Discover Christmas ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’

Tribune Review (Mon Valley Sunday) | December 6, 1995

As reported by Leann Junker, in the Tribune Review (Mon Valley Sunday) December 3, 1995:

” If you visit Weatherbury Farm for a holiday house tour, be prepared to take a look at scenes from Christmas past.
Not only does the 19th-century farmhouse near Avella reflect the flavor of Christmas more than 100 years ago, but also visitors may find Tiny Tim and Jacob Marley wandering around.
But don’t worry about bumping into Scrooge. The owners got rid of him some time ago.
The literary characters from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ are actually Southdown sheep who live out in the barnyard among chickens named after characters from novels by Lewis Carroll and cows with names from the cast of Shakespearean plays.
Wandering through the farmyard are also a goat named Billy Goat Gruff and geese named after Brothers Grimm goose stories.
The collection of cats come up one short for the complete set of Seven Dwarfs.
Owners of Weatherbury Farm — Dale and Marcy Tudor — have a knack for choosing names carefully and with meaning.
That’s why they named the bed and breakfast Weatherbury Farm after the setting of Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘Far From the Madding Crowd.’
The Tudors say their farm is truly a home away from home for the weary traveler, business person, tourist, as well as the exhausted Christmas shopper.
Visitors can set aside frustrating shopping lists and tangled decorating lights to step back in time during an open house at Weatherbury Farm from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday.
The Tudors began playing host to an open house as a way to show their support for Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life, which is just a few miles away.
‘We think Meadowcroft is really wonderful, and unfortunately not enough people know about it,’ said Marcy Tudor adding visitors to the house are asked to make a donation to Meadowcroft.
Every room in the nine-room house features fresh-cut greens and a tree of one sort or another.
The self-guided tour begins in the living room where the stockings have been hung by the chimney and a ceiling-high tree is generously decorated with family keepsakes, hand-made ornaments and mementos of vacations from around the world.
Living in Germany during the early 1980s inspired the Tudors to give up their house in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and enjoy life down on the farm.
‘The great thing about living in Germany is you get six weeks vacation,’ said Marcy Tudor. ‘So we traveled … and stayed in a lot of bed and breakfasts and said this is what we want to do.’
A few years after they came back they found Weatherbury Farm, but it wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.
‘We were looking for an old house on 10 acres and found a farm on 100 acres,’ said Marcy Tudor.
Running a bed and breakfast still allows them to enjoy their passion for traveling.
In fact, the Tudors added to their collection of decorations, ornaments acquired during trips to Hong Kong and Thailand within the past year.
Beneath the live tree, American Flyer trains sit ready to chug along the tracks.
The trains came from two sets, each purchased separately by the couples’ parents when they were infants.
Their 12-year-old son Nigel is now the chief engineer.
‘He’s a great help,’ said Marcy Tudor, adding her son greets guests, cooks breakfast and helps clean the rooms.
After watching the trains go around the track, visitors can move into the music room, which was the parlor at one time.
Ornaments on the tree in this room reflect the Victorian era. In keeping with the theme of the room, the Tudors decorated the tree with ornaments of musical instruments.
Beneath the tree are a number of old toys, including Marcy Tudor’s dearly loved childhood teddy bear.
The Tudors, the fourth family to own the farmhouse, were delighted to learn that many former residents of the home live nearby. Through their contact with these people, the Tudors discovered they picked the same spot as others when choosing where to place the tree.
The tree in the music room is also a live tree.
‘Every year we go out and walk through the woods and cut them down,’ said Marcy Tudor. “I had done that ever since I was a little child.’
As visitors proceed up the staircase to the second floor, Marcy Tudor will point out the banister, which is original and has not been refinished like a number of other wooden floors and trim throughout the house.
At the top of the stairs is the master bedroom where a tree reflects the fondness the Tudors have for their ‘farmyard friends.’ this tree has ornaments shaped like cows and sheep.
Across the hall is ‘Reba and Lois’ Bedroom,’ named after Reba and Lois Patterson who lived in the house during the 1940s as teenagers.
‘When (the Patterson sisters) come back, they always ask if the stairs still squeak.’ said Marcy Tudor, adding the sisters often hit noisy steps as they tried to sneak up to their room.
The Pattersons were the second family to own the house.
The theme of this room centers on a house motif found on bed linens and hand-stenciled decorations of the walls. The tree, too is decorated with ornaments shaped like houses.
The next room on the tour is ‘Jane’s Bedroom.’ This room used to belong to Jane Murdock, whose family built the house around 1870. Murdock lived in the house as child until 1929 when her family moved to nearby West Middletown.
Anyone who likes the color blue will delight at the sight of the tree in Jane’s room. The Tudors were inspired to decorate a tree with all blue ornaments after spotting a similar tree during one of their annual shopping trips in Pittsburgh.
The Tudors joke that visitors may have trouble finding the tree in Nigel Tudor’s room. It’s not that the teen-ager’s room is a mess. It’s actually very neat, but one of his hobbies is growing exotic plants.
‘His (Christmas) tree started life in my graduate apartment,’ said Marcy Tudor, who completed her graduate and undergraduate work at the Pennsylvania State University.
‘I tell the story of how my dad went to Penn State and studied animal husbandry and became a banker, and I went to Penn State and studied accounting and became a farmer,’ said Marcy Tudor, with a smile.
Although a farm wife and operator of the business, Marcy Tudor also uses her degree as a self-employed accountant.
The tree in her office is adorned with the tools of her trade, including strings of paper clip garland, bows of adding machine tape and a tree skirt made from IRS forms.
Visitors will find the most creative tree in the kitchen.
The ultimate in recycling, the tree is made of 250 orange juice cans, which they collected, glued together and painted green.
They added red votive candles to complete the look.
The kitchen — an essential room at a bed and breakfast — was added to the house in 1910. The Tudors recaptured the original look with floor-to-ceiling cabinets they found in a North Hills home scheduled for demolition.
A few modern conveniences are visible, but the kitchen still has a 1929 refrigerator and a usable wood stove.
The dining room features a tree made out of real apples.
Visitors wondering when the house was built will find out the owners can’t say for sure.
Marcy Tudor says the two Murdock sisters disagree. One says 1863, the other 1884.
‘We average it and say circa 1870,’ Marcy Tudor said.
Shortly after the Tudors first came to Weatherbury Farm in 1986, someone dumped off a mother cat and three kittens. The kittens were given the names Winkin, Blinkin and Nod based on a nursery rhyme.
‘In 1992, we met these two ladies who lived here … and they said they had three cats in the 1920s called Winkin, Blinkin and Nod.’ Marcy Tudor said.
The Tudors also found out they erected a picket fence in the same place as previous owners.
According to the Tudors, the farmland was originally owned by John Doddridge, who they say was the first settler in this part of the country.
The Tudors say Doddridge had a fort during the French and Indian War that was located at the other end of their road.
Local historians don’t seem to agree that Doddridge lived on the the farm, but the Tudors found a reference that he did.
They plan to do some research to find our for sure.
The Tudors are also trying to find out the identity of a woman in an old picture that they found during restoration of the summer kitchen.
The Tudors hope to name the downstairs of the summer kitchen after the woman, while the upstairs accommodations will be know as ‘Mother’s Sewing Room’ because Jane Murdock’s mother used to sew up there.
The summer kitchen was used for washing clothes and cooking meals during the summertime.
Dale Tudor, who’s restoring the structure in spare time from his job in chemical marketing, said the kitchen was located in a separate building ‘so that if it burned you didn’t lose everything.’
Right now, the Tudors are replacing the roof o f the kitchen house with the original-style tin roof.
Renovations at the farm have been much slower than the Tudors originally anticipated.
Dale said the house was in good conditions when they bought it but it had been updated with things like wall-to-wall carpeting, wallpaper and ceiling tile.
‘We tried to do am much as we could ourselves,’ said Dale Tudor, praising his wife’s work stripping the wooden floor in the living room, which took her six weeks working eight hours a day
‘We’re just starting the outside now,’ said Marcy Tudor. ‘As soon as we get the shutters on, we want to have a house reunion and invite everybody who ever lived in the house.’ ”