Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sailing on the Wind

Note:  This post was a collaborative writing project between Joy and Ana.

There's nothing more Dutch than windmills (well--maybe cheese...or chocolate...or klompen...)

Windmills have been part of the landscape of Holland for centuries because they were an important way to move the water away from the land.

But as the name "mill" implies, they were also used for grinding things like corn into meal flour, grain into bread flour and chalk stone into a powder that is used for making paints.

A few weeks ago, we got our first tour of a windmill.  On a very windy day, the miller took us up the stairs and into all the levels--even up to the cap!
Windmills need to face into the wind.  So the miller has to judge where the wind is and turn the top of the mill so that it catches the wind properly.   

The sails on a windmill function like a cross between a boat sail and a propellor.  They are really big when you see them in person, and they can spin really quickly!  

Somedays it is too windy so the miller needs to trim the sail a bit by pulling the cloth off of the wooden grid.

If the sail gets going too fast, it can get damaged by breaking off.  The other risk is fire!

When the sails rotate too quickly, the gears inside rub together, increasing friction and heat and eventually causes a fire.

Inside the mill there are gears and a large iron rod that attaches to the outside sails.
The wind turns the sails.

The sails turn the rod

The rod turns the gears.

The gears turn other things that get the work done.

In grain mills, the main gears turn one large stone that is positioned on top of another large stone.  Grain is poured between the two stones where it is crushed and flour comes out.

The Miller makes the decision of when to put the two gears together.  He can put them together or separate them by pulling on a rope.  

In this way he can stop the grinding or get it going again. 

Another job that the gears do is to lower and raise the heavy grain sacks from the ground level into the middle floor where the grain is crushed.  

Rather than having a person raise and lower the bags by hand, 

the rope is attached to a rod 
that is attached to a gear 
that is attached to a wheel.  
When the Miller connects the gears to this rod and wheel, 
it quickly raises the bag with no effort.   

We got to sit in the "sky box" of the mill!  It is at the very top of the windmill--we climbed lots of steps to get up here. This cap is what turns in order to get the sails to face the wind.

This is our view out the little window in the top of the grain mill.

This past week we saw some more windmills at the famous Kinderdijk:

We saw the only windmill that is still working to crush chalk into paint.  Famous painters have come here for hundreds of years to get their chalk to make paint



  1. Hi you all,
    What a nice easter you had. We did too, talked to Bob. In Nykerk where all Jana's Dad's family lived and came from is a bakery that has Jana's last maiden name ( KNEVEL )and was and maybe still run by her relatives. Jana's home town is called ERMELO to the north. 2 more weeks and you are heading home.

    Jack and Jana

  2. We will look for the bakery tomorrow!
    Ermelo was one of the towns along the train ride to Harderwijk. We are in your old neighborhood!