After a two-month break from blogging, I’m back to share what I consider a challenge, especially from a Feng Shui perspective – working and living in a windmill! To be honest, I never knew people actually lived in windmills! I found out differently when we traveled this August to Kinderdijk, a village in the Netherlands and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site since 1997.
Located 15 miles east of Rotterdam, Kinderdijk has suffered floods since the 13th century. The story goes that after one such devastating flood, the Saint Elizabeth Flood of 1421, a wooden cradle was spotted floating in a canal. As the cradle approached the dry land of the dyke, the locals observed a cat jumping from side to side, keeping the cradle balanced. Upon closer inspection, they discovered a baby inside. From that time on, this area was called Kinderdijk, Dutch for “children’s dyke, and a fairy tale, “The Cat and the Cradle,” was born.
I was excited to visit the 19 remaining windmills, which still work much as they did in the mid-18th century when they were built.
We arrived by bus to the visitor center where we then followed a maze of walkways through the nutrient rich wetlands to view the windmills, sharing the walkways with both pedestrians and bicyclists. I loved the topography. Almost a third of the Netherlands is below sea level and I found walking “in the marshes” a unique and breathtaking experience. I was surrounded by tall grasses and reeds, continuously dancing in the breeze along side swampy water full of beautiful water lilies. The grand expansiveness of the area was spectacular!
For nearly a thousand years, the Dutch have been clever in dealing with the water that surrounds them, keeping the land dry with this ingenious system of windmills and pumping stations. These windmills harness the power of wind to pump water out of what are called polders, swampy areas reclaimed from the water and turned into arable farmland. The water is pumped out of the low-lying ground to prevent flooding and keep crops from drowning.
Once, there were more than 10,000 fully operational windmills in the Netherlands, but they’ve been gradually replaced, first by steam pumps and subsequently by diesel powered pumping stations. The remaining mills are kept in working order, in the event of a power outage or calamities that can put the pumping stations out of action.
All the Kinderdijk windmills are watermills, which means they are only used for draining. Every windmill has four blades. The function of the blades is to convert the energy of the wind into power to lift the water. In order to catch the wind a sail is stretched over the blade. The amount of sail depends on the actual wind speed and the estimated wind speed later that day.
Normally the blade is fully covered with sail, but in a strong wind only half the blade will be covered. In case of a storm, the windmill can even run without any sails. To prevent the windmill from burning down from a lightening strike, a thick copper cable connects the iron part of the blade to the ground. The windmills are the highest buildings in a wide flat area and therefore the chances of being hit by lightening are quite high. Another chain is attached to the blade and the ground to block the blades when the brake might malfunction.
Before setting the windmill off, the blades must be turned into the wind. This is done with the tail of the mill. The tail of the mill consists of a triangle shaped set of bars connected to the cap of the windmill. A wheel is attached to the tail and a chain is connected to posts that are surrounding the windmill. By turning this wheel, which looks like the steering wheel of a ship, the chain winds around the axle of the wheel.
The top floor of the windmill will start moving, because the cap is not fixed. It rests on big rollers and is kept on top of the brick walls by the weight of the blades and the tail of the windmill. The windmill can make a full 360-degree turn both clockwise and counter clockwise.
When the sails are set and the blades are facing the wind the brake can be released. This is done at the tail of the mill by pulling a thick rope. Pulling the rope causes a post on the top floor to move down on the outside and up on the inside. The post pushes the braking blocks up and away from the tooth wheel, called upperwheel, which is connected to the blades.
Watching the owner go through the complicated process of determining wind direction and speed, manually adjusting the sails on the blades and pulling the rope to begin the process is beyond impressive! It is an amazing feat of hard labor, dedication and determination! It’s the Feng Shui process of intention on full display!
And that’s the working aspect of a windmill. Next month, the windmill as home.