Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer


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Adventures with Good Friends and Horses, NYC & NJ

It has been an amazing couple of weeks.  First off, Harriet came to spend the weekend, first time she’s been to our house, mainly so we could attend the Rolex Central Park Horse Show‘s dressage semi finals on Friday Sept. 24.  This date may stick in your mind as it was the same day as the meeting of the UN General Assembly and a visit by Pope Francis all in the same general area as the horse show.  We were mightily worried about ever getting in or out of the City on that auspicious day of Papal, Political and expensive horse flesh extravaganza convergence, but we took mass transit and got to and from just fine.

The weather was just perfect and we had a grand time.

We couldn't have asked for a prettier day and a more beautiful spot to be!

We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day and a more beautiful spot to be!

 

Harriet and I almost broke into a trot to get to the entrance to Wollman Rink in Central Park, which had been converted into an equitation arena complete with grandstands, dining area and retail venues.

Harriet and I almost broke into a trot to get to the entrance to Wollman Rink in Central Park, which had been converted into an equitation arena complete with grandstands, dining area and retail venues.

 

We couldn't have asked for better weather or a more amazing backdrop to the festivities.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more amazing backdrop to the festivities.

A competitor strutting her stuff.

A competitor strutting her stuff.

In addition to viewing horses and riders we did a little of our own in a very big way:  We rode Clydesdale horses at Willow Grove Farm in Longvalley, NJ.  I rode Cade, my second time on him.  A 7 year old gelding, 19.1 hands and still growing!  Needed a 5 step mounting block to get on him but he is gentle and somewhat well behaved even though he doesn’t like to pick up his canter in a timely manner.  Harriet rode Molly, a spirited 5 year old mare who liked to race which put a damper on our visions of long controlled canters on the cinder bike path.  But we had a ball!

My trusty steed Cade, note his head is as long as my torso.

My trusty steed Cade, note his head is as long as my torso.

What could equal such a grand weekend?  Why, how about a visit by friends Christine and Harry McLaren, their Arabian Extreme and his Victorian driving cart to lead the children’s race on the grounds of Thomas Edison’s home Glenmont as part of the Llewellyn Park 5K footrace on Sunday October 4?  Harry and Chris keep their horse where Buddy and Missy winter, at Hunters Little Farm in Frankford, NJ.  Chris competes Extreme in driving competitions all over our area and as far as Virginia.  They are pretty good at it too, top 10 finishers in a couple of finals, very impressive.

Harry and Chris brought Extreme to spend the day, and after dressing him and ourselves up we headed off to the lawn of Glenmont to cheer in the adult finishers and lead the children’s race.  It was great fun!  Everyone got a mimosa after the festivities and we all repaired to the lovely home of race organizer Julie Song for a wonderful brunch.  Extreme stayed at our house and had a nice horsie visit with Buddy and Missy who seemed a little perplexed to find themselves together and not at Hunters Little Farm!

Christine dressing Extreme for his big event.

Christine dressing Extreme for his big event.

Harry preparing the wagon.

Harry preparing the wagon.

On the lawn of Glenmont feeling like a million bucks.

On the lawn of Glenmont feeling like a million bucks.

 

Post race mimosa in front of Mina Edison's greenhouse.

Post race mimosa in front of Mina Edison’s greenhouse.

Oh what a wonderful life I have full of amazing things to do with incredible friends.  I am very blessed indeed!

 

 

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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!