Monthly Archives: February 2018

photo of Tour of the Miniature Dutch Village with Doug Heerema

Back in Time – Visiting the Pella Historical Village

Teardrop log: June 19, 2017

Located just across the street from the Royal Amsterdam Hotelon the Molengracht Plaza where we have been staying, is the Pella Historical Village. It offers a look at how early Pella pioneers lived after they left Holland in the 1840’s.

On the grounds, we found the Sod House, a replica of the housing during Pella’s early years. We learned how wooden shoes were made at the Werkplaats. Among the buildings, is the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous or infamous characters of the Old West, still standing in the historical village.

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Doug Heerema, our tour guide took us through the enchanting Miniature Dutch Village. It was begun by George Heernan in 1938, as a work study project for students in Pella’s schools and Central College, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many of the original structures were created at 1/24 scale and restored in 1978. New buildings have been added. The village is populated with dolls that reflect authentic daily life in a Dutch village. All four seasons are portrayed with a boy flying a kite, flower sellers, farmers gathering hay and ice skaters on frozen canals.

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Having been in the museum business, I always check out the gift shop when we visit a museum. This one was amazing! One source observed that it had every type of Dutch gift you could want from dishes to wooden shoes. I bought a bag of flour produced at the mill and a Pella cookbook to go with it.

We enjoyed exploring historic Pella. There was not enough time so see everything on the list. We will definitely put this magic place in the list for future trips on the Teardrop Trail!

photo of the Pella Cookbook and Windmill Flour

Pella Cookbook and Windmill Flour

photo of The Vermeer Mill and Historical Village

The Vermeer Mill — A Dutch Windmill Tour

Teardrop Trail Log: June 19, 2017

The star of Pella is the Vermeer Mill — it’s certainly the first thing you notice when you drive into town. Having arrived Saturday evening we were intrigued but could only admire it from the outside. It wasn’t open for tours until Monday morning.

photo In the Historical Village

In the Historic Village

One enters the windmill through the Pella Historical Village gift shop. The tours start at regular intervals for whoever is there. We were shown a short film and presentation by Doug Heerema, one of the mill guides. He then showed us another floor of the museum where an astonishing miniature village is located — but more on this in a later post. Riding an elevator to the fifth floor, we were introduced to Jim Brandl, the “molenaar” or miller for a tour of the Vermeer Mill.

The mill is connected to the museum by a wooden bridge, and on it, you find a panoramic view of Pella. Ahead is an enormous ship’s wheel — used to turn the mill structure to direct it into the wind. It was a clear, fine day with a light breeze, and the miller made a few adjustments. The massive cloth-covered sails began turning as we walked around the platform. Moveable barriers prevent absent-minded tourists from walking into the sails which swing by with impressive speed.

Inside, we found a profusion of massive wooden beams supporting the roof of the mill, which rises two more floors above. Equally massive wooden gears turn a large, wooden shaft which turns the mill stones at about eye level. Grain from a hopper is shaken into the center of the top stone and flour falls from a chute to a waiting bag below. A beautiful modern example of an 1850’s “koren molen” (grain mill) that still works today.

Built by the Verbij Hoogmade BV company in the Netherlands and re-assembled in Pella in 2002, the Vermeer Mill stands on a 40-foot-high brick base to reach a height of 124 feet at the tip of the tallest sail. Made of 16 different wood species from 6 countries, the mill supports two, five-foot in diameter, 3500-pound mill stones. 500 pounds of flour can be ground in one hour with a brisk wind. With woods like Purpleheart, Ironwood, Acidwood, Oak, Scots Elm, Teak, Lignumvitae and the exquisite joinery needed to build with them, this is a feast for anyone interested in fine woodworking.

The third floor is a small museum showing Dutch mill technology. Scale models show the mill’s inner workings, while a series of framed prints show the many variations of mill developed for specialized uses.

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The second floor is a recreation of the molenaar’s living arrangements. Compact but comfortable, it is the ultimate in thrift and short commute. This way, he was always nearby in case of bad weather to turn the mill cap into the wind. The “bed stede” or bed is interesting. The doors could be closed for warmth, but it was shorter than we’re used to, as people in the 1850’s believed it was unhealthy to sleep lying flat.

photo of The Molenaar's Home

The Molenaar’s Home

photo of Public Square Park

Exploring Pella

Teardrop Trail Log: June 18, 2017

On Monday, after breakfast at the hotel, we strolled down Franklin Street and explored the Dutch heritage of the village. We started by walking around the Public Square Park, looking at all the shops, businesses, gardens and parks. There were many famed, significant buildings including the Scholte house, built by Pella’s founder in 1847, now a museum.

After exploring we were ready for lunch. The Windmill Café (709 Franklin) a bustling but friendly place just off Public Square Park.

photo of the interior of the Smokey Row Coffee Shop

Smokey Row Coffee Shop

Jim goes in search of his customary mocha every afternoon and today was no exception. As we proceeded up Franklin street, we found the Smokey Row Coffee Shop. A Mocha success! We passed the Klokkenspel.

photo of The Klokkenspel

The Klokkenspel

This carillon was created for Pella with 147 bell chimes and eight animated, mechanical characters from Pella’s history that perform daily. It is one of a handful animated musical clocks in the United States, and can be viewed from both Franklin Street and on the courtyard side.

That evening we dined at George’s Pizza and Steak House, located in an historic building just across from the Klokkenspel. A tasty way to end the day’s Pella adventure!

photo of the Klokkenspel Courtyard

Klokkenspel Courtyard

photo of the Royal Amsterdam Hotel in Pella

Arriving in Pella

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17, 2017

We like to see the sights around the state where the Red Power Roundup takes place. In April as we were planning our trip to Iowa, I put out a request to members of a number of tear drop trailer pages on Facebook asking for suggestions of what we should see while visiting Iowa. I was amazed at the number of responses from the members of the Heartland Tearjerkers.

Love the trailer community. We were even invited to join a small trailer gathering at Rock Creek State Park, east of Des Moines. Suggestions ranged from the Bridges of Madison County to Pella, Iowa.

photo of the Vermeer Windmill and Historic Village

Vermeer Windmill and Historic Village

Most people know the town for the windows that are manufactured nearby and the annual tulip festival. Pella was founded by the Dutch who settled in the rich farmland of Iowa in 1874 and founded the quaint village. Persecuted for being dissenters from the state Reformed church, they named their new home Pella, taken from a biblical city of refuge.The village offers old world charm, awesome scenery, great shopping and excellent Dutch bakeries!

We arrived on Sunday June 17, and checked into the Royal Amsterdam Hotel located on The Molengracht, which means “mill canal,” built to replicate a Dutch-style canal in the historic downtown area. That evening, we had a wonderful dinner at Monarchs Restaurant in the hotel. I had a fabulous butternut squash ravioli and Jim had lasagna. We shared a delicious chocolate cake.

photo of chocolate cake

It was as good as it looke!

Photo of the author meeting with a faithful fan

Meeting the Faithful — Signing Books at Red Power Roundup

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17, 2017

In my past, as the director of the Vail Valley Arts Council, I organized numerous meet-and-greet
book signings for visiting artists, photographers, scholars and collectors as part of various receptions, talks and events. I had enjoyed getting to know each author and providing an opportunity for members of the local community to meet these very special people and share a moment to connect as the author signs the book and includes a personalized dedication.

After the publication of Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, it was time for me to switch to the other side of the table. It was helpful that I had picked up some of the tricks from the masters. Armed with my favorite pen, I have enjoyed getting to know many of the people who have purchased the book. The Red Power Roundups have provided a special opportunity to engage and share fond memories with many of the faithful fans of Irma Harding.

This Red Power Roundup at the Iowa State Fairgrounds was no exception. I love chatting with the folks who stop by the table. A lovely woman, who was a farm wife shared that she was planning a couple of events for a national organization that learns about history and antiques as well as for her sorority meeting. She had found about Irma and even owned an International Harvester stove. We exchanged emails and I shared many of the sources I had used to find out about Irma. In December, she reported that both events were very successful and shared photos. It feels good to have helped share the Irma love.

Photo of Marilyn personalizing a book

Personalizing a book

photo of tractor preparing for a parade

Who Doesn’t Like a Parade?

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17, 2017

photo of Morning coffee and tea

Morning coffee and tea

The third day of Red Power dawned humid with a light overcast, but we still enjoyed our morning coffee before heading into the fair. Catching up on Instagram and eMail, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Marilyn had a book signing event though, so we had to shake a leg.

photo of the Three-buck Breakfast Bowl

Three-buck Breakfast Bowl

Normally we fix breakfast in camp, but our laziness and the late hour combined to encourage a little fair foraging. The breakfast croissants had been good, but we wanted something different. On the way to the Varied Industries Building, we encountered a breakfast stand hawking the “Three-buck Breakfast Bowl”. Promising eggs, cheese and potatoes skins, it looked interesting — we decided to indulge. Very tasty, it was arguably one of the most inexpensive but delicious breakfasts we had enjoyed on any of our trips. Definitely unique.

photo of Mid-80's monsters with a 40's model "M"

Mid-80’s monsters with a 40’s model “M”

Marilyn headed in to sign books, and I checked out the machinery behind the building. This time, I made for the large machinery, the brontosaurs and tyrannosaurs of the tractor world. They certainly dwarfed the “letter” tractors of my grandfather’s era. As I perused them, I noticed a line of tractors around the grounds. Apparently, a parade was forming up, and with a little haste, I could enjoy it. I headed for Main street.

The Land of Large Tractors

The Land of Large Tractors

I’ve seen these parades at every Red Power, and they never fail to entertain. Like a family business, each machine seems to be driven by the owner/restorer or a member of their family and range from the tiny Cub Cadets to the enormous and rare 7488’s. I decided to capture a few in pictures and video:


After the parade, it was time to collect Marilyn and take a few last passes before the fair closed down. We wanted to say “hi” to our friends from Austin, Minnesota, Rachel and Charlie. We found them at their trailer on the machinery lot where Charlie, always busy with customers for his tractor parts and machinery stands were completing the last bits of business before the end of the day.

It looked like rain — we had a campsite to pack up before a trip to Pella. Better get a move on!

photo of Leaving Red Power by way of the Varied Industries Building

Leaving Red Power by way of the Varied Industries Building

Photo of the Iowa State Fair Agriculture Building

Finishing Day-Two at the Red Power Roundup

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2017

photo of Iowa State Fair Agriculture Building (built in 1905) Interior

Iowa State Fair Agriculture Building (built in 1905) Interior

By this time, we’d had a full day. From touring the grounds and seeing the Hit-or-Miss engines to seeing the tractor patriarchs, we were about ready to stop. There was one more large building to investigate though — the Agriculture Building.

photo of International Harvestor Memoribilia from 1939

International Harvestor Memoribilia from 1939

Built in 1905, it is a giant wood, steel and brick assembly that encloses an astonishing amount of space. Surrounding the main floor are elevated galleries reached by grand staircases at each end.

photo of 1950 McCormick Farmall "C" Demonstrator tractor

1950 McCormick Farmall “C” Demonstrator tractor

International Harvester memorabilia was the focus, but there was a white demonstrator tractor and a display of cream separators that were interesting. We were hoping for a ride in Octane’s golf cart back to the camp grounds so it was time to high-tail it to their booth.

We enjoyed stepping into the refrigerated air of the Varied Industries Building. I wanted to cruise the booths — especially the tool vendors, and Marilyn decided to hang with her friends at the Octane Press booth.

The vendors are always interesting, but I had the most fun watching the crowd. As I shot video of the place, I started noticing little vignettes all around me. A couple of friends looking at a tractor here, a father showing his son a truck there, a couple photographing the displays, a group of tractor enthusiasts rebuilding an old Model “H”. There were little stories all around me, and I began building a narrative in my imagination. They all came down to this: a sense of shared experience and community, families sharing fun and the timelessness of passing the torch from one generation to another.