A mill around the corner
Mills surround me, so I don’t always understand the excitement from foreign friends for them. But since I know friends and acquaintances from abroad like mills, of course I do take them there when they visit me.
About 200 meters (more or less 200 yards) from my house is a still functioning grindmill. Not functioning in an economic sense, but once a week it is up and running, and open to the public.
The name Korenbloem means cornflower. An appropriate name for a cornmill, don’t you think? Together with the church, this mill defines the visual image of my village.
Mills are classified in several ways
Houses in the main street surround this icon
Mills can be defined by the energy source (water, wind, fuel, human muscles, animal force) or by their function (sawing, grinding, poldering). A poldermill is also called watermill, but there is a difference between a watermill that’s powered by water or a windmill that transfers water from one place to the other.
Another way of sorting is by product (corn, oil, paper, etcetera) or by shape. Enough to choose from!
De Korenbloem is surrounded by an artificial hill (shape), grinds corn (function and product) and is powered by the wind (energy). It’s not very old, a little over a hundred years. In 1909 the previous mill burned down to the ground, so they had to rebuild it.
Creaking, squeaking and running
Mills have been here for centuries
The 17th century was Holland’s Golden Age, partly due to sources of energy that were readily available: wind and water. Jacob van Ruysdael was a refined Baroque landscape painter, who painted a lot of mills. The same impressive clouds he painted are in some of my pictures, although a painter can emphasize the drama even more.
means hill in Dutch
means thong or strap in English
Artificial hill, catching the wind
People were obliged to use the mill in their neighborhood and the miller had to pay mandatory taxes for the right to grind.
In the old days every town and village had at least one mill. In villages like mine it would be a high one, in the walled towns some of the mills would be on top of the walls.
The artificial hill is called a belt in Dutch, which is funny, because in my eyes the English belt or thong depicts much better how the mill is shaped. A beltmill is not built on a hill, but the hill is surrounding the first floor.
Are you talking to me?
With the wicks the miller could talk to the neighborhood. It goes much further than the examples I give here, but since there are even dialects in mill-talk I’ll just mention the main signs:
Keep in mind that the turning of the wicks is counterclockwise. That makes it easier to understand what’s meant with going up and going downwards.
- The wicks are placed as a cross – this means the miller is having a lunch break or is doing a chore somewhere
- At an angle of 45 degrees – a long rest. In this position, the rain was the least likely to cause damage
- Halting the wicks just before they would pass the highest point (going up) – joy and celebration. Sometimes emphasized by flags, garlands or colored ribbons
- Stopping the wicks just after the highest point (going down) – mourning and grief. If somebody had died they even turned the head of the mill in the direction of the house of the deceased person
Adding the sails gave even more meaning to the signs. When for instance the miller didn’t have enough work a certain way of folding the sails indicated people could bring their grain.
The sails are adjusted depending on the wind
Van Gogh in France
The Dutch don’t have the exclusive right to mills of course. They are or were everywhere.
Van Gogh: La Moulin, 1886
Vincent van Gogh
Flags, candles, holy water and a priest
A farmers’ tradition
I live in a Catholic rural area
This week I found out that people over here still have a procession on May 15 for Saint Isidore, the patron of the farmers. The mill couldn’t function without crops and for ages people have called upon the higher powers to take care of a great harvest.
I am not catholic so I didn’t know about this custom, but I was lucky: they needed a photographer and called me. And lo and behold, after days of rain, the few hours of the procession were sunlit. What do you know.
During my arts history studies I had to update my knowledge of religions and their customs in order to understand the wall paintings in the churches.
Both the farmers and the land are blessed by the priest
When my father died the nursing home returned his jewelry to me. I knew of course he had a necklace, but never gave it a second thought. In my youth I wore one myself with my constellation sign – a Virgo – on it, so I assumed his was one of those as well. It wasn’t.
Isidore procession with music
It was an interesting experience to join this procession. Normally there would have been a fanfare as well, but due to circumstances they had to cancel. So now people sang a capella.
Even though I’m not Catholic I love religious music. When my company was celebrating it’s first lustrum I got 2 Stabat Mater CD’s by Pergolesi from my husband. It’s such beautiful music!
I have bought a third version myself and it’s really great to compare them. I now have one with a boy and a woman singing, one with two women voices and one with a countertenor and a woman’s voice.
What kind of music do you like?
On my 1 photo a day website I have 30 pictures about my village. You can make a virtual walk this way.