Three weeks ago on a Sunday we felt the need to get out of Sonoma. With having a newborn in the house it’s easy to get caught up in the little cocoon you build around yourselves, but I was feeling the need to see new sights. Because the colors of the vineyards were so amazing those first few weeks of November, we decided to drive over and up through Napa Valley. With no real plan other than a cooler full of picnic fare, we headed east and north. We spotted possible picnic spots along the way, V. Sattui Winery, the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company?, maybe Taylors would let us picnic if we bought enough milk shakes, the quaint little park in downtown St. Helena?…as we kept driving north I remembered out loud that I had heard of a flour mill north of St. Helena. Now, I worked in St. Helena for five years as a senior designer for a wine company, but I had never ventured to this flour mill before, nor had I heard much about it. But there it was to the left, the Bale Grist Mill.
What a fantastic place! Have you been there before? From the parking lot you take a little hike (stroller friendly) down a tree lined path and across a bridge. Around a bend you spot the mill and is it ever beautiful! We were greeted warmly by a man and woman dressed in 1800′s period costumes. They quickly made us feel at home in the old grain barn, pulling up a chair for me to nurse our fussy daughter next to her old wood cook stove and then took our boys outside to play an old fashioned stick game with them.
The tour was fascinating. I don’t know much about engineering at all, but to see those beautiful gears all work together without the need of electricity was incredible! Oh, and when he started that huge water wheel up, everyone was captivated. Once the wheel started up (and he let the boys start it up, were they ever excited!) the wheat grains that were in the hopper were ground into flour that fell into a large canvas bag at our feet. Being surrounded in all of that beautifully crafted wood in a natural surrounding with such warm, welcoming hosts made it hard for us to leave. After we had our picnic, we went back inside to buy some flour, spelt and polenta and ended up loitering as long as we could.
After using the ‘Necessary House’ we finally left only with the hope that we would get to return soon.
If you live locally, the Bale Grist Mill is hosting a Pioneers Christmas this coming Saturday, December 11th. You should take the trip up there. If you should happen to see a frazzled mom and a sleep deprived dad trying to wrangle three kids (all the while trying to figure out how we can move in and live in the mill) that will be us. If you a live a little farther away, mark it on your calendar to head to the Napa Valley the first or second weekend of November next year to take advantage of the beautiful colors of the vineyards and to pick up some locally ground flour.
We are so lucky to live here!