In the most obvious sense, stone milling is simple. Our business model (sourcing grain from fields nearby, crushing it between two big rocks and nourishing people with the resulting unlocked goodness) is about as established as time itself.
As I've written about before, notwithstanding the heft of history behind our craft, there's been a Great Forgetting when it comes to bread and flour that's led us to the present moment. A de-connection between local grain, local food and local people. Noise, clutter and needless complexity that's crept into small cracks, separating us from old truths.
Along the way, we forgot about a lot more than just where our food comes from and how to value it properly. So many of the skills, techniques and so much of the know-how informing the simple business of crushing seeds with two stones was lost.
Stone mills require dressing: roughening the lands and sharpening the furrows. If you can't picture what this means, you're not alone. It turns out that stone dressers (the name given to those trained in the art of maintaining millstones) haven't been a trade you could just could call up for awhile (even as far back as the last time there was a printed copy of the Yellow Pages--we checked).
When the time came to dress our millstones, something that needs to be done regularly to maintain a consistent crush and the smooth functioning of the mill, we sought advice far and wide. We were fortunate to eventually connect with Anthony from Brodflour, a mill and bakery in Toronto's Liberty Village that shares our mission to rebuild a local grain economy. As the head miller and person responsible for maintaining Brodflour's mill, Anthony is one of only a handful of people in the province with firsthand knowledge and experience with stone dressing. After a short back and forth, he agreed to come down for a day to share what he knows and support us through our first kick at this process. The help was tremendous and it's been so empowering getting firsthand experience--we're now well-placed to enact our own maintenance and stone dressing program here at Almanac.
Stone milling is simple. Stone milling is impossible. At least it would be if it weren't for people who understand that collaboration and sharing knowledge is the only way we're going to be able to bring stone milling into the future.