Weatherbury Farm in Pennsylvania gives city folk a taste of country life

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer | August 17 2008

As reported by Sarah Crump , in the The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)  August 17, 2008:   “Delaney Butzine vigorously filled a jug from an old pump, held bottles for two fuzzy lambs, doled out fistfuls of cracked corn for a half dozen sheep, emptied and refilled water bowls for three goats, stroked a chick and searched chicken coop nests. She reached under the fluff of two hens for the 14 eggs she carefully placed in a bucket that she carried to the kitchen.

It was all in a day’s work – actually her “chores” took about an hour – for a kid vacationing at Weatherbury Farm, a Pennsylvania farm that incorporates an opportunity to help around the barnyard with a bed-and-breakfast stay. After delivering the eggs, Delaney, 4, was ready for a swim. Behind a gazebo, near a garden where corn and squash grow, she splashed in a kidney-shaped pool. When she arrived the day before, she couldn’t wait to chase the several kittens playing near a table and chairs under a tree.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw a kitten,” Delaney’s mother, Teresa Pugliese, sighed as she watched her excited child run around the shady back yard. An account manager for a Pittsburgh technology firm, Pugliese grew up on a 35-acre farm. She brought her daughter to spend a relaxed three days amid hayfields and pastures to fill a gap in the preschooler’s education.

“I feel bad that she hasn’t had the exposure to animals that I had,” said Pugliese, 42, who liked helping her mom clean the chicken coop. Truth be told, the rural vacation is ideal for Pugliese.

“I miss all this,” she said.

An introduction to life on the farm

Unlike some other bed-and-breakfasts, Weatherbury Farm, southwest of Pittsburgh, welcomes children, said Marcy Tudor, who owns the farm with her husband, Dale. One of the reasons they opened the bed-and-breakfast 17 years ago was to introduce young city dwellers to rural life.

They don’t know where milk comes from,” said Tudor, who is also an accountant and president of the 26-member Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association. She has designed a farm kid sticker workbook for children who stay on the farm for more than two days and awards personalized certificates to those who complete tasks, as Delaney did.

Weatherbury Farm, named for a Thomas Hardy setting, is true to its fictional namesake. Though only 20 miles from Pittsburgh, its 100 acres of rolling pastures bounded by white fences do seem “far from the madding crowd.” City folk used to a schedule governed by alarm clocks, not cock-a-doodle-doos, often come with a long list of touristy things to do, said Tudor. But they soon settle into a countrified rhythm.
Most of the time, they never leave the farm,” she said.

Quilts, antiques and clawfoot tubs

Pugliese planned a relaxed time. She packed a couple of books in her suitcase.

“I just want to kick back and read,” she said.

After Tudor showed them around the 1815 farmhouse, where she and her husband live, she took them to the outbuilding where they would be staying. Their room in the charming tin-roofed, two-story building was the farmstead’s kitchen until 1915.

The Tudors furnished the comfortable pink guestroom, as well as another on the second floor, with quilts, country antiques, clawfoot tubs with showers (each room has a private bath), ceiling fans, air conditioners and minirefrigerators. But the rooms are so airy that even on a hot summer day, guests who want to hear a troop of speckled guinea fowl cluck can turn off the air and open the windows.

A short walk along a gravel path from the kitchen guesthouse is the livery. It’s a 100-year-old barn that the Tudors and their son Nigel, an architectural blacksmith, rebuilt after moving it from another farm. There are three suites in the livery, with another room to be added soon. Guests have a farm breakfast in a dining room on the first floor, which overlooks a field. Weatherbury Farm is suitably weathered. The house needs painting, whenever they can get to it, Tudor said. But rusting tractors and aging barns just add to the farm’s character. This is a working operation, after all. The Tudors raise grass-fed beef and lamb. At 6 p.m. one evening, Dale Tudor, a retired marketing executive, excused himself to bale a field of freshly cut clover hay.

Where a goat and geese provide the entertainment

Guests can find a good dinner and a game of miniature golf at Breezy Heights Tavern a couple of miles away in Avella or have excellent Southern-style barbecued ribs and sandwiches at Hog Fathers, one of a few modest restaurants in Washington, a scenic, winding 10-mile drive from the farm. They can return to play board games the Tudors provide in the livery dining room or hang out around the fire pit. That and a swim or a walk around the gravel drives of the farmyard pretty much describe the excitement to be had, but that’s all right. Pet a goat, or watch the ever-together Brunhilda and Matilda, the comical watch geese, and you’ll soon appreciate the old-fashioned fun the tranquil farm offers.

After a comfortable sleep (there are no televisions in the rooms and suites, but there are full magazine racks), awaken to a country breakfast made by Nigel, the Tudors’ son. That might be free-range eggs with bright-yellow yolks scrambled with potatoes and oatmeal-raisin pancakes served on bright Fiesta dinnerware, made an easy drive away at Homer Laughlin China Co. in Newell, W.Va. There’s a factory outlet there.

Don’t get the idea that Weatherbury Farm is just for families with young children. Marilyn and Johnnie Grace of Brooke, S.C., stayed here while they attended Johnnie’s class of 1955 high school reunion. They had a pre-breakfast three-mile walk along a country road. The offbeat stay appealed to Johnnie, a retired U.S. Marine who avoids the usual hotels and motels.

“We don’t like plastic places,” he said.

As one of her chores during the farm tour “Farmer Dale” led after pancakes, Delaney gathered the eggs for her next-day’s breakfast. She delighted in doing the same chores for three mornings, then gave her farm vacation the ultimate stamp of approval, Pugliese said. “She cried when we left.”