At the Mill at Anselma in Chester Springs, a 16-foot waterwheel gently splashed visitors while generating enough power to grind fresh-off-the-mill, stone-ground cornmeal and wheat flour.
Last Saturday, the historic grain mill opened its doors for a milling demonstration, a preview of its weekly farmers market and the introduction of organic grains milled on site.
The organic cornmeal and wheat flour can be used to make bread, polenta, pizza dough, pie crusts and pancakes. Two-pound bags of the organic goods sell for $6 in the mill's gift shop, while nonorganic versions were selling for $4.
The mill decided to offer organic grains because people kept asking for them, explained Heather Reiffer, executive director at the mill. "We will offer nonorganic grains as well but we hope it's going to be a permanent change if grain prices stay level," added Reiffer.
Tabea Fahr, 11, said her "mom especially likes their pancake mix." She and her two brothers, Gerrit, 7, and Simon, 5, found baby turtles in the nearby mill pond. The Wayne residents had already visited Anselma twice.
While rain clouds were kept at bay, an interactive attraction was swarming with curious children and inquisitive adults.
A small mockup of a waterwheel with water was set up for young kids to figure out. What looked like a sandbox full of ground corn piqued the interest of would-be millers as the pint-size workers shifted and cleaned the grains.
A few vendors selling native plants and organic foods showed up to give visitors a taste of the new Anselma Farmers and Artisans Market, which will start on June 4. Every Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., 10 to 15 vendors will sell local fruits, vegetables, meats, breads and plants.
The market is just part of the mill's mission. "We're interpreting the agricultural past of Chester County. The farmers market will connect with agricultural today and provide a wonderful service to the community," said Reiffer, the mill director.
A Quaker surveyor, Samuel Lightfoot, built the grist mill in 1747. In 2001, the Mill at Anselma Preservation and Educational Trust began raising $1.6 million to restore the waterwheel, finally putting it back into operation in May 2004.
Since 2005, it has been on the list of National Historic Landmarks, the only working grist mill of its kind with that distinction. Grist is a historic term for the amount of grain someone takes to the mill to grind.
David Rollenhagen, head miller and a former engineering director at Lockheed Martin, explained that the mill functions the same as it did in the mid-18th century. The West Vincent resident helped oversee the restoration of the waterwheel, solid granite grinding stones that weigh 3,200 pounds, bucket conveyors and massive wooden gears that go into grinding wheat and corn the old-fashioned way.
One Saturday every month, the milling demonstrations take place, as well as other nostalgic activities. The summer festivities include tinsmithing, 18th-century ice cream- and cheese-making, and swing dancing.
Tom Morrin took his daughters, Quinn, 4, and Keira, 3, to see the mill for the first time, though they live in Chester Springs. "I'm a city guy," said Morrin. "These kinds of places make living in the country nice."
The Mill at Anselma is at 1730 Conestoga Rd., Chester Springs, 610-827-1906,
Regular hours until August, Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; September to Dec. 22, Saturdays and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
for days when there are no milling demonstrations: $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children age 6 to 17 years old, free for children under 6.
The next ones are Saturday, June 14 (along with a traditional tinsmith demonstration); Saturday, July 12 (18th-century ice cream-making); Saturday, Aug. 9 (18th-century cheese-making). Call the mill for other events.
for demonstration days: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children age 6 to 17 years old, free for children under 6 and mill members.
Anselma farmers and artisans market