I discovered that there is a working water mill in town. They don’t produce flour commercially, instead the mill is a charity for historical tours. The mill is part of an old complex of buildings owned by the charity and they rent out the other buildings to potters, artists, cafes and a micro brewery. The mill is run by volunteers, mostly retired people. Fred (who is a retired engineer) was the guide today and there was another man who Fred was training to run the mill too.
It was so amazing!! I love that it is all something that you can see and not just hidden behind a facade of digital and electronic workings. Everything has been restored by the charity. There are all these cogs that fit together and turn everything. The cogs are individual wooden pegs that are stuck in a large metal wheel. They are wood because it is easier to replace if one breaks. Much harder to replace if the whole wheel had to be recast in metal. The water wheel doesn’t turn when the water goes through right away, the miller has to kind of kick start it by pushing at the grinding stones with his foot (which didn’t seem super sanitary to me – fresh out of the food safe course!). And then there is a lot of tweaking and whatnot to get the wheel to keep going around at the right speed. If it goes to fast then the stones get hot. Fred and the other guy (whose name sadly escapes me) seemed to be fascinated that I was from Saskatchewan, where wheat is grown. They seemed to think that I would have visited lots of mills, and were surprised that this was not the case. I don’t know of any water mills in Sask actually.
They have the flour in the shop but don’t technically sell it. You can ask for it and give a donation to the mill. I seriously considered it, but the thought of carrying around a kg of flour in my backpack was a horrible idea.
The mill also diverts some of the water to power a generator. This way they can produce power for the complex and any extra power goes back into the national grid. A clever system. I spent about an hour and half there, a lot of the time spend just watching all the wheels and cogs turning.