How Julie Beitman’s Garden Grows

Oldtimers knew the plot of land on the west side of North Avenue, just up from Long Lots, as Rippe’s Farm.

Those who have been here a while remember when a guy named Buster sold fruits and vegetables there, from a roadside stand.

To newcomers it’s a cul-de-sac with homes that — in a nod to its agricultural past — were designed to look in part like silos. Greystone Farm Lane is a nonsensical name created from thin air. It might as well be called Buckingham Palace Drive, or Stonehenge Way.

But it’s a nice, neighborly area. And at least one resident pays homage to the area’s previous life.

The Beitmans' house, and part of the old barn (right).

The Beitmans’ house, and part of the old barn (right).

For the past 12 years, Julie Beitman has lived in the 1st house on the left. An original Rippe barn still sits on her property (it’s transformed into a “man cave,” where her sons play music). She and her husband have unearthed foundations from other farm buildings too.

The nutrient-rich soil is gone — the builder skimmed it off, and sold it for profit — but Julie has coaxed amazing trees and plants out of what is now hard clay.

Julie Beitman, with just some of her plants.

Julie Beitman, with just some of her plants.

She planted 16 fruit trees.

She grows lettuce, tomatoes, 5 varieties of hot peppers, peas, eggplant, grapes, cucumbers, apples, cherries, 3 varieties of plums, and herbs. She and her son Andrew — a rising Staples senior – have cross-bred Bartlett and Bosc pears.

When her string beans grew 40 feet tall, she called in neighborhood kids to pick them.

I didn’t know you could grow cotton in Connecticut, but Julie does. (The seeds came from Israel.)

In the winter, Julie makes maple syrup. This summer, she’ll jar peaches.

Pears ripen in Julie's back yard.

Pears ripen in Julie’s back yard.

She’s a completely self-taught gardener. But she has learned well. Everywhere in her yard, something grows.

“It’s my therapy,” Julie — who also owns a jewelry business, and plans parties on the side — says. “It’s a labor of love.”

But beyond planting, pruning, picking and placing peppers on the ground to keep animals away, she does not do much. “It takes care of itself,” she notes.

She’s being too modest. 1 Greystone Farm Lane is a wonderful bounty.

Mr. Rippe would be very, very proud.

Buster too.

It's a very green summer at 1 Greystone Farm Lane.

It’s a very green summer at 1 Greystone Farm Lane.

 

 

15 responses to “How Julie Beitman’s Garden Grows

  1. Julie Beitman

    Dan, Thanks for the flattering piece, but you forgot to mention my business as Westport’s favorite madam!

  2. Jacques Voris

    Or even older timers will remember it as the farm of Charles Mills, who built the house and many of those barns

    • Thank goodness for those neighbors, friends and residents who not only know the past (remembering it or not personally, though indeed, still passing it on) and/or who cherish it and can make it grow…beautifully, I may add. I only can remember Buster and was so disappointed to see him and the farm disappear…Bravo to Jacques who cherishes the past and to Julie who faithfully and honorably brings it to the next generation. You’re doing a beautifully job.

  3. Sven Davidson

    Greystone Farm Lane — also known to some local wags as the Fisher-Price development

    • Why would such a wonderful piece about my great neighbor prompt such a mean-spirited response?

  4. Elizabeth Thibault

    This is awesome! I love that she invites the neighborhood kids to come in and help with the bounty. Gardens aren’t as prevalent as they used to be, and kids don’t have the same familiarity with the effort it takes or the amazing difference from standard grocery store stock. My father used to leave squash and zucchini on our neighbors steps anonymously, because it was so prolific and he couldn’t eat it all. Sharing the fruits of her labor and the knowledge that goes along with it is indicative of a truly generous spirit!

  5. David Squires

    Great Article, Congrats! I’m wondering if Julie uses any other tricks to keep the critters away (especially the DEER)? What’s the “peppers on the ground” buiz?
    are they Hot Peppers???

    • Julie Beitman

      David, While I do have a deer fence around the garden, I grow the hottest peppers I can find, dehydrate them, grind then sprinkle in and around the yard. So far that has worked the best. Good Luck.

  6. Susan Teicher

    Julie, Your gardening talents are truly inspirational. And sharing the intrigue with your son, Andrew, cross-breeding bosc and bartlett pears. How do they taste?

  7. My family had a house on North Avenue in the late 1960’s. The property backed up to Rippe’s Farm. I remember Mr Rippe riding his red tractor in the fields that back up to the back yard..
    .
    A farm stand and apple orchard appeared on the Post Road where Harvest Commons now resides.

    Hey Dan – I graduated from Staples in ’81 – does that make me an old timer? Wow – I’m honored.

    D. Pettee
    SHS ’81

  8. I’ve seen a lot of properties and known a lot of gardeners in my time. Julie’s place is just about the best. She’s got a little bit of magic going on.

  9. Mary Jane Rippe Comfort

    The front entrance of her house has the original beams from one of the barns that was on this Rippe property.