By-products of the hay factory


It is becoming increasingly clear to me that Eemland is actually a hay factory. The mouth of the Eem used to flood regularly, the water deposited clay, which nourished the soil. Which resulted in a lot of good quality grass and hay.

The hay was sold to townspeople, who needed fodder for their horses. Also, oxen for trade were grazed on the grass. In the Middle Ages, these oxen were supplied via a trade route that ran from southern Sweden and Denmark through Germany to the Eemland. The oxen were grazed on the good grass, then slaughtered, to end up as barrels of salted beef for the VOC. To go around the world from Amsterdam …. Eemland and the hay were the energy suppliers of the time, just as oil and the oil field are today.

The main purpose of the Eempolder and Arkemheen is still to convert sunlight plus water plus food from the soil into calories suitable for human consumption: milk, cheese, meat.

It was kind of an ‘aha’ moment – the moment I saw that everything else serves this, is subservient to it or follows from it. The spaciousness – a polder without trees, the pattern of the long straight ditches, the dikes and their history, the farms behind the Wakkerendijk, the few new farms in the polder, the pumping stations that control the groundwater level to the nearest centimetre, the meadow birds in their carefully laid out puddle areas. All by-products of ‘the hay factory’.

So I went into the Eemland on a sunny Sunday morning to get to know the grass better. And took home a dozen samples, see here (in dutch). I am now cultivating those samples. My first impression: grass grows fast! And it is – when viewed in detail – fascinating in shape. To be continued ….

By the way: this is the route the oxen and their drovers took:

Gijsbers, W. M. (1999). Kapitale ossen. De internationale handel in slachtvee in Noordwest-Europa 1300-1750, UvA-DARE (Digital Academic Repository)

pag 90, kaart van P. Bur

And this is what time it would take us today (human walking speed):

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