The farm that ran away and came back
There was once a Dutchman, who lived in the province called Drenthe. Because there was a row of little trees on his farm, his name was Ryer Van Boompjes; that is, Ryer of the Little Trees. After a while, he moved to the shore of the Zuyder Zee and into Overijssel. Overijssel means over the Ijssel River. There he bought a new farm, near the village of Blokzyl. By dyking and pumping, certain wise men had changed ten acres, of sand and heath, into pasture and land for plowing. They surrounded it on three sides with canals. The fourth side fronted on the Zuyder Zee. Then they advertised, in glowing language, the merits of the new land and Ryer Van Boompjes bought it and paid for his real estate. He was as proud as a popinjay of his island and he ruled over it like a Czar or a Kaiser.
A few years before, Ryer had married a "queezel," as the Dutch call either a nun, or a maid who is no longer young. At this date, when our story begins, he had four blooming, but old-fashioned children, with good appetites. They could eat cabbage and potatoes, rye bread and cheese, by the half peck, and drink buttermilk by the quart. In addition, Ryer owned four horses, six cows, two dogs, some roosters and hens, a flock of geese, two dozen ducks, and a donkey.
Yet although Ryer was rich, as wealth is reckoned in Drenthe, whence he had come, he was greedy for more. He skimped the food of his animals. So much did he do this, that his neighbors declared that they had seen him put green spectacles on his cows and the donkey. Then he mixed straws and shavings with the hay to make the animals think they were eating fresh grass.
When he ploughed, he drove his horses close to the edge next to the water, so as to make use of every half inch of land. When sometimes bits of fen land, from his neighbor's farms, got loose and floated on the water, Ryer felt he was in luck. He would go out at night, grapple the boggy stuff and fasten it to his own land.
After this had happened several times, and Ryer had added a half acre to his holdings, his greed possessed him like a bad fairy.