“I DON’T GO ANYWHERE ON THIS PROPERTY WITHOUT MY OWN
firepower,” says Ginger Schröder. She reaches into the front pocket
of her green nylon vest and pulls out a small, silver handgun, a Sig
Sauer P238 Tribal. “If I see him, he’s done.”
The “he” in question is a cunning fox that has helped himself
to the pick of her ducks and chickens. And the property is Waverly
Pond, a picturesque paradise that began as a retirement plan
Schröder set in motion several years ago.
To get there, Schröder zips her yellow BMW through the winding
roads of Farmersville (Pop. 1,090), a rural farm community tucked
away in Western New York’s Cattaraugus County. It’s 30 miles to the
nearest hospital and feels about a million miles from Buffalo. Horse-drawn Amish buggies outnumber cars.
At 51, Schröder, a labor and employment attorney and founding
partner at Schröder, Joseph & Associates, has built a thriving law
practice, but she admits she no longer wants to be the workaholic she
was in her 20s. Or, she wants to be a different kind of workaholic.
Initially, she was simply looking for a place to escape the city
with her two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Bernie and Humphrey,
when she found an 1,800-sq. ft. Amish-built cabin on three acres of
farmland. She bought the property in 2009. Then, Schröder fell in
love and married her husband, Mark Heberling, in 2013, and Waverly
Pond went from a weekend getaway to a full-time obsession.
“The city was hard on my soul,” Schröder says as she walks
along the gravel road toward the horse barn where she keeps
six rescue horses.
Inside the barn, Schröder checks on Dolley Madison, a 22-year-
old Belgian rescue who has a case of thrush. Schröder’s sister, Dotty,
who retired to the farm from a nursing career downstate, passes by
with two baskets brimming with chicken eggs, ready to be washed
and taken to the farmer’s market.
Though both women grew up around animals—their dad owned
as many as 500 chickens on their childhood farm—neither had any
real cultivation experience until Schröder bought Waverly Pond.
“I remember as a kid thinking, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here and
go to the city,’” Schröder says. “But you get to a certain point in
your life where [this kind of life] makes sense again.”
She makes the trek into Buffalo several days a week, but it is
here at Waverly that she feels most at home, surrounded by her
animals, which number in the hundreds and include chickens,
ducks, horses, dogs, guinea fowl and a charming three-legged cat
named Orange Julius.
It’s a far cry from the start of her career. Fresh out of law school
at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Schröder landed a
job at Dewey Ballantine, a white-shoe firm in New York City.
“I was doing tax litigation and I was working 2,700 hours a year,”
she says. “[It was] very soul-sucking.”
Schröder turned down a position in Buffalo with Jaeckle
Fleischmann & Mugel in favor of the Manhattan sparkle, but soon,
she began to second-guess her decision.