Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Journey to Chippokes Plantation

Where does Tazewell Hoover Chippokes the First reside?
At the oldest continuous working farm in the U.S.: Chippokes Plantation.
Chippokes Plantation has maintained the same land boundaries since the 1600s;
and when its last owner, Mrs. V.W. Stewart, was widowed,
she donated the Plantation to the State of Virginia with one provision:
that it be kept as a working farm so that it would serve
as a living example of the state's agricultural history.

Chippokes Plantation State Park is about 20 miles outside of Smithfield, Virginia
where they make (cover your ears, Tazewell) Smithfield ham.
Chippokes Plantation is actually closer to Surry,
the county seat of Surry County, Virginia.
Chippokes Plantation is also very close to Bacon's Castle
(no relation to Tazewell or his unfortunate cousins the Smithfield hams).
Bacon's Castle, built in the mid-17th century, 
 is the oldest surviving brick house in Virginia.
I've been to Bacon's Castle, and it is fascinating,
but Chippokes Plantation beckons both head and heart.

Recently my husband and I spent a weekend on the Plantation
in a modernized rented cabin,"Osborne House," 
 built in the late 1920s or early 1930s
and inhabited then by what is today referred to as a tenant farmer,
but in reality was probably a poor sharecropper.
When the cabin was a working home,
it had to have been terribly uncomfortable:
no doubt sweltering in the summer, freezing in the winter.
Not a very welcoming place at the end of a bone-wrenching day
of never-ending physical labor.
But for us in this time, it was rustic and peaceful.
We were able to explore the Plantation,
appreciate its history, and experience nature up close,
without modern distractions.

Join me this week as I recall the tranquility of the place,
its centuries-old mansions, its wildlife, unique trees and plants,
cultivated gardens, and the placid waters of the James River.
There will be talk of many things that delighted and surprised us,
 including Tazewell's farm friends.
And, yes, there was another creature encounter.
But this time there was no distance between it and me,
and I really wish there had been.
Find out more this week.

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