Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer


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Harriet, My Hero

Harriet Hobbs lives down the street on a farm at the edge of the marsh on a curve in the road on the way to Alec and Ann Marshall’s house.  She calls her place “Ryder Beach Farm.”  I call it paradise.  I can’t say she lives alone on the farm, but she is the only human there full time.  There are the 3 dogs- Frederica, Georgianna and Nelson who give you a heart attack as you come up the shell drive, 4 cats, 3 horses- Shot, Kadence and Gregor, and 13 chickens, all named.  The setting is idyllic- flowers abound, shingled cottage farm house, large white barn, horse paddocks, flag pole, bee hives, the works.

When most people see her spread they see an idyllic form of heaven.  I see a well oiled machine of self sustaining ecosystem, the beauty of nature, the love and companionship of animals, good times and a ton of hard work, constant manual labor, and a bottomless money pit.  But Harriet perseveres.  Renaissance woman, Harriet is a real estate attorney and runs the farm herself.  The horses keep her sane, mow the lawn and produce manure for the gardens.  The goats eat the poison ivy, food scraps and are a constant source of entertainment.  The chickens eat the ticks, food scraps, aerate the soil and produce eggs to sell and fertilizer for the gardens.  The bees pollinate the flowers, the gold fish eat the algae in the horse water tubs (though not as well as Harriet would like.)  The cats eat the mice and the dogs patrol for interlopers.  The human makes money to pay for it all and does all the heavy lifting and has thumbs, very useful for opening cans and feed bags.  She is the CEO, the groom, mucker, farm hand, landlord, maid, bottle washer.  She can be found cantering in the surf at low tide in the morning and walking with 3 dogs and 2 goats on the beach at sunset.  In between she’s moving chickens, checking in or cleaning up after guests and performing real estate closings and feeding everyone.  In winter she digs out and drives to New Hampshire every weekend where she is a ski instructor.  My hero.

It’s always a treat to go for a ride with Harriet.  She has 3 horses, magnificent beasts.  I usually ride Gregor, a huge warm blood.  She has them so well trained that when they see the bridle the put their heads down and open their mouths (Buddy I wish you could read!)  Sometimes Harriet will ride Shot, who is 32 and looks and acts like he’s 12.  He free ranges on the farm like a puppy, sometimes becoming quite the garden pest.

Shot munching on carefully tended garden

Shot munching on carefully tended garden

Riding Gregor at low tide on Ryder Beach

Riding Gregor at low tide on Ryder Beach

We tack up and head out, romp in the sand, return, turn out the horses then move the chickens.  Harriet has a system.  The chickens live in the walk-in cellar of her barn in a room surrounded by the rubble foundation wall, nice and constant temperature and very snug in the winter.  She has 2 contraptions for them to spend the days outside scratching and pecking at the ground eating bugs and enjoying the sunshine and cool breezes.  One is a triangular shaped thing made of wood and wire with handles on one end and wheels on the other for easy translocation, a door to get them in and out, a tarp for shade and a sign reading “eggs for sale.”

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The other is a plastic dome on wheels with handles covered in zip tied chicken wire with a tarp for shade and a door.

The chicken dome

The chicken dome

So how does one transfer a bunch of clucking chickens from a cellar room to an outdoor dome you ask?  Why by golf cart of course!  Harriet has a dog crate on top of a wagon that she attaches to her electric golf cart with a dog leash.  She stuffs the chickens in one by one (some of them know their names and sit for her when she calls to them!) hitches up the cart then they make their merry way to the dome. Yesterday she let me drive the cart and even forgave me when I stepped on the pedal going forward instead of reverse and almost slammed into the barn.

Loading the chicken train

Loading the chicken train

Have chickens will travel!

Have chickens will travel!

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Me driving the chicken train

Harriet and one of her chickens. It lays blue eggs!

Harriet and one of her chickens. It lays blue eggs!

It’s always a fun day at Harriet’s house on Ryder Beach Farm!

It may seem like all fun and games, but like I said, Harriet is the only full time human on premises.  Though I’ve only heard stories and never met him, Harriet had a wonderful husband, Travis Cresswell who sounded like quite the adventurer whether it be sailing to Antarctica, riding horses all over the world with Harriet, to skiing, sailing and diving, in essence everything she loves doing.  Tragically, Travis died in 2007, leaving Harriet to have adventures, run the farm, ski, travel and ride without him.  As you read this post it is clear Harriet isn’t sitting around waiting for life to happen to her, but she sure would love to have an equally adventurous Renaissance man in her life.  Faint of heart, un-athletic, sedentary, agoraphobic men who expect home cooked meals need not apply, but please feel free to send Harriet a nice man, USPS priority mail would work nicely, or contacting me through this blog.  I’m serious here, no fooling!

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Cape Cod, September 2015

View of Ryder Beach from 7W's

View of Ryder Beach from 7W’s

This September idyll was different than the usual in that the weather was warm, dry and sunny the entire time AND we went the week before Labor Day so there was more social action and human interaction than previous September vacations.  In addition, we had the cat and no human visitors.  There were the usual patterings of little feet skittering in the ceilings and walls to keep us entertained and the dog tortured.

Chipmunk chattering in the wall. Life is just not fair!

Chipmunk chattering in the wall. Life is just not fair!

What’s great about being here in September is, barring any recent injuries, we are both in tip top physical shape, so we are up for any kind of activity and any wife survival test is usually passed with flying colors.  Lots and lots of biking to be had, in particular a thrilling ride on single track through the woods near the ocean.  We had done this ride in September,, “a short reconnaissance ride” that turned out to be an 18 mile wife survival test.  But I passed and we found this really cool segment near Long Nook Beach worthy of further exploration.

Single track parallel to Long Nook Beach.

Single track parallel to Long Nook Beach.

Weeeeee! There's a reason why it's called Paradise Hollow!

Weeeeee! There’s a reason why it’s called Paradise Hollow!

In the early mornings, the routine is, Bill rides to get the paper; Lisa takes the dog jogging for an hour, and once for an eight mile walk on the sand paths in the “hollows” near the house.  Later in the day there is either horseback riding for Lisa and a long bike ride for Bill or some sort of biking adventure for Bill and Lisa while the dog recovers at home and the cat rests up thinking of ways to keep us awake all night.

A tired dog is a good dog. Petey after a long jog.

A tired dog is a good dog. Petey after a long jog.

Don't let that innocent face fool you!

Don’t let that innocent face fool you!

Lots to see and do this time, much of it with our friend Harriet.  There is an entire post devoted just to her.  This time we were very happy to be here to attend her annual Labor Day weekend cocktail party on the farm.  Beautiful setting, wonderful people, good food and drink, lively conversation.  You just can’t beat it.

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I brought her some Cape Cod Lightening that I made out of beach plums picked at 7W’s last year.  It’s a hooch made from fresh beach plums, vodka, sugar and cinnamon sticks from a recipe passed to me from Maysie.  It was a huge hit at the party, not a drop left at the end of the evening.  Many of the ladies in attendance who sampled it said that none of their recipes include the cinnamon, but we all knew Maysie was quite the renegade.

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Nary a drop left at the end of the cocktail party. I didn’t have a label or tape, but first aid tape and a sharpie worked fine!

Bill took some lovely shots of views from the deck.  Plenty of seals paid visits just before sunset each day, and many people were out enjoying the water with friends.

Seal on the move!

Seal on the move!

A boy, a dog, a paddle board.

A boy, a dog, a paddle board.

Perfect weather for kayaking!

Perfect weather for kayaking!

Soon we’ll be packing up the house, packing up ourselves, and packing up the pets to head home for the season, car jam packed with canine nose on feline box,

Beagle nose peeking out behind the seat, chin resting on top of cat box. Cat not pleased.

Beagle nose peeking out behind the seat, chin resting on top of cat box. Cat not pleased.

and a stop at Uncle Willie’s BBQ, exit 42 I-95 in New Haven for a burnt ends on a kaiser roll.

A stop to worship at the shrine of burnt ends on a kaiser roll: Uncle Willie's BBQ!!!

A stop to worship at the shrine of burnt ends on a kaiser roll: Uncle Willie’s BBQ!!!

See you soon 7W’s!