The Mill

Written by: The Bridge on Monday, September 18th, 2006

This post was written by Talitha; just before she left, she told me to post it for her. Sorry for pushing it off so long, Talitha. I finally got all the pictures together for it. Lance

I think one thing that needs to be clarified is the mill. Almost everything happens at the mill and I’m sure we’ve mentioned it over and over again in the posts. What would come to the mind of a typical Hutterite, would be a mill to mix feed for livestock. Being a typical Hutterite, this had me rather confused when I first got here. However, one look convinced me otherwise. It’s really a huge roof, held up by pillars 8 or 10 along the sides, with a kuppela all along the top of the roof. The kuppela is there to let light in and at the same time keep out those heavy tropical rainstorms that wash away roads and cover the sidewalks with sand. When we do have NEPA, it also has a few lonely looking light bulbs dangling from the rafters. Under this roof you can find the oddest assortment of equipment. Well I don’t know if I should say odd, it’s just that it’s all mixed together, when you’d think that it should really be more organized. There is everything from a brake and a shear to a feed mixer and a chop saw, lined up all along the sides. The hammer mill in this picture was donated by Thunderbird Colony in the US a few years ago and it’s still in good condition. On the east side of the mill there are some small crowded storage rooms.
The first one has the luxury of three windows and is being used for the palm oil. Goddy and his wife Blessing seem to be the ones taking care of that one. It’s full of oil drums, pails and dippers, you wouldn’t really want to get stuck in there, because you get the feeling you couldn’t come back out without stained clothing. The next two were once a plumbing room and a carpentry room. Now they’re full of a mixture of stuff, small pieces of wood, rusty nails, etc. The third is an electrical room. It has just recently been given over to one of the guys, Ticka, who volunteered to be our electrician. My mom cleaned it but there are still tons of old switches and stuff, crammed into the shelves. They all need to be sorted and organized or even thrown out.

The last and biggest in the row is the tool room. It contains all the tools that the mechanics use and most of the ones sent in that really great DHL. Paul Vetter, always looking very huttrish, Paul Dixon, who has patiently been fixing a motorbike ever since we got here, Emman David, forever busy with the construction equipment and my dad, always making do with what he’s got, all work right there beside the tool room on whatever piece of equipment needs their attention at the time. Anything from the little red lawnmower, to the cassava grinders, to the big yellow grader. The west end of the building is completely given over to extracting the red nourishing palm oil that stains dish clothes and every hand that touches it. This tedious process needs a lot of floor space so the mill is the perfect place to do it in. Along the outer edge there are vats and cauldrons full of palm nuts and water steaming away, bringing to mind the black cloaked figures of our high school days chanting, “Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble”.

There are usually women and children in cheerful wrappers or faded Hutterite dresses, hunched around their piles of palm nuts, hands never resting. Conversations full of laughter, never still, always ebbing and flowing around you, first from one side then from the other. The warm smells of steaming palm fruit mixed with wood smoke, drift towards us with the turning of the wind, tearing up our eyes, and annoying the men on the other end. The women are talking away. I’ve learned a bit of the language, so I can hear them using numbers and it brings to mind our women in their rubberized ‘keller shirtzle’ with ‘shiesle’ full of garden vegetables on their laps, discussing the price of roughnecks or who found what on a garage sale for which price. My mom, Clara and me sometimes help. It’s very cool there despite the tin roof and when it’s too hot and quiet in the house my mom and me find refuge there. I’m not sure what it is about the mill but somehow it contains its own kind of magic. There are always people there doing something. If only weighing themselves on the big scale they use for measuring the palm oil. But they are always passing through if only to see what’s going on.


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