Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How are things in Holland? Funny you should ask...

So if you want read about fertilizer and crops, well go read the last couple postings again.  Because this one is about my trip to Holland.  Well, Holland, Michigan that is.  It's West of Grand Rapids on the Lake Michigan shore.  But us manager types had a company meeting there this week, and you know I can't go anywhere without seeing the local attractions.  Now it seems that this part of Michigan was settled by, you guessed it, the Dutch.  (Although I never understood why they weren't called Hollanders.  What's "Dutch" mean anyway?  Have to look that up some day.)  Anyway, here's a sign that says "Welkom".  I didn't have my Dutch to English dictionary, so have to get back to you on that.  But what this Holland is best known for is the Tulip Time Festival and Windmill Island.  Well we were about a week and a half late for the festival, but Windmill Island is always open.  Now I had never been, so off we went.  By we, I mean my travelling companions from the St. Johns office: Lynette, Colina and Nikole.  They knew they were in for a treat by riding with me and seeing the sights.
We paid our admission and entered the park and saw the windmill.  What a gyp!!!  Oh.  Lynette told me that this wasn't the main windmill.  That's a relief.
So we walked a little farther and there it was...Oh, Nikole told me this wasn't it either.  But it's getting bigger, so we must be getting close. 
Colina confirmed that this was in fact, the big one.  Did you know that this windmill is actually from Holland and is over 240 years old!  That's from the 1770's!  It is called the De Zwann and was brought over in 1964.  Actually, it was the last windmill ever to leave Holland as the country banned the export of windmills making them all national treasures.  Did you know that there were once as many as 9000 windmills in Holland, and now the number is down to around 900.  Unfortunately many were lost during World War II as they were popular targets for German airplanes.  You can see the tulips in the foreground.  But unfortunately they are past peak.  Tulips are really nice, but they don't last long.  Still pretty though.
We went in and got a tour of the windmill.  It turns out that it is still a working windmill and still grinds wheat into flour.  And the Miller, or flour grinder, is an American woman who went to Holland to get training and certification, the only woman in America to do so.  Here is a shot on the deck looking up at the blades.  Each blade is 80 feet long and 6 feet wide.  The Miller has to climb up them to put the sails on in order to catch the wind.  It can be rotated around to best face the wind.  When the blades turn, it is geared to turn the grindstone inside for milling flour.
Here is a section of one of the blades as it was when it came here.  The holes are bullet holes from German airplanes.  But it survived.
And here is one of the old grindstones.  The space was tight inside, so my pic there  wasn't as good as this one.  But you can see that the stone has grooves in it.  This is the bottom stone that stays stationary. The wheat is added in the middle, and goes in between the stones, gets ground into flour as the top stone rotates. It follows the grooves to the outside and emerges as flour.  Sadly, the De Zwaan is down for repairs now.  It seems that they found some cracks in some of the wood beams that are around the milling area, so it isn't safe.  New pieces are being made in Holland, but it will cost nearly a million dollars for everything to be repaired and replaced.  Ouch.  They had ten bags of flour there that they were selling for $100k each, so that should cover it.  I didn't have room in my bag for one though.
Here is the view from the front.  Hate to ruin the story, but they said they built the brick base here to lift it up higher to better catch the wind.  It wasn't like that in Holland.  But the inside is still all orignial, except for the stairs.  The original Millers had to climb ladders all the way up the inside as the grindstones are several floors up. No thanks.
So here were some Tulips that still had some life in them.
We stopped in a store there that sold real Holland wooden shoes.  These were demos.  The one's you could buy were all painted up nice.  They really weren't bad to wear. I was close, but they clashed with my meeting attire, so I passed.  But I know where they are should I change my mind...and find an extra $60 in a pocket that I forgot about.
Here are some more colorful Tulips still hanging on.  There are sure lots of different colors of Tulips.
Well time to leave and head for lunch before the afternoon meeting.  Colina, Lynette and Nikole will always remember the fun morning.
And the fun didn't stop there.  The place we ate lunch had a buffet with soup, and an autographed picture of...that's right...The Soup Nazi!  Some people know everyone!  I made sure I got my soup quickly and moved on.  (I'm sure some people will know about this.)
Well on top of that, it was a good meeting where all of the departments venture a view into the future.  And as a participant, I can report that the future of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers looks very, very good to me.  And that means it will be very, very good for our dealers and growers as well.  I mean really...We had a meeting and everything.  It's official.  Don't miss out.