Most city slickers are full of romantic notions
about country living. They seek an ideal getaway brimming with peace, quiet and
old-fashioned rural charm, and they yearn for a chance to show kids that eggs
don't magically appear in their Styrofoam cartons. A Weatherbury Farm
vacation is perfect for urban dreamers.
Don't bring work with you. This is no place for
business as usual. Don't plan on late nights with David Letterman. There are no
TVs, telephones, radios or desks in these guestrooms. This is where you come to
hear roosters crow at sunrise and owls hoot after dark; to walk through fields
of clover and feel the tickle of a billy goat's tongue as he nibbles corn from
your hand. Hosts Dale and Marcy Tudor and their 23-year-old son Nigel welcome
couples, families and friends to stay for a week or a weekend and enjoy a taste
of the good life, Pennsylvania farm-style.
Located in the southwestern part of the state,
the place is picture perfect. Shaggy longhorn Scottish Highland cattle and
Herefords with big white faces graze in Weatherbury's meadows, and 50 acres of
the farm's 104 are set aside for timothy grass and alfalfa on which they feed.
The property is dotted with trees, and a hammock is strung up between two
towering Japanese larches. A picket fence surrounds the front lawn where lilacs
and grape holly grow and herds of cats play. There's a granary, a bank-style
barn built into a hill, a hummingbird garden and a gazebo. The porch swing
invites guests to come sit awhile. Nigel Tudor operates a blacksmith shop on
site; he's happy to give tours and explain how the machines work, but it's too
dangerous to have visitors around when he's forging hot metal.
Geese start squawking the moment anyone arrives.
Bunnies hunker down under the 1929 tractor. Kids love to climb on it and sit
behind the oversized steering wheel, and they're welcome to it — Weatherbury
Farm has hosted families since 1992. In fact, children are encouraged to make
friends with the resident goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and speckled guinea
hens. "Watching the animals," Dale says with a laugh, "is what I call natural
television. This is a real 'reality' show."
The main house, with one room for guests, dates
to 1870. The front parlor and music room are available for socializing or
watching videos. There are two additional family-sized rooms in a nearby
outbuilding that once served as a summer kitchen and washhouse, and three more
new two-story suites across the field in a horse barn dubbed The Livery. The
Tudors took the 3,000-square-foot stable apart board by board, moved it from
another farm 15 miles away, had it rebuilt, and then renovated and remodeled the
interior themselves, keeping such original features as exposed beams, barn
doors, and oak plank flooring. Each second-floor bedroom opens onto a deck with
stunning views of the surrounding countryside. All guest quarters have private
baths and are furnished with antiques Marcy and Dale have collected at auctions
and flea markets.
Visitors are encouraged to get to bed early. This
is a working farm, and breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m. After enjoying a hearty
morning meal in The Livery dining room, everyone is welcome to tour the farm,
ask questions and help Dale with some of the lighter chores. There are eggs to
gather and animals to feed. Corn is shelled and ground using old-time
hand-operated machines. The goats have to be led out to pasture and somebody has
to search for guinea hen nests — the birds hide them. It's also time to meet the
barnyard residents. Marcy loves to read, and names all the critters after
literary characters. The goats have fairy-tale handles — Snow White, Rose Red
and Gruff. Matthew Moon, a calf, gets his moniker, as does the farm itself, from
characters in Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Marcy thinks the
reference is quite appropriate. "We're close to a number of cities, but far from
their hustle and bustle," she explains.
Coming to a working farm for a holiday is called
agricultural tourism or agritourism. The Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association
is one of America's oldest organizations promoting such vacations. Marcy has
served as president for the past 10 years, and the organization currently lists
24 locations on its membership roster. (For information call 888/856-6622 or
These farms offer a chance to get away from the
hurried, harried pace of urban living and connect with each other and a simpler,
more natural way of life. Both Dale and Marcy come from Pennsylvania farming
families and value rural ways. "My dad grew up on a farm," says Marcy, "went to
Penn State, was an 'ag' student and became a banker. I was raised in town,
studied accounting and became a farmer."
Do a lot of nothing during your stay or keep busy
— it's your choice. Read a book, swim in the heated pool, or play volleyball or
For those in a sightseeing mood, there are a
number of places to visit in the surrounding area. The Pennsylvania Trolley
Museum is nearby, offering guided tours on a four-mile scenic ride on a
restored trolley. The Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life's Meadowcroft Village
offers a glimpse of country life in the 19th century; a trip here will add
context to your stay at the farm by providing demonstrations on how difficult
farm life was in the olden days. Meadowcroft Rock Shelter is an archeological
site with specimens dating back 16,000 years. Or, try out the driving range and
miniature golf course at Breezy Heights.
Weatherbury Farm is open year-round. Each season
brings special pleasures, but spring and summer offer the most farm fun. The
milk house is filled with newly hatched chicks and ducklings. Newborn bunnies
crowd the hutch. Eggs incubate and patient visitors might get to see one as it
cracks open. Bottle feeding the baby calves, lambs and goats is a favorite
children's activity, as is gathering eggs, especially the blue, green, and pink
ones laid by the Aracauna chickens. Kids who stay two or more days are invited
to join the Weatherbury Farm Kid Program. They get an activity packet and can
earn an Official Weatherbury Farm Kid Certificate.
"We had a husband and wife in their 60s come stay
with us," says Marcy. "She'd always wanted to live on a farm. She really got
into it, and did everything the children do. I tell people that what we do here
is for children of all ages, the young and the young at heart.""