Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

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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Down the Ohio River with Charles Dickens

messenger

The steamboat Messenger carried the Dickens party down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati.

A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than in others, and then there is usually a green island, covered with trees, dividing it into two streams.”

In 1842 at the age of 30, Charles Dickens made his first visit to America with his wife Kate, her maid Anne Brown, and Charles’ traveling secretary George Putnam. As part of their tour, the group boarded the steamboat Messenger in Pittsburgh to flow down the Ohio River to Cincinnati – a three day tour.

The Messenger held some forty passengers on board, exclusive of the poorer persons on the lower deck. Dickens wondered that its construction would make any journey safe with the great body of fire that rages and roars beneath the frail pile of painted wood.

As expected, he wrote in his journal daily while traveling, giving us a picture now, of what he saw on that trip long ago. Most of the time he wrote on his knee in their small cabin at the back of the boat. He felt lucky to have a cabin in the stern, because it was known that ‘steamboats generally blew up forward’.

ohio-river-diorama

This diorama from the National Road/Zane Grey Museum shows a scene at Wheeling that DIckens described of goods being loaded and unloaded.

Coming from the crowded city of London, this wilderness must have appeared strange with trees everywhere and cabins sparsely populating the banks along the river. For miles and miles the banks were unbroken by any sign of human life or trace of human footsteps.

Meal time was not pleasing for him as lively conversation was lacking. Each ‘creature’ would empty his trough as quickly as possible, then slink away. A jest would have been a crime and a smile would have faded into a grinning horror.

I never in my life did see such listless, heavy dullness as brooded over these meals. And was as glad to escape again as if it had been a penance or a punishment.

charles-and-kate

Charles and Kate Dickens came to America in 1842. This is a pencil sketch by a very dear friend, the late Mary Ruth Duff.

After the meals, men would stand around the stove without saying a word, but spitting, which was a bad manner Dickens deplored. Therefore, Charles and Kate spent much of the time sitting on the gallery outside their cabin. His description of the only disturbance outside was in true Dickens style:

Nor is anything seen to move about them but the blue jay, whose colour is so bright, and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying flower.

mound-by-henry-howe-001

This sketch by Henry Howe in 1843 shows the mound Dickens described in his journal.

He noted that the steamboat whistle was loud enough to awaken the Indians, who lie buried in a great mound, so old that oaks and other forest trees had stuck their roots into its earth. The Ohio River sparkled as it passed the place these extinct tribes lived hundreds of years ago.

Evening steals slowly upon the landscape, when we stop to set some emigrants ashore, five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their worldly goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair.

Those emigrants were landed at the foot of a large bank, where several log cabins could be seen on the summit, which could be reached by a long winding path. Charles Dickens watched them until they became specks, lingering on the bank with the old woman sitting in the chair and all the rest about her.

dickens-children

They carried this picture of their children – Katey, Walter, Charlie, and Mamie – when they came to America in 1842. As time passed, they had ten children.

When he reached Cincinnati, a booming frontier river town, Dickens viewed it as a beautiful city: cheerful, thriving and animated. He was quite charmed with the appearance of the town and its free schools, as education of children was always a priority for Charles Dickens. Here he could actually find people to engage in conversation.

While his first trip was a disappointment in many ways,in the 1850s, he was encouraged to make another trip to America to extend his popular England reading tour to audiences there. He was told  would be lots of money to be made in the United States.

But the outbreak of the Civil War, caused him to put those plans on hold. When the war was over, he again received encouragement to visit this New World. Despite his ill health and caution from his closest friends, Charles Dickens wrote a seven point “Case in a Nutshell” describing why he should visit America.

Once decided, he arrived in Boston on November 19, 1867. Even though his health was failing, Dickens never canceled a performance.

No man has a right to break an engagement with the public if he were able to be out of bed.

He stayed for five months and gave 76 performances for which he earned an incredible $228,000, helping to give him a much better view of the United States on his second trip. The country had much improved during those twenty-five years in his estimation.

How astounded I have been by the amazing changes I have seen all around me on every side – changes moral, changes physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and peopled.

fly-ferry

The Ohio River is a peaceful place to let your imagination flow.

The next time you visit the banks of the Ohio River, find a secluded spot and imagine what it must have been like when Charles Dickens viewed it in 1842.

Words in italics are Charles Dickens words from his journal “American Notes”, 1842 with the exception of the last one, which was of course written after his second trip.

 

 

 

Queen’s Parade Brings a Delightful Regal Touch to Dickens Victorian Village

 

The Queen's Parade

The Queen’s Parade

Everyone loves a parade, and the Queen’s Parade brings a touch of life from times gone by. People line the streets of downtown Cambridge for the Dickens Victorian Village’s second annual Queen’s Parade on Nov. 8. The parade, in honor of elegant Queen Victoria, will head down Wheeling Avenue at 1:00, as a touch of royalty enters the streets of Cambridge. The Queen will be accompanied by Gerald Dickens, great-great grandson of Charles Dickens.

Cambridge Social Dance Club performance

Cambridge Social Dance Club performance

Step back to a time before motorized vehicles, as many entertaining groups, too numerous to list, either walk, ride horseback, or are driven in carriages.  Among those walking are members of the Cambridge Social Dance Club, who have been a part of the annual celebrations for several years. See them dance their way down the street as well as perform at the Victorian Street Fair on E. 8th Street. They’re just getting warmed up for Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball next weekend.

Local dance studio students parade down Wheeling Avenue as street sweepers, who were needed in the time of Charles Dickens. The newly formed band at East Guernsey Schools will be making an appearance and perhaps a portion of the ever popular Cambridge City Band will perform for this occasion as an old-fashioned Clown Band.

Funeral Hearse followed by mourners

Funeral Hearse followed by mourners

A procession of mourners follow the horse-drawn hearse as they head to the “Victorian Funeral Experience”, which will be held the following day, Sunday, Nov. 8th at 1:00 at the Gross Mansion.

The Medicine Man, Dr.Thelonious Balthazar, rides in a carriage at the parade. The Medicine Man will actually have two shows on Saturday at the Victorian Street Fair. The first show is at 11:00 before the parade, while the second performance will be at 4:00 in the afternoon. You won’t want to miss his words of medical advice!

Participants in “Whiskers Wars” also walk in the parade. Come out and encourage these manly men, as they have been grooming their beards all summer long. Several categories exist for beard entries and judging will be held at the Dickens Street Fair on the steps of the bank. Most entrants dress in costumes of the Dickens era, so show your Victorian spirit and cheer for your favorite contestant.

Bagpipers escort the Queen

Bagpipers escort the Queen

The sounds of the Akron Bagpipe Band announce the arrival of Queen Victoria’s elegant, horse-drawn carriage. Then the Queen heads to the Victorian Street Fair where she oversees activities for the remainder of the afternoon.

However, the parade is just a small portion of the excitement for “Queen Victoria Weekend”, the second themed weekend of the Dickens Victorian Village season. If you would like to learn about additional activities, visit their website at http://www.DickensVictorianVillage.com or call 1-800-933-5480.

Dickens Victorian Village takes place from November through mid-January each year when Historic Downtown Cambridge comes to life with 92 scenes of 166 life-like figures representing classic scenes from Victorian society. To add to the festive atmosphere, each evening from 5:30-9:00, the magnificent 1881 Guernsey County Courthouse Music & Light Show pulsates to holiday music with synchronized lights.

See you at the parade!

Dickens Victorian Village is located in Downtown Cambridge, Ohio near the crossroads of I-70 and I-77. Take any Cambridge exit and you are sure to find yourself on Route 40, which heads straight through Downtown Cambridge.

 

Best Beard Contest

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

At the end of every summer, Nick began growing a beard to keep his face warm when working outside in the winter. At least that was the man’s excuse. His wife thought this good natured fellow just didn’t want to fuss with shaving.

But this year, Nick had a second reason. There was an article in the paper about a Dickens Whiskers Wars Beard and Mustache Competition. Like the men of Charles Dickens time, Nick thought it was very manly to have facial hair. With a long, full beard perhaps there was a chance to win the “Best Beard” category.

The contest would be in November so getting an early start was important. How could he speed up the process of developing a long, bushy beard? Nick read that facial hair would grow more quickly if a man is well rested and free from stress. So when his wife wanted the lawn mowed or leaves raked, Nick would give a nod of the head and say, “My beard doesn’t need that kind of stress.” Smoking a pipe with feet on a stool created more relaxation.

Nick's beard was snowy white.

Nick’s beard was snowy white.

Nick made a trip to the local drug store to pick up some biotin and B vitamins, which increase growth of hair and nails. A circular massage of his face while relaxing on the couch in the evening would also stimulate hair growth. Certainly these healthy additions, as routine parts of the day, would assist in creating the best beard possible.

Actually, all of these steps were making Nick’s beard look fantastic. His full beard was nearly a foot long with a snow-white glow. As the contest rapidly approached, Nick headed to a favorite restaurant for a couple of hamburgers, because protein also is important for beard growth.

With all Nick’s resting and eating, quite a few extra pounds had been added. No longer could a belt meet after traveling through the belt loops, so suspenders became the best way to support the larger jeans.

A little girl ran to the restaurant.

A little girl ran to the restaurant.

As Nick sat at the table wearing suspenders over a red plaid shirt with a red cap on his head, a little girl ran over and jumped up in his lap.

Her mother hurried over immediately, very upset by her daughter’s behavior. “Cathy, you know you aren’t allowed to talk to strangers.”

“But Mom, it’s just Santa Claus without his uniform.” Cathy’s blue eyes sparkled as she laid her curly blond head against the jolly man she thought was Santa.

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” burst forth from Nick’s lips. Maybe he could win the “Best Beard” contest. As Nick left the restaurant, you could hear him exclaim with his beard snowy white, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Best Wishes for a wonderful Christmas holiday and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

My wish for you is a wonderful Christmas holiday with family and friends, and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

Excitement Reigned During Queen Victoria’s Recent Visit to Dickens Victorian Village

Queen Victoria visits Cambridge, Ohio.

Queen Victoria, portrayed by Anne Boyd, visits Cambridge, Ohio.

Imagine, if you will, stepping back to the time when Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain from 1837-1901. She had the longest reign of any British monarch in history – 64 years! During that time author, Charles Dickens, wrote his famous “A Christmas Carol”. Thus, Cambridge, Ohio, the home of Dickens Victorian Village, was the perfect place for their paths to cross again in modern times.

Queen Victoria, portrayed by Anne Boyd, visited Dickens Victorian Village in Cambridge for a weekend of fun. Anne Boyd enjoys playing the role of Queen in various places – from Victoria, British Columbia to Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. Her visit in Cambridge began on Friday morning when the Queen, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, visited the local schools. Children gathered along the walks, bowing and curtsying to Her Majesty.

Queen presents students dressed as her five daughters.

At Central School, Queen Victoria presents students dressed as her five daughters.

Since the royal couple had nine children – five girls and four boys – five young ladies were chosen to portray her daughters. Each of the girls looked lovely in the cape and tiara she was given to wear. They all seemed quite pleased to be part of the festivities.

Queen Victoria told the students how she and her husband, Albert, started the Christmas tree tradition throughout Great Britain. The Queen’s Christmas tree in Windsor Palace was featured in The Illustrated London News in 1848. Candles lit the tree while a bucket of sand and another of water were always placed close by…just in case of fire. They hand-made all of the ornaments: cornucopias filled with candy or nuts, and beautiful glass balls studded with jewels.

A Bagpipe Band announces the Queen.

A Bagpipe Band announces the Queen.

Cambridge Social Dance Club

Cambridge Social Dance Club presented Victorian dances in beautiful Victorian dress.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Queen’s Parade. There were no motorized vehicles permitted so it was a quiet time, except for the wonderful bagpippers. Men on stilts and large wheeled bicycles added to the fun of the day. The Cambridge Social Dance Club performed traditional Victorian dances.

Knighting Ceremony

Knighting Ceremony with Katy Billings, lady-in-waiting; Eugene Kyle, town crier; Queen Victoria; and volunteer of the year, Lindy Thaxton, who was knighted.

A knighting ceremony by the Queen involved several local students as well as Lindy Thaxton, the Dickens volunteer-of-the-year. Eugene Kyle, dressed in the proper flowing robe of the town crier, read the proclamations with flourish. When the Queen was handed the sword for knighting, she also whispered some words of encouragement to the individual.

Her lady-in-waiting portrayed by Katy Billings was always at her side tending to her every wish. She helped the Queen by handing her capes, tiaras and swords, attended every event with the Queen, and learned patience while having lots of fun.

The Queen enjoyed the many activities of the weekend, which included: a High Tea with the Queen, GeoCaching with Dickens, Tavern Tasting, Mingle with the Monarch at the Cambridge Glass Museum, and a “Gone But Not Forgotten” Victorian Funeral Program.

Queen Victoria enjoyed the small town atmosphere and hopes to return another year. She was a very pleasant lady, who accepted every person as if they were an important part of her kingdom. When at home with her family, Anne has a reputation for making the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. Anyway you look at it, she was a very sweet lady.

The Queen’s Weekend was one of several special weekends at Dickens Victorian Village in 2013. The Village is open through out November and December in downtown Cambridge, Ohio with many activities for the entire family. Cambridge, Ohio is at the crossroads of I-70 and I-77 so can easily be located.

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