Thelma Hauge has a 30-second commute. And it’s a beautiful one.
Traveling from the doorstep of her fifth-wheel to her greenhouse may only take a hop and a skip, but it’s a view the 79-year-old Vader resident can’t get over — especially on warm, cloudless days.
“Every single day, when I come to work, I get to the rose arbor, stand and look at the nursery and say ‘I am so darn lucky to do this,’” Hauge said on a recent spring afternoon. “I have worked for myself for so many years now that — you know the old saying: ‘I love my job, I love my boss. I’m self-employed.’”
The job? Gardening. And a whole lot more when you’re your own boss.
Hauge and husband, John Glasser, 77, operate the Blueberry Hill Nursery and Art Gallery, nestled in the hills between Ryderwood and Vader. The business has been a seasonal mainstay in teaching and educating budding amateur gardeners and horticulturalists since 20 years ago when Hauge opened the nursery.
The couple went on a temporary hiatus a number of years ago, but are back this year with their third-annual sale.
The rural nursery, located at 165 Hendricksen Road, will open its doors to customers Saturday, May 1, selling reasonably-priced vegetable starts such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and carrots as well as a full assortment of perennials, flowers, herbs and deer-resistant plants.
It will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, though hours may vary.
To Hauge and Glasser, seeding and tending to a full nursery serves as a labor of love. The sale only lasts two months out of the year, though the couple spends more than six months prepping and organizing the effort.
The Chronicle stopped by on a warm April afternoon. Juvenile starts and small flowers were just beginning to pop up and the designated sections in the greenhouse were starting to take shape. The couple meandered about, making sure plants were watered every couple hours, planting new seeds and making signs for every pot.
The couple, who met 12 years ago, have been gardening just about their entire lives, and even though they’re master gardeners, each new sunrise brings with it opportunity to learn something new about home gardening, which has exploded in popularity over the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“You have to do it because you love to do it. You can’t do it like it’s a chore,” said Hauge from inside her detached arts studio, where she also teaches painting and watercoloring. “And the other thing that is important is that, if you are a new gardener, there’s no stupid questions. Buy your plants from someone who can give you good advice, ‘cause the advice is free.”
Gardening — whether done with friends, family or alone — is a social activity, Hauge said, that only gets more exciting and fruitful the more you learn.
Hauge originally moved to her little plot off state Route 506 in 1992 after a 15-year career in law enforcement. Her claim to fame was she was the first female officer for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, she said, and served as an investigator for the state Gambling Commission.
When Hauge moved to Ryder, her plot was mostly pasture. So she started planting oak trees and other shrubbery. It wouldn’t take too long for the two to meet.
“I was teaching ballroom dancing in Ryderwood where I live, and she came as somebody interested in learning,” Glasser said.
The two still dance to this day, though the pandemic has squashed any opportunity to go to organized events. Dolly, one of two mannequins posed in Hauge’s art studio, wears one of her red, sequined ballroom-dancer’s dresses.
With the onset of the pandemic last year, Blueberry Hill shifted to an online-store approach. The outpouring of business, with everyone social distancing at home, surprised the couple.
“We set up order online so that people didn’t even have to get out of their car, they just ordered online and we could have it ready to go,” Hauge said. “A lot of people, however, chose to come and pick their stuff up out of the greenhouse and we had a huge number of people who were first-time gardeners because they were really feeling the pinch.”
The couple estimates this year should be about the same since people still have that “pandemic mindset.” Glasser said gardening has proven to be a quality family activity during the pandemic.
Having their business stay steady during the pandemic has been a reassurance for the retired couple. Last December, a house fire tore through their two-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch. The two currently live in a fifth-wheel with hopes of completing a full renovation of the house this summer.
The nursery will offer about 6,000 plants this year. They expect some high-demand plants to sell out in days, with some plants going on sale in June.
Online ordering will be available this year, and the nursery will accept debit and credit cards in-person. The nursery doesn’t have a Facebook page, but online purchasing information will be posted by the couple on Facebook forums at a later date.
The farm can be reached by phone at 360-295-3488 and 360-749-0634.