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GardenSMART Episode

Show #25/5212. Kinderdijk

Summary of Show

UNESCO
We're first joined in this episode by Johan Mellegers who is the Director of The World Heritage Foundation for this amazing site. Eric thanks Johan for joining us and Johan in turn welcomes Eric and GardenSMART. Eric asks Johan to tell us a little about what he does as the Director of the WORLD HERITAGE FOUNDATION. The foundation has as its main purpose to preserve this unique Unesco World Heritage site and on the other side they receive tourists and tell the story of Dutch water management.

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Operation Of The Windmill
Eric next meets Paul, one of the millers that takes care of these beautiful machines every single day. This is your occupation right? Yes this is Paul's occupation. He is working here to have this windmill invention in operation. Eric would like for Paul to talk us through the day-to-day OPERATION OF THE WINDMILL. What does he do? Usually when he starts in the morning he will look outside. What's the condition of the weather? Today was very nice weather and sunshine. It could be different. Important of course is what is the wind doing today, which direction is the wind coming? That is the direction that he must rotate the windmill into and what is the force of the wind?

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How The Windmills Pump
Paul next explains HOW THE WINDMILLS PUMP. Just around the corner of this windmill is the scoop wheel that plunges into the water, the water from the fields, it brings it up into that canal next door. The guys take a look. The wheel, that is the scoop wheel, that is the wheel that can be operated by the wind, the sails of the windmill. So the wind will move the sails, go down to this wheel, that wheel can then plunges into the water. There's a tunnel underneath the windmill. The wheel plunges into the water, brings it forward, brings it upward and on the other side it pushes it out into the outlet and then the water flows through the canal.

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Managing Water Levels
Eric asks Paul how does he goes about MANAGING THE WATER LEVELS? He noticed a stick with different gradients on it and of course some marks provide an indication of, I'm assuming, the level of the main canal as well as the level in the trench? Yes indeed. For the miller here it is very important to look at the lower level, it should be fixed within a few centimeters, less than one inch, it should not go above that or below that. So if we say oh, okay we are doing fine today, it's running nicely. If levels have been set we have to stop the pumping, it can go, we can let the sails go but the pumping should be stopped. We are here about two meters below sea level, not very much but it's low, two or three meters below sea level.

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Usage Of Land Around The Windmills
The LAND THAT SURROUNDED THE MILLS was important, these we not just ornamental gardens these were the places where they produced almost all the food consumed by the family. And the livestock was another important element. It all fit into a very small space, the people were truly homesteaders. They grow up with their windmills. It was their decision to stay here so it was a way of life from history they felt inside, by their heart, to stay here and it was the job of their life to operate windmills, to use wind power, to use the power of nature to get the water away, to be safe.

For More Information Click here

Windmill Garden
Eric and Aart next visit a typical WINDMILL GARDEN. This is a wonderful example of what a traditional millers garden would have looked like. Indeed, it belongs to the windmill, every windmill has a vegetable garden for the food for the miller's family. It would typically consist of cabbage and potatoes and strawberries, even fruit trees. The things they needed for food they had it in their our own garden. The intent of this space was to try to produce as many things to sustain the family life as possible and it's a very clever use of space.

For More Information Click here

Making Milk For Cheese
Eric next visits with Lisanne who is a local farmer who grows cows, sheep and goats for milk production for this wonderful local cheese factory. The cows are lovely cows who are MAKING MILK FOR THE CHEESE OPERATION. It is very important to have them and the water management is a big part of everything they do because if there was no water management there would be no cows because everything would have been flooded. A very important thing is they like to have organic cows because they only produce cheese from organic cows that are kept in local farms. With every kind of agriculture in the Netherlands that water level is so important.

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Living In A Windmill
ERIC MEETS COR de BOER. Cor and his wife Tineke have lived in this windmill for over 50 years. It seems like gardening is just in the DNA of the Dutch. We've seen it at all of the homes that we've driven past in Holland. There's so much attention that's put into their gardens. And we understand from some of Cor's colleagues that he is one of the finest gardeners of all the millers so we wanted to come by and look at his garden. It looks wonderful. Tell us about this beautiful spot. Cor responds, well you mean the place I had long ago?

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Outdoor Garden Room
Eric notes - Your garden here is this BEAUTIFUL OUTDOOR ROOM. You've got this amazing space, with a tremendous diversity of plants. Eric loves what Cor has done especially with all the foliage, textures, and colors. It's a very vibrant place, some nice pockets of annuals and flowering shrubs. Cor has basically created this outdoor room overlooking one of the most special views, probably in all of the Netherlands.

For More Information Click here

Nature Preserve
On the other side of Cor's windmill is an area that is basically a NATURE PRESERVE. And it's a wonderful juxtaposition between the garden here, which is a beautiful, say a more traditional Dutch garden and the natural space that pretty much looks the way things would have looked like hundreds of years ago. Yes. That's true. Cor can imagine the people who lived here before, more than a hundred years ago.

For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Show #25/5212. Kinderdijk

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART visits one of the most iconic and recognizable landscapes in all the Netherlands and talks about what gardening would have looked like in earlier times. We're glad you're joining us on GardenSMART.

The famous windmills of Kinderdijk rise above the polder landscapes of Alblasserwaard, their mighty sails proudly facing the wind. Still, these historical giants are just a small part of an enormous joint venture of people, nature, and technology. A thousand years ago this whole area was one big peat bog trapped between the raging rivers and the fury of the sea.

Today we visit Kinderdijk and step right into the middle of Dutch history. Everything here lies below sea level so to keep their feet dry they have been working with the wind and water for centuries. The windmills and waterways tell the tale of the low countries. We travel back in time and experience the story of windmills, water, and the willpower of Kinderdijk.

We're first joined in this episode by Johan Mellegers who is the Director of The World Heritage Foundation for this amazing site. Eric thanks Johan for joining us and Johan in turn welcomes Eric and GardenSMART. Eric asks Johan to tell us a little about what he does as the Director of the WORLD HERITAGE FOUNDATION. The foundation has as its main purpose to preserve this unique Unesco World Heritage site and on the other side they receive tourists and tell the story of Dutch water management. There is a lot a lot of education involved with this place. There are nineteen windmills here that actually are part of the reclamation of all of this agriculture land. Without windmills there would be no agriculture in this country. Without these windmills, without the system they have in place in the Netherlands three quarters of the Netherlands would be under water. This is really the place in the Netherlands where people can tell the story of the irrigation system. And it's a very intricate system. It's a series of dikes, canals, trenches, and managing certain water levels. And as Johan said, the lion's share of this country would otherwise be below sea level. The country has effectively tripled or quadrupled in size through this incredible ingenuity. And they're able to show that history right from the beginning. The mill behind them is from the 1500's and their history is visible here right up to this day and age and modern technology. On the other side of the site one can experience the whole history from front to back. And so many of these windmills actually do still operate, which is incredible because they are hundreds of years old. It's the role of the team here to make sure that they are maintained, make sure that they are operational but mostly today, to educate visitors as to this incredible heritage of water management here in the Netherlands. And that's why this Unseco site has not changed since the second part of the eighteenth century. They preserve windmills in the old fashioned way and that makes it unique. There are 19 mills with sixteen still lived in by families. And all these mills are still working. That's why it's unique and that's really the reason why it's Unesco is involved.

Eric thanks Johan for his time, he's excited to be here today and to learn about this amazing site.

Eric next meets Paul, one of the millers that takes care of these beautiful machines every single day. This is your occupation right? Yes this is Paul's occupation. He is working here to have this windmill invention in operation. Eric would like for Paul to talk us through the day-to-day OPERATION OF THE WINDMILL. What does he do? Usually when he starts in the morning he will look outside. What's the condition of the weather? Today was very nice weather and sunshine. It could be different. Important of course is what is the wind doing today, which direction is the wind coming? That is the direction that he must rotate the windmill into and what is the force of the wind? Does he need or can he use the windmill today with this wind? Does he need all the cover closed on the sails or can he do without it? Then he starts operating the windmill, do the work to put it in operation. So that is the first half an hour, sometimes four hours of hard work. Eric asks - the modern windmills that we see in Holland the beautiful, tall white ones, they are used for the generation of electricity? Correct, that's not what these were used for? No the use for these windmills is still the same function dating back a long time, these windmills are used for pumping water. That was needed centuries ago to keep this area useful for farming, for living. They are ten feet below the levels of the river. Therefore they have to remove the excess water, and it is a lot because it is raining a lot. All the excess water must be removed from this area. They had to pump it out and the original power they had at hand was the wind. Eric is impressed, it's a fascinating system. So around each one of these fields, which is where crops are grown, where the livestock lives, there are these trenches, which act as a water collection system. Yes. So as the water drains through the land it fills the trenches up. The trenches act as a water collection system and then from there the windmills work to pump the water out of the trench, up into the main canal. So that is the function of all these windmills.

Paul next explains HOW THE WINDMILLS PUMP. Just around the corner of this windmill is the scoop wheel that plunges into the water, the water from the fields, it brings it up into that canal next door. The guys take a look. The wheel, that is the scoop wheel, that is the wheel that can be operated by the wind, the sails of the windmill. So the wind will move the sails, go down to this wheel, that wheel can then plunges into the water. There's a tunnel underneath the windmill. The wheel plunges into the water, brings it forward, brings it upward and on the other side it pushes it out into the outlet and then the water flows through the canal. And that's the entire job of the windmill. Every time the windmill is turning the scoop wheel is also moving? At the time, if we say okay we have reached the lower level of the water in the fields, we cannot go further down because the farmers need some water for the plants, we stop. Either we stop the entire windmill or disconnect the wheel, the sails will just continue turning but the wheel remains standing as is. Eric observes - It's a brilliant system, very sustainable.

Eric asks Paul how does he goes about MANAGING THE WATER LEVELS? He noticed a stick with different gradients on it and of course some marks provide an indication of, I'm assuming, the level of the main canal as well as the level in the trench? Yes indeed. For the miller here it is very important to look at the lower level, it should be fixed within a few centimeters, less than one inch, it should not go above that or below that. So if we say oh, okay we are doing fine today, it's running nicely. If levels have been set we have to stop the pumping, it can go, we can let the sails go but the pumping should be stopped. We are here about two meters below sea level, not very much but it's low, two or three meters below sea level. Ten feet below the river level. We see different colors on this scale but we look only to the centimeters at the lower level because that is important for us. And the farmer wants a very, very specific water level as well, right? They don't want the roots to get too wet or too dry. Yes, it's important for the farmers but also the town over there. The houses should be watered down but not too low or too high because then the foundations will rot or if you take out the water or bring in too much water that creates problems. They have good interests in optimum water levels, despite all the weather changes that you can have here. Eric notices the mark towards the top, he assumes that would be a not great situation. At that point the water level would have gotten so high this place would be flooded away, all the windmills would have disappeared. It happened in the river over sixty years ago, 1953 when there was a major disaster fifty miles south of here. The sea came in, it flooded many areas and many people were killed at that time. It came in to the rivers as well from the sea to near that level. They only have the protecting dikes around this area to keep the water from flooding the entire area, they were just 2 feet higher than the water, the difference was not a lot just higher from keeping this area dry. So they still indicate that as a level that they have to take into account here. It really underscores how important this hydraulic system is and how important these windmills are because otherwise life would not be possible here. Throughout history the windmills were all they had. Now days, it has been more than a century, they have had additional pumping machines that know how to handle the wind and water forces but the old windmills they still have. They keep them, but water management remains very important here. Now it is modern pumps but they also use the old windmills when it is possible.

Eric thanks Paul for his time, we learned a lot.

Eric next visits with Aart who is a ninth generation miller. While windmills are not used the same way they were one hundred years ago there are still many responsibilities that Aart and the others have on a daily basis. For one, they must address the upkeep of these beautiful machines. But the millers also maintained a garden.

We next visit a display garden and it shows us what that life would have been like many years ago. Eric would like for Aart to talk us through that. Let's start with the home life. What did that look like? A miller was responsible for his windmill but because the job of the miller is done outside all mills are for pumping water and space around the wheels, inside was for living. There was enough space for a family to live inside, children slept upstairs, the kitchen was outside so we have a small building outside that was the kitchen. There was cooking outside but there was a stove inside that in the wintertime was used for heating. All people were working outside, had a job outside, children were playing outside. So people came inside for sleeping and eating.

The LAND THAT SURROUNDED THE MILLS was important, these we not just ornamental gardens these were the places where they produced almost all the food consumed by the family. And the livestock was another important element. It all fit into a very small space, the people were truly homesteaders. They grow up with their windmills. It was their decision to stay here so it was a way of life from history they felt inside, by their heart, to stay here and it was the job of their life to operate windmills, to use wind power, to use the power of nature to get the water away, to be safe. It was often was very dangerous, this area was thirty-three times flooded but they stay here, repair the dikes, repair the windmills, repair the farms, and pump the excess water again away and stay here. They were also fishermen and hunters. In the summertime they work in the fields around for the farmers so it was a way of life they wouldn't give up.

Eric and Aart next visit a typical WINDMILL GARDEN. This is a wonderful example of what a traditional millers garden would have looked like. Indeed, it belongs to the windmill, every windmill has a vegetable garden for the food for the miller's family. It would typically consist of cabbage and potatoes and strawberries, even fruit trees. The things they needed for food they had it in their our own garden. The intent of this space was to try to produce as many things to sustain the family life as possible and it's a very clever use of space. For example, we see the willows that surround the garden, they act not only as a windbreaker but those canes can be harvested. We see them in the construction of fences or used as part of the construction materials for the barns. It's an incredible diversity that is packed into a very small space. We also we see the animal husbandry. Eric asks Aart to talk about the livestock component. They would typically have some chickens, beautiful eggs, some goats for milk and eating grass around the meadows. So the animals were a very important part of life.

There would be times of year when the miller would go fishing. That was a very profitable endeavor for them. We see some really clever fishing traps that the miller would've built out of the same willow branches. So that was a very important part of their life as well. Fishing happened, often in autumn, and they would catch so much eel that they would earn more money with fishing than with operating the windmill. Every miller was a fisherman. They were very industrious people. We see a very clever use of space and just an ingenious way of taking a very small plot of land and getting the most out of it they possibly could. Eric thanks Aart for showing us this part of the miller's life. We appreciate the information.

Eric next visits with Lisanne who is a local farmer who grows cows, sheep and goats for milk production for this wonderful local cheese factory. The cows are lovely cows who are MAKING MILK FOR THE CHEESE OPERATION. It is very important to have them and the water management is a big part of everything they do because if there was no water management there would be no cows because everything would have been flooded. A very important thing is they like to have organic cows because they only produce cheese from organic cows that are kept in local farms. With every kind of agriculture in the Netherlands that water level is so important. If it's too low then, of course, everything dries out, you don't have happy grass and the cows are sad or if the water level gets too high then there is not enough air in the soil to have healthy roots creating the same problem, the grass dies and once again it becomes impossible to actually have happy, organic cows. Exactly, it is very important because they want to have happy cows to have very good cheese so they have to manage the water level all the time. When it is flooded the cows cannot be outside and that is what they love because in spring they go outside like dancing because they are so happy to go outside again. Also they have to take care of a lot of geese, they eat all the new grass so they have to take care of that to make sure that the grass is very healthy and good to be used for the cows that are living here. Eric asks - So part of the job is chasing off all the geese? Yes, it is. Eric loves artisan cheese and especially organic cheese like that which is that is grown right here in the shadow of these beautiful windmills. He can't wait to go try some. Thanks so much for being with us Lisanne.

ERIC MEETS COR de BOER. Cor and his wife Tineke have lived in this windmill for over 50 years. It seems like gardening is just in the DNA of the Dutch. We've seen it at all of the homes that we've driven past in Holland. There's so much attention that's put into their gardens. And we understand from some of Cor's colleagues that he is one of the finest gardeners of all the millers so we wanted to come by and look at his garden. It looks wonderful. Tell us about this beautiful spot. Cor responds, well you mean the place I had long ago? Well the garden is gone now. It was always for my wife and myself. When we came from my work we always walked through the garden looking for the salad, for the peas, and the beans, for the potatoes. All the things came from our garden, it was our food, our daily food. It's over now. I have to go to the shop to buy it now. For me that's maybe forty years long we had all the vegetables coming from our own garden.

Eric notes - Your garden here is this BEAUTIFUL OUTDOOR ROOM. You've got this amazing space, with a tremendous diversity of plants. Eric loves what Cor has done especially with all the foliage, textures, and colors. It's a very vibrant place, some nice pockets of annuals and flowering shrubs. Cor has basically created this outdoor room overlooking one of the most special views, probably in all of the Netherlands. Yes, therefore it is a pleasure to work in the garden because you are working amidst all of the nature. It is one of the nicest places not only in Holland, maybe all over the world. It is so very special, nineteen windmills together and one of them is the place that forms part of his life and that's why he likes to work in the garden, to look after his flowers, to look after his vegetables. Without it he would be left displaced because it's the place that belongs to him and that's so special.

On the other side of Cor's windmill is an area that is basically a NATURE PRESERVE. And it's a wonderful juxtaposition between the garden here, which is a beautiful, say a more traditional Dutch garden, and the natural space that pretty much looks the way things would have looked like hundreds of years ago. Yes. That's true. Cor can imagine the people who lived here before, more than a hundred years ago. They lived not under the same circumstances because we have more luxuries. They had really to catch fish. They had small goats to eat. They were dependent on all the things that nature gave them for the daily things they needed to keep alive. And that is a very important part of the agriculture and gardening that was going on hundreds years ago, you know, being able to create a sustainable environment for yourself. That's where you were, that's how you were eating and where your food came from.

Cor has created this outdoor paradise here. Now Cor and his wife, in the evenings, are able to sit out here on their dock and enjoy this amazing place. Eric thanks Cor, he and his wife have done a great job. Keep up the great work. And thank you so much for talking with us.

In this episode we learned a lot about water management and the will power of the Dutch people to reclaim these lands that would otherwise be uninhabitable. It's been a wonderful experience for us at GardenSMART and hope others will enjoy as well.

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