From grain to flour

Van Tienhoven molen

Just outside Maastricht, through the hilly landscapes with old half-timbered houses, is the Van Tienhoven mill, still in use to make flour for sale. Built in 1855 with “mergelsteen”, something common in the area, but rare for a mill.

Dutch history has countless mills. Many have been preserved, but only a few are still in use as they once were. Since 2000 the mill has been turning its wings again and production is in full swing. Processing grain into flour, everything is local and nothing is thrown away.

Koen welcomes me to “his” mill. He is only 20 years old, 1.5 years official miller, for Koen himself it feels like 16 years. He has been visiting the mill since he was 4 years old and has never left.

Becoming a miller takes years of experience. Besides a training of 1 year, because you have to know the mill in all seasons, you are also a weatherman and you have to know the mill from front to back. What should you do when there is a thunderstorm? How should the sail be set on the wings? Listening well is also important, because the mill consists of several layers and everything is connected to each other, you cannot see what is happening everywhere.

“It is important to listen carefully”

Inside it is nice and cool on this hot summer day. It is still quiet because the wind is not strong enough to turn. The only sound I hear is the tapping of Koens wooden clogs on the floor. Koen shows me what happens on each layer, how everything relates to each other and how the product flour is created. 

Through the numerous windows I look far over the Limburg landscape, with sandy paths, hills and vineyards, each time one floor higher.

The local grain is milled between two thick round discs of stone that rotate against each other. The stones are set in motion by all kinds of gears, from floor to floor. At the very top of the ridge is the main gear, which is attached to the wings by a large pin. When the grain is milled into flour, everything goes into a machine where the flour is sorted into 3 categories. To get flour, first the bran and the groats are removed from the flour. This is not used for human consumption. In order not to throw anything away, these bran and groats are given to free roaming pigs in the neighborhood to enjoy.

After going down all the floors and arriving at the top, Koen tells me that to keep the gears running they are greased with belly fat from a pig. Where some mills use frying oil, Koen uses the old fashioned method. Belly fat is a part of the pig that is not used for consumption and is otherwise thrown away. Because it retains its fat for years it is very suitable as a fat or butter.

The wings start turning, I feel a light breeze and hear the soothing sound of the wings swaying in the wind

Something that runs on the power of nature, is related to each other and requires attention and time is something that used to be taken for granted, but since everything has to go faster and faster and is all about profit, it is no longer so obvious. Nice to see how the Limburg Landscape, Koen and the volunteers maintain this and thus deal with nature and a monument.

June 2022, Van Tienhoven molen, Wolfshuis

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