In 1914, my Great Grandfather, Johannes Verkleij, bought a farm called “Brentano” at the edge of Alphen aan den Rijn in South Holland to start his life with his new bride, Maria Suidgeest.
They raised my Grandfather on this farm. The farm was eventually taken over by my grandfather’s brother Coop and his wife Gre where they raised their family. Now the farm is run by Coop’s son Ben, his wife Marjon, and they raised their 5 daughters here. Over a century of Verkleys!!
I’ve heard about this farm my entire life. A rug hooking of it hung at my grandparents house so I’ve always known its image. My Great Grandmother wrote her life story and her memories here, as did my Grandpa’s sister Hanny. I’ve heard so much about it, and many of the Canadian Verkley’s have visited, and finally my time has come!
On Sunday, Marjon let us know what train route would get us there from Amsterdam, and off we went! Ben and Marjon were waiting at the train station for us in Alphen aan den Rijn when we arrived.
First, they took us on a walking tour of the town. The first stop was the church where my great Grandfather was the organist. Wow!
I had no expectation of ever seeing this church. What a surprise! Behind it, was the cemetery, where we found many relatives. Here are a couple:
Beside the church were the old school buildings.
We stopped at a food stand because I said I didn’t know what Oliebollen was. Well I do now! Marjon got us the raisin kind. Tasted a bit like a warm thick Dutchie donut from Tim Horton’s. Ben showed me how to dip it into icing sugar as I ate it later in their house.
There are river canals in Alphen aan den Rijn too and some old buildings!
Apparently they’ve found ancient Roman ships here when excavating! I can’t imagine living somewhere the Romans once did!
There were still some old streets, narrow with tall buildings here. Beyond this core of town though, everything seems much more modern and the town seems to have really grown. Marjon is a town counsellor here!!
Here’s my cousin Ben with the warm bag of oliebollen. I guess he’s actually my dad’s first cousin. I’m the oldest of the next generation. I felt like I’ve always known him. He also went through cancer treatment so we shared our experiences.
We peeked in this old pharmacy that was never modernized. It has wide plank floors and tall shelves. Really neat.
In this next street/alley, my great grandfather would park his cart and horses here during church!
After our tour we went to Brentano! The house is over 200 years old! And Marjon and Ben have made it so beautiful inside!
Ben’s brother Jan and sister Joke, and Jan’s wife Ria joined us!
We had the most delicious dutch apple pie, a nice Bok beer, and a selection of their cheese! They continue to make non-pasturized “farmer” cheese here, as did the two generations before them. Here is a gouda cheese with cumin, a young one, and a nice sharp old one behind them. Mmm!
In this old house, the barn was once part of the house. Now it is used for their cheese making, with a modern milk tank. The wooden cheese frames are many decades old though, because Ben’s mother used the same ones!
Here Jan is showing us the labels on the cheese. Each one has a unique number, so you can trace your cheese right back to its origin! This part of the house was once the barn. You can still see where the cows would have stood. Look at the old beams!
They have a similar hanging picture of the farm that hung for years in my grandparents home in Canada!
They have a unique way of making their cheese that results in these natural air bubbles in it.
Here’s a YouTube video from a similar farm to show how Gouda is made, if you are interested:
Now that the cows aren’t in this area of the house, the cheese operation is in here, and their freezers. How convenient to have it right off the kitchen!
Out back are the barns with the fields behind them.
It’s been so long since I’ve hung out with some Holsteins. They had a slatted barn just like our heifer barn used to have.
Since it was the first nice day in awhile, Ben had most of the cows outside in the pasture. He was ready to cut the fields one more time before winter.
And there were some baby cows to meet!
I don’t know if the cows spoke English as well as my family did, but they weren’t too hard to win over.
Did you notice the roofing on the house? It is reeds! I’ve never seen this before. Ben said they last about 30 years before you have to cut more reeds and replace them. Sounds like a lot of work!
Look at the lovely view of the front canal/ditch, facing town.
In the center of the front wall of the house, is a name and year plate.
From this view, you can see the barn, which now is covered with solar panels in the front! Enough power is generated to operate the house and barn!
After a lovely visit, and a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup, we needed to go to head to Rotterdam. We visited Ben in the milking parlour before we left. It was eerily similar to ours on the farm I was raised on. Smelled the same too!
Ben reuses J-cloth like towels for cleaning the teats of the cows. We always used brown folded paper towels that made a lot of waste. Ben had buckets of these clothes, and kept a few in pouches on his front, in cleaning solution, so he could grab a clean one to clean each cow before milking.
Aww nice warm fresh milk!
Here is the group of us out front!
My heart is so full! And Verkleys/Verkleijs are the same in any country! Kinda funny how that works!
Marjon gave us cheese to take home! And a beautiful cutting board and cheese slicer, in this cheese bag! I can’t wait to eat more cheese when we get home! I don’t think the kitten Tiger wanted me to leave?
Marjon drove us back to the train station and we headed to Rotterdam for two days! Stay tuned for more photos and recap!