Long Weekends Magazine | Spring/Summer 2004
As reported by Laura Faye Taxel, in Long Weekends Magazine, Spring/Summer 2004:
” Most city slickers are full of romantic notions about country living. They seek an ideal getaway brimming with peace, quiet and old-fashioned rural charm, and they yearn for a chance to show kids that eggs don’t magically appear in their Styrofoam cartons. A Weatherbury Farm vacation is perfect for urban dreamers.
Don’t bring work with you. This is no place for business as usual. Don’t plan on late nights with David Letterman. There are no TVs, telephones, radios or desks in these guestrooms. This is where you come to hear roosters crow at sunrise and owls hoot after dark; to walk through fields of clover and feel the tickle of a billy goat’s tongue as he nibbles corn from your hand. Hosts Dale and Marcy Tudor and their 23-year-old son Nigel welcome couples, families and friends to stay for a week or a weekend and enjoy a taste of the good life, Pennsylvania farm-style.
Located in the southwestern part of the state, the place is picture perfect. Shaggy longhorn Scottish Highland cattle and Herefords with big white faces graze in Weatherbury’s meadows, and 50 acres of the farm’s 104 are set aside for timothy grass and alfalfa on which they feed. The property is dotted with trees, and a hammock is strung up between two towering Japanese larches. A picket fence surrounds the front lawn where lilacs and grape holly grow and herds of cats play. There’s a granary, a bank-style barn built into a hill, a hummingbird garden and a gazebo. The porch swing invites guests to come sit awhile. Nigel Tudor operates a blacksmith shop on site; he’s happy to give tours and explain how the machines work, but it’s too dangerous to have visitors around when he’s forging hot metal.
Geese start squawking the moment anyone arrives. Bunnies hunker down under the 1929 tractor. Kids love to climb on it and sit behind the oversized steering wheel, and they’re welcome to it — Weatherbury Farm has hosted families since 1992. In fact, children are encouraged to make friends with the resident goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and speckled guinea hens. “Watching the animals,” Dale says with a laugh, “is what I call natural television. This is a real ‘reality’ show.”
The main house, with one room for guests, dates to 1870. The front parlor and music room are available for socializing or watching videos. There are two additional family-sized rooms in a nearby outbuilding that once served as a summer kitchen and washhouse, and three more new two-story suites across the field in a horse barn dubbed The Livery. The Tudors took the 3,000-square-foot stable apart board by board, moved it from another farm 15 miles away, had it rebuilt, and then renovated and remodeled the interior themselves, keeping such original features as exposed beams, barn doors, and oak plank flooring. Each second-floor bedroom opens onto a deck with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. All guest quarters have private baths and are furnished with antiques Marcy and Dale have collected at auctions and flea markets.
Visitors are encouraged to get to bed early. This is a working farm, and breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m. After enjoying a hearty morning meal in The Livery dining room, everyone is welcome to tour the farm, ask questions and help Dale with some of the lighter chores. There are eggs to gather and animals to feed. Corn is shelled and ground using old-time hand-operated machines. The goats have to be led out to pasture and somebody has to search for guinea hen nests — the birds hide them. It’s also time to meet the barnyard residents. Marcy loves to read, and names all the critters after literary characters. The goats have fairy-tale handles — Snow White, Rose Red and Gruff. Matthew Moon, a calf, gets his moniker, as does the farm itself, from characters in Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Marcy thinks the reference is quite appropriate. “We’re close to a number of cities, but far from their hustle and bustle,” she explains.
Coming to a working farm for a holiday is called agricultural tourism or agritourism. The Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association is one of America’s oldest organizations promoting such vacations. Marcy has served as president for the past 10 years, and the organization currently lists 24 locations on its membership roster. (For information call 888/856-6622 or visit www.pafarmstay.com).
These farms offer a chance to get away from the hurried, harried pace of urban living and connect with each other and a simpler, more natural way of life. Both Dale and Marcy come from Pennsylvania farming families and value rural ways. “My dad grew up on a farm,” says Marcy, “went to Penn State, was an ‘ag’ student and became a banker. I was raised in town, studied accounting and became a farmer.”
Do a lot of nothing during your stay or keep busy — it’s your choice. Read a book, swim in the heated pool, or play volleyball or badminton.
For those in a sightseeing mood, there are a number of places to visit in the surrounding area. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is nearby, offering guided tours on a four-mile scenic ride on a restored trolley. The Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life’s Meadowcroft Village offers a glimpse of country life in the 19th century; a trip here will add context to your stay at the farm by providing demonstrations on how difficult farm life was in the olden days. Meadowcroft Rock Shelter is an archeological site with specimens dating back 16,000 years. Or, try out the driving range and miniature golf course at Breezy Heights.
Weatherbury Farm is open year-round.* Each season brings special pleasures, but spring and summer offer the most farm fun. The milk house is filled with newly hatched chicks and ducklings. Newborn bunnies crowd the hutch. Eggs incubate and patient visitors might get to see one as it cracks open. Bottle feeding the baby calves, lambs and goats is a favorite children’s activity, as is gathering eggs, especially the blue, green, and pink ones laid by the Aracauna chickens. Kids who stay two or more days are invited to join the Weatherbury Farm Kid Program. They get an activity packet and can earn an Official Weatherbury Farm Kid Certificate.
“We had a husband and wife in their 60s come stay with us,” says Marcy. “She’d always wanted to live on a farm. She really got into it, and did everything the children do. I tell people that what we do here is for children of all ages, the young and the young at heart.””