Day/Date:SUNDAY -3/12/23 Town visited: Southborough Had we ever been to this town before?No Drive to town: 24 miles Time spent in town:2 1/2 hours
What did we do in the town/area? When we learned that baby lambs had been born at Chestnut Hill Farm, we invited our friend Naomi, who was on spring break from college, to head to Southborough with us as she loves hiking as much as we do and loves baby animals even more!
The Trustees own and operate the Chestnut Hill Farm, so it provides beautiful well, marked trails through the farmland and in the woods nearby. The farm had tapped a few trees for maple sugar, and the sap was flowing today!
We did not see any animals on our hike, so after we finished walking the trails, we started poking around the adjacent buildings (one being the farm store, which was currently closed), and then our noses told us that maybe the sheep were close to that silo up ahead. We moved closer and “voila,” we came upon a field of sheep, adults, and baby lambs. Someone who worked there said they had about 95 total (mix of adult sheep and baby lambs). She also showed us a few tiny lambs that were being bottle-fed because, sadly, their moms had died in childbirth or soon after. One was a group of triplets; they were white, skinny, and adorable. We petted some and one really wanted to nibble on our fingers but had no teeth yet. What a funny feeling! We could’ve stayed there all day watching the sheep and baby lambs.
But we had to see what else Southborough had to offer.
We found a nice downtown area with Town hall, library, churches, and two old private schools. One was Saint Marks school, a high school founded in the 1800s; the other was the Fay school, a primary school founded around the same time.
Looking around, we got the sense that Southborough was a wealthy community. We noticed that there were some massive houses. But one really stood out. We just had to stop and take a closer look. It had an ornate gold gate in front of the driveway up to an old stone mansion.
It turns out it was the Deerfoot mansion built in the 1840s. Joseph Burnett lived there, and Frederick Olmstead designed the grounds.
Oh, and just for fun, we looked up a little information about Joseph Burnett. He was from Southborough and studied chemistry in college. He was drawn to the medical implications of chemistry and helped to develop one of the first anesthetics for surgery. He developed the first liquid vanilla extract a year later and started a company doing that exclusively. He was so successful with us that he built a different mansion for himself and his family.
But then he wanted to do other things and found the Saint Marks school, started breathing jersey calves and created Cocao nut hair product to prevent baldness and minimize dandruff.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam
Day/Date: SUNDAY -3/5/23 Town visited:Ashby Had we ever been to this town before?Yes and No Drive to town: 55 miles Time spent in town: 5 hours
What did we do in the town/area? As this was our 176th town, we are officially halfway through our exploration of Massachusetts! Can you believe it?
For today’s adventure, we headed north to a town where Jo once worked at a summer camp for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston way back in 1991. The town is Ashby, MA, and the camp is called Camp Lapham, which is still there to this day, though, now it is through a program called Crossroads.
Unlike where we live in Newton, Ashby got 8 inches of snow over the weekend, making it the perfect place to frolic in the snow!
Our first stop of the day was the Trustees site Jewell Hill located right along the border of Ashby and the neighboring town of Ashburnham. We snowshoed along the Jewell Hill trail on the fresh snow all the way to the summit and came down the Olaf’s Run trail which eventually placed us on the land of an old dairy farm. We caught beautiful snowy views of the east and the farm down below. From below, we were able to see Mt. Wachusett (which was south.
After that adventure, we drove towards downtown Ashby but with a stop along the way at Camp Lapham (which is closed for the winter). The camp’s roads were unplowed, so we just got a glimpse, but seeing that old basketball court and hoop still there after over 30 years was wild! As we drove, we passed homes with sap buckets attached to trees and even passed a tiny sugar house with a Massachusetts Maple syrup sign. Having just learned a bit about maple sugaring, our eyes were keen.
On our way into the town center, we drove past the backside of the Ashby library and were a bit taken aback. This building is funky and modern and has a structural design we had not seen before. The back side of it overhung the parking lot and had huge glass windows. We were so bummed that it was Sunday, and they were closed. But we looked into it, and it turns out that when they decided to expand the library, there were some hiccups due to wetlands restrictions and the need for neighborhood historical standards. So, a creative design was needed and achieved through grants to keep the front facade historic looking while the modern sloped addition uniquely provided more space and great views without hurting the landscape. Pretty cool.
One street from the library was the Ashby Market, and the open flag was waving, so we stopped in to see what was inside. This very old (since 1840) local market has a section for fresh fruit on one side and two aisles representing a hardware store on the other. In between were basic groceries, wine & beer, household supplies, and a few shelves of penny candy (which now cost 20 cents). We got some, of course. I mean, who can resist, Laffy Taffy, Lemonheads, and candy necklaces?
We were both pretty darn hungry by this point. Luckily, our one choice for lunch, the 873 Cafe & Tavern, was nearby and serving brunch, so we headed over there and ordered up their “brunch bowl’ (eggs with onions, sausage, bacon, and some homemade sauce) as well as a side of some seriously yummy homemade corned beef hash. We took it to go and ate on the steps of the big yellow building next door, which also happened to be the town hall.
Sated by our rich and delicious food, we headed to Willard Brook State Forest for the short trek to see the Trap Falls. No snowshoes were needed for this little walk along a beautiful brook. And the falls were small but sweet. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.
Day/Date:SUNDAY -2/26/23 Towns visited:Uxbridge, Millville and Blackstone Had we ever been to this town before? No Drive to town: 39 miles Time spent in towns:6+ hours
What did we do in the towns/area? Today we visited three towns located along the Blackstone River & Canal.
The Blackstone River spans 48 miles between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and it became an essential part of life in these parts. In the 1820s, a canal was built along the Blackstone River to help transport goods and people between the Massachusetts city of Worcester and the port city of Providence, RI.
Not long after, in 1845, a railroad was built that basically replaced the canal as the primary means of transportation, as the railroad provided a more reliable source of transport. Also, many mills that started popping up in the mid to late 1800s in that area were using the river for power and diverting water away from the canal.
UXBRIDGE: In the downtown area of Uxbridge, we noticed an old railroad bridge for the original Providence and Worcester Railroad. We also walked around a bit and saw the town hall, library, and the Mumford River (a tributary of the Blackstone River). Many of the shops were closed, but there were a few small restaurants serving brunch.
A little further up the road, we discovered the town green decorated with a string of homemade Valentine’s Day cards surrounding the green. It was adorable, and we could tell that the children of Uxbridge probably made them.
After we toured this small downtown, we headed to a cafe we had looked up called The Valley Bean and grabbed some coffee and sandwiches to fortify us for our upcoming outdoor adventure! Yum!
We recently came upon a notice that DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) was hosting a maple sugaring event at the River Bend Farm. And so we decided to go! The farm houses the Visitor’s Center of the DCR’s Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. The farm has a long history, dating back to the 1700s when it was originally a subsistence farm. Then, it was a farm in a very industrial time in the area. Next, it was a commercial dairy farm. And, since 1980, the land has been designated as parkland.
Friendly volunteers at this event taught us a lot about maple sugaring, and we even got to tap a tree! We learned that the sap starts flowing when the night time temps are below freezing, and the daytime temps are above freezing. Unfortunately, this was not the case the day we were there, as it was really cold! In their small sugar house, we also learned that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup! That’s a lot of liquid from a lot of trees!!! We learned never to try to cook down the sap in your home kitchen, as every surface will get coated with a sticky residue. But it would smell amazing!!!
After the demonstration, we took a nice wintry walk around the property, which has trails that weave you along both the river and the canal. We both thought this would be a sweet spot to return to with our kayaks!
MILLVILLE: Just east of Uxbridge was our next town of the day: Millville. This town is only about 5 square miles and is home to less than 3000 people! Since it is so tiny, there is not much to do here, but we found a few things to note about this old Mill town.
There is a cool tower in this town called the Udor Tower, a 30′ high stone tower that looks similar to the Irish tower we saw in Milford, but there is a difference. “Udor” means rain in Greek. So, it is believed that this tower was built to collect water that eventually flowed by pipe into the original builder’s home in the 1880s.
This town had a lot of “mill” history (hence the name), as it was once the home of many a little manufacturing village with woolen mills and even a rubber company. There is a millstone near the Udor tower commemorating this history.
We also enjoyed a quick stop at the very cute public library (which was sadly closed) with a sign just out front about a Book & Bake that gave us chuckle a bit and made us want to come back in a few days!
Like a Russian doll, Millville was once a part of Blackstone which was once a part of Mendon, and all of it was land originally inhabited by the Nipmuc tribe. (Uxbridge was also once a part of Mendon- a town we have yet to visit).
BLACKSTONE Our final town of the day was Blackstone. We have friends who recently bought a house in this town, so our visit to this town was the perfect excuse to stop by and see Dan & Danielle in their new digs.
But first, we went to the Blackstone Gorge and took a nice hike along the Blackstone River, getting some nice cliff views. After our hike, we drove around a bit and found ourselves crossing the border into Woonsocket, RI, for a moment. We wound ourselves back into Blackstone, where we checked out town hall, and we happened upon and learned about the sadly, now gone Blackstone Potato Chip Company and the little memorial of its original site. Kind of a bummer it’s not around anymore because Jo loves potato chips! We didn’t have our bikes, but we stopped anyway to see the Blackstone River Greenway- a paved path with three sections spanning 48 miles. This section is a 3.5-mile path between Uxbridge and Blackstone, and it has a nice little park. We’d like to come back and ride this rail trail.
Our friend’s house in Blackstone is pretty darn awesome, and we had fun hanging out with them and goofing off on their really cool porch. Two years ago, when they said they bought a house in Blackstone, we had no idea where that was! But now, 175 towns later, we know so much more about this beautiful state of ours!
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region:
Uxbridge, Millville & Blackstone: Nipmuc
It feels important to note that the next town we visit will mark the 1/2 way point of this mission to see all 351 town/cities in MA! We’re getting there! We hope you’ll stick with us!
Day/Date: SUNDAY -2/19/23 Town visited:STONEHAM Had we ever been to this town before?Yes Drive to town: 18 miles Time spent in town:5hours
What did we do in the town/area? We wanted to get to Stoneham by 9 am today because that would have meant that we would get to hear the 9’ o’clock horn. What’s that, you ask? Well, as you may guess, the 9 o’clock horn is a bell rung by the fire station at, precisely, 9 o’clock. Only, in Stoneham, it is sounded at 9 am and 9 pm daily. It started as a daily test of the system but has remained a notable town tradition. Sadly, we didn’t make it in time to hear it, but we took a picture of the fire department anyway and got to walk around the nearby Stoneham Town Common. We saw the town hall, some churches, and a bunch of shops and businesses. We got ourselves a coffee from Kushala Sip Coffee and happened upon a butcher shop called J & B Butcher with a wide selection of meats, prepared foods, and interesting sauces. The non-profit regional theatre, the Greater Boston Stage Company, is also there.
Then we went to the zoo. Yup, this primarily residential town has a small 26 acre zoo called the Stone Zoo located right along Pond St. It was a Sunday morning, and many of the larger animals (bears, wildcats, mountain goats, wolves) were on display snoozing away. But the Flamingos were up and honking, and the otters were swimming and playing as you would expect. We had an enjoyable and relaxing time walking around. The weather was good, and it was not too crowded.
After the zoo, we needed some lunch, so we headed to Royal Roast beef and got some yummy sandwiches. Then it was off for a hike.
The Middlesex Fells Reservation has been a “go-to” for us when we want to do local hiking. With over 2200 acres of land to explore that span five Massachusetts towns, many people in the greater Boston area enjoy hiking, biking, and even horseback riding in what we all call “the Fells.” There are so many trails, and, in all honesty, most of the ones we have done have been in Medford or Melrose, so it was fun to explore Stoneham today and have the chance to walk along the Crystal Spring Trail for the very first time. The well-marked trail (follow the red rectangles) that led us up and down some hills and eventually gave us a limited but pretty view of Spot pond.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Pawtucket, Massachusett, Naumkeag
Day/Date:SUNDAY -2/12/23 Towns visited:Berkley, Dighton & Somerset Had we ever been to any of these towns before?No Drive distance to 1st town: 50 miles Time spent in towns:7hours
What did we do in the towns/area? Today we visited three towns that all abut the 37-mile-long tidal river in southeastern Massachusetts known as the Taunton River.
Our first town was Berkley. We discovered that this small town is home to Dighton Rock State Park (even though there is a Dighton, MA, the next town over). We arrived at the park to find a museum building that houses the mysterious “Dighton Rock,” a 40-ton boulder once found in the shallow part of the river in what is now Dighton. Though we didn’t get to see it, we learned that this rock has on it cryptic carvings, or petroglyphs, whose mysterious origins are not fully known. It seems likely that Native people living in the area made the carvings, but historians don’t really know how old the carvings are. Based on a few historical documents, they believe the carvings predate 1680.
Since the museum was locked and we couldn’t see the rock, we took a short walk around the park, then headed to the town hall and library for our usual pics. Then we headed to the Boondocks Restaurant, not far from town hall. We sat in a booth by the side wall. The place was pretty full, and many locals seemed to frequent it. Jo ordered the Irish corned beef hash and eggs, and Jenny tried some Portuguese corned beef hash on a bolo bun. Both were pretty darn good!
While we ate, we struck up conversations with a few local folks: a school teacher who has lived here all her life and one of the staff at the restaurant, Isabelle, a high-schooler at the Berkley-Somerset Regional High School. Isabelle sat down and chatted with us a bit. We learned there wasn’t much to do here, but it was nice to go to school in a different town so you could meet more people. Both of these Berkley residents said that the people here were great, and the community itself made Berkley an enjoyable place to live.
In the restaurant, we noticed a map of the town. It is bordered on the West by the Taunton River, but the southern part comes down to a point between 2 rivers, the Taunton and the Assonet. Thinking that this would be interesting to see, we drove to this point, but we didn’t get that great of a view.
Our favorite find in Berkley was the Full Envision Farm. Their tagline is “Cultivating Creative and Joyous Pursuits!” Jo had read about it online, so we decided to check it out. We weren’t sure if they were open to the public as it was a Sunday in February, but Ashley, one of the owners, greeted us and told us about what they do there and let us walk around and explore. There were alpacas, goats, and horses in separate pens outside, and she told us that if we had come during the week, we would have seen people doing animal-assisted therapy.
Along with the therapy, they offer riding lessons. They had some eggs for sale from their hens, so, of course, we bought some! They offer summer/vacation education programs for kids and host many events and workshops. Ashley even shared with us that they may soon become a community-based hub for people to learn about addiction services. We enjoyed our time there and talking with Ashley.
The Berkley-Dighton Bridge, which crosses the Taunton River, is a pink, concrete arched passageway between Berkley and Dighton: Dighton being to the West of the river and Berkley being to the East.
We said goodbye to Berkley and crossed this bridge into Dighton to discover what the neighboring town had to offer.
Dighton: The very first discovery we made in Dighton was the 280-acre Bristol County Agricultural High School campus. The school is one of just three Agricultural High Schools in MA and the only one that milks cows as part of its Large Animal Science Program. We pulled in and saw the recently built Dairy Barn, which houses a brand-new robotic milking device that the school is very excited about. It was Sunday, and we wished we could have seen more, but just discovering this high school was there was pretty cool!
Next to the town hall in Dighton is a small yellow modular trailer unit with a library sign next to it. It struck us as unusual and probably something temporary, so we looked it up. We were right! The town had to close its main library due to some safety and space limitation issues, so they have placed part of the library resources inside this yellow trailer, and some of them just next door in the Town hall. The town is waiting for project funding to be able to build a new library.
Since we didn’t get much of a walk in Berkley earlier, we decided to head to Sweets Knoll State Park in Dighton and walk the 2-mile out-and-back old railway trail. We almost missed the turn-in to park as it looked like someone’s driveway, but then we saw the sign. The initial part of the walk was super muddy, and we wondered if we should keep going. Luckily we ran into a woman and her puppy who told us that it gets better just ahead, so we forged on. Eventually, the trail led us to the Taunton River and an old abandoned trestle railroad bridge there. On the path, we met a sweet little kid named Benji wearing a KC Chiefs sweatshirt (It was Super Bowl Sunday) who kept introducing us to his parents. It was super cute.
After our walk, we picked up a snack at Rochelle’s Market and Deli (which was really a convenience store). The town was pretty quiet and many stores were closed. We decided that we should also visit Somerset since it was pretty small and very close by. So we headed on to our next town visit!
As we drove into Somerset, we hit what seemed like the old town center area with the Old town hall, a newer town office building (which looked like an old school building), and a church. We got out and walked around a bit. Then, we drove a bit further down the same road, and just as it seemed to get busier and more commercial, we saw the welcome to Somerset Center sign.
Bigger stores and smaller businesses shared space along this road.
We also passed by the Berkley-Somerset Regional High School, which was nice (and huge). (This is where Isabelle, who we met at the Boondocks restaurant goes to school!)
We were curious about these tall old power plant chimneys we kept seeing, so we drove toward them to see what they were. We drove past an old and abandoned power station which we believe was the old Somerset Power Company, a coal and oil-fired plant that closed in 2010.
Another closed-down power plant in Somerset, called Brayton Point, which was once deemed one of the five most environmentally harmful power plants, was recently visited by President Biden and is being considered as a site for new, renewable, and clean energy sources.
As Somerset is basically surrounded by water, we passed by several bridges. A huge bridge called the Braga bridge (between Somerset and Fall River) and a smaller, old drawbridge that is not currently in use is called the Brightman St Bridge.
We headed over to Somerset’s Pierce beach and playground for some recreation. This waterfront park has playgrounds, a baseball field, and a basketball court. But the piece-de-resistance was a large curvy red slide that had us laughing our asses off as we slid down. This thing is fast and fun!
As the day was nearing a close, we stopped into Auclairs Market, a family-owned grocer that has been around for over 100 years. They started out in Fall River and moved to Somerset in 1968.There, we picked up some linguica made by Mello’s Finest, another family-owned business (in Fall River) that has been making traditional Portuguese chourico and linguica sausage the old-fashioned way for years. (We are gonna make some Caldo verde soup!)
Here is a Fun Fact for those of you who are fans of “A league of their own.”
Day/Date: SUNDAY -2/5/23 Town visited:Saugus Had we ever been to this town before?Yes Drive to town: 14 miles Time spent in town: 5 1/2 hours
What did we do in the town/area? What a day we had today! We invited our nephew Toby and our other nephew, Everett, and his girlfriend, Abby, to join us in exploring a town just north of Boston: Saugus.
We started our visit off with a visit to the Town Hall, which was built in 1875, and is on the national register ofhistoric places. Everyone knows the deal about our need to get a pic of the town halls, so we all jumped out of the car, walked around, and took some pictures. We noticed the library (and we love libraries!) was just across the street, and the door looked open, so we headed there. But, alas, we were stopped by a very friendly man with a wet vac, who stopped us and said we couldn’t go in because there was some water damage (probably due to the freezing temps a few days ago). We introduced ourselves, and he said he was Teddy, a resident of Saugus and a part of the custodial staff for over 20 years. He was working extra time trying to fix the damage in the library. We hope it all worked out!
With no chance to check out the library, we moved to our next stop: “Saugus Ironworks,” a national historic site and the birthplace of the American iron & steel industry. Since it is winter, this site’s museums and indoor exhibits were closed, but we could walk the grounds and see waterwheels and forge buildings near the Saugus River. We walked around, explored, and had a little fun while Toby, Abby, and Everett all posed for pictures as if they were a band looking for an album cover photo. Knowing our next stop would be brunch at the Iron City Diner; we got our name on the wait list before heading over. Our timing was perfect as, by the time we arrived, parked, and walked through the door, we were number 1 on the waitlist and were seated almost immediately!
The food was excellent, and so was the company!
After filling our bellies, we decided to walk it off at Breakheart Reservation. This beautiful 600+ acre reservation managed by MA DCR (Dept. of Conservation and Recreation) offers paved paths, wooded hiking paths, and two lakes for swimming. We hiked the Fox Run trail, a nice trail through the woods to one of the lakes. Then, we played around (safely) on the ice of one of the small bodies of water and climbed up the lifeguard stands. We took one of the paved paths back to our car. This path was bustling, with many walkers, some with their dogs, and a few cyclists. It was great to see so many people out during winter.
We had such a lovely walk that we missed our opportunity to visit Kane’s Donuts, whose motto is: Kane’s Donuts are Love! We had hoped to bring some home for our family, but they closed at 3:30 pm. We stopped by anyway to take some pictures of this well-known Saugus institution that has been around since 1955!
But we did make it to our grand finale of the day, roller skating at Rollerworld!!! Situated on the busy Rte. 1, this rink opened in 1981 and probably looked the same as it did 40+ years ago. Rollerworld is a fun and authentic place, and we simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity to skate with our nephews and Abby. So, we laced up our skates and had a great time. We skated, fell, gawked at some great skaters, and laughed. It was great fun.
Before today, we only knew of Saugus as the Rte. 1 traffic nightmare. But getting off the highway and exploring other parts of Saugus showed us this town’s history and local flair! We had such a great day exploring this town with totally awesome people.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Pawtucket, Naumkeag
Day/Date:SUNDAY -1/29/23 Towns visited:Methuen (city) and Dracut (town) Had we ever been to these places before? No Drive to 1st town: 40 miles Time spent in town(s): 7+ hours
What did we do in the town/area? We’ve had quite the weekend! On Saturday we went with our friends to NH to the outdoor “Ice Castles” exhibit. We walked in and out of many castles made of ice, we snow tubed down a small hill and we went down an ice slide. It was great fun.
Since we had driven so far north, we decided it would be fun to spend the night in a hotel in MA and be able to wake up and go on a couple of town visits. And so we spent the night in Andover, not too far from Methuen.
METHUEN: Our first priority of the day was to get some breakfast and coffee. We chose LJ’s Ecuadorian Cafe, and we are glad we did. We shared a breakfast burrito prepared in a way we had never had before. We just kept saying, wow, this is damn good. The unique sauce that came on the side with it was also really, really good. Plus, the place had a clean and simple charm.
After breakfast, we drove into the Spicket Falls district, an old Cotton Mill area along the Spicket River. We took some pictures of Methuen Falls from the red bridge by the mill building. We explored a nice little park nearby, along the river, and we walked around the corner to some shops and a big clock in the town center.
The Methuen City Hall was just a short distance away, so we made our way there next. It was a huge English Revival style brick building that spanned a 300 ft block. It was built in 1904 and was originally constructed as Searles High School. Parking was in the back of the building, and while we were back there, we noticed a windy road leading up a hill to some structure. It turns out it was the road to Greycourt State Park, which holds the partially restored ruins of the Charles H. Tenney estate. Charles Tenney grew up in Methuen and went on to establish a hat manufacturing enterprise with his brother and later moved to NY in the late 1860s to commission the sales of hats wholesale. The Tenney Castle, aka Greycourt estate, was his summer home. It was quite an estate, with a view of all of Methuen. A stone wall and a turret along the road on the way up indicated that the estate housed numerous buildings at one time. Also, there were many areas that were probably large decorative gardens.
After this exploration, we decided to move on and head to the Nevins Memorial Library. This building was very stately and we were bummed that it was closed as we imagined it was beautiful inside. It had notable stained glass windows that looked like they brought in a lot of color and light. After walking all around the outside of the building, we discovered that David Nevins Sr. and his wife, Eliza (whose decision it was to erect the library in the first place after his death), are both buried there along with an angel sculpture. We later learned that their sons, Henry and David, and their wives continued the family’s philanthropic tradition, as made evident by the many places that hold the Nevins’ name (a senior center, a farm, a bird sanctuary, and probably more). We did stop in at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm but were shooed away by a volunteer, so we didn’t stay there too long.
Our last stop in Methuen was for a walk at the Methuen Rail Trail. The paved rail-trail starts in nearby Salem, New Hampshire, and runs through Methuen before reaching Lawrence, MA, where it currently ends at Manchester Street park. But just off of the paved trail was a little 1/2 mile woodland path into Nevin’s bird sanctuary. This time of year isn’t great for spotting birds, nevertheless, we did see a great blue heron lurking in a tree before flying off.
DRACUT: Entering Dracut, we noticed that the landscape changed a bit: suddenly, we were seeing more farmland compared to the mill-town vibe of Methuen. As we do, we headed to the town hall. The building looked quite new and had a barn-like design. The old town hall was demolished in 2015. We were also struck by a large yellow church in the center of town, known as “The Old Yellow Meetinghouse.” This is one of the oldest buildings in Dracut, built in 1794. It is currently the home of a CCU (Christ Church United) congregation.
As we drove, we kept seeing signs designed with pictures of vegetables and milk bottles saying, “Farm Stands – Dracut,” and some had an arrow and distance noted on it, determining how nearby one was. It was because of these signs that we discovered Farmer Dave’s. We were elated to see that their farm store was actually open, and the cashier inside said that this was their first year with “winter hours.” This family-owned farm grows many fruits and vegetables. In the summer, they have a “pick-your-own” option for blueberries and other fruits as well as a weekly CSA.
They also sell local goods, and their newest item is homemade fudge. We couldn’t resist some of the goodies they had on display in their brand-new barn, so we bought each other Valentine’s day gifts right there on the spot. Raspberry and chocolate fudge for Jenny and jalapeño mustard for Jo (can you tell who is the sweet one and who is the spicy one?). Why wait for February 14th?
We also bought some homemade soup, some Valicenti brand pasta that we love, as well as some of their butternut squash and a few apples. The cashier was very friendly and we even met Farmer Dave’s wife, Jane, who made sure we found everything we were looking for.
After this adventure, we were hungry so we looked up some good spots to eat. One that came up as having somewhat healthy options was the 978 Cafe so we headed there. The drive there took us into some more densely populated areas showing us another aspect of this town.
The Cafe was in a small strip mall, part of the Walbrook Plaza. We had some great sandwiches and coffee here. They served coffee from Red Barn Roasters. The owners, Dara and Didi were very friendly and conversed with every customer who walked in the door.
When we asked Dara what we should see in Dracut, he recommended that we visit Shaw Farm. It is a dairy farm that has been in existence since 1908. They even had a window for ice cream that is open year-round! That is how good it is. Word on the street is that their banana milk is really good. We didn’t get any (as Jo is dairy-free) but we took a picture of it for ya!
From here, we went to the Albert and Marjorie Dunlap Sanctuary for a quiet walk in the woods. We saw a lot of beaver activity, noting a dam and a few lodges. We were not lucky enough to see the animals themselves though but the winter scenery was tranquil, so we were lucky in that.
Our last stop of the day was at Beaver Brook Farm Walking Trail. This agricultural land has been around since 1736, but is no longer used as a farm. In 2014, the town of Dracut voted to purchase a portion of this historic farmland and keep it as open space. We had a nice walk along the rolling hills of the farm and down to the Beaver Brook.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Wabanaki, N’dakina (Abenaki/Abenaquis), Pennacook, Pentucket, Pawtucket, Agawam
Bonus content: Here’s a couple of pics from our trip to NH to see the Ice Castles!
Day/Date: WEDNESDAY -1/18/23 Town visited:LEOMINSTER (city) Had we ever been to this town before?No Drive to town: 38 miles Time spent in town: 6hours
What did we do in the town/area? LEOMINSTER: When we love our hairdressers, we sometimes have to make tough decisions about whether or not to follow them when they move locations or find someone else. My favorite hairdresser’s recent move to the JC Penney Salon in Leominster forced me into this dilemma. I am not ready to give up this gem of a guy and stylist, so, we decided to combine our town (well, city) visit with my need for a haircut.
We rolled into the Mall at Whitney Field, where the JC Penney Salon is located. It was great to reconnect with Andy and get a great haircut. Jenny also had fun making the most of a sale in the store’s jewelry department!
Since we were only a mile or so away from the City Hall and center, we decided to head there next. We went into City Hall to learn more about some signs we had been seeing about a “Coffee Crawl” happening in the upcoming week. All the staff at City Hall were so welcoming. We got lucky in meeting Wendy, a woman who not only gave us the coffee crawl info but who also showed us around the City Hall and gave us the feel of this friendly city of Leominster. She was proud to show off the Mayor’s Wizard of Oz collection and the “Winter Wonderland” decorations in the auditorium. She boasted of the 40+ city-sponsored events that go on throughout the year as well!
She recommended lunch and coffee at the Main Street Gift and Cafe. We are a sucker for a good sandwich and a good cup of coffee, and this place had both! The sandwiches featured locally made bread, and they served up Dean’s Beans (one of Worcester County’s best coffee roasters).
After lunch, we stopped in the library, noting an exhibit about the actress Martha Sleeper. Martha was known for her “gadget jewelry,” and in her later career began designing and manufacturing these decorative pieces. Many of them were made here in Leominster. In fact, Leominster has a long history in plastics of many kinds, (including Tupperware). At one time, the city had 60 “plastics” factories! Leominster is also home to the original plastic pink flamingo! Don Featherstone designed these flamingos in 1957, and their popularity really took off!
For our outdoor adventure, we hiked part of the Monoosnoc Trail. It was a beautiful 50-degree day in January, with some sun! We took a 2.2-mile loop hike that afforded us a lovely hilltop view of the city and surrounding areas.
After our hike, we drove to Sholan Farms and orchard. This is a beautiful orchard owned and operated by the city. There are even public hiking trails through the orchard and beyond.
We couldn’t leave without stopping at the memorial birthplace site for Johnny Appleseed, a nomadic nurseryman who was hellbent on spreading apple seeds in his journeys, specifically in Pennsylvania and Ohio in, through the late 1700s and early 1800s.
We were pleasantly surprised by all that this city had to offer. We would love to come back here to participate in one of the many city-sponsored events or to pick apples next year at the orchard!
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam