" 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
'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
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
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
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