Letter: Grain Milling Muscles

JWR and HJL:

We bought a grain mill—the Wonder Mill Junior to be specific–from one of your advertisers and we are pleased with the purchase. However, I must warn my fellow readers that if you have bought one of these and just threw it on the shelf alongside your the stack of #10 cans and food storage buckets, then you made a mistake. Unless you regularly start your Ford Model T with a hand crank, then you are in for a morning-after surprise. This is another example of the importance of “practicing your preps.” A seven year old cannot turn the handle of my grain mill while holding the table in place. A 12 year old can do so. So can a 200-pound, 56 year-old male.

It is often suggested that our caloric intake will have to increase during TEOTWAWKI. Grinding wheat is an object lesson in that need! Also, those are not the same sets of muscles required by my hoe, shovel, or axe.

Personally, I am going to add more aspirin to my preps. – R.V.

JWR Replies: In my experience, hand-cranked grain mills should be attached to very heavy, sturdy tables of countertops. If you have to hold your table in place with each stroke, then you are using much more muscle power than would be needed if you had your mill mounted to a heavy table that could not be easily moved.

Many brands of grain mills have extension handles available, making it easier to turn their wheels, albeit with a larger arc. The extension for our Country Living brand grain mill is called a “Power Bar.” And of course many of the better-quality mills also have a notch for a V-belt, allowing them to be motorized. Just don’t do any motorizing conversion that cannot allow you to easily revert to hand-power. (That defeats the purpose of being ready for grid-down disasters.) Grinding flour by hand is a team effort at the Rawles Ranch. We all take turns, in fairly quick “tag team” succession–more or less turning the whole thing into a game. We leave our grain mill set up at the end of our kitchen countertop year-round and we grind flour a couple of times each week. (And even more often in the winter, when we tend to bake bread more often.) For bread-baking our hand-ground whole wheat four is typically used in a 70/30 ratio with store-bought white flour, to provide bread with a sufficiently fluffy texture. But we use all whole wheat flour for our pie crusts. For that flour, we always mill the flour twice (to make it finer), and we add a bit of extra butter to the dough.