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3 July 2019

Egbert and Yvonne Rozendaal: one couple happy in two mills

Yvonne Roozendaal is one of our millers at the Blokweer Museum Windmill. She is joined by her husband Egbert, who spends many hours working there every week. Our colleagues at the SIMAV windmill foundation portrayed the couple, who live in the Kooijwijk Mill in Oud-Alblas, for a feature article in their newsletter. ‘Surely that’s a man’s job, isn’t it?’

Looking out over the water of the meandering Alblas, a tiny river that crosses the Alblasserwaard, stands the Kooiwijk Mill of Egbert and Yvonne Roozendaal. This windmill dates from 1866; that year, it was built to replace its derelict hollow-post mill predecessor. Egbert and Yvonne have been living in the mill for the past eighteen years now, without a single second of regret, as Yvonne assures. “Don’t you think it looks pretty?”, she asks with a visible sense of pride. The Kooiwijk Mill has recently had its brickwork rejointed, beaming a mood of contentment as it gently makes its rounds with two sails clothed.

Setting the sails.

Setting the sails.

Ambassadeur

As we step inside, coffee is poured while Yvonne portrays what her miller’s life entails. She has been officially licensed for three years now, and to her, the job has been an extremely rewarding one. “I’ll admit it can be a pretty tough job at times, you know, all this work around the mill. Especially because it comes on top of my regular job. I work at the Blokweer mill in Kinderdijk two days a week in the winter, and four in the summer. Those can be nine- to ten-hour working days, mind you. Still, if you choose to live in a windmill, you there’s going to be work involved. Egbert and I have always done a lot of work ourselves; particularly the painting work. It’s a simple matter for me: if you’re up to the job and you like doing it, then you should just get stuck in. In a way, you’re an ambassador of the mill. However, SIMAV has taken the paintwork off our hands now, and that’s great. We’ve always been keen on doing it ourselves, but it’s become too challenging a task, for Egbert in particular. It’s wonderful to have someone doing it for us now!”

Yvonne at work in the Blokweer kitchen.

Yvonne at work in the Blokweer kitchen.

So obviously, Yvonne is working two miller’s jobs at once: one in their own windmill, and another one at the Kinderdijk Blokweer Museum Mill. “When tourists walk by and see me quartering the mill to face the wind, I often hear them say things like: ‘surely that’s a man’s job, isn’t it?’ I’ll be like oh no it isn’t, I’ve got plenty of muscle too, you know! And when I point out that it’s forty tonnes of weight I have to wheel around, I definitely get to raise a few eyebrows!”, she chuckles. “I’m really glad I went ahead and got my miller’s degree. And I’m especially pleased to have learned the trade from Alex van de Perk. I’m not the most patient person in the world, you know, and he really taught me to use a calm approach. Always finish what you start, because that’s how you make as few mistakes as possible.”

Virus

Egbert caught the ‘windmill virus’ years ago, and sure enough, he infected Yvonne in turn. “One day, we borrowed my dad’s boat just for fun and we took it to Kinderdijk. We ran into one of Egbert’s former classmates, who happened to be the miller of Overwaard Number Eight. He invited us over and Egbert was just swept off his feet then and there. Back in those days, if you wanted to live in a mill, you had to get the training right away. I didn’t want to go and live in Kinderdijk at the time, but the feeling lingered in the back of my mind anyway. Then one day, I saw an ad in the paper calling for millers – I just enlisted Egbert and that was that! We went for it together, but then we got involved in an accident that left me with a whiplash injury, so I was forced to quit. Egbert carried on though, and he got his degree within a year.”

On the job.

On the job.

Ever since she started living the outdoor life, Yvonne sees the world around her differently. “I have such a deep sense of appreciation of all the space we have around us, even if you grow used to it to some extent. When I get up in the morning, I’m aware of the wind, of the ripples on the water’s surface – I never thought I’d be like that. It’s a general appreciation of nature, too: a pheasant, a hare out in the fields, a buzzard up in the sky… I think I’ve always been a bit of an outdoor kind of girl.”

Chicken coop

Yvonne has definitely found her spot here in Kinderdijk: “I used to work as a receptionist at a nursing home, but I quit my job to care for Egbert when he was told that he was seriously ill. For three years, I had to keep on taking days off, until that just didn’t cut it any longer. That’s when Aad Schouten introduced us at the Blokweer mill. He asked me whether I was up to the challenge of furnishing a museum. The Blokweer had to be redecorated as a Museum Mill, and so I just went for it. They wanted a vegetable plot and a chicken coop too. By then, Egbert had recovered to the point where he could join in the effort. After that, we added a barn, and then a little goat’s shed as well. I’m looking after the vegetable plot now. Only old-fashioned vegetables are allowed in, so I make sure it remains in style. We all have our own set of tasks here. Aart van Krimpen manages the grass, for example.” She laughs as she muses: “Who would have thought – I used to get my nails done to perfection and wear high heels to work… Well, those days are gone. It’s a heck of a job, don’t you think?”

(This story was written by Lucia Hubregtse and kindly shared from the newsletter of the Alblasserwaard and Vijfheerenlanden Windmill Preservation Foundation / STIVAS; ‘Stichting Tot Instandhouding van Molens in de Alblasserwaard en Vijfheerenlanden’)

Laundry is boiled over a wood fire.

Laundry is boiled over a wood fire.

The author

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