This also means I really hope Ursula and our kids like it here. So far, I’d say that’s been the result. Last night at dinner, George leaned over and asked if we can cancel the rest of the trip and just stay here.
When I was here in 1979/80, my fourth host family lived on a farm that had been in their family for several generations. For me, it was wonderful. I got to help milking the cows, harvesting brussel sprouts, planting potatoes and driving the tractor. Unfortunately, that farm has been taken over by the growing city. (Imagine an old farm near Markham.)
In Holland, however, when the government expropriates land for civic development, they make available “new” land in one of their reclaimed areas. There’s an old saying: “God made the world but the Dutch made the Netherlands”. While this isn’t entirely true, the Dutch have drained and reclaimed huge areas over the centuries. (Even the 17th century farm where I lived in Pijnacker is 3 metres below sea level.)
In the 20th century, the Dutch took this concept to a new level when they divided the large inland Zuider Zee (sea) into massive reclamation projects. Subsequently, they have created an entire new province (Flevoland), opened up hundreds of square kilometres of incredibly fertile farmland, and built homes for tens of thousands of people in cities and towns in these “polders”.
So, when the van Leeuwen family had to give up their 44 hectares of land in South Holland in 1990, they were able to buy 56 hectares of new land that had never been farmed before. Needless to say, it’s as flat as a table and rich in nutrients. Cees van Leeuwen (my former host brother who’s the same age as me) now lives there with his wife and 2 teenage daughters. (His parents still live in their old farmhouse, minus the land.)
We spent 2 nights there, and had a wonderful visit. The kids got to drive around in a cool pedal cart and George got to drive a big modern tractor. We also took a daylong tour of the polder, including a stop a great museum that explained the water management engineering and construction that has taken place over the centuries.
All in all, it was great. The kids loved the farm and simple Dutch foods, such as chocolate sprinkles on toast for breakfast and mini pancakes for dinner. (called poffertjes - eat your heart out Rob Pearsal!) After two nights, we headed south to my old stomping grounds outside the historic city of Delft. Given the sunny weather, we decided to spend a day on the Scheveningen beach outside The Hague. The cold beer was really nice. Hope the last 7 days are as fun as the first 2.