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Mill, milling, blades

11. December 2019. by slrastoke

The breath-taking Rastoke mills have fascinated adventurists and travel writers for centuries and almost each of them drew a sketch of the waterfall view or wrote a brief text on their fabulous beauty. During the short yet significant French rule at the beginning of the 19th century, the desired peace and order was established and the mills became someone’s permanent homes. Since then, the milling has been organised in such a way that for the mills and their use it was necessary to have a special approval, concession, and the mills were upgraded with accommodation space so that Rastoke slowly became what they are today: a picturesque town on the historic military frontier, whose life revolves around the water in the rhythm of the mill blades in the cold waters of the Slunjčica river. As opposed to the standard mills with wheel, the Rastoke mills are a more complex engineering whole whose function has advanced the autochthonous architecture of the region and beyond to perfection. The organisation of the space in the mill is entirely subordinated to the function of the mill. The energy of the water dropping from a height is guided directly into the mill’s blades. Thus, it creates space for the housing and storage part of the mills, where there used to be abundant and interesting family and social life, directly above the Rastoke waterfalls.

The intelligent use of water and cooperation of close people are the conditions for the start of the work with the wheel mill that is authentic for Rastoke. A mill was built at places where there is a drop and the appropriate amount of water that with its direct impact on the blades moves the vertical spindle and the mill rock connected with it. Rastoke mills were made on a travertine barrier at the edges of lands where the waterfalls were from 3 to 5 meters high, with a slope of the water supply scaffold under the angle of 35 degrees. Water had to be tamed and redirected. Therefore, dams were installed vertically to the river flow, the so-called ‘heads’ from oak or chestnut protecting the direct impact of the water onto the mill and redirecting the flow through the planks (‘žaganica’, i.e. board) from fir wood or spruce wood becoming narrower towards the bottom in order for the impact into the mill blades to be stronger as it was transferred onto the mill drive grounding in the room above the water. The stone parts for the base of the mill were constructed from domestic tufa from the Slunjčica river or from stone from the surrounding quarries, while wooden parts were regularly made from oak or wild chestnut becoming stronger and lasting longer in the water that cooperated in the complex mill construction endeavour. Water comes to the rescue by covering the lower rooms with impermeable tufa so that during the biggest floods the internal area of the mill remained dry and impermeable. For milling, it was necessary to have several types of millstones that could be regularly maintained. For the white flower milling, the stone had to be made of pure stone and granite ingredients, while oats, barley, millet and corn were ground with lower quality stones. During the great milling, millstones had to be whetted or honed every 8 to 10 days, while during the smaller milling the stones were whetted every 15 days. Mills were the drivers of life and breadwinners of the region and the construction and regular maintenance of this mill was joint work of the millers, neighbours and friends, while at the time before the region got electricity, when the mills worked to their maximum, there were more blacksmiths in Rastoke who were always very busy.