The water wheels of 17 mills turned in the Erfatal valley long ago, four of which were in Hardheim. Nowadays, however, there is only one in operation in this town in the Franconian part of the Odenwald, the Steinmühle mill. An ancestor of Jasmin Brauch bought it for 600 guilder more than 300 years ago. The young miller Jasmin remains true to the family tradition,even in the 21st century,thus preserving one of the oldest and most important crafts of mankind.
There is roaring, rustling, rattling and clacking all over the place making the wooden floorboards under Jasmin Brauch’s feet tremble. The young woman has to shout to make herself understood, because the Steinmühle, the stone mill, is running at full tilt. It grinds the golden-yellow grains of wheat into snow-white flour. And this is pretty noisy. “Sometimes I work with ear protection,” she shouts to talk over the din. Her straight brown hair is tied into a loose knot and her T-shirt is of the same light blue colour as the flour sacks that lean filled against the walls or are still draped over the railings. Jasmin is a miller—the twelfth generation of millers in her family.
She has known the thundering of the mill from an early age. Jasmin grew up in the house adjacent to the mill and still lives there today. From the living room, she can go directly to the small mill shop, where she and seven employees sell their own products and pasta, muesli and other cooking and baking ingredients. It was more than 300 years ago that Johann Adam Müller, an ancestor of Jasmin, bought the stone mill after the Müller family had already operated the Hardheim business as leaseholders for at least two generations. The family still possesses the original purchase contract. The mill in Hardheim in the Franconian Odenwald was first mentioned in 1322. A total of four mills once harnessed the power of the Erfa river in this town. Today, the stone mill is the only one still in operation. The Mühlenweg trail, however, leads along 14 kilometres to eleven historic mill sites in the Erfatal valley, bearing witness to the importance the craft once had in the region, along the small river.
The trail includes the stone mill, of course. The mill estate has changed over the centuries. Some buildings were demolished and new ones built. The two wooden water wheels were replaced by an iron wheel and later by two turbines. Numerous buildings on the estate burnt down during the second world war. The mill itself and the residential building were spared, though. “Nothing is in its original state anymore,” says Frank Müller, who took over the business some 20 years ago and still runs it. There was no question that he would become a miller one day. For his daughter, the decision took a little longer. After finishing secondary school, she was still unsure. But after two years of attending a vocational college, she made her decision. “I would have found it such a shame if no one took over the family business,” says the young woman. She completed the master craftswoman training in February 2023. Jasmin enjoys working with grains, a natural product, which you always have to adjust to: “Just like the weather is different every year, the crop is also different every year and you have to deal with it differently.”