May 29, 2010
Today I attempted to clock my proficiency at milling. I had done some minor milling exercises using the hand quern here, but despite claiming that milling with a hand quern was hard work that would only produce a limited amount of flour, I had no real experience of that myself. In order to get some more experience of this activity I decided to make a simple time observation exercise. I intended to mill 500 grams of barley seeds without hull.
Since the flour was nowhere near being fine enough to be baked after a single visit to the hand quern the grains had to be milled several times. This gave me the opportunity to make a sort of statistical observation of the time used to to mill this amount of barley. All in all I managed to mill all the grains in about 4 minutes, the first round taking about five minutes and the last one three.
(1st :5 min, 2nd : 4 min, 3rd : 4 min, 4th:3 min, 5th:6 min and 6th:3 min)
In order to get the grains fine enough to be possible to be baked into a bread I had to mill it six times and I was still thinking that it should could need another go in the quern. Still if I were to maintain this speed I should have been able to mill about 12 kg of barley on a 10-hour day, quite possibly enough to feed a rather large household. A person skilled at this craft and with the efficiency of a large-scale production could probably even double that amount. However, even for someone trained at this task and with a less frail body than mine such a long work session would prove rather cumbersome and difficult to maintain. And while 10 -20 kg of flour can seem as rather much, I would still maintain that this method cannot provide enough flour to support a food economy in which flour is milled rarely and the bread is stored for a rather long time. Such a strategy would not appear until the emergence of watermills and similar constructions.