NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that one of the key joys of my life now is the intensity of friendship, especially among people with whom I have (1) helped save the planet, particularly wild New Jersey; and (2) birded! Especially birded under trying conditions and won through.
You’ve read about “The Intrepids” in these ‘pages’, especially in the teeth of that Nor’easter a year ago in Island Beach – (you can search for Island Beach in Archives and re-read that adventure.) This is a night when no one needed to be intrepid — a time of exquisite fellowship, merriment — a treasured reunion, in a place significantly restored for Nature’s purposes.
Recently, Bill Rawlyk created a nearly impromptu farm supper on his (he is third generation) Hunterdon County farm.
Scott Sheldon, who had invented the role of Director of Development at D&R Greenway some years back, was in town for a rare visit. Jeanette Hooban, my cherished ex-office mate at the same establishment, drove me out there immediately after work on a weeknight. Unbeknownst to us, dear Mary Penney, now head of Bucks County Audubon at Honey Hollow, and her delightful, hail-fellow, well-met husband Geoff, came over after their workdays to surprise us. Edith Rawlyk, (Bill’s very sweet mom (who used to create home-made pies, especially from blueberries of the farm, and send them in with Bill, Edith, who worked often at my side on complex logistical matters) was sitting in a wooden rocker on the porch as we arrived, smiling that smile we all cherish. Bill’s at Open Space Institute now, merely saving the Delaware River Valley. Jeanette brilliantly manages events for Princeton’s Senior Resource Center.
As I’ve written before, we’ve all been in the trenches together. Any moments we can snatch in these complex 21st-Century lives are beyond price. That night with Bill and his Mom on the farm was simply magical.
Summer was at peak. Bill manages for grassland birds, not only towering flowers, but also ponds, vernal and otherwise. Once a chicken farm, now it’s a sanctuary, for humans in our experience, as well as for the four-legged, the winged and o, what do the Indians call the snakes and the turtles?
You all know my own enthusiasm for food (stretching back to having been Director of the Test Kitchen at Tested Recipe Institute, at 500 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, in my twenties). And that my friends, including The Intrepids, share this enthusiasm. It will give you some idea of the magnitude of these friendships, that the food, though perfection, was secondary.
Sitting on the rhododendron-surrounded bluestone terrace, catching up, while Bill grilled everything from salmon to hot dogs, sipping Scott’s wine or Geoff’s and Mary’s beer, as sun lowered and the breeze rose, was perfection.
The privilege of eating in a farm kitchen in this day age can neither be described nor measured. Shrimp appeared and disappeared. As did various exotic cheeses which had come from far from Hunterdon County. Tomatoes were sliced and festooed with lively basil. Bill has the farmer’s perfection touch with corn. Once out there, he took something to the cornfield, which boiled the water as we picked and husked the corn. This wasn’t quite that rural, but the foods were divine.
There was laughter. There was rue. There were hopes for the future, and plans for birding jaunts — it’s time to celebrate Jeanette’s autumn birthday again.
Our impromptu farm supper couldn’t have been better, and we are the richer for it, forever.