Alongside Alkmaar’s Hornsey Vaart is Strykmolen de, the mill where Tom Kruning and his wife have lived since 2002 and where their son grew up.
Tom grew up in Hilversum. As a child he often cycled past windmills on Vecht. “Kids often find windmills fascinating, especially when they are turning. I used to cycle a lot to see the windmills. With Wecht, to Zan and Zanse Schans.
Tom became a member of Vereeniging de Hollandsche Molen, an institution celebrating its centenary this year. He also came into contact with the Guild of Molenaars, of which he has been a board member since 2013 and national secretary since 2015.
“It is interesting that such an old device works. Here in North Holland there are several polder mills that can still grind and there are several of these mills that can still be used in an emergency. That’s great.”
While Tom’s interest in mills grew, at the same time he began the study of medicine. “That was a busy study. But in 1989 I thought, if I still want to be a miller, I have to do it now.
Tom trained as a miller and learned all the tricks of the trade in practice. After many hours of hard work and attending all the seasons, he took the national exam. He also moved to Audorpolder, got a job as a midwife and became a father.
In 1993, after four years, he received his Miller Certificate. He then combined the work of the midwife with the work of the miller. “When I had to wait for the delivery, I read books about windmills in the meantime.”
For a while Tom worked at the small windmill De Eindracht in Alkmaar. “I had to leave my wife and child at home and go there every time. So I started looking for a mill to live in, so that I could practice my hobby at home.”
So finally he reached Mill D. The mill was used from 1630 to pump water from the polder Heerhugowaard to Schermerboezem.
Tom runs to the mill regularly. In addition, he also trains others to become millers through the guild. “Since 2017, miller crafts have been the first UNESCO Intangible Heritage in the Netherlands. We are now also working on translating our handbook into English so that millership can be taught abroad.
While Mollenstiching takes care of the major maintenance of the Alkmaar mills, Tom takes care of the minor maintenance of his Mollen D. “The new reed was laid in 2016 and we got the new blades a few months ago. I painted the scale myself. And of course we take care of the garden, which is a big job.”
They also pay a lot of attention to biodiversity. For example, Tom is engaged in beekeeping and has made a vegetable garden and a pond. They allow the grass to grow tall until August, so that new flowers and plants emerge. “A mowed lawn is like a desert for bees, there’s nothing for them to get to. If you let the grass grow you will see that there are lots of insects, birds and animals. In fact, everyone should do that.”
Tom is now retired, but he is still busy with the mill and the garden. Together with other mill owners, he also compiled the book ‘Mills Must Turn’ to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Gilde van Molenaars. It includes history stories, interviews and photographs.
And his son Zippe also became a mill owner. When he graduated at the age of eighteen, Zippe was the youngest mill owner in the Netherlands. Tom’s now thirty-year-old son is a mill consultant in Vereeniging de Hollandsche Molen and has recently become chief miller at the oil mill De Bonte Hein on the Zaanse Schans. “He is world famous in Milland. I’m really proud of it.”