the "Wet-cher Whistles"). We figure you can only drink so much and then we charge ya 'bout $50 bucks to use the indoor plumbin'. Jest kiddin'. And now don't forget yer silverware there on the workbench. Now go-on. We have ya find somewhere to sit...inside, upstairs or out'n-the deck. Jest make yerselves at home. When you figure out what 'cher havin'...drag yerselves on back inside -- and bring yer menu - we try'da hang on to 'em - we ain't made 'a money. We have ya order 'n pay up front. So - if ya wanna bring a paper 'n sit on the deck & wet'cher whistle all day -- it's right good. We figure that's that many less times we have'ta clean the table. And scoot over'n quit hoggin' the whole table. We're friendly in these parts.
We're just a down-home, folksy, like gramma's house kinda place to go. Come on out 'n see us. Sit-a spell, as Gramma says.
Git'cher grub on, Folks!
Anyway - enjoy the rest of the site! Drop me a line. I LOVE to get your thoughts and comments on the website and hear about your experiences at Blueberry Hills! If you've got any really great pictures that you want to share that I could potentially use on the website - please don't hesitate to share those with us as well, folks! We'd love to have 'em! Thanks!