Between rain showers today, I visited the Blueberry Farm Park, an abandoned blueberry farm in the City of Federal Way. The farm is old. The farm buildings and original home are long gone.
I bet when it was a working farm, there was nothing around it but woods and maybe one or two other fields of other crops. But today, as a tired, old farm, it is bordered by a major huge parking lot and a large church on one side, brand new construction of two large commercial buildings on another side, one of the busiest intersections on Highway 99 just a block away, and lots of other stuff. But even with all that commercial busy-ness nearby, this old blueberry farm is also bordered by the Hylebos Wetlands on two sides (I’ll be visiting that area in the near future), so the farm isn’t completely isolated from other natural habitat. It still has one friendly neighbor next door.
I had driven by this blueberry farm many times and had never seen anyone there. Curiosity finally caught up with me today and I pulled the truck off the road for a look-see. Wow, blueberry bushes as far as the eye could see! And, nope, still not another human soul in sight. I had hoped to be able to talk with someone knowledgable about the place and familiar with blueberries as a commercial crop, but I guess that was not to be.
Volunteers do come to this farm on occasion and do their best to keep the place open to the public by maintaining the original paths through the shrubbery. But since the place is mostly not maintained anymore, there are many wild blackberry vines and other healthy invasive greenery throughout the old farm in addition to the original, old blueberry bushes. The blueberry bushes certainly are still there, although sadly no buildings remain.
At first, the place looked just like a jumble of wild plants with no rhyme nor reason to anything planted there.
But when I walked around the edges of the place, I began to see paths though the plantings.
There were lots of solid metal pipes and plastic/rubber tubing formerly used for irrigation still in place throughout the old farm.
Upon closer inspection, I discovered hundreds of old blueberry plants.
There’s one lone blueberry in the photo above … see it? It’s in the lower right corner of the photo. I was tempted to pick it and eat it, but I left it right there.
After meandering through rows and rows of blueberry bushes and taking a few photos and thinking about the former owners and their lives, I decided to head back to the truck. It took a few minutes before I figured out which way was out! After following a few dead-end paths, I finally noticed the little kiosk (photo below) above the bushes at the edge of the parking lot, and I managed to make my way out to my truck without needing to call in the Coast Guard for assistance.
I had just walked out of the blueberry patch when another Dodge Ram pickup truck pulled in … almost the same year as mine and almost the same size and with the same brand of canopy. My truck has a full crew cab and short bed; the other truck had a smaller quad-cab and the mid-size bed.
A fellow with grey hair got out of that truck and started walking towards the blueberry bushes, but steered himself a bit away when he saw me. I waved and said hi. He waved and said hi back and came over to me.
Turns out he and his wife used to grow blueberries and had about 40 bushes, but the bushes got old so they sold or gave them away. He said blueberry bushes can live 50 years or so, tho they usually stop producing good blueberries before that, so the bushes on the old farm here are likely worthless.
He said that he, too, had driven by this place many times, saw my truck there today, and decided to stop. Recently he and his wife bought their truck and an RV travel trailer and would be traveling part-time rather than raising blueberries. We compared notes about our trucks and compared dreams about RV camping.
Warning: boring truck stuff coming up.
You’ll see that his truck (purchased used like mine was) has smaller wheels/tires and so has smaller brakes. He said he had already had one somewhat shocking experience while towing down a steep hill. Traffic was stopped in front of him at the bottom of the hill at a stop light. He was applying the brakes almost as hard as he could and the truck/trailer was slowing down but not stopping nearly as quickly as he was comfortable with. He said thank heavens the light turned green and the traffic moved before he hit someone. The pavement was dry, the brakes were cool (not overheated from recent use), and the electric trailer brakes were working. Had the situation been different, if the light had not turned green, if the road conditions had been worse, the electric trailer brakes quit working, etc, it could have been a really bad situation.
He listened intently to my advice from my professional truck mechanic days, was very appreciative and grateful for it, asked detailed brake questions, and then asked questions about engines and other truck systems, and will now be looking for a truck with larger brakes, a more powerful transmission, and the proper differential ratio. We found the ratio for his truck on a sticker under the hood of his truck. It was the best ratio for fuel economy but was the worst ratio for towing. Most vehicle manufacturers don’t include differential info when publishing tow ratings, even tho it is critical to towing ability and to fuel economy — a higher number means a lower gear ratio and more torque for towing, and a lower number means a higher gear ratio and better fuel economy. It can be a head-scratcher that’s for sure but it’s really important when choosing a tow vehicle. If a manufacturer tells you that just one differential (theirs) will do it all, then they’re blowin’ smoke and you’d best move on to a different manufacturer.
For instance, one of the most highly rated towing vehicles in the Jeep lineup offers no choice of differentials, no choice for optional transmission coolers, no choice for stronger driveline u-joints, etc. In fact, they don’t even offer a choice of engines or transmissions or brake sizes. They don’t offer a choice because there are no choices … you get the same transmission cooling, the same u-joints, the same differential, the same size of brakes, and many other things the same whether you are driving to the library and the grocery store once a week on flat land at 30mph, or you are towing a trailer loaded with three tons of landscaping boulders off-road up and down the side of a mountain or on a freeway going 70mph. Lots of folks are comfortable with the claim that a town car can safely do the work of a truck. Certainly this Jeep that I just researched (without 4 wheel drive, yet rated to tow more than 3 tons) is less expensive than a new Dodge Ram that does have those choices added to the truck, but to my mind I’m paying for the strength and reliability and peace of mind that comes with a vehicle that truly is designed, engineered, and built to do the work I want it to do.
When/if I ever settle down and just drive to the library and back, then I’ll get me a little town car. 🙂 In the meantime, I want a vehicle that will get me out there and then get me home, safely.
I suspect a few of you readers might be thinking about providing another perspective or giving me a little bit of fun-type flack over the paragraphs above. 🙂 That’s ok. Keep in mind that for a large percentage of my life I maintained trucks that were built to do the jobs they were asked to do … as well as (and this is a lot different) repaired cars and trucks that had broken down because they weren’t built to do the jobs they were supposed to be able to do. Not all manufacturers tell you the whole story. And not all Jeeps are bad. I’m just sayin’ ….
So, even tho this fellow was told that his current truck brakes were rated for the weight of their new travel trailer, the brake system obviously wasn’t able to do the job. He measured my tires so he could at least start with that comparison when he finds another used truck, and he wrote down the information about differential ratios. He will also get appropriate specs directly from the manufacturer rather than believe what a used car salesman tells him, which is what he had done with the size of the brakes.
Ok, back to the blueberries!
Remember the blueberries? At the beginning of my visit here I thought I would learn nothing because no one was around. But I learned quite a lot about blueberries! That guy talked at length about how to raise them and harvest them. I asked lots of questions which encouraged him to talk more. I really enjoyed that. He even had photos on his cell phone of the farm they had, which was a u-pick farm for many years. In turn he learned quite a bit about truck brakes and differentials and such. It’s always nice to share information.
For more photos of this old, abandoned blueberry farm, go here, although there are no details about the farm on that website. In fact, I can’t find much information about the farm online at all. I thought I would find historical information about the blueberry farm posted in the kiosk, but no information about the farm was posted there either … who owned it, who managed it, the dates, any details. It’s a mystery.
The photo above is a map that was posted in the kiosk at the edge of the Blueberry Farm Park, which is also called “Brooklake Blueberry Farm”. Gosh, look at all those other natural “wilderness” areas close by … I now have several more places to visit close to home.
BUT … enough of this lollygagging around home! The next post in this blog will describe the first day of five days out with the trailer again … going camping! Stay tuned. 🙂