Sunday, May 12, 2013
Iowa - Pella and the Vermeer Mill - 4/22/2013
It was a fairly short trip from Winterset to Pella even though we took some back roads. We even had a short stretch of gravel....hey, we didn't miss much in Iowa.
Pella is a pretty little city that was originally settled by a group of Dutch immigrants around 1850. Like so many small towns, Pella was withering away during the last half of the 20th Century. The Pella Windows factory wouldn't be enough to keep the town alive. The town leaders decided to make Pella interesting enough to become a destination. To do that, they played on the Dutch heritage by planting tulips and having an annual festival. They decorated the downtown buildings with Dutch names and products and then they bought a real Dutch windmill and added a historic park around it....very nice and worth driving to see.
We had lunch at a deli near the town square. They had a real soda fountain with great ice cream.
The Dutch bakery was fun with more tasty stuff than you could sample in a month.
The grand entrance into the park. The only problem for us was no tulips. It has been way too cold this spring and the tulips were just beginning to grow. Oh well, we had fun anyway.
There were a few other flowers.
This is the visitors center and not the real windmill.
Sigrid tried the shoes on for size.
This is the real deal in Pella...a full sized working wind powered grain mill designed and built in Holland. It was custom built for Pella using centuries old techniques and materials. It was test assembled in Holland and disassembled for shipping to Pella. The Dutch technician who built it came to Pella to re-assemble it and train the Pella staff on operations and maintenance.
Susie Gharst was a very gracious host and told us all about the history of Pella.
Jim Brandl then took over the Vemeer Mill tour. Jim was part of the original committee that studied the plan to construct the mill. He travelled to Holland to talk with the manufacturer and then became active in the construction after the decision to build was made. He now operates the mill and gives guided tours....a real expert. As an engineer, I couldn't ask a single question that he didn't have the correct technical answer for during tour.
We took the elevator up to the operating deck of the mill where Jim gave us details of who the mill works.
Jim explains the design of the blades. When milling, Jim or one of the other staff members has to climb the blade to spread the cloth so they have enough power generated to do the grinding. When not milling, the cloth is collected much like you would the sail on a sailboat.
This wheel allows the head of the windmill to be rotated into the wind for maximum power.
Bags of whole grain are lifted from ground level to the grinding chute on the 5th level by a winch powered by the windmill.
The bag in the photo catches the milled flower as it leaves the grinding wheel.
While there are a few metal bolts used, most of the mill is assembled with wooden pegs, just like the old days. There are 15 different species of woods used in the mill. Each is traditional and selected for their varying characteristics. The woods come from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Indonesia.
The wooden gearing is said to last for 200 years....amazing.
The grinding stone will last 50 years without need of re-sharping.
Next, we will show you the Historical Village at the base of the mill.