Name of building: Chionthar Valley Mill (Map No. 44)
Submitted by: Mark Oliva
Type of building: Flour and stamper mill
Business conducted in the building: Milling of flour, production of vegetable oil and rolling of food and feed grains.
Owner: Therabwyn Acohas (Iron Throne) 60%, Gleidan Dein 40%
Number and Types of employees: 1 master miller, 5 journeyman millers, 4 to 6 apprentice millers at any given time, 4 unskilled workers.
Description of buildings: Large grain and stamper mill with waterwheel, millstone, grain rollers and oil hammers.
Description of business:
The Chionthar Valley Mill is a regional operation that serves most of the farms and businesses in the Chionthar Valley within 20 miles/30 km of Arylon. The city looks upon the mill as a vital industry.
People in Arylon call the complex the "Cat Mill," because of the large number of cats raised by Gleidan Dein and his family to keep mice, rats and other pests out of the grain cellars and the grain and flour stored in the mill.
The first historical mention of a grain mill on the south bank of the Chionthar dates from the Year of the Tightening Fist (1074 DR), when, according to old documents, merchants from Amn built a dam and mill on Sharp Tooth Creek south of the city. There are old foundation stones along the creek about half a mile/800m south of the present mill, and it is believed that the earlier mill stood there.
This first mill apparently was destroyed at some unknown point, or it may have been torn down after being replaced by the beginnings of today's mill, which is referred to for the first time as "the new mill" in documents dating back to the Year of the Bright Star (1231 DR), suggesting that that the current grain mill already was operating before the first sawmill was erected. After Amn's trade ways had been completed and the river had declined in importance as a means of transportation, Arylon diminished in size and importance too, but the mill survived.
There are old documents reporting that both the mill survived the devastation of the invading orcs in the Year of the Black Horde (1235 DR), when the first sawmill was razed. Historical documents say that parts of the grain mill's clay tile roof were destroyed by the orcs, along with the flour and grain that had been stored there, but the stone walls, millstone and waterwheel survived the attacks with little damage.
Today's mill is a sizeable complex, still capable of grinding more grain than is grown locally. On an average day, the mill produces no more than two or three tons of flour, but Gleidan Dein believes that he could grind up to nine or 10 tons in a days time, if necessary.
The mill can store enough grain, flour and vegetable oil to feed the nearby residents in the Chionthar Valley for about 18 months.
The mill is powered by a bottom-driven waterwheel 15 feet/450cm in diameter. The mill pond above the grain mill and the dams that steer the flow of the upper and lower millstreams all are controlled by the grain mill, under a long-standing edict of Arylon's ruling council. In time of drought, the master miller has the right to stop the water flow to the lower millstream, which powers the sawmill and the hammersmith, if he deems this necessary, but such measures have not been taken in some decades.
The waterwheel can be raised and lowered with the help of a levered pulley system which can accelerate or retard the wheel's rate of rotation or to stop the wheel completely. The system of gears that the wheel turns all are made of wood, as is typical in most grain mills. The gears directly drive the massive millstone, which is nearly 3 yards/3m in diameter. The gears also rotate two wooden drive shafts mounted to the ceiling of the mill, which turn leather drive belts that power wooden oil and stamper mallets, stone grain rollers and a primitive conveyor belt system of the grain elevator.
The mill's main season begins in Eleint, when one Chionthar Valley farmer after another brings oil rape to the mill. Traffic doubles in late Eleint and early Marpenoth, when the wagons carry tons of wheat, oats, rye, barley, green barley and spelt to the grain mill and thistle and sunflower seeds to the oil hammers. There also is a smaller delivery in Mirtul, when winter barley is harvested and delivered for milling as feed. Winter barley is less suited for use as food or in beer brewing, but it can be milled into fodder for cows and pigs.
The farmers' horse-drawn wagons are driven beneath the grain elevator tower in the mill's southeast corner, where they are unloaded. Grain that already is in sacks is hoisted to the top of the elevator with ropes and pulleys. Grain that was simply loaded onto the bed of the farm wagon is shoveled into buckets attached to a primitive conveyor belt system powered by the waterwheel, which hauls the grain to the bay at the top of the elevator, where it is weighed to calculate the number of sacks of flour the grain will yield.
Most farmers deliver grain to be milled for their own use, and they immediately receive nine sacks of flour for every 10 sacks that are delivered. The sack yield is calculated for grain that is delivered in bulk. The 10th sack is the so-called "miller's tithe," the fee that the farmer pays for having his grain milled. This 10% commission in turn provides the mill with the grain that it mills to sell. If a farmer needs less flour than the nine of 10 sacks he receives, the mill at times will buy the surplus sacks as well.
At the top of the grain elevator is a large wooden funnel. Various types of filter gratings can be attached to the downspout of the funnel. Once grain has been weighed, it is shoveled or poured from sacks into the funnel, which is used to clean the grain, filtering out foreign seeds and other impurities. This process is particularly important with rye, which often hosts the frequent ergot fungus. This produces purple seedlike growths that are poisonous in concentrated amounts and must be removed before the rye is milled into flour.
Filtered grain falls through the funnel into the sacking chamber below, where mill workers shovel the cleaned grain into 100- or 200-pound (50-100 kg) sacks. The grain is lowered then in sacks into the storage cellars beneath the mill, where the subterranean temperatures always remain at about 50°F/10°C. The grain is kept in the cellar until needed for grinding or other processing.
The main mill is a two-story operation in the north wing, near where the waterwheel turns. Sacks of grain are hoisted by pulleys from the storage cellars into the milling chamber above the grindstone and poured into a wooden funnel with a sack chute that channels the grain between the millstones. The milled flour then is loaded into 100- and 200-pound/50-100kg sacks, either for immediate resale or for long-term storage in the cellars.
The southern wing of the mill houses the oil and grain hammers and rollers. The oil hammers are wooden, water-driven mallets with a striking surface six inches/15 cm square. They're mounted over finished, oil impregnated wooden tables. Seeds from thistles, sunflowers and oil rape are poured onto the table's surface where the hammer strikes, pounding the oil from the seeds. The oil flows through grooves in the milling table's surface and drips into small ceramic vats that are emptied regularly into basket-encased glass jugs. Farmers who deliver oil seeds to the mill can take bottled oil in exchange, cash payments or a combination of both.
Certain grain, particularly oats, are not milled but rather stamped and rolled. This process produces various forms of softened oats that can be used for gruel, porridge or as a course type of oatmeal called rolled oats, depending upon the type of processing. Oats for gruel and porridge are heavily hammered, to soften and break them.
Rolled oats are made by first drying the oats in the grain kiln in the northwest corner of the mill. The dried oats then are hammered lightly with a water-driven mallet, to soften them. In the last step, the hammered oats are channeled through a series of water-driven stone rollers that crush and flatten the grain. Rolled oats not only are used as food, but also are an important feed for young calves.
The Chionthar Valley Mill has been operating successfully for nearly a century and a half, interrupted only briefly during the orc invasion in the Year of the Lost Lady (1241 DR). The mill is well-maintained and has only two potential problem areas: Vermin and the threat of water seepage in the storage cellars. The cellars resemble something of a two-story dungeon dug beneath the mill, where evenly low temperatures retard the spoilage of stored grain and keep milled flour and oil from turning rancid quickly.
The doors to the cellars are tight and are well maintained, to keep rats and mice out. Grates on the ventilation shafts also are checked regularly, but rodents nonetheless do find their way into the cellars now and then. To control the problems, cats are taken into the cellars by mill workers who perform daily checks on the condition of the stored goods.
Water seepage is a subject of greater uncertainty. The walls of the cellars were constructed of non-porous stone brick, but this is hardly sufficient to keep both the cellars and the air in them dry in their position just above the Chionthar and below Sharp Tooth Creek. The mill's records show that a wizard from Iriaebor was hired at the time the mill was constructed in the 13th Century, to magically seal the cellars from water. To date, the magic has done its work, but no one at the mill today knows how long the magical seals will hold.