“Field Trip: Washington County bed and breakfast offers taste of life on the farm”
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review | September 7 2008
As reported by Susan Jones, in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review September 7, 2008:
”Picture a quiet weekend at a rural bed and breakfast inn — sinking into a plush antique bed, reading in a quiet room without telephones and TVs, walking along tree-shaded lanes, enjoying a generous country breakfast and feeding the chickens.
Feeding the chickens?
If you’re at the Weatherbury Farm B&B in Avella, Washington County, that will be part of the morning routine. That kind of duty might not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing weekend, but for the families that visit Weatherbury, the farm animals and their care are an extra-special attraction.
‘We’re enjoying it more than the kids,’ says Carla Cremer, who visited the farm with her husband, David, and their two daughters, Kayleigh, 5, and Lauren, 3. ‘But it’s good for them.’
The Cremers, who live in Robinson, wanted to give the girls a farm experience.
‘Ninety percent of our guests are families with children,’ says ‘Farmer Dale’ Tudor, 55, who runs the farm and B&B with his wife, Marcy, and their 27-year-old son, Nigel.
Lisa Coppola, who lives in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, N.Y., discovered Weatherbury on the Internet. She was looking for a farm where she could take her daughters, Grace, 8, and Claire, 5.
‘They love it,’ Coppola says. The girls are ‘real animal kids,’ she says, but all they see at home are their Labrador retrievers.
It’s not uncommon for three generations to visit the farm together.
Linda Craft visited five years ago with her daughter, Deb Coffel, and two grandsons, Mitchell and Joseph. The boys liked it so much, they wanted to come back, even though they’re now 14 and 10, respectively. This time, they brought along their dad, Kyle, and baby sister, Kyleigh. The family, from Pataskala, Ohio, near Columbus, stayed together in one of the two-story units in a converted horse barn.
A CHANGE OF CAREER
The Tudors first thought about running a farm and B&B after staying in ‘pensiones’ in Europe, where they lived in Germany for 15 months during the 1980s because of Dale’s job with Bayer.
‘We wanted to do something here with 10 acres, and we ended up with 100,’ says Marcy Tudor, 61, who has a background in finance from her time in the Air Force.
Dale was part of the fourth generation to be raised on a 60-acre family farm in Williamsport, but he left to attend college and never moved back.
In 1986, the Tudors moved from the North Hills to what would become Weatherbury Farm. Dale continued to work for Bayer while they renovated the farmhouse, parts of which date to the 1830s.
They opened for guests in 1992. Originally, they had guest rooms inside the farmhouse, which has been renovated with an eye toward preserving as much of its history as possible. The Tudors says former residents of the house who still live in the area have been helpful in that regard.
The next building to open to guests was the old summer kitchen, which was where the farm’s food was prepared until 1915, when a kitchen was built onto the farmhouse. The building also served as a wash house, a sewing room and a storage area.
In 1998, the building was opened with two guest rooms, one upstairs — Mother’s Sewing Room — and one downstairs — Sariah’s Kitchen. Both rooms have bathrooms, with clawfooted tubs and small refrigerators. The upstairs room sleeps three, with a king-sized bed and a day bed. The downstairs room has a queen-sized Victorian bed and a sleeper sofa. It sleeps four.
But other than the digital clock, don’t look for any electronics. Guests can entertain themselves by reading, borrowing games from the dining hall or just looking out on the beautiful fields that surround the farm.
NEW USE FOR OLD BUILDING
The biggest project the Tudors have undertaken during the past 22 years was moving a former livery stable from nearby Washington and converting it to three two-story suites and the dining hall.
The former horse barn was dismantled in spring 1997, then rebuilt beginning in December 1998 on a hill overlooking the farmhouse. In 2001, Dale left Bayer and became a full-time farmer. Dale, Marcy and Nigel Tudor did 99 percent of the interior work on the barn. The livery opened to guests in 2004.
The floors in the barn are two inches thick. Each suite has a downstairs living room with one or two sleeper sofas, and, in the former hayloft, there are twin and queen beds and separate bathrooms. Each of the suites sleeps six or seven people. A balcony off of all three rooms overlooks the cow pasture.
The dining hall on the first floor is where a hearty breakfast is served at 8:30 each morning and where guests can gather to play games or even watch a small television. Coffee and tea are available throughout the day.
While all the rustic beauty of the farm’s accommodations might attract the adults, it’s the animals that bring back the kids.
Every morning after breakfast, ‘Farmer Dale’ leads guests through ‘chores,’ which include feeding the chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks and lambs and getting acquainted with the sheep and cattle. Tudor teaches junior farmers about organic farming and gives them information about the animals.
The kids get to pet the rabbits, collect eggs, search for guinea hen nests and throw feed to the other animals, while a nearby billy goat clamors for attention. Geese, which Marcy Tudor says act like watchdogs, follow the flock of humans around the property.
On a recent visit, it was the six kittens that were getting the most attention.
‘I think the kids would be happy with just the kittens,’ Tudor says.
The ‘Official Weatherbury Farm Kid’ program debuted in 1998. Families staying for two or more nights receive a packet filled with coloring and activity books and educational materials about farming, and every child is invited to earn the ‘Official Weatherbury Farm Kid’ designation.
Younger children do chores and complete a picture worksheet; older children do chores and learn with the ‘Official Farm Kid Workbook.’ Children who complete the program are awarded the ‘Official Weatherbury Farm Kid’ or ‘Junior Farmer’ certificate.
There are plenty of places to walk on the Tudor property.
And there’s an outdoor swimming pool that’s open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
A WORKING FARM
While Weatherbury has plenty of vacation activities, it is a working farm.
For years, the farm raised and sold calves, but in 2007, they changed the operation to raise grass-fed beef and lamb to sell directly to consumers. In keeping with an emphasis on eco-friendly practices and organic farming, the meat is processed locally, then sold frozen through a Web site or from a booth that is set up Sundays at the Avella farmers market down the road. Weatherbury co-operator Marcy Tudor is manager of the weekly market.
Tudor’s son, 27-year-old Nigel, is completing another local organic project. He is building a composter and plans to collect horse manure from around the area — including the nearby Meadows racetrack — process it, and sell it as fertilizer.
After years of renovations, which include building a workshop where Nigel can do blacksmithing, the Tudors are ready to take a break.
‘We really don’t want to get bigger,’ Marcy says. ‘Too many ruins the experience.’
Accommodations: Two rooms and three suites that sleep between three and seven people
Room rates: $133 to $244 for one night; price decreases as nights are added
Location: 1061 Sugar Run Road, Avella, Washington County
Details: 724-587-3763 or http://weatherburyfarm.com
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Village: The archaeological site, which purportedly shows the earliest evidence of people in North America, and a restored 19th century village, are run by the Senator John Heinz History Center. They are about 5 miles from the farm. Details: 724-587-3412 or
Breezy Heights Tavern: The restaurant, with a miniature golf course out back, is a mile from the farm. The menu includes ribs, steaks and pastas. But the real attractions are the many stuffed game animals at one end of the main dining room. The owner has collected the animals, including a lion, a bear and tiger, on hunting trips to Africa, New Mexico and Colorado. It’s a little surreal but worth a look.