"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
'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
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
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
NEW USE FOR OLD BUILDINGS
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
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 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
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.'
Two rooms and three suites that sleep between three and seven people
$133 to $244 for one night; price decreases as nights are added
1061 Sugar Run Road, Avella, Washington County
724-587-3763 or online
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
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. "