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Kids can rule the roost at Troy, N.H., inn

Casual country decor sets the tone in the sitting room of Village Bunkhouse 4 at the Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, N.H.
Casual country decor sets the tone in the sitting room of Village Bunkhouse 4 at the Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, N.H. (David Lyon for The Boston Globe)
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / September 14, 2008
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TROY, N.H. - The Inn at East Hill Farm is one of the most kid-friendly places we've ever encountered. It proudly proclaims itself as the place "where kids are kings and queens." The pint-size monarchs rule over a 150-acre working farm and a barnyard full of animals, a rustic retreat in the shadow of Mount Monadnock.

The land was first farmed in the 1760s and the sturdy white farmhouse at the center of the property was built in 1834. After World War II, cottages and a swimming pool were added for families who wanted a taste of country life. And even though minivans and SUVs have replaced station wagons in the parking lot, the basics of the farm vacation remain the same.

When we arrived about noon, we were just in time for a buffet lunch served from a small, screened building on the lawn. The youngest diners zeroed in on hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, popcorn chicken, and extremely popular "smiley fries." Several salads, cheese steaks, a Reuben-esque mix of corned beef and sauerkraut, and a vegetarian burger added more variety for the adults. With plenty of picnic tables and lawn chairs, this large grassy area surrounded by cottages remains the communal back lawn throughout the day. A swimming pool occupies one corner, and a flag waves in the breeze from a pole at the center. There are swings, a sandbox, a horseshoe pit, and trees with branches so low that they're perfect for climbing.

Our lodgings were in the Village Bunkhouse, a brown clapboard building with green trim and a small deck with a railing for drying towels and bathing suits. We had booked 4A, a large room with a king bed that can be annexed to 4B, another large room with two twin beds and a smaller sitting room. Since 4B wasn't occupied, we were given the run of the place, so we could make use of the sitting room with its wood-burning fireplace and beamed vaulted ceiling. The hooked rug on the floor set the tone for the country decor that continued into our bedroom with its light wood furniture, sturdy wooden rocking chair, and quilt on the bed. (Each room also had a small television set, an amenity missing from many of the other rooms.) A wallpaper border of a farm scene with red barns and a fence ran around the room.

Before we headed to the barnyard we stopped in the dining room in the farmhouse to grab some bread to feed the animals. (Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and leftover cookies and muffins are also available at all hours for hungry guests.) The cows and horses have their special diets, but the pigs, goats, and sheep were happy to devour all the bread that dozens of little hands could offer. And the mother rabbit and her 10 offspring nibbled eagerly at the blades of grass pushed through the wire mesh of the hutch.

We had lingered too long with the animals to tackle the 4-plus-mile loop to the summit of Gap Mountain. Instead we settled for a woodsy stroll to a small waterfall. In true farm fashion, dinner starts early (6 p.m.) and is served family style. We helped ourselves to turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, squash, and cranberry sauce, while the little girl at the next table celebrated her third birthday. Over dessert of pumpkin pie and ice cream, we watched several serious boys who were waiting for the magic show to begin as they practiced tricks learned in an afternoon class.

The next morning, small children purposefully carried wicker baskets toward the chicken coops to search for eggs. The successful ones delicately carried their eggs into the dining room and told their server how they would like them prepared. Since we were eggless, we settled on blueberry pancakes and bacon. It was the Friday before Labor Day and those minivans and SUVs were already packed for the drive home. Families lingered at their tables, reluctant to let summer go, while two dads hatched plans for a return visit for cross-country skiing in January.

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at harris.lyon@verizon.net.

If You Go

The Inn at East Hill Farm

460 Monadnock St., Troy, N.H.

800-242-6495, 603-242-6495

east-hill-farm.com

What we liked most: Adorable baby goats and piglets.

What we liked least: Early checkout time (10 a.m.).

What surprised us: The relative proximity to Boston.

You know you're at the Inn at East Hill Farm when . . . you're careful to scrape your shoes and wash your hands when you come in from the animal pens.

Rates: All rates at The Inn at East Hill Farm are per person and include three meals a day. Summer rates (June 22-Labor Day) for adults range from $99-$131 per day; ages 5-18 $79-$101 per day; ages 2-5 $49.50-$81.50 per day. Rates are the same the rest of the year, except for ages 2-5 $39.50-$71.50 per day. Many specials apply, and themed weekends are common. We paid $262 for two people for one night in the "deluxe" room of the Village Bunkhouse, including all meals.

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