The water wheat mill

The nutrition of peasants was primarily based on wheat which produces flour and bulgur. The inhabitants of Khenchara Al-Jwar planted wheat. Therefore, they needed an “elegant” water mill. They built one near the stream of a seasonal (winter) river at the bottom, on a land owned by St. John Convent. The monks rented the mill to one of the villagers who ran it in return for a certain amount of money and reserve to himself a share of the produced wheat, flour or bulgur received from the peasants.

The mill was comprised of a large pool dug in a high land near the river to store the water. On one side of the mill, there was a window leading to a horizontal channel used to convey water and attached to a tube from which the water run through a tight opening and hit the horizontal turbine located in a special chamber below the mill. At the middle of the turbine, an axis was connected to the millstone to move it. The millstone was fixed to the ground and a rotation axis was attached at its center. Above, another horizontal millstone attached to the rotation axis made the water turbine spin fast. The mill’s manager or one of his assistants used to deter the winter water stream to the pool after having shut its hole so that the water accumulated in it. Then, the hole was opened and water flew in the channel and fell heavily on the pointed turbine, turning it and making the millstone spin. The process of turning the wheat into flour or bulgur thus started. Having generated a moving power, the flooding water rushed out from the water-based operating mechanism chamber back to the river stream for other uses (such as irrigation or mills operation) in other villages.

Wheat grains placed in a wooden container resembling a reverse pyramid hanging over the millstone fell through a window located at the center of the moving millstone and came out in the form of flour after being ground, or bulgur after being cracked and milled, from the two millstones (there is a special mechanism to operate the moving millstone: it can grind the wheat to turn it into fine particles of flour or crack it to turn it into bulgur). The produced flour or bulgur accumulated in a special channel surrounding the millstone and a part of it fell automatically into a special recipient located below the two millstones and known as “the flour recipient”. The mill’s manager or one of his assistants pushed the produced flour or bulgur, using a wooden tool similar to a small shovel, from the channel to the recipient. Then, the products were packed in hemp or flax bags and transferred to the houses where they were preserved as provision for the whole year, allowing the villagers to support themselves and to prepare their bread and other foods containing bulgur.

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