|An Orange Excursion||
Nothing says good morning at 7:30am on a Saturday like the prospects of going to a farm. This past weekend that is precisely what I did---dug into my genes and pulled out the dirt-lover inside of me and headed to Meppel for an excellent weekend at Het Blauwe Huis met Henk en Jan Kees.
Of course it rained. It wouldn't of been a true Holland experience without the ever-falling liquid from the sky. But, it really did add to the experience on the spice/herb farm. Upon arrival it was work time and it felt good to get the hand dirty again after a summer of no gardening. I helped to re-pot, pot, and cover plants for the weekend. Also, I helped move some plants around for the coming chilly season, and can say I took a little part in helping out quite a unique farm in Northern Netherlands. Oregano in Berghuizen? Who would of ever of thought it. Luckily I got to work with a local village girl, and we had quite the rousing conversation ranging from our distaste of listening to German, to the ever-prevalent Geert Wilders, to the possibility of me introducing "slakken" into the US. I thought it was real neat to be able to meet and converse with a local girl and to see how a slightly younger age group grows up in Northern Netherlands.I must say I am eternally grateful for Henk and Jan Kees allowing me to see the farm. They allow curious souls to venture out and experience their work, and I was both enlightened and had some curiosity fed during that weekend that I'll will be ingrained into my memory. Luckily though, working out on the farm was only the beginning.....
One of my goals here was to get into a Dutch Birthday Party. I've heard many-a-things about them, and I finally got to participate. Let me put them into perspective: pompoen soep, bacon-thyme-brie-honey pancakes, and a glass of a Northern Dutch liquid called Berenburg on the side. If one ever has the chance to experience this, please take it, you won't be let down. The family was a very close with Henk and Jan Kees, and very open to me. The fascination feeling was mutual. With quite a swath of ages, I had an entire spectrum of conversations, everything from about Pittsburgh, to my current relationship status, and to the finer points of Amaretto. When it was time to leave, it was quite hard for me to get out, they didn't want me to go by any stretch of the imagination. Food, drinks, and bedrooms were offered, but I eventually said by goodbyes and left with a smile on my face. The big question was whether I was ever going to come back, and after the royal-hospitality and wonderfulness of the entire family I'm glad my Block 2 frees up!
After sleeping in a barn full of spices (which puts one out like a nice NyQuil) it was Day 2. We had the ritual Sunday morning walk throughout the surrounding area with Henk and Jan Kees' dog Wortel and I got an interesting lecture on the Ice-Age geography and ice-skating friendly lakes that dot the landscape. After the morning walk I went out to see their horses, which are a smaller, Dutchie form of a Clydesdale. Powerful, yet for the most part very personable horses that can be ridden (like the one on the left here). After seeing (and getting bitten once by a little guy) it was off to see the local villages.
Naar Giethoorn! Known as the "Little Venice of the North" because of its ample canals, it truly was Amsterdam-rural. Everyone has a boat, and some homes are only accessible via waterway. Talk about total isolation! On my way here, I believe in Zwartsluis I found my retirement place. A little village with reed-roofed homes facing open pastures one way and the little busy center in the middle. Everything symmetrical and old, it felt like a fairy tale, and definitely great for those who want to GET AWAY. And one even has a choice, straight and narrow villages, or the circular, contained ones, your choice...what type of dirt and historical farming are you feeling? Decisions..Decisions.....Retirement plans aside, in Giethoorn me and Jan Kees saw the little canals of the town, and the hilariously high and narrow bridges that lead to everyone's home. Also, which was of astute interest was to see the reeds that are on people's homes. It literally looks as though someone took a marsh and dumped it on top of people's houses. Well, as with anything that happens in the culture, they've made an effective use of their surroundings.
The reeds are actually harvested, processed, and made into a "poor man's" roof. When water quality was at its finest they would stay waterproof and unrotten for up to 40 years. Also, the land surrounding the harvesting area is literally "floating" on top of the water due to the natural movement of dirt, debris, and plants, so its not exactly an easy thing to get together. After a wonderful tour of the "Venice of the North" it was time to head back, through the rain and lachenvelder filled fields to Het Blauwe Huis.
Who knew that a rainy weekend on a farm could be such a grand time. And only a 2 hour trip from Amsterdam and one is completely in an entire different place. Instead of people, cars, and buildings its all cows, tractors, and the inability to move on Sundays (religion is still HUGE up here). I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself and on the spoor in Meppel I truly felt that I had an experience that will be with me forever. I am grateful for the weekend that I was offered, and hopefully the next time I go back won't be for my search for a retirement home.