THE LOW COUNTRIES AND THE LOWER RHINE VALLEY 440. The region.—If you sail up the river Scheldt toward Antwerp, or up one of the mouths of the Rhine toward Rotterdam, you will look down on the fields and farms, for they are lower than the river, and all of the land is very flat indeed.
Why do the people who live here call their country the Netherlands, or the Low Country? Most of the land of Holland and a part of Belgium are just the delta of the river Rhine. This lower Rhine valley, together with the near by parts of France and Ger many, which are almost as level as the delta, make up the greatest manufacturing region on the mainland of Europe. This region is also more carefully farmed than any other European region.
What four countries own parts of this region? (Fig. 319.) 441. Making more land.—This ,region has few resources except location and good soil. Even land is scarce. But in Holland the thrifty Dutch not only use all that Nature has made, but by their own labor they have taken a quarter of their country from the sea. Because the sea waters near the Rhine delta are very shallow, the Dutch and Belgians have built dikes, thus cutting off areas of water. Then pumps, driven by windmills, pump the water out from behind the dikes. The sea bottom is then used for farms. But the windmills and engines must keep the pumps forever pumping, pumping, pumping, or the rain water would soon again turn the land into an arm of the sea. In the Zuyder Zee, a shallow bay in Holland, a large area is now being pumped out. Sea bottom farms made of the rich mud from the Rhine Valley produce splendid pasture.
442. Intensive agriculture.—All of the land of this region is carefully used. Often the flagmen at the railroad crossings tend little gardens beside the tracks. Because rabbits will eat weeds from the gardens, many people keep rabbits in hutches and use them for food. Even the dog works. German, Dutch, Belgian, and French milkcarts are pulled by big, strong work-dogs.
The farms are small, and the people must, therefore, put much work and much fertilizer on a little land, and thereby grow crops that yield much food per acre. A man in the United States can make more money grow ing a smaller yield per acre on a larger farm, with less work and less fertilizer. The wheatfields of Belgium yield 38 bushels per acre, while those of the United States yield only about 15 bushels. In the United States the potato yields on the average 90 bushels per acre, but in Holland it is made to yield 290 bushels; in Belgium 300 bushels; in Germany 190 bushels. The climate is too cool for corn, but the plentiful rain and cool sum mer suit the potato perfectly. It is the great est food crop of the region. (Fig. 354.) The sugar beet is another important crop, and forage beets are grown for animal food. (Fig. 346.) To support a family, crops that are worth much money must be grown here on little land. In Holland one sees fields gay with the beautiful red, white, and yellow blossoms of tulips and other flowering bulbs. It costs $2000 an acre to grow a crop of these precious bulbs, which are sent to bloom in America, England, and many foreign countries.
Where the moist lowlands are too wet to plow, they make rich pasture lands which support great herds of dairy cows. From the milk of the black and white Holstein cows, the Dutch farmers make ,very good cheese and butter which they send to Eng land and even to the United States. The people who make expensive Dutch butter and cheese often sell it and buy cheaper cheese from Canada, and margarine made of coconut and peanut oil. Why? 443. The factory farmers.—The English people have let much of their land lie un cultivated, because they could make their living by manufacturing. But in the Low Countries across the channel there is not so much coal as in England, so the people there have improved their farming at the same time they were building up their manufacturing.