Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Windmills in the Netherlands

Got wind?

I guess they must have a lot of it in the Netherlands because they are famous for their windmills.  At one point the country had over 10,000 windmills dotting the land!!  Now they have about 1,000 that are still standing and some of them are even still in use. 

Greek windmills
Windmills have been credited to the Greeks, who are believed to have invented them sometime around 250 BC.  From there the idea travelled around quite a bit getting refined.  The mills were used to grind grain but since the blades were fixed in one direction, they would only work if the wind was blowing from the right way!  If only Mother Nature could be that predictable!

Sometime between the 1200s and 1300s, they developed the "post mill" that could be rotated to face the direction of the wind- genius!
Soon, these popped up all over Europe.  But they really became popular when Cornelius Corneliszoon van Uitgeest, from the Netherlands, found a way use the wind power to power a saw for cutting wood.  The Dutch were beginning a major exploration of the Indies and needed many ships.  The windmill-powered saw made that job much easier.  But windmills also helped the Netherlands another way.

As I mentioned before, the Netherlands is a very low-lying country.  For over 2,000 years they have been fighting the North Sea over land.  The sea was winning until the Dutch devised a way to hold back the sea using dikes (walls), canals and windmill-powered pumps to create mineral rich land.  Miles and miles of these dikes and canals form the coast of the Netherlands and if these dikes or pumps should fail then many parts of the country would be underwater pretty quickly!!

So windmills are more than just a pretty tourist attraction- they changed the country in more ways than one!!  So we made our own little windmills :)

For the project you will need:

  • large plastic cups (1 per mill)
  • plastic straws (2 per)
  • brass fasteners (1 per)
  • paper for sails
  • tape
  • pushpin or skewer to poke holes
1. Cut the straws to the length you want.  Ours were bendy straws so we cut at the bend. 

2.  Find the center of the length and poke a hole in each straw.  Insert the brass fastener through each straw making a  + 

3. Cut 4 strips of paper about 1.5 inches wide and as long as your sail arms (straws).  Tape them onto the straws. 

4. Turn the plastic cup upside down and poke a hole where you want to attach the sails.

5.  Now you have your very own teeny tiny windmill! 

Where we live it's ALWAYS windy so this could come in handy! Hmmm, maybe on a bigger scale?!

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