Mini Farm, Mini Horses, Big Hit

Emma poses with Jerry, left, and Jean has Jed near the entrance to Airy Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast in Manheim, Pa. 
Photo by Betsy Bethel

Emma poses with Jerry, left, and Jean has Jed near the entrance to Airy Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast in Manheim, Pa. Photo by Betsy Bethel

Hazel Nestleroth raised five daughters and spent 26 years teaching math to middle-schoolers. Retirement and an empty nest didn’t suit her.

“I was used to noise, and this house was too quiet. So I brought the noise in.”

She and her husband, Mark, a retired pig farmer and insurance salesman, opened Airy Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast eight years ago on their 20-acre “farmlet” in northern Lancaster County, Pa., not far from where they both grew up. In fact, the property occupies a corner of Mark’s ancestral farm, which has been in the family since 1852.

The family-friendly B&B gives guests the chance to get up close and personal with the resident animals.

My 11-year-old daughter, Emma, and her friend, Jean, braved the chicken coop and collected eggs. They helped feed the lone ram, Simba; and fed and walked the alpacas, Jerry and Jed; and miniature horses, Gail, who at 22 is the staid matriarch, and her son Bob, a 4-year-old blond who loves to take off trotting when he’s on lead, leaving his human companion running to catch up.

For these city-dwelling, animal loving children, the B&B was heaven on earth.

Lancaster County, with its fertile land that is home to thousands of Amish and Mennonite families, has more than a hundred bed and breakfasts, and dozens of farm/B&Bs, although most of them are closer to Lancaster City and the southeastern quadrant of the county.

Airy Hill worked perfectly for us because of its location in Manheim, just a few miles west of the Wolf Sanctuary of PA and a short drive from Lititz. The Nestleroths said their guests come from around the globe, and they love learning about other cultures.

“We don’t have to travel the world to get unique experiences,” Mark said. “They come to us.”

The lodgings are comfortable and quaint, with beds piled with pillows and tasteful decor. We occupied the two-room suite on the third floor. Two additional rooms are located on the first floor at opposite ends of the high-ceilinged great room and spacious kitchen. One of those rooms features a tiny bunk room, painted as if the young guests are sleeping among the branches of a tree.

Guests have free rein in the window-lined great room, which is stocked with books, board games and cards, along with a television hooked up to video games and a DVD player. Each bedroom also has a TV. There’s a basketball court and other outdoor games, and Mark keeps multiple bird feeders that delighted the bird lover in both Emma and me.

A fridge is stocked with drinks, there’s coffee and tea on hand, and Hazel ensures guests have locally or home-made goodies available — the miniature chocolate whoopie pies were a hit with the girls. On each bed, she placed a small bag of Wilbur Buds, the signature treats from the Wilbur Chocolate Store in Lititz.

The couple is laid back and easy to talk to. They joined us for breakfast both days, and we felt like family. Hazel enjoyed talking about her kids and grandkids and sharing her recipe secrets, including baking not frying bacon and using challah for the best french toast. Guests leave with a booklet of her oft-requested recipes.

For more about Airy Hill Farm, visit www.airyhillfarmbedandbreakfast.com or find them on Facebook.

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