Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Mill

Even with all the help from all my friends replacing motors, taking the machine apart and putting it back together, the last couple of weeks I saw no significant improvement in the working of the stone burr mill.

Every minute of milling required constant care to adjust and try to find the right spot to mill according to my standards, but not burn up the motor.

After 3 minutes of milling this early morning, the mill seized up and insisted it would not grind one more ounce of wheat. Ever. Until it were seen to by a professional.

I waited until 8am and then called the manufacturer, a company that originated and still operates out of Wilkesboro, NC. Meadow Mills. A kind sounding gentleman assured me that they could work on the mill today, especially when I told him how urgent it was that I have it back to working by tomorrow morning, 4am, give or take.

I quickly finished the milking, orchestrated a milk drop off and then Lynn, Thomas and Nora headed to NC. That is, after Thomas, Mark and I nearly gave ourselves hernias loading the monstrosity into the back of the Vibe. The rain poured.

We drove to the back of the nondescript building. I was directed to back up into an area filled with lots of machinery and activity. No frantic activity. Just calm, steady production.

Two kind men carried the mill to a table, took a look and instantly told me what was wrong. A couple of parts had gone bad and were affecting the operation of the whole machine. I asked them if they could tell me what I had been doing wrong so I would not make the same mistake over again. They assured me that these things happen over the course of a hard years work, and that this kind of care is part of maintenance. They even assured me that I could probably learn how to take care of opening up the machine to take care of cleaning the stones and what not.

I never in my life thought a normal human could open up a big old machine, move parts around and put it back together. I have girl friends and guy friends who can do that kind of thing, but not me. That kind of work is kind of like sewing to me. Best left to the professionals.

But after watching them carefully show me the steps, I thought that maybe someday I could open up a machine and put it back together. Not tomorrow, but maybe someday.

They explained to me that humidity causes the flour to absorb lots of moisture which will cause build up on the stones. They pressure washed them and sanitized them.

They showed me a shaft that had scarring that prevented the belt from easily turning.

They discovered that the eccentric was broken.

Did you know that there was such a mechanical part as an eccentric? We enjoyed discussing the definition of an eccentric, irregular, irratic, off the norm. This part makes the arm of the machine shake at an irregular rate to shake down the grain from the hopper to the stones. We decided that we all like being eccentric. I wondered if there were some sermon illustration in that definition.

The gentlemen found that the motor was indeed burned out, due to the regular overworking of the machine. Within minutes they had it replaced with a new one, with a thermal overload. They gave me instructions on how to make sure it kept from getting overheated. They suggested I run an a/c to drop the humidity during the summer months. They redressed the stone, making a nice sharp surface instead of the smooth one.

I thought about another sermon illustration, about going to the maker of the mill to fix not only the symptom (a burned out motor) but the underlying causes (the broken parts deep within the machine.)

We wrote a check for much less than I anticipated, loaded the machine, said our thanks and headed for home. A VERY long day. Almost 7 hours of driving in traffic and rain. A lost day of business at the Catawba market. But with a tool that will now work like it is supposed to, thanks to this wonderful small company that makes a very high quality tool. Their service was terrific. I wish I had gone months ago, but today was the day.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a great day to prove how much better the mill is operating.

We drove into the driveway after 7pm, the kids were playing wiffle ball on the front lawn. Chickens and guineas roamed everywhere on the green grass. The sun came out and the clouds looked like the sort that come after a storm, not before. Patrick milked for me and I prepare for a new day. Thankful we only have 24 hours per day. With several of those hours dedicated to sleep.

Will keep you posted on the mill. Tomorrow is another day.


Tall, Grey, Nonbeliever said...

Trials and tribulations of the mill are finally at an end for a while. I believe you write happier blogs when you have good days at market. Sounds like a good idea to install an a/c unit in the wall above the mill to keep humidity down to a minimum. I guess there will be a few happy days at your market sites coming up in the near future. I hope you don't mind, but I went back and read all of your March blogs. You have come a long way, and I know you still have farther to go. I'm just saying that I find you a very impressive individual, for a man or a woman. You are one tough mother, and a great parent for the lessons that your kids are learning.

Tall, Grey, Nonbeliever said...

Lynne seems to have guessed who I am, but don't let on to her that she is right