When one speaks of windmills one is almost sure to think of Don Quixote de la Mancha. The windmills of that type can still be found along the Mediterranean, with five, six or more primitive sails consisting of bars rigged with jibs. They are quite different from the Dutch mills.
The Dutch windmills are so characteristic of their country and their gracefulness is unsurpassed by any other type of windmill, no matter where in the world. One cannot image a Dutch landscape without its canals, windmills and lee-board barges; these they have played a great part in the daily life of the Netherlands.
There are many types of windmill, each used for a different function. They are classified according to the task they perform: drainage mills, corn mills, sawmills, industrial mills.
The windmills are clad with either wood, brick or thatch. Reeds have always been around in abundance in the marshes and along the perimeters of the waterways. Cheap, plentiful and easily accessible, reeds are readily used for the exteriors of windmills and for roofs of houses. Thatchers, one of the old Dutch trades, are still in demand for the restoration and maintenance of these surviving mills. In the Netherlands there are still approximately 350 active thatching companies, which belong to the Dutch Federation of Thatchers.
The beloved old mills are referred to by their name, almost like individuals, with the names carefully chosen by their owners. In many mills one can find a foundation stone in the facade, with an appropriate epigram or rhyme, which tells the visitor something about its history, its original owner and about a past so filled with tradition.
The millers and their descendants have a great attachment to the mills, as they have been handed down from father to son for many generations.