Forget Disney World. All my 5-year-old daughter wanted for spring break was to spend some quality time with a pig.
Somehow, the child of two city people had become obsessed with farm animals, particularly the swine variety. While other little girls loved to watch princess movies, her top picks were either “Babe” or “Charlotte’s Web.” Nearly every library book that came home had a pig in it. Same with every picture she drew in the weekly art class she attended.
So when I heard that some farms in Lancaster County offered overnight stays, my first order of business was to find one with a pig. Easier said than done. The website http://www.afarmstay.com lists dozens of places where families can channel their inner Green Acres. Only two listed pigs among their animals. Of those, only one, the Olde Fogie Farm Bed and Breakfast in Marietta, Pa., has a functioning website.
And what a site! It was decorated with pink pigs. It claimed, “Our yard pig enjoys and cherishes every bit of your attention and conversation.” It even had a room called the Pig Pen. Unlike a lot of bed and breakfasts, which merely tolerate kids if they allow them at all, Olde Fogie’s seemed to know the wee ones were their bread and butter. Their site talked of letting the kids do chores.
I called Tom and Biz Fogie— yes, that is their real last name— and booked the Pig Pen for two nights in April. But first I had a couple of questions.
“How’s the pig’s health?” I inquired.
“Fine,” she replied.
Then she issued a warning. The pig was of the pot-bellied variety, not all that friendly, and not pink.
“He’s not like Babe, if that’s what she’s expecting,” Biz said.
I told her my daughter Maya didn’t care what color he was. To her, a pig was a pig.
We sent her a deposit check for $114 (the room costs $99 for adults, plus $15 for each child). For weeks, whenever Maya’s friends announced their spring break plans, she would cheerfully announce: “Well, I’m going to get to sleep on a farm, with a pig!” Even those going to Disney seemed in awe.
When we arrived at the Fogies’ after an 80-minute drive from Baltimore, I immediately congratulated myself on my choice: The farm is beautiful— and completely organic. The Fogies raise lamb and beef, and grow all the organic feed for those animals, which includes barley, corn and oats. The couple have planted lush flower gardens all over, with too many pig planters to count. A stream runs through the 20-acre property, ending near a large fish and swimming pond. There are two patios, a gazebo and a children’s playhouse. The barns next to the main house are home to horses, sheep, goats and cows. Across the way, we spotted a chicken coop, a bunny cage and two wary llamas.
It did not go unnoticed that we did not see the pig. But we had yet to check in.
Biz welcomed us warmly. Then, she looked over my six-month pregnant belly, a bit unsure of herself.
“We had a cancellation, so I’ve given you an upgrade,” she said.
She wasn’t kidding. Biz had put us in the Hayloft, a room two flights up in the back of the main house. Where the Pig Pen and its adjacent Garden Room are small, with one bed and a shared bath, the Hayloft was more like an apartment, with a full kitchen, two sleeping rooms and a bath with a claw-foot tub but no shower.
Normally, guests in the Hayloft and the other small apartment, called the Chicken Coop, don’t get breakfast; instead, they get fresh eggs in the morning to cook on their own. But because we had booked the Pig Pen, Biz said we could still join her for breakfast in the main house. Good thing, because my husband would declare those meals of pancakes, fresh fruit and sausages to be one of the trip’s highlights.
The uphill climb to the Hayloft was a bit of a strain, but the view was great. And we appreciated the kitchen; there is a grocery store five miles away in Mount Joy to stock up on essentials.
After settling in, I got down to business with Biz. Where was that pig?
And that’s when she told me that, between the time I booked our stay and the time we arrived, Nerd the Pig had gone on to the Great Mudpile in the Sky.
We broke it to Maya straight, and she took it hard. But pretty soon we had her focused on all the other animals.
She got to gather corn cobs for the bunnies and collect the breakfast eggs. She even fed a bottle to a voracious calf— good practice for when her little sister comes. Eventually, she stopped mourning “her pig.” It helped that two other families with young children were guests the same weekend we were there. It also helped that the area is packed with fun-filled kid activities. Hersheypark and its adjacent chocolate factory, the Dutch Wonderland amusement park and the Strasburg Rail Road are all a short drive away.
The Fogies have welcomed visitors for 25 years, and their guest books are filled with happy testimonials from people who return year after year. Recently, when I called to book a return stay, Biz gave me some good news to pass on to Maya: The Fogies have two new baby pigs.
Babies? Should be pretty safe. But I learned my lesson. I won’t tell Maya until we arrive.
Rona Kobell writes for the Chesapeake Bay Journal.