Letterboxing

cropped-SouleHomestead_FINALlogo102115.jpg

If you are looking for a way to enjoy a hike around Soule Homestead at your own pace, why not try our letter box hike?  It’s fun, educational and you can find something that not everyone has seen. You can anticipate the hike to take anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on the age and stamina of your group.  Good luck on your adventure!

 

 

Park on the right side of the barn and start the hike inside the big yellow barn:

Welcome to the Soule Homestead Education Center!! You are now standing on rich land that was once used as a hunting ground by the Wampanoag Indians, later as a dairy farm by run by descendents of the Pilgrim George Soule, and it is currently being leased from the town of Middleboro as a working organic farm and agro-ecology education center. The Homestead consists of 120 acres of beautiful fields, forests, wetlands, and gardens. It includes a large barn and a private residence farmhouse that were built around 1830. The Homestead has an educational classroom where we run programs for adults and children and office space. Many farm animals also live on the farm. This simple letterboxing tour will introduce to the area immediately surrounding the buildings, and lead you to a hidden letterbox with our own custom-designed rubber stamp inside.

To begin, step inside the old barn and get a feel for the rural life that existed here up until the 1980’s, when the dairy farm industry in Massachusetts began to decline and the farm was sold to the town. This barn was once home to 120 Holstein cows, but now houses bails of hay taken from the surrounding fields, two bunnies named Chocolate Chip and Bella, and is the night time resting spot for Gracie the sheep and three goats, Ursula, Felicity and Fernando. Also, look for swallow nests. Additionally, look for wooden pegs in the beams, 2 hatch doors on the floors that were used to drop the hay down to the lower level, and old tools, once used here on a daily basis but now displayed on the walls by the barn door.

Step out, with the barn to your back and look to the left for the old silo that once held grain for the cows. The path you must follow brings you past the silo. The classroom and office are on your route. Feel free to stop in, check out the classroom, take a look at upcoming programs and say hello to the friendly office staff. A flock of sheep in the field may catch your attention. They are best observed from a distance since sheep are very shy and tend to run away if you get too close. However, our three goats love to be petted so stop by and say hello.

The large metal gate at the end of the dirt driveway peeks your interest and you let yourself through, closing the gate behind you. To the right is a beautiful wetland area full of cattails, goldenrod, jewelweed, Joe Pye weed, wild chocolate mint, thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, and many other seasonal wildflowers. It is also a great spot to look for birds and insects. Continue straight down the grassy path/ dirt road past what used to be a horse barn but now houses a tractor.  Continue down the road and over a gravel pass, keep an eye out for turtles and frogs that call this brook home. Straight ahead you will come to the farm fields where the organic farmers grow delicious and healthy vegetables!

Once you’ve seen the farmers in action, head back on the path you have already trodden  towards the farm buildings. Once you have reached the barn, take a new road behind the barn, and pass through an orange gate closing it behind you. To your left is a newly completed classroom space in our big yellow barn.  Keeping the big barn on your left, you will see our poultry barn to your right with the big white door.

Going left around the poultry barn, you will travel. Take note of the many types of chickens, then the ducks and finally the geese. Be forewarned, geese are the only animals on the farm that may nip you, please keep your fingers off the fence! Head right to the back of the poultry barn and look for the impressive pile of compost. This is used by the community gardeners. Feel free to dig in and look for worms or bugs.  Look around some more to view the beautiful community gardens! Maybe you’d like to start one! Note the greenhouse straight ahead is used by one of the organic farmers to get an early start on growing his crops. You will also pass an active bee hive so take care not to disturb the busy bees making fresh honey. Continue to the right, back around the poultry barn but this time walk past the front door towards the picnic tables (which is a lovely spot for lunch) and take note of the old farm equipment. Past the picnic tables and old farm equipment is an open lawn space often used for games and fun in our summer camp programs. In the same area is a very large disease resistant elm tree.

The farmhouse across the driveway catches your attention, look for a very rounded boulder that looks like a helmet. Be careful crossing the parking lot! Right next to the boulder is a very impressive maple tree, which you will find the letterbox that you seek.

Once you have stamped your book leave us a note in our book to tell us of anything cool you have encountered on your journey.  Please return the box to the spot your found it.

Thank you for exploring Soule Homestead!  We hope to see you at an upcoming program or event.  More details can be found at our website (www.soulehomestead.org) or on our Facebook page (Soule Homestead Education Center).