Farming for fun

Pittsburgh Post Gazette | August 1, 2004

As reported by Karen Kane, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on August 1, 2004:

” It was a long weekend in June when my girls and I visited Weatherbury Farm and time stood still.

Sure, the clock hands move slowly on a typical day for a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old, but the days seemed longer and more peaceful even for me.

Our two-night, three-day visit to the rural climes of Washington County began with a hello from Dale and Marcy Tudor’s son, 23-year-old Nigel, a certified blacksmith who operates a forge on the farm property.

While I was welcomed to the elegantly cluttered farmhouse, Rachael and her younger sister, Lauren, occupied themselves with Weatherbury’s sentries — five goats named after fairy tale characters such as Prince Charming and Billy Goat Gruff.

All the rooms were filled this weekend — the one in the main farmhouse; the two in the summer kitchen, where my family occupied the upstairs’ and the three two-story suites in the just-opened livery, which the family moved piece by piece form another farm a dozen or so miles away.

Our room was ‘mother’s sewing room,’ a charming wood-floored, slant-roofed cubby with two skinny windows and a big view of a sunlit cow pasture. The king-sized bed and daybed were comfy and prettily appointed in blue and white. Knickknacks featuring a sewing theme were in abundance, and the bathroom boasted a claw-foot tub.

Awaiting our review was a stack of materials educating us about the farm and other nearby attractions, such as a trolley museum, a half-dozen covered bridges and the well-known Meadowcroft historical site.

While I boned up on my surroundings, Rachael began her love affair with a pair of weeks-old kittens and Lauren set out on her mission to tame some chickens.

By nightfall, I was comfortably ensconced on the porch swing while my girls ran with a pack of other children set on collecting as many lightning bugs as they could hold in their sweaty palms.

Thankfully, no roosters were there to herald the start of the next day, just the golden sunshine through the white linen window coverings of our air-conditioned room.

Breakfast was enough to last ’til dinner” banana pancakes and an egg casserole with potatoes and onions, cold cereals, bread for toasting, orange juice and coffee.

The first morning’s chores were welcomed by my kids, who were ready and waiting in their laced-up hiking boots.

First job: collecting the eggs from the henhouse. Rachael and Lauren each were fascinated by the tidbit of trivia from Farmer Dale, who told them that hens like to deposit their eggs in the same nest. Sure enough, each of the four eggs awaiting their basket were sitting in one nest.

The big attraction of the henhouse, though were the dozen or so baby chicks, peeping loudly. Lauren’s hand quivered with delight as she cradled one of the cutest in her palm. She didn’t even mind when it pooped.

Next came bottle-feeding of the baby goats and sheep. And they weren’t shy about it, neither the kids with the bottles nor the animals pursuing them. ‘They’re chasing me!’ Lauren shouted. “Give them the bottle, quick!’ Rachael responded.

My little one’s favorite chore was feeding the ‘big goats,’ who tickled her cupped hands as she fed them their morning ration of corn.

After chores, the rest of the day was ours. We walked the paths on the farm property. We swam in the pool behind the farmhouse. We played with kittens, tracked guinea fowl and made good buddies with a particular pair of goats.

There were no phone or radios or TVs or newspapers, and I felt like I was a million miles away though we had driven only an hour south from Cranberry.

After chores the next morning, we loaded up our van and headed north. Our working vacation was over.

We had gotten our hands dirty and our spirits refreshed. We hadn’t pulled into the driveway before both girls wanted to know when we’d do it all again.”

Karen’s trip to Weatherbury Farm also inspired an article about local farms belonging to the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association (of which Marcy is president): “City Slickers Welcome”.