Balmoral Grist Mill re-opens

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BALMORAL MILLS - Darrell Burke couldn't hide his excitement on Saturday with the re-opening of the Balmoral Grist Mill.

Almost a year to the day, the mill re-opened to the public after being closed for safety reasons.

"I am so happy," said Burke, the site manager for the mill and the Sutherland Steam Mill. "I couldn't be happier, but there is still some work to do."

While the landings and steps for the walkway across the dam still need to be finished, the entire interior of the museum, including an observation area where the miller will continue his work to restore the mill machinery to operating status, is now open to the public.

"We had to do a large cleanup - there was a fair amount of construction materials," explained Burke.

The work started when the dam began leaking.

"What we discovered when we were doing the dam, was that the support structures weren't good. We had to replace the dam because of the leak, because once the dam goes, the mill goes as well. Three-quarters of the mill was sitting on those supports." 

Work to the dam and mill resulted in the dam being rebuilt and concrete was poured into place for support beams. I-beams were also replaced.

"Now the mill will keep standing for hundreds of years, we hope," said Burke.

While the mill was closed for the past year, work was also done to expand the trails in the park next to the mill, which will become the main entrance to the mill.

The total cost of the maintenance project was $1.1 million. Additional work was undertaken as a result of a structural assessment identifying $90,000 of improvements that are now complete.

Built in 1874, the mill produces a couple of different types of flour - Scottish oatmeal and wholewheat. The mill, once back up and running, will also be able to produce buckwheat.

Production, however, will be slow in getting started again because Mark Burris, the miller, has a lot of work to do beforehand.

"He removed every stone from the mill - there are eight of them," said Burke. "So he's starting almost from square one. There is an outside chance the mill will produce one batch of flour this year, but I can't promise anything."

Burke said the Scottish oatmeal is by far the most popular product to come out of the mill, and it's only sold in the mill's gift shop.

"Oatmeal is a confusing term, but when you think of Scottish oatmeal, this is cornmeal or course flour, not rolled oats," he said. "We produce it in a traditional fashion."

The process for Scottish oatmeal takes three days, with 700 pounds being dried over maple fire for seven hours. The miller turns the oatmeal once.

Day two sees the oatmeal go into the shelling sandstones, which removes the outer hulls before the oatmeal is ground with granite stones on the third and final day.

"We move a lot of it. We consider it a by-product of our demonstration process so it doesn't get sold anywhere else."

As a thank you to the visitors and patrons of the Balmoral Grist Mill, admission will be free for the remainder of the month.

The mill is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information on the mill, visit gristmill.museum.gov.ns.ca. 

 

 

Organizations: Grist Mill

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