Thursday, October 29, 2009


November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

- Clyde Watson.

photo Mossø: gb

photo Mossø: gb

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Water Mills

Randrup Mølle

A water mill was before the steam engine the essential source of energy in the earliest productions. Everywhere with enough water streams it was dam up and a water mill was established. Besides corn processing the water mills delivered energy for copper works and for textile and paper production. A Greek geographer Strabo is one of the first to mention water mills in connection to the king of Pontus' palace. The exploitation of Nature's forces was an almost social duty in the Middle Ages. Valdemar Atterdag (1340-75) said that the water streams should not run into the sea without having done something useful.

The primitive use of water-rotated wheels may date back to Sumerian times, though it is not known whether these wheels were turned by the flow of a river. In the early 1st century BC, a Greek scientist made the first clear reference to the water wheel, which he praised for its use in grinding grain and the reduction of human labour. Mills were commonly used for grinding grain into flour, but industrial uses as fulling and sawing marble were also applied. The water wheel was found in China by the time of the Han dynasty(202 BC – 220 AD), when it was used to power trip hammers, the bellows in smelting iron. A source written in 612 AD mentions Buddhist monks arguing over the revenues gained from watermills. By 610 or 670 AD, the watermill was introduced to Japan via Korea. It became known in Tibet by at least 641 AD.

The construction of water works and aspects of water technology in India is described in Arabic and Persian works. Muslim engineers adopted the water wheel technology from the hydraulic societies of the ancient Near East, where it had been applied for centuries prior to the Muslim conquest. As early as the 7th century, excavation of a canal in the Basra region discovered remains of a water wheel dating from this period. The industrial uses of water mills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use by the 9th century. Fulling mills, paper mills and steel mills may have spread from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain in the 12th century. Industrial water mills were also employed in large factory complexes built in Andalusia between the 11th and 13th centuries.

First Appearance of various industrial mills in medieval Europe were in France from 770 Ad, in England from ab. 1200 and in Germany from the 1300s. A few historic mills still operate for demonstration purposes to this day, or even maintain small-scale commercial oduction.

In some developing countries water mills are still widely used for processing grain. For example, there are thought to be 25,000 operating in Nepal, and 200,000 in India. Many of these are still of the traditional style, but some have been upgraded by replacing wooden parts with better-designed metal ones to improve the efficiency.

Klostermølle is situated in a beautiful place in the Lake district at Mossø; it gets its water from Gudenåen via a digged channel. It was the Benedictine-monks who built a kloster at the place ab. 1150 and established the mill. The monks digged two channels between Mossø and Gudensø (750m). Both mill and kloster were demolished and the present mill was extended and rebuilt many times, the oldest section is from the 1800s. The mill belonged to Voer kloster until the reformation in 1536 and came to the Crown. Ab. 100 years after the reformation Voer kloster was demolished, since the material had to be used for Skanderborg slot, but the mill continued as an endowed mill under the Crown, until Frederik V sold it at an auction in 1767. In 1890 it also became paper mill. The production stopped in 1974 after a fire and the Danish State bought Klostermølle in 1975. In 1980 an institution is established in order to keep the industrial area in future. In 1991 the present mill house is restored and later was the turbine house rebuilt. Klostermølle is run as a museum and Nature school. The area is owned by the State.

Esrum Mølle's history (Sjælland) is closely connected to Esrom Kloster's history, when the Cistercienser-monks were pioneers in agriculture, gardening and mill work. After the reformation the mill work at Esrum Kloster was abolished (1536) and moved to the place where the mill is today. The mill burnt down in 1869, but was rebuilt the same year and modernized in 1870 and 1913. In 1982 the Danish State bought Esrum Mølle and in 2000 the mill was transferred to Esrum kloster in the fund "Esrum kloster and møllegård", after several hundred year as an independent mill Esrum Mølle is back with the kloster, where its history began. The mill functions today as a Nature center, Environment school and Exhibition. There is a mill shop and an ecological café, and a café in the kloster cellar under the vault.

Kaleko Mølle, Funen. The oldest preserved water mill at Funen. It is not known exactly when Kaleko Mølle was established, but it might have happened already in the ruling period of Valdemar Atterdag (1340-75). The first written source about Kaleko Mølle is in a sheet from 1643, where the mill is sold and transferred to Holstenshuus (named Findstup at that time). The last miller left Kaleko in 1912. In 1917 Kaleko Mølle opened as a museum.

Giberå at Moesgård skovmølle

Moesgård Skovmølle is situated at Giberå, which flows out into Århus Bugt and is almost untouched on the last 8 km. The water mill is mentioned the first time in 1570 as belonging to the manor Moesgård. The present mill building is from 1852, while the living house is from 1824 (living house is now restaurant "Skovmøllen". Moesgård Museum restored in 1991 the mill building and the wheel, and since then also the sawmill.
In the late 1800s the mill was a popular recreational area for the Århus-citizens when they went on picnics. The families went in horse carriage from the city early in the morning, in high spirits and dressed in their Sunday clothes. The lunch was arranged on white-clothed tables by the water stream, the hot water for the coffee was bought at the mill. The families stayed until the evening, before they drove back to Århus.
At Skovmøllen was grinded flour and grains, and the wheel also drew a small sawmill for cutting timber. The mill production stopped in 1924, where the mill gradually functioned as a restaurant. Today the restored mill and sawmill work almost like in 1910. Now the mill is in charge of a møllelaug(union), which see to that the guests again can buy fresh flour for bread-baking. There is a fine parking place, tables and benches for bringing your own food , and by the water of Giberå it is possible to see dipper, King fisher and grey wagtail.

photo 2003/2006/2008: grethe bachmann

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Are You Superstitious?

Are you superstitious? Most people say cathegorically "No!" Have you got an amulet, a good-luck charm, a mascot of some kind ? The inuits were convinced that an amulet was filled with hidden forces and was able to protect its owner. The sealer placed a claw from a polar bear in his kayak to be lucky when hunting. Today the use of mascots is rather common in sports, as trade marks for football-clubs , in logos and as a soft teddy-bear.

The Americans say "Knock-on-Wood", the English "Touch Wood". No matter what - who hasn't done this in order to avoid bad luck? In the beginning of WWII Churchill had just said in the House of Commons that no large British war ship had been run down. A labour-member cried "Touch Wood" and Churchill knocked three times on a wooden box with documents .

Some consider that spiders will bring good-luck, others the opposite. A spider's web was once a sign. If it was in the corner of a window an unexpected visitor would arrive; if it was in a corner of the house more money would come very soon. Some claimed that a spider's web always meant bad luck. If the spider spins up it meant good luck, if it spins down it was a death warning.

Every child knows that it means good luck to find a four-leaf-clover, and the belief in the four-leaf-clover is still widespread; upon some of the old counters for the one-armed bandits were four-leaf-clovers and this was also applied to the badge of nurses. The nurse-badge was chosen in the beginning of the 1900s in order to bring luck to both nurse and patieny. The four-leaf-clover is also a popular symbol in union- and company-tlogos. Are you still not superstitious?

If you step on the black lines in the pavement there might be a risc of bad luck. Superstition says so, and a probable explanation might be that it is a symbolic opening down into the ground, in the old days down to hell, to an open grave and death. But maybe it is only child's play.

The cuckoo

Many omens were attached to birds. If birds nest on your house it means good-luck, where the stork is nesting the lightning cannot strike, and the house will never catch fire. Crows and ravens are often a sign of bad luck , but the greatest omen-bird is the cuckoo. You can find out your age if you count its calls (and if it only calls a few times you can cheat a little and count the next time it starts! ) You never did?

In general it brings bad luck to shoot a bird. If you kill a seagull you also kill a sailor, since the seagulls according to folklore are the souls of drowned sailors. The albatross is a symbol of the same, and sailors know that it means diaster ship and crew if an albatros lands on the ship.

Never walk under a ladder. What do you do? If you walk under the ladder you will be dogged by ill-luck. Some claim that you'll meet the Devil, but there are myriads of warnings. (But if you walk around the ladder it might slip and push you out into the traffic!) Now what? Cross the street at once!
Se billede i fuld størrelse

Professor Niels Bohr had a horseshoe above the door to his country house in Tisvilde. A visitor asked the scientist if be believed that a horseshoe would bring him good luck. Bohr said no, but added with a smile. "They say it brings good luck, even though you don't believe in it!"

An English legend tells about the magic power of the horseshoe. The archbishop St. Dunstan (909-988) who was born in Glastonbury was originally a blacksmith, and one day while he was working, a two-legged creature came to his workshop and asked him to shoe his hooves. Dunstan knew this was the Devil himself ,and he hammered and nailed in the hooves so very hard, that the Devil shrieked in pain. The blacksmith held on to him and did not let him go until he had promised that he and his devils never would walk into buildings where a horseshoe hang above the door. Saint Dunstan is often pictured as a blacksmith, where he holds on to the Devil's nose with a pair of cutting nippers. Today he is the patron saint of blacksmiths, locksmiths and goldsmiths. How do you hang the horseshoe if you've got one? The big question is how to turn it. Does your luck run out if its turned with the opening downwards ?

People were convinced that a black dog was possessed by the devil, a legend from Nordsjælland tells about a man who had killed a travelling merchant, and after this he was always accompanied by a black dog, who was invisible to others. If an unknown black dog suddenly sits in front of your door it means death in the house. The superstition also gives examples on how to prevent an attack from a wild and fiercely dog. You just had to take a straw and hold it in front of the dog as a stick. Some claimed that if you took off your hat and held it between the teeth, while you crawled on all four towards the wild beast, then the dog would run terrified away.

Both good luck and bad luck?

Black cats mean bad luck in general. This is a widespread superstition, but the signs are varied. It is a common belief that a black cat crossing the road brings bad luck, but the English mean that a white cat brings bad luck. The bad omens can be broken, if you cross your fingers or if you spit three times at the place where the cat crossed the road. A lady tells "If a black cat runs across the road I spit over my left shoulder, but if I'm in the car it's only a small drop, if there's one in the back seat". The cause of many cat-superstitions might be that the cat was once considered an evil animal in collusion with witches and the Devil - which had something to do with Christianity. To a Christian in the Middle Ages the black cat symbolized the forces of darkness. Other cultures and religions considered the cat a divine animal, especially in Ancient Egypt.

Source: Carsten Lingren: Hverdagens Overtro i det moderne Danmark, 2003.

photo 2006/2007: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Nature in Trouble - our History Disappears

The law about edges
In Frederikshavn the local authority has warned the site owners that they will keep an eye on them if they cultivate the land too close to the edge of the water streams and that there will be consequences if they do.Too much earth, sand and fertilizers end in the water if the law about edges are not kept. 80 km water stream has been controlled in Frederikshavn municipiality, and at 26 site owners was pointed out an exceeding of the demand that there has to be 2 m cultivate-free edges along the water streams.

Nature Protection law §3.
Large sections of the small nature areas in the landscape disappears, although many places are protected by the Nature Protection-law §3. Many nature-protected water holes, meadows and pastures have been covered or ploughed up and made into farm land. It is illegal to destroy nature protected areas. The farmers can be punished with a fine or at worst prison for a year. However the municipalities acknowledge that supervision is insufficient. When the small biotopes in the farm land disappear it can spoil the living conditions for both birds, animals and plants in the Danish nature.

Too late for the nature-protected land
An actual case from Ringkøbing-Skjern shows that it can be without liability to punishment to destroy protected nature areas. 21 hectare §3-protected heath and pastures were ploughed up by a farmer. The offence was so crude that the environment and technical administration of the municipality recommended the politicians to report the site owner to the police and confiscate his profit. The politicians refused this, they remained a passive spectator and settled for that the site owner had just to re-establish the area. They claimed that they had now given a signal that it is not acceptable to cultivate nature-protected land. The farmer had expenses cultivating the field, they said, and now again because he was forced to stop. But it is not as simple as that. When a farmer destroys a nature area it is not an acceptabel solution that he's just asked to re-establish, which is impossible to do. It just means that he cannot cultivate it any more. He has already destroyed the place. It takes up till 50-100 year before the natural contents are back.

Crucial for the Flora and Fauna
A farmer had destroyed an erosion-valley from Ice Age and had picked out 3 other areas with pasture, before the local authority stopped the destruction. It was confirmed that the pastures had never been under plough. The areas cover the Nature Protection law §3, which is crucial for the protection of flora and fauna in the open land and thereby the protection of the biodiversity.

Our history disappears
The dikes disappear. The site owners remove the dikes, which is illegal. The Museum Law says that it is not allowed to change the situation of the dikes, to remove or make passage without a special dispensation. 44 dikes in Horsens area have disappeared. Dikes are historic leading lines in the landscape and visible signs of a part of Danish history, which goes back to Iron Age. The dikes are also important for our nature and animal life and a connecting link between nature areas. Therefore it is very important to keep them, says the Kulturarvsstyrelse. (Cultural heritage). Areas with meadows, heaths and pastures are retreating in Denmark and in the North. Cultivation, forestation and overgrowth have since the end of the 1800s halved the area. This development has meant that Denmark has lost some of its most species-rich nature types - the socalled light- open nature types and cultural biotopes.
West of Frederikshavn is an area with several hills from Bronze age and Stone age, but not quite as many now since a farmer according to Kulturarvsstyrelsen has destroyed many of the thousand years old prehistorics in the area. So not only nature disappears but also grave hills and Denmark's history. A bulldozer can in a few hours destroy what has been here for thousands of years.

Cultivation of set-aside fields removes habitats
Recently the farmers were allowed to cultivate their set-aside fields with a saddening result for the nature. A set-aside field with a rich flora is important to the pollinating insects and butterflies. It is crucial to the insects if the distance between the flora-fields is too long. They cannot survive loosing their habitats. This year I have noticed two set-aside fields in Mid Jutland with a beautiful view over a magnificent landscape and with lots of bumble-bees and butterflies, which have now been planted with fir. The bumble-bees and the butterflies are gone, and in a few years the beautiful view has gone too.

Source: Naturbeskyttelse

photo Jutland 2007-2008: grethe bachmann

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Rain in October
Means wind in December.

When birds and badges are fat in October,
Expect a cold winter.

When berries are many in October
Beware a hard winter.

In October dung your fields
And your land its wealth shall yield.

If ducks do slide at Hallowtide,
At Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Hallowtide
At Christmas they will slide.

Always will there be
Twenty-nine fine days in October.

If the October-moon comes without frost
Expect no frost till the moon of November.

photo October:gb