Overheard at the grocery store, because you know how fun it is to eavesdrop on the folks behind you in line:

“Mama, when we get home can I watch TV?”

“No, you’ve watched enough TV. You need to get outdoors.”

“But I don’t wanna go outside, Mama! It’s too hot. And humid. And they don’t have any snacks outdoors!”

The kid had a point. But it’s summer in the south, and that’s just the way it is. Heat and humidity are a pain. He’s right about the snacks too.

Still, the mom had a point too. It’s better to get outside than sit inside like a bump on a pickle (or on a sofa).

However, I’ve got a perfect solution that even solves the snack problem

What if he went outside and did something with some built-in refreshment value, say, something like picking blueberries?

When we settled in the Alpharetta area, our own kids were little. They weren’t particularly fond of summer heat either. It was tough to find something to do with them on hot summer days.

Then a friend suggested blueberry picking.

Blueberry picking? I’d never done that.

“It’s easy,” our friend said. “And there’s this place called Berry Patch Farms.”

Berry Patch Farms, founded by Bill and Debbie Durden, was born in 1978 when the Durdens bought 40 acres of land in Cherokee County with the idea of establishing a pick-your-own fruit farm. They also bought an old Model 8N Ford tractor (“It was built the same year Debbie and I were born,” Bill has noted).

Then they went to work.

Initially, in lieu of landscaping, the Durdens planted 400 blueberry plants around their house. The following year, in 1980, they expanded to five acres of blueberries with an additional 3000 bushes.

If you like blueberries as much as I do, it’s a little piece of heaven.

As I sit hear typing and munching on a blueberry muffin, I think back to the many times I’ve picked berries at the Durden’s farm. Most times I had a kid or two or three in tow. It was a contest to see who could pick the most. Other times, visiting there with my Sunday School class, I’d enjoy a picnic first and then pick berries after supper in the cool of the evening.

Once in a while, needing a break from the rat race, I’d even go by myself.

“Bring back some berries!” my wife would say, and I’d know that she’d have the crust for a cobbler ready by the time I returned home.

What awaits you at Berry Patch Farms? You’ll find a place where the bushes are big (read: “back-friendly”) and where the berries have not been sprayed (read: “You can eat all you want right off the tree). There are rows and rows of blueberry bushes, all laden with fruit, all calling my name. I was then, and am now, duty-bound to answer that call any time I can.

Over the years, blueberry picking has been a sort of constant in an ever-changing world.

We’d always try to go at least once. Some years, life intervened and it didn’t happen. Other years, though, there would be several trips, each time bringing home four or five or seven or eight pounds of sweet berry heaven. The farm features several different varieties, each with its own unique flavor, and they’re all good. All have that indescribable blueberry-ness that makes it impossible to eat just one.

And yes, I admit it. While picking, I’d always eat a few (okay, more than a few) right from the tree. No chef’s special from any five-star restaurant ever tasted better. Fortunately they don’t weigh you when you leave, or my berry-picking bill would have been a lot higher!

The ones I didn’t consume on the spot went home where some usually found their way into blueberry muffins that very day. Others ended up as the featured ingredient in my bride’s exquisite blueberry cobbler. Still others (but never enough) went into the freezer for future culinary adventures or to be eaten, ice-cold, straight from the bag. Alas, those frozen reserves would invariably run out by the middle of September. Then we’d have to settle for store-bought berries, waiting through the fall and winter and spring until the next year when (about the end of June) the new crop would be ready and we’d start the cycle all over again.

All that went through my mind as I listened to that conversation there in the line at the grocery store. All that young fellow needed was a tree full of blueberries, and he’d forget all about the heat.

Berry Patch Farms is located just off Arnold Mill Road about 2.5 miles from the Fulton/Cherokee line. Note that you’ll want to leave your dog at home – “Our dogs are jealous!” the Durdens say.

Right after you cross into Cherokee on the Highway 140 bridge (now under construction) over Little River, turn left onto Arnold Mill Road. Go about 2.5 miles, watching for the Berry Patch sign on the left. Turn at the sign and drive down the gravel road to the farm.

At the check-out stand, grab a bucket. Then head for the field, sampling berries as you go. When you find the berries that taste best to you, settle in and start picking. It’s as simple as that.

Blueberry season started a week or so ago and Debbie says it will go for another couple of weeks. But eventually they’ll run out. To be sure that there are berries there for picking, give them a ring at (770) 926-0561 before you make the trip.

Berry Patch Farms is open from 8 till 8 Tuesday through Sunday. It’s closed on Monday.

There are a number of pick-your-own operations in the area. Visit pickyourown.org/GAEJ.htm (case sensitive) to learn more about some of the possibilities. Always call first before making the trip.

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