They found a thrill: blueberries at the mill

Pancake fans get a taste of hands-on history at fundraiser

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

Grist Mill

Blueberries

Where to pick your own blueberries in north Clark County:

Bosch’s Blueberry Hill Farm

3917 N.E. Cedar Creek Road, Woodland

360-225-7103

Annie’s Berry Farm

39069 N.E. 41st Ave., La Center

360-263-2289

Kew Kanooth

37614 N.E. 137th Court, La Center

360-921-3571

Kaye’s Blueberries

5406 N.E. 219th St., Battle Ground

360-687-4630

La Center siblings Jack Keeling, 6, and his 3-year-old sister, Addison, have become capable blueberry pancake critics during their young lives, but seeing wheat milled into the flour that would make their sweet, syrupy treat Saturday at north Clark County’s historic Cedar Creek Grist Mill was a new experience.

“The history of this place is great,” said their father, Peter Keeling. “It’s fascinating to see how things worked back then. This place is unique. You don’t see a whole lot of water-powered mills anymore.”

Volunteers at the national historic site used freshly milled flour from the mill and blueberries handpicked at La Center’s Kew Kanooth blueberry patch to make a feast of blueberry pancakes for visitors Saturday. The free pancakes were a magnet to raise money to support the mill and to advance the mill’s mission of educating the public about the mill’s history and where their food comes from.

Visitors from all over the Washington, Oregon and California lined up at the mill to eat pancakes, find a map of local blueberry patches and learn about the mill built in 1876.

“We love having visitors here,” said volunteer Barbara Sizemore. “It’s our way to showcase local growers and where food comes from. The goal is for families to pick their own blueberries and tomorrow, make their own pancakes. When kids learn how to do something on their own, they are so much happier and self-fulfilled.”

When volunteers came up with the fundraiser idea a couple of years ago, their goal was to serve a meal that would incorporate flour from the mill, illustrate a food common during the time the mill was built and promote local growers.

Donations were accepted for pancakes, bags of freshly milled cornmeal and flour and cookbooks.

“One of the purposes is to show kids how people used to get their food and show them that bread doesn’t come from a package in Safeway,” said volunteer Joyce Sixberry.

Eleven-year-old William Crockett, who was visiting from Albuquerque, N.M., watched volunteer Joe Chipman pour what looked like unpopped popcorn into a hopper that funneled the kernels into the Buhr mill, where spinning stones churned it into cornmeal that dropped out of the base. Perched over Cedar Creek, the mill is powered by a water turbine under the building.

“It’s cool” said William, who was with his grandparents from Portland.

The mill is the last surviving grain-grinding mill in Washington that has maintained its original structure, grinds with stones and is powered by water. George Woodham and his two sons built the mill in 1876. It operated as a mill off and on until 1909. In 1912, it was converted into machine shop for the logging industry. In the 1980s, local residents formed a nonprofit corporation to restore the mill and bring it back into operation. The mill machinery is not original but comes from the same time period, said volunteer Jeffrey Berry.

Saturday’s event was just one of several periodic fundraisers volunteers organize to help keep the mill in operation. The mill’s upkeep and educational arm depend entirely on volunteers and donations. The mill is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For recipes, directions and history, visit http://cedarcreekgristmill.com.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.