We made it to Watson's Mill on the last day for the live wheat grinding demonstration by interpreters in period costume. Yes WHEAT. Oh.... That's complicated for a celiac. However, I'd met one of the mill's interpreters on Colonel By Day, and after talking to him about the setup we figured that we could safely visit as long as I wore a face mask and kept my distance from any really dusty areas.
We headed there immediately after church. As soon as we walked in the door we were impressed. Right away you are surrounded with the complete milling process. You've got grain moving up and down through a mechanical elevator system, the millstone spinning away grinding and the flour coming down through another elevator into the bags on the weigh scale. The miller was working away adjusting the millstone by adjusting the flow of water to the turbines below the building. Did you know they had turbines in 1860? Crazy! As we worked our way through the building we continued to be amazed by all the neat machinery, most of which was actually in operation. The use of wood was quite impressive for the time. Wooden gears, augers and contraptions to do all kinds of cleaning and separating of the grain. They don't have to clean and separate the grain anymore; it comes to the mill chaff and smut free! I was quite entertained to discover that smut is a type of fungus that can be mechanically removed with a smutter. I am easily amused...
We learned about the mill's ghost, felt the warmth and texture of the partially ground flour, and made friends with the local ducks. Okay, so Daddy and Auntie Janice felt the flour. Mommy declined and Elizabeth was too shy. We spoke at length to the chief miller who was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. He even stepped outside to talk to us in a "wheat-free environment"! It turns out that the wheat grain they use isn't currently local - there's apparently a big problem with a non-smut variety of fungus that has ruined wheat crops in Ottawa the last two years, so the mill has had to import their grain from the US.
We also learned that Manotick basically sprang up around the mill and the other local businesses that sprang up around it. Apparently the mill exported power via a steel cable across the river to the local bung factory. Bung - who knew?
There's no question that this is a somewhat questionable outing for celiacs - the flour was just pouring from the ceiling into bags. The bagging part of the mill had enough flour dust in the air that I wondered whether it wouldn't be a good idea for everyone to be wearing masks! (We didn't stay in that area long) But overall the mill is a wonderfully interesting place and Elizabeth enjoyed it. We had a great time, learned a lot and even made it out with some crazy cheap bread ($1.00 / loaf) baked locally using flour from the mill. If we'd discovered it earlier in the season I am sure we would have made several trips during the summer, especially since it is right around the corner from one of our regular berry picking farms. I'm sure we'll be back!