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As reported by Dave Zuchowski, in the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette (Mon Valley Edition) April 21, 1996:
" If you're driving up the road to
Weatherbury Farm, don't be surprised if you find a goat lying on top of a doghouse roof.
Or a baby calf named Agatha, as cute as a button, nudging up to you in search of a feeding
bottle. Or a long neck goose charging across the yard, hissing and defending its domain
Animals are one of the star attractions at the 104-acre farm-vacation bed and
breakfast near Avella.
The various animals' names are evidence of the reading habits of the farm's owners,
Dale and Marcy Tudor.
The sheep -- Oliver Twist, Jacob Marley and Little Nell -- are named after
characters from Dickens' novels. A herd of Hereford cattle - Weatherbury's main cash crop
-- get their names from characters in Shakespeare's plays. And Happy, Sleepy,
Dopey, the farm's phalanx of felines, can trace their monikers back to the dwarfs that
befriended Snow White. Even the name Weatherbury is borrowed from a work of literary
renown, Thomas Hardy's novel 'Far From the Madding Crowd.'
The aptly named Tudors got the inspiration for their award-winning B&B while
living in Europe. Like a lot of other German workers, Dale, a chemical marketer for Bayer
Corp., was entitled to six weeks of vacation a year.
While in Germany, the Tudors opted to spend their holidays' checking into a series
of different 'pensions,' the European version of a bed and breakfast.
By the time their vacation was over, they had fallen in love with so much they had
seen, they decided to open a similar hostelry of their own when they returned to the
After Dale transferred back to Pittsburgh, the couple began looking around for 'the
perfect farmhouse on about 10 acres of land.'
Several years of searching and 'many Sunday drives' later, they came across one
about 20 miles from Pittsburgh, close enough to Dale's job near the airport, yet remote
enough to let them get away from it all. They bought it in 1986.
Both Dale and Marcy had agrarian backgrounds, so the idea of operating a
working-farm vacation B&B seemed a natural. Ten years later, Marcy Tudor is a master
gardener as well.
The title was conferred on her after she complete a 30-week, work study program
through Penn State and passed the qualifying exam. She uses what she knows to seed, root,
and nurture an herb, wildflower, hummingbird and butterfly, antique rose and fragrance
garden at Weatherbury.
'I do a lot of reading on the subject,' she said, adding that the horticultural
books in her library seem to multiply like rabbits.
Dale continues with his job at Bayer but now spends a lot of his leisure time doing
farm work and renovating the summer kitchen, a separate building in back of the house that
will eventually double the number of guest rooms at Weatherbury from two to four.
He and his 15-year-old son, Nigel, try to squeeze in whatever time is left to
restore old cars, some of which are lined up on the lawn in front of the farm garage.
Marcy, whose hobbies include desktop publishing, puts out a newsletter titled
Weatherbury Moos, sends out livestock birth announcements to past guests,
customized gift certificates on her word processor, and publishes a monthly calendar of
The Tudors recently heard they have won the Most Innovative Business Marketing
Award, presented jointly by Microsoft Publisher and Home Office Computing Magazine.
Newly arrived visitors to Weatherbury are given a list of 25 things to do on the
farm as well as a compendium of attractions the surrounding area.
'Most of our guests like to get up in the morning and join Nigel on his round of
chores,' said Dale. 'That includes feeding apples and carrots to our herd of Scottish
Highland cows. And everyone seems to want to feed baby Agatha her bottle.'
Duck egg hunting in another favorite daily event, while gardening is not quite as
popular. Other chores are complete busts. Although Marcy says a few people have asked to
plant and weed the gardens, no one, as yet, has wanted to clean out the barn.
And because of problems with insurance liability, guests are not permitted to do
physical work or operate the farm machinery, even if they wanted to.
The Tudors say that most of their first-time guests like to venture out and explore
area attractions like Meadowcroft Village, Cross Creek Park and the David Bradford House.
Bur repeat visitors tend to stay put on the farm.
'Simple pleasures like hiking or bird-watching let people get back to their roots,'
said Marcy. 'Birders, for instance, will often be up in the meadows for hours. We start
thinking they might have fallen in a hole or something, but they're really caught up in
the experience of communing with nature. Even though they may live an hour's drive or so
away, they're often impressed with the birds they find here. They're so different from
what they usually see in the city.'
Reading is another favorite pastime, and Marcy has furnished each gust room with a
copy of 'Far From the Madding Crows' as well as books with a local flavor such as 'I Went
to Pit College,' a fictional account of coal mining life set in Avella.
'There are plenty of places here to curl up and get lost in reading,' said Marcy,
pointing out the Adirondack chairs around the pool, the wicker living room set in the
gazebo, the swing on the porch and two hammocks in the yard. She didn't even mention the
cozy indoor nooks and crannies like the settee in the music room or couch in the parlor.
Last year, Marcy was appointed president of the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation
Association, a network of 25 member farms scattered across the state.
'The concept gives farmers a chance to supplement their income without leaving
their farms and lets visitors see a part of Americana that is rapidly vanishing,' she
said. 'Places like ours give people a chance to do things like make cider, plant
vegetables and can garden produce. it lets them get at last a glimpse of the more simple
life their ancestors enjoyed.'
Children get a lot out of the farm as well. They seem to enjoy making the rounds
with Nigel, feeding the Guinea hens, doves and long-eared rabbits, and petting the farm
cats and Billy Goat Gruff, the farm's shaggy, perhaps overly affectionate goat.
The farm, bucolic in a Norman Rockwellian sort of way, is typical in one respect.
What it lacks in the way of early morning rooster crowing, it makes up with cows calling
for their calves.
'We like to tell our guests,' said Dale, 'that
they can go to bed at night to the
chirping of crickets and wake up in the morning to the sounds of bird song.' "