Windmills are as American as apple pie
By MARY JO WINTER / Cloverdale TOWNS correspondent
Tucked away on 40 acres above Cloverdale’s River Road is Rock Ridge Windmills, a small home-based business that has taken owner Kevin Moore and his wife, Robin, around the United States and all the way to China.
Moore, 55, became enamored with windmills about 15 years ago when the family moved to their rural property. One day he looked around and said, “All this place needs now is a windmill.”
He soon located one that had been sitting in a Willits barn since the 1940’s. There was no instruction manual and all the parts tags were made of leather. Through trial and error, Moore and several friends were eventually able to get the never-before-assembled windmill put together and installed.
Moore became a Certified Windmiller by attending a comprehensive training workshop offered by New Mexico State University. He spent vacations traveling to Texas and Oklahoma talking to windmill guys and working with them at the Shattuck Windmill Museum in northwest Oklahoma.
“Most of them were in their 80’s and 90’s, so they were really happy to have someone around who was eager to learn these skills from them,” he says.
Word got around, and soon people from all over were calling and asking for his help with their windmills. He’s had visitors to his windmill ranch from Canada, Mexico and South America. One man from Nicaragua even came to Cloverdale to personally pick up the replacement parts and detailed instructions from Moore on how to fix his windmill.
For a man who loves American history and anything mechanical, this was a dream come true.
While many windmills today are used simply for decorative purposes, they were a sign of prosperity in the late 1800’s.
“American homesteaders put up a windmill before they even had a good house to live in since nothing could survive without water. Seeing a windmill meant the people who installed it were making a commitment to the land and letting everyone know they were ready to set down roots and make it their home.”
Unless a customer comes to Cloverdale, Moore personally delivers the windmill and/or needed parts himself, using a customized one-ton flatbed with trailer. He finds most people want to put them together themselves, so he only sticks around long enough to give them some tips and tricks to get them started.
“Part of the joy is meeting with people and helping them decide where it should go, how tall it should be, what their best options are, and so on.”
Not everyone likes the idea of climbing up the high towers, though, since they tend to sway and are often covered with grease and oil. Luckily, the former Cloverdale firefighter, who has been employed with the State as a Fire Marshal since 1984, has never found this to be a problem.
Moore’s windmill expertise has taken him all over the country where he has met all kinds of people. “From CEOs of huge corporations to working farmers barely getting by, the people I’ve met have just been wonderful,” he says.
Recently, while putting up a windmill for a client in Southern California, he thought his enthusiastic helper might be a ranch hand or maybe the ranch supervisor. As it turns out, he was actually the CEO of a well-known beverage company, and the windmill was being installed on his ranch.
Moore’s website, rockridgewindmills.com, has brought him to the attention of windmill enthusiasts all over the world, including an American businessman with an American-style windmill factory in China. So far, at his request, the Moores have traveled to China twice since 2006 to tour his facility.
“Who would have ever thought a small windmill business owner from Cloverdale would be meeting with high government officials in China,” Moore mused. “They treated Robin and me like dignitaries. Everyone wanted to have a photo taken with us.”
Moore donates one week of his vacation each year to help restore and maintain antique windmills at the Shattuck Windmill Museum. Robin goes along, but says, “my feet never leave the ground.” She takes care of any painting or lettering that needs to be done, making sure the tower is horizontal on the ground when she does.
He also donated a complete windmill and tower to the Solar Living Center in Hopland, where he trained the interns on how to install them. His YouTube videos on windmills are especially popular, with at least one of them being seen more than 28k times.
Reproductions of 1930’s windmills are the most common, with the average cost being around $4,500. While it generally takes about a day to install one, the time between the initial inquiry and actual purchase is more like two years.
They also make popular Christmas gifts, with people asking for them to be customized with the recipient’s name. As Robin says “Nothing says I love you like giving a man a windmill.”
For many, there’s something nostalgic about windmills that evoke thoughts of country living and days gone by. As one customer in Rincon Valley told the Moores, “Now that we have a windmill, we feel like we live 10 miles further from town.”
To find out more, contact Moore at either email@example.com or 529-3539.