Far from the madding crowd — a family farm destination

Great Inn Getaways | 2004

In her book Great Inn Getaways from Cleveland, published in 2004 by Gray & Company, Doris Larson writes:

” Weatherbury Farm, set in the rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, takes its name from the most pastoral of Thomas Hardy’s novels, Far from the Madding Crowd. Innkeepers Marcy and Dale Tudor discovered the joys of staying at bed and breakfasts and pensiones while on assignment for Dale’s company in Germany. They loved the feeling of being treated as one of the family on their weekend and vacation stays throughout Europe and decided to start their own farm B&B in the United States. The bucolic setting of this 200-acre farm just three miles from the West Virginia border and 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh is indeed far from crowded life. I arrived late in the afternoon on a frigid December Sunday and, soon after pulling into the farmyard, Dale and son Nigel met me at the gate. This welcoming gesture, extended to all guests no matter the weather conditions, was the start of easily feeling at home with the Tudors.

Weatherbury Farm is a no-frills, kid-friendly, working farm where children are invited to help feed a lamb or calf with a Perrier bottle filled with milk. Or they can accompany Farmer Dale on his rounds of feeding the goats, guineas, ducks, gees a, and a small flock of those amazing Araucana chickens that lay blue, green and pink eggs. In colder weather, they can help feed hay to the sheep and Scottish Highland cattle in the pasture. The Tudors dipped into literature for more than the name of their farm with a sheep named Jacob Marley and goats Billy Goat Gruff and Sleeping Beauty. Even the barn cats are named for storybook characters–Cinderella, Prince Charming , and Thumbelina.

Guests find plenty of books and magazines in their rooms, but not TV or radios. The only television is located in the music room. Unlike accommodations filled with antiques and breakables, you don’t have to worry about Johnny climbing on the couch or precious china being knocked off a table in this room.

The Tudors expanded the number of guest rooms by renovation the original summer kitchen, which had stood idle for more than 50 years. They call the room on the lower level Sariah’s Kitchen, to honor Sariah Murdock, a member of the family who first owned the farm. The walk-in fireplace used for cooking the 180s remains. A Victorian bedstead, decorative tole lamp, and touches of mauve in the quilt and flowered pillows dress up the room. I found a copy of Hardy’s novel on the antique chopping block that serves as an end table. For a family stay, the sofa converts to a double bed. On the second floor of the summer kitchen, Mother’s Sewing Room has blue-and-white gingham accents, and a genuine Singer sewing machine. The king bed can be converted to twin beds and the daybed sleeps one. Windows from a 1790s brick home in West Middletown were used in the restoration. Jane’s Bedroom, the only guest room in the farmhouse, features a flower-stenciled border with the flower motif repeated on the comforter.

Weatherbury Farm continues to be a work in progress. You might find the Tudors working on a building or involved in a painting project during your stay. The newest accommodation is the Livery Stable, an old barn they found in Washington, Pennsylvania. After being dismantled and moved to the farm, this building now stands as a fine example of adaptive reuse. It will offer three suites with a living room on the first floor and a bedroom and bath upstairs. The spacious new suites can sleep five or six and a second-story balcony will look out to the meadow. Plans for the Livery include a wheelchair-accessible room and a large room on the lower level of the bank barn where breakfast will be served.

Plan for a hearty country breakfast with kid-pleaser items like Green Eggs, No Ham and banana pancakes.  Breakfast at Weatherbury Farm is more than about filling the stomach for the day ahead of work and play on the farm. The Tudor family sit down with their guests at a table set with colorful Fiestaware, as they remember this time of sharing experiences as what they liked most about their European bed and breakfast stays.

Kids who come to stay for two days or more receive their own red packet with Weatherbury Farm’s “Official Farm Kid Workbook.” It’s filled with educationally sound activities and safety advice, which is essential for a stay on a rural spread with animals and farm machinery.

Marcy Tudor observes that while many guests arrive armed with a list of places to visit, many end up staying on the farm. As one young guest noted in large block letters in the guestbook, “I don’t ever want to leave.”

Weatherbury also offers on-site events like the Sheep Fest celebrating the heritage of wool and sheep in Washington County. With a resident blacksmith, Nigel Tudor, living on the farm, Weatherbury host the first Hammer-In with blacksmith demonstrations in 2002.

Many families stay two or three days and may want a afternoon of exploring nearby attractions. The Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life, a reconstructed 19th-century village in nearby Avella, offers a full slate of workshops and celebrations. The kids will love the Pennsylvanian Trolley Museum in Arden where you can take a ride on a vintage streetcar. On a return trip to Ohio, stop ate Homer Laughlin China Company and retail outlet for Fiestaware in Newell, West Virginia.

It’s only a mile to find lunch or dinner Breezy Heights Tavern, a delightful eatery cum miniature golf course. To top it all off, the owner as filled the place with stuffed game animals. Breezy Heights offers, ribs, barbecued chicken and a kid’s menu. Another meal option is to pick up the makings for a picnic at the Avella Market.”