The commitment to baking possibly the healthiest bread, led to the eventual grinding of our own flour. From the beginning thirteen years ago, we have always included a certain amount of stone ground flour in our breads, but now we have finally acquired a stone mill large enough to grind a large amount of flour. A multitude of different obstacles and events, including affordability and availability, have been overcome, which has finally led to the acquisition of a 40 in./1.0 m, Natural Stone Mill. There are a variety of advantages to grinding one's own flour, especially when done on a Natural Stone Mill. We have owned, used and experimented for years with a smaller version of the same model (16 in./0 .4 m), but could never grind in any large quantity. With this much larger mill we can include a considerable amount of freshly ground flour into our breads. This significantly adds to our breads' already highly nutritious value, and will bond us even more to traditional Natural Sourdough Bread enjoyed by our ancestors.
The story of acquiring this mill is engrained into local history. In 1980, George Baumann, the present owner and operator of the Lofstedt Farm near Kaslo, grower of biodynamic produce and grains, settled in Kaslo. Originally from Switzerland, he brought new ideas and the start for a new enterprise. The "Kootenay Natural Stone Mills" company was founded in 1984 and had the exclusive rights for importing, manufacturing, and selling these mills in North America. Several household models ranging from 0.2 m/8 in. to 0.4 m/16 in. in diameter were to be the main mills that he wanted to sell. The stones were imported from Austria and some mills manufactured in Kaslo, B.C. under the original license of Oswald Green, founder of Osttiroler Getreidemühlen GMBH, Austria.
In the subsequent container load of imported stones were also six larger stone mills fully assembled, ranging in diameter of 0.5 m/20 in., 0.7 m/28 in., and a 1.0 m/40 in. mills. All they needed was a power source to run them. The intention at the time was that the smaller ones could serve for home use and the larger ones were to be for bakeries. Sadly no bakeries were ever found that could handle four that was "standardized" and so the three 1.0 m/40 in. mills were eventually sold to Montana Wheat in USA in February of 1986. The 0.5 m/20 in. mill was sold to Vancouver, and one 0.7 m/28 in. went to Health Valley Natural Foods, Montebello, California, another 0.7 m/28 in. to Big Sandy, Montana.
In the words of George Bauman: "The usual milling practice is to rip the grain apart on the sharp metallic edges of the currently used, highly efficient roller mills. Their disadvantage is that the steel acts as a catalyst for rapid oxidation processes of the wheat germ, which soon gets rancid and has to be eliminated for that reason. However, since the wheat germ contains all the natural enzymes, vitamins and other beneficial qualities of the flour, and is ejected in modern practices, the latter has to be "enriched" with artificial components to make up for this loss; therefore, the use of "enriched flour" is currently displayed everywhere.
During "Natural Stone Milling", the grain is peeled in a rolling motion and the wheat germ intimately blended into the flour, bringing with it the natural enzymes, vitamins, etc., so that this flour does not need to be enriched. However, metal contact in the mill thereafter still has to be avoided to limit oxidation."
The millstones revolve slowly, so the flour stays cool and do not get hot, even after hours of grinding. This also heavily contributes to the superior quality of this flour. The mill sits right in our bakery, so we can freshly grind our flour and incorporate it into our breads as needed, ensuring wholesomeness to its ultimate limit. This strongly connects with our natural sourdough technology to make breads that are outstanding in their flavour and nutritional content.
Oswald Green, founder and owner of Osttiroler Getreidemühlen GMBH, is the descendant of a long line of Tyrolean mill-builders. He started in the nineteen sixties, to make small household sized replicas of the big ancient watermills made by his forefathers, using the same natural "Sextant Mill Stone", hewn in nearby South Tyrol (now part of Italy). These stones remain sharp for an extremely long time, due to their unique composition of quartz porphyry and crystalline slate with dolomite and sandstone stratifications.
In the fall of 2004, I approached Mr. Baumann about finding out what happened to the large flour mills, and if they are presently still in operation. These types of Natural Stone Mills are extremely enduring and will outlast several generations and more if taken care of. Through repeated phone calls, Mr. Baumann finally located the large 1-meter diameter mill in Conrad, Montana. The present owner was Western Trails of Bozeman, Montana, which were not using it any more, and the Mill was presently in storage.
I phoned the owner, Bud Clem, expressed my interest in the mill, and got an update to its present history. He had bought the mill for their "Cowboy Foods" business, which specialized in different types of baking mixes. Sadly, he had to take care of his wife because she had developed an illness, and the business never quite got off the ground. He put the mill into storage at "Timeless Seeds", in Conrad, Montana.
The delicate negotiations needed to start, which turned out to be that I paid the price for what he had originally paid for, no more no less. Bud being from the old school, was stubborn, but consequently fair and sincere. I sent him a down payment and planned to go down to Montana in March, with a cheque for the outstanding money, and pick up the mill. So, I went.
After three days on the road and several hours negotiating (red tape) at the Canada-USA border, the mill finally arrived back home in Kaslo, BC, after nearly being away for 20 years.
With permission from my Dad to confiscate his large garage shop for several months, I set about taking the mill apart. Once we dissembled the mill, and had the top stone off, I got George Baumann to come by and inspect the mill with me. He was very thrilled to see the Mill back in Kaslo and confirmed my own opinion that the Stones (the heart of the Mill) needed a bit of sharpening, but that they were still in excellent shape. My son Stefan (our bakery apprentice) made it his task to strip the rest of the mill down and restored the wooden structure. I focused on the Stones, and the mechanical aspect of getting new bearings and pulleys ready for when we put it back together. The upper wooden housing of the Mill had to be totally redone and we decided to do it in see-through Lexan, as I had done previously with our smaller 0.4 m/16 in. model. The advantage of Lexan was that I could watch as the stone ground the flour, and that Lexan is extremely endurable and unbreakable. It also provides a tighter fitting enclosure for better hygiene, cleanliness.
Overall, it took several months to finally have the first test run. By then, we had also included a brand new motor to power the mill, and also the addition of a VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) to better control the speed of the millstone. This finally put the Natural Stone Mill permanently into operation in July of 2005, and we can now proudly include natural, freshly stone ground flour in our breads.
A personal wish of mine was to give our breads the added traditional originality of sourdough bread that our ancestors lived and thrived on. This underlines our commitment to truly let you, our customer, experience the "Taste of the Past" which is our guiding principle and philosophy.