“Weatherbury Farm Encourages Guests to Slow Down and Relax”
Greater Pittsburgh Region Metroguide | 2003 Edition
As reported by the Greater Pittsburgh Region Metroguide, 2003 edition
” Day after day, many people sit in their cubicles daydreaming about leaving their present career and following their heart. Dale and Marcy Tudor learned from experience that following your heart can be a lot of work, take along time to become a reality, and in the end, be well worth the effort.
For Dale, a business analyst, and his wife Marcy, an accountant, their dream of operating a farm vacation, bed and breakfast took years to crystallize. Two years were spent simply finding a suitable location. Then, it took them another six and a half years to remove the wall-to -wall carpeting, wallpaper and other modern touches to return the 1870 farmhouse to its original beauty. But Weatherbury Farm, located near Avella has evolved into a wonderful retreat for guests as well as what Dale calls ‘a very nice second career.’
Watching Dale quickly scoop up hay on his pitchfork and toss it to the cows, it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else. Yet when he graduated from high school many years ago, this man’s goal was to leave his farming days behind him.
Instead of living off the land, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather did, he went to college and tool off for corporate America. For 23 years he worker for Bayer Corporation. Marcy had fond memories of her grandfather’s farm in Eastern Pennsylvania but she earned an accounting degree and an MBA and became a self-employed accountant.
The career paths for this couple changed after Bayer sent Dale to Germany for a year. The couple used their vacation time to travel extensively, always staying at “pensions” which is a European version of a bed and breakfast. They loved the concept and decided they wanted to open their own bed and breakfast once they returned to Pittsburgh.
When they moved back to the area they started looking for “the perfect farmhouse on about 10 acres of land and instead ended up with over 100 acres.’ explains Marcy with a laugh.
They bought the farm in 1985, moved in a year later and opened their doors to guest in 1992, Dale continued to commute to his job at Bayer, which took just 40 minutes.
‘I knew many people in the city with a commute that long but they had what I called ‘white knuckle’ driving. My commute went past some of the most beautiful scenery.’ explains Dale.
Choosing a location close to Bayer was intentional but it was pure happenstance that the farm they selected is so close to many attractions. Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, numerous golf courses, horseback riding, bike trails, antique shops and 24 covered bridges are all close to the farm.
As you might remember from literature class, Weatherbury Farm is the setting of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd — which is the perfect name for the peaceful mood the Tudors create for their guests. It’s hard to believe that this tranquil setting is just 20 miles from Pittsburgh.
Yes, it’s a peaceful place where the tension knotted in your neck will quickly disappear. Swimming in the in-ground pool, playing checkers and chess or putting a puzzle together are a few ways to pass the time. But Weatherbury Farm isn’t just about relaxation. This is the first chance for many adults and children to come face to face with sheep, cows, chickens, billy goats, geese and ducks.
After a scrumptious breakfast, Dale (called Farmer Dale by the children) and his son Nigel feed the animals and the guests are eager to tag along.
An eight-year-old boy, whose hand is often attached to a Game Boy, a video game joy stick or a computer mouse, grinned proudly when Farmer Dale complimented him on his first attempt to use a pitchfork. His four-year-old sister stood so very still and giggled at the chance to pet a baby lamb. The children fed grain to the billy goats and gathered eggs from the chickens. Their mother, so enamored with the gentleness the animals inspired in her children was heard joking that she wanted to take home a lamb and a billy goat.
The Tudors have always believed that it’s important to promote their farm vacation bed and breakfast as a great destination for children. ‘Children no longer have a grandma who lives on a farm,’ states Marcy,’ so they can visit us instead.’
When they decided to add to the herd of Hereford cattle that Weatherbury Farm raise, they specifically bought animals that would appeal to kids of all ages and gave them kid-friendly names. The billy goat is appropriately named Gruff. The Aracauna chickens are unique in that they lay blue, green and pink eggs. The Scottish Highlander cattle feature shaggy coats, elegant horns and are known for their gentle disposition. Plus, it’s impossible to look at the little black pygmy goat (named Sleeping Beauty) and not scream ‘How cute!’
Thanks to the official Weatherbury Farm Kid’s Packet, children learn enriching details about the animals and farming in general. There’s even a Weatherbury Farm’s official Farm Kid Workbook, which if completed, earns a child an official Weatherbury Farm Kid certificate.
Last year Dale left his position with Bayer to do farming full-time. This doesn’t mean he’ll have much time to sit in the gazebo and enjoy the breeze. The family is currently renovating another barn that they moved to their property from Washington, so more guests can enjoy a visit to Weatherbury Farm. Called the ‘livery stable’, this barn will have three two-story sites and will open to a wonderful deck overlooking the pasture. One room with be handicapped-accessible and the huge 20 foot by 50 foot basement will be turned into a dining hall. ‘We always like to keep the farm growing some,’ he explained. Their enthusiasm and endless ideas enable them to continually offer their guests something different.
This past summer they hosted a Sheep Fest in conjunction with the Avella Heritage Festival. ‘Sheep were important in Washington County’s history,’ explains Marcy. Guests could try their hand at spinning, weaving, felt knitting and or crocheting, learn about sheep and listen to music.
Once the family finishes working on the livery stable, they have a 20 foot by 50 foot glass greenhouse from the 1930s that they want to erect on their property.
Visitors can also tour the on-the-farm blacksmith forge, operated by their son Nigel. According to Marcy, ‘Blacksmithing is a reviving trade. Nigel was selected by the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America to study ornamental ironwork in Germany this past year.’
No matter how much things change at Weatherbury, they will still remain the same. Friendly hosts, cozy accommodations, great food – plus cows, goats, ducks, chickens and sheep who are just waiting for ‘city folk’ to bring them their food. ”