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Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Three thousand miles from home, I decided I’d better do a little wandering before starting on the return trek. To catch up with real time posting (as I’m now starting down the Atlantic Coast), I’ll highlight three Bucks County, PA, adventures. A few more will be thrown in along the way, as recollections.

Bucks County, located just north of the Philadelphia area, rests just west of the Delaware River. Two side trips, plus a little meandering on my way back from my Hudson Valley weekend, led me to these explorations, the first of which is New Hope, PA. This charming town, as well as Lambertville, NJ, just across a short bridge, is heaven for shopping, dining and art enthusiasts. Filled with galleries, cafes and antiques, it has all the makings of a perfect weekend getaway. Only because I had lodging in Philadelphia itself did I not seek out one of the many, beautifully restored inns in the area. But I walked along the tow path of the Delaware Canal, sipped on a vanilla latte from the local Starbucks (housed in a gorgeous brick building) and took a look at the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad’s picture-perfect station. Much to do here, including a visit to nearby Lahaska and Peddler’s Village, where I especially enjoyed antique-browsing at The Red Barn.

Another Bucks County gem is the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, built between 1910 and 1920 by Henry Chapman Mercer. This impressive cement building, styled after the California missions, is worth a visit in itself. A short video presentation offers historical background, followed by self-guided tours through the living history museum, where artists demonstrate various steps of ceramic tilemaking. These tiles can be purchased in the gift shop. A small, green tile with a rabbit design was my choice.

Third, but not last, is one of my favorite Bucks County discoveries – and an unlikely one, at that. Deep in the rolling hills of Rushland, not far from Doylestown, is a unique bed and breakfast – located, of all places, on a pot-bellied pig farm. I stayed at Ross Mill Farm on a previous visit, but returned this time to shoot some additional pictures. A haven for pigs and people alike, the 1696 fieldstone cottage located on the property offers a great place for a weekend escape. Visiting the pot-bellied friends is an extra bonus. Guests are welcome to wander around the farm and visit with these kind, friendly animals. They make wonderful pets, though I’ve had to promise family members that I wouldn’t bring one home… Ross Mill Farm is run by Susan and Richard Magidson, who put an admirable amount of energy and dedication into rescue work and placement of pigs into deserving homes.

And so, I leave Philadelphia and begin the trip back to California, heading first along the Atlantic Coast – an area I’ll be visiting for the first time – and then west, through Tennessee. At least this is the plan. I’m well-known for changing course unexpectedly. Stay tuned.

If You Go:

New Hope, PA – Lambertville, NJ Information

Moravian Pottery and Tile Works
130 Swamp Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
(215) 345-6722
Admission: Adults – $3.50, Seniors – $3.00, Youth – $2.00
Open daily: 10:00-4:45 (And not one minute later. Trust me!)

Ross Mill Farm
P.O. Box 498
Rushland, PA 18956
(215) 322-1539

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I decided years ago that I would celebrate each birthday with a trip to a new destination. Maybe a seaside cottage or a rustic mountain cabin. Perhaps an old western hotel room or a rejuvenating desert oasis. It didn’t really matter where I went, only that I treated myself to a new exploration. This past year was no exception. With a little browsing through options, I found a perfect opportunity for adventure. For this year’s getaway, I was going to Ross Mill Farm, home of the pet pig.

I took Pennsylvania’s Hwy 209, along the west side of the Delaware River. As the highway turned to Route 611, smaller country roads approached, taking me west into Bucks County, PA, a mosaic of farmhouses, quaint towns and fields.

I was in for a wonderful experience. The cottage alone would have been worth the trip, a fabulous fieldstone structure, built in 1696. Under a solid beam ceiling, a couch and two cozy chairs circled the old fireplace. Pewter cups and stenciled lace covered the mantel. Tiny lamps rested in old windowsills and on wooden tables and a bowl of fresh apples waited in the stocked kitchen. Looking around, I felt instantly at home as my glance fell on baskets, bookshelves, throw pillows, and a woven oval rug. A plaid tablecloth covered a comfortable table, perfect for meals and writing.

For a price lower than many ordinary hotel rooms, I had an entire cottage to myself. In addition to the living room and kitchen, an enclosed sun porch looked out over a meadow. Off the side of the kitchen, a bathroom offered not only a shower/tub combination, but a stacked washer and dryer. Everything I could have asked for was there and waiting, including a peaceful view from every window.

I was so enchanted that it took me by surprise when a printed brochure informed me that this was a two-bedroom cottage. I put the pamphlet down and looked around, puzzled. Everything seemed complete. It was only upon close inspection of the wall to the left of the fireplace that I realized the appearance of two small closets was deceiving. I pulled on a painted blue door and discovered a staircase that curved sharply inside the wall and headed up toward the right.

Following the narrow, steep steps, I found two wonderful bedrooms. In the first, a comfortable double bed rested below a slanted roof. Beyond this room stretched another, with twin beds and a small nightstand and lamp. A metal angel rested in the frame between the two rooms, three heart shapes allowing light to flow through its center. I looked back down the stairs and felt like I’d found a hidden passageway.

Descending the stairs, I found a quiet seat outside on a carved wooden bench, where I watched the sunset through the bare branches of winter trees. A quiet stillness settled over the cottage and I moved inside, where I fixed a simple meal and built a fire. The warmth of the flames and hush of the evening soon led my eyelids to droop and I soon enjoyed a sound, peaceful night’s rest.

I was sipping fresh coffee in the morning sun when a pig that I would come to know as Manny sauntered by. I watched with curiosity as he calmly headed past the cottage and on down the road.

“Manny knows the meaning of life,” Richard Magidson would tell me later. Co-owner with Susan Armstrong, Richard explained that Manny has long talks with people about knowing this secret, but never actually reveals it, as he knows it is something people must find out for themselves.

As I wandered through the farm, I met many other pot-bellied friends, including Grady, Sunny, and Spike, along with adorable piglets 6-8 weeks of age. It took no time at all to fall completely in love with these amazing creatures. Intelligent and communicative, they responded to discussion and approached eagerly to visit.

There are close to one hundred pot bellied pigs on the farm and as I sat in a wooden swing I watched with fascination as they went about their daily routines and play. Two snapped their snouts playfully at each other, while another galloped by and took off up a wooded trail. A mother pig strolled by, squealing piglets chasing not far behind, who ventured off sideways to explore, then quickly ran back to catch up with their mother.

The farm was busy with activity. A large truck arrived and backed up to double doors, unloading pallets stacked with sacks of feed. This turned out to be Champion Premium Pet Pig Food, a 100% natural mixture that is manufactured by Ross Mill Farm. In addition to high quality food, the farm also offers a safety harness and other necessary items for the proper care of the pot-bellied pig.

I wandered the grounds, a roomy spread of thirty acres. Each living area for these animals is spacious and well kept, with houses that rival the cottage itself. No two are alike, from the “Pig Chalet Bed and Breakfast” to a cozy log cabin and a patriotic red, white and blue structure.

I suppose no vacation is really complete without doing a little shopping and this opportunity was delightfully easy to find. The General Store at Ross Mill Farm offered everything I needed for a good consumer spending spree. If only I had one of these delightful pets at home, I’d have picked up a couple packages of LulaBell’s Good Little Pig Treats, offered in a choice of: Peanut Butter Crunch or Apple and Coconut Snap Cookies. However, my purchases needed to be geared toward presents for my family, so I looked around the shop for other choices. By the time I was ready to total my selections, I had a soft gray fleece sweatshirt, a box of stationary with cottage and farm sketches, a signed copy of Lowell, The True Story of an Existential Pig, by Gay L. Balliet and several copies of Pigorian Chant, a CD-accompanied publication that is both enchanting and humorous.

I reluctantly said goodbye to Ross Mill Farm and waved to my new pot-bellied friends before turning my car down the driveway and heading out. This was a birthday I certainly wouldn’t forget, and a discovery of a wonderful place that is definitely not to be missed.

Ross Mill Farm is conveniently located one hour north of Philadelphia, in scenic, historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. An easy drive from many east coast areas, it’s a perfect destination for a family trip that is both fun and educational, as well as a unique getaway for the romantically-inclined couple.

Location: Ross Mill Farm, P.O. Box 498, Rushland, PA 18956
Phone: (215) 322-1539
Website: www.rossmillfarm.com

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