Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for November, 2016

Farmer’s Daughter to Queen Victoria

 

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During childhood, her cousin, Cheryl, and Connie enjoyed dressing as cowgirls.

Growing up on the farm as a shy young lady, Connie Oliver Humphrey never expected to travel the world, but she always enjoyed role playing. Even as a child, Connie liked to don costumes and pretend to be someone else. One of those earliest ones happened to be Dale Evans. At home she would dress in her cowgirl hat and boots as she became Queen of the West.

The first time this shy young lady ever performed on stage happened at Cambridge High School during the senior class play, with just a small part. Most of her high school years were spent in the bookmobile reading all the books in the history section.

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Always interested in costumes, this Victorian lady helped with the Dickens Victorian Village’s Victorian Tea & Fashion Show.

So when Connie went to Marietta College, it seemed natural to major in history. However, lack of encouragement from the history teacher and a notice of her theatrical abilities from another, had her changing gears. Theater became her major and creating costumes her passion.

Still, when she graduated, Connie wasn’t sure what she wanted to do or where she wanted to live. Before making a final decision, Connie became a stewardess for Piedmont Airlines. Then she met the man who would change her world. Michael worked for the United States Department of Agriculture, which eventually led them on many great adventures.

Before long, Connie didn’t have to worry about where she would live as Michael became an Agricultural attache in the American Embassy in places such as Moscow, Hong Kong, and Jakarta, then moved on to Singapore. Connie was off to see the world.

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In the musical, Quilters, Connie’s pioneer portrayal included playing the spoons.

On this amazing adventure, she never knew what was going to happen next. In each country, she joined the local theater group, where she helped with costumes and became an actress.

When on stage, her shyness disappeared as she became a different person. In her words, “I put Connie on a hook in the dressing room.” Only once did Connie and Michael appear on the same stage in a spoof on Robin Hood and His Merry Men. It required Connie to sing off-key, which she said wasn’t difficult for her.

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In the one-woman play, Belle of Amherst, Connie portrayed Emily Dickinson.

In Jakarta, one of her favorite performances took place in the role of Emily Dickinson. Connie performed a one-woman show on stage there in the play, Belle of Amherst. She learned the poetry from the heart and talked to the audience as though she were carrying on a conversation with them.

Emily spent her life as a recluse, writing poetry and stashing it away because one suitor told her she was not a poet. Still she wrote as if she experienced the joys and sorrows of the human race.

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This quilt made from pieces of her Quilters costume still graces her guest bedroom. The green/white check was from her costume and the beige batik is typically Indonesian.

During their travels, they shared many wonderful experiences with family and new friends. One of those happened at a Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, where they attended a traditional Easter service. Only children and grandparents were permitted to participate, with the militia there to guard again other adult participation. As part of the American Embassy, they were permitted to view the impressive service.

Her favorite place, Hong Kong, overflowed with life and color. Every nationality walked their streets. which held plentiful food and supplies. Something exciting happened frequently wherever they lived. From an elephant ride in Indonesia to the dynamic Fourth of July fireworks in Washington D.C., new experiences created lifetime memories.

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Her role as Queen Victoria adds dignity to Dickens Victorian Village.

Upon her return to Guernsey County, Connie became involved with Dickens Victorian Village working on their Creative Team creating costumes for the mannequins.Then last year, with a bit of encouragement, she stepped into the role of Queen Victoria, queen during the time of Charles Dickens.

“How does someone get to be Queen?”

“You must select your parents with great care.”

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Schoolchildren greeted Queen Victoria with cheers and flags of England.

Her visits to the elementary schools have been well received and she often greets visitors at opportune moments throughout the season. Connie enjoys getting dressed for her role as Queen Victoria, where she holds children under her spell as she tells of life as Queen.In December, there will also be a program, Dickens Audience with the Queen, where she shares the stage with historian, Chris Hart.

In her spare time, Connie’s role as farmer’s wife continues and she works tirelessly for the First Presbyterian Church in Cambridge. Her husband, children and grandchildren always come first, and give her a glow of happiness for all to see.

Connie values the freedom we have in our country after viewing life in some of the places they served. In fact in the near future, they plan an RV trip across the United States, a place they have not yet explored. They have people and places to see on their journey.

But first she must reign as Queen Victoria in Dickens Victorian Village.

 

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Time for Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

For two months each year, the spirit of Charles Dickens thrives in the city of Cambridge. One of the favorite delicacies of Dickens’ Victorian England was chestnuts. At a party in his famous novel, “A Christmas Carol”, he wrote,”the chestnuts and the jug went round and round.” So perhaps Charles Dickens would have enjoyed visiting a chestnut farm just north of here in Carrollton.

Back in the time of Charles Dickens, cones filled with hot roasted chestnuts were sold on street corners in merry old England. Not only did this provide a tasty treat, but holding the cone kept the hands warm as the aroma of roasted chestnuts filled the street.

Greg Miller enjoys telling everyone about his chestnut orchard.

Greg Miller enjoys telling everyone about his chestnut orchard.

Here in Ohio, Greg Miller’s father began a hobby of growing chestnuts and various nut trees back in the 70s after a blight destroyed nearly all the American chestnuts back in the early 1900s. When Greg returned home from college, they noticed that the Chinese chestnuts were the most productive. Thus began the Empire Chestnut Co.

On their farm on Empire Road near Carrollton, chestnuts are planted in their nursery to start new trees. Only the very best chestnuts are used for this purpose. These new seedlings are then transplanted to a nearby field until they are mature enough to sell.

Headquarters for Route 9 Cooperative sports five chestnuts, indicating the five families that participate in the cooperative.

Headquarters for Route 9 Cooperative sports five chestnuts, indicating the five families that participate in the cooperative.

They encouraged others to plant them too and in 2010, with four other growers, formed Route 9 Cooperative, headquarters for the only commercially grown chestnuts in Ohio.

This is no small operation. From 90 acres of chestnut trees, over 60,000 pounds of chestnuts are harvested annually. Chestnut trees thrive in sandy loam soil. Greg said, “They grow best on a mountain or hillside where the soil is so poor you can’t raise your voice on it.”

Chestnuts fall to the ground in a prickly hull, which is soft inside.

Chestnuts fall to the ground in a prickly burr, which is soft inside.

For those familiar with chestnuts, harvesting can be difficult and even painful. When the prickly burr falls from the tree, it normally pops open revealing three or four chestnuts inside. However, the inside of the chestnut hull feels as smooth as velvet. thereby cradling the nuts.

Imagine picking a bucket of about 1,000 chestnuts - one by one from the ground.

Imagine picking a bucket of about 1,000 chestnuts – one by one from the ground.

Even with today’s modern technology, chestnuts are still picked by hand. Greg places an ad in the paper looking for workers and usually has 100-200 people picking each year. They range from individuals to Amish families and community youth groups. His ad carries a bit of humor:

If you don’t mind bending down to pick up a penny,

this job might be for you!

This Drum Sizer cleans and sizes the chestnuts.

This Drum Sizer cleans and sizes the chestnuts.

It takes over 1,000 chestnuts to fill a five gallon bucket so picking requires a lot of patience. Once the buckets are filled, the chestnuts are cleaned and sorted by size before their plastic perforated bin gets placed in the “nut jacuzzi”. As a precaution, to eliminate the possibility of any insects or eggs surviving, they are kept in a temperature of 119 degrees for about four hours.

The plastic bin filled with nuts gets dipped into the "Nut Jacuzzi" to kill any possible insects or eggs.

The plastic bin filled with nuts gets dipped into the “Nut Jacuzzi” to kill any possible insects or eggs.

From here they are hand sorted to eliminate any imperfect chesnuts, then dried in their bin, but kept moist to avoid mold. They are then placed in a refrigerated room before bagging.

Finally, the chestnuts are bagged for shipping all over the United States.

Finally, the chestnuts are bagged for shipping all over the United States.

Most of their orders come from the internet and are sent all over the United States. Many of these customers being ethnic groups that have always enjoyed chestnuts as part of their culture. Some places even use them in chestnut beer and whiskey.

The Millers favorite way to eat chestnuts is “raw”. They feel they can easily tell the difference in quality by eating them this way. His daughter, Amy, also enjoys them ground into flour for pancakes. A delicious treat! One gourmet goat cheese producer orders chestnut leaves to wrap the cheese for flavor as it ages.

Orders for 50,000 pounds of chestnuts before the season began show the need for more chestnut tree growers. Chestnut trees are a long term investment as it takes about seven years to get your first chestnuts, while their peak will be reached in fifteen to twenty years. But at $3 -5 a pound wholesale, it may be worth the wait.

If Dickens’ Cratchit family lived here, they would be certain to place an order to make stewed chestnuts for Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps at payment of $11 a bucket, they would even help pick them.

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Route 9 Co-operative is located near Carrollton on Route 9 south of town. Visit their website at http://www.empirechestnuts.com for more information

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