Marie: Hey papa, where are you taking Lukas?
Farmer Caspar Heinrich: There is work waiting for the lads at the mill. The horse is harnessed to the tail pole and then it goes round and round around the mill.
Marie: Oh, I want to see that!
Farmer Caspar Heinrich: Look, the tail pole is set in the cog wheel in motion and that in turn is operating the heavy hammers. They help beat the flax smooth. Luckily we have the mill otherwise we would have had to do all of this manually. That would have been hours of hard labour!
Marie: How come?
Farmer Caspar Heinrich: Because flax is nasty stuff! First the yellow gold stalks need to be harvested in summer. Then the flax seeds need to get removed. This is also
called rippling. Then the whole lot needs to be soaked in water over many weeks. Only then can one start beating them. But the flax is far from ready after the beating process… actually this is when the real work begins. Hackling, spinning, weaving all come much later.
Marie: That means the work in the mill is only about beating the flax smooth?! That is then just one step among a whole of lot of other steps!
Farmer Caspar Heinrich: Yes, that`s right. That`s exactly how it is. . Hey Lukas no falling asleep come on boy, keep moving my little horsy. Those hammers have to pound evenly. Okay let me explain to you how difficult the whole thing is. Now, listen. Flax has a hollow wooden core. But that is of no use to us. Outside it has a wooden bark, the bast - that too does not interest us. What is of use to us, are the fibres. That is what we are after. We have to somehow extract the fibre from the rest and that is what we achieve by beating it. And to speed the whole process up, we use the mill. Our entire lot of flax gets processed altogether in one big step. Even though the hammers help us, it is still a very dusty, unpleasant job.
Foto: Bielefelder BauernhausMuseum