Woman with collection of stone mills
|Hieu in her stone mill garden.|
Hearing about a woman keen on stone mills, I decided to visit her collection with over 1,000 stone mills. I was really surprised at the large number and variety of stone mills in her garden in Ngoc Hoi Hamlet, Vinh Ngoc Commune, Nha Trang.
° Special love four stone mills
The owner of this strange collection is a rather young woman named Nguyen Thi Minh Hieu. She was born in Dien Lac Commune, Dien Khanh District which has been famous for making rice pancake or rice vermicelli. In the old days, every house in this country has a stone mill to grind grains by hand into fine flour. When Hieu was a child, she often watched her mother and grandmother work with a stone mortar.
When flour milling machines became popular, fewer and fewer people used stone mills. Most of them fell into oblivion. However, Hieu still love this thing. The day when Hieu got married at the age of 21, she asked her grandmother for the stone mill as a keepsake. The career of stone mill collection started from then.
At first, Hieu collected stone mills in villages, communes in the land where she lived. Then, she looked for them everywhere she came, from nearby provinces such as Phu Yen, Binh Dinh and Da Nang to two peaks of the country Long An and Cao Bang. Because people now don’t use stone mills any more, they often give them to her with pleasure.
Collecting stone mills for ten years, Hieu is at home in them. There are two kinds of stone mills, with ears and without ears. Stone mills without ears is easier to make than ones with ears which must be created by talented workers. They are made from different materials such as grindstone or granite. They also have different sizes. Big ones with diameter of 1 meter were often used by makers of rice vermicelli or girdle cake for sale while smaller ones with diameter of 10 centimeters is for family use.
Normally, stone mills have no date on them. However, Hieu has two stone mills, one dated 1938 and another dated October 20, 1986.
|She seems to understand stone mills’ confidence.|
° Soul of stone mills
Many people feel strange about Hieu’s hobby because rare people are keen on this thing. However, they really admire the woman when seeing her big stone mill garden. To other people, a stone mill simply is a thing, but to the collector, a stone mill is also full of philosophy as well as beauty of life. “A stone mill has two parts that have to fit each other. If not, it can work. It is like harmony between wife and husband always results in success”, Hieu said, “Men created stone mills but women used them daily and commended their confidence to each rotation of stone mills”.
On the way to collect stone mills, Hieu also met a lot of stories and lives around them. Some people forgot stone mills, but many people still show consideration for them. One time, an over-70-year-old lady from Phu Yen Province came to Hieu’s garden to look for her missing stone mill. The old lady said that she was given that stone mill by her mother-in-law and she used it to mill flour to feed her children and make cakes for living for a very long time. She came to Hieu’s garden three times a week for one month with a desire to find her old stone mill.
Stone mills make up a waterfall.
In Hieu’s garden, the stone mills enjoy preferential treatment and seem to have a soul. Some of them make up a waterfall, some become selvedges for the garden, some are placed on the entrance and many of them are put into cylinders with the bigger ones arranged under the smaller ones, which means interdependence in life. The unused stone flour mills here creates a valuable collection.
One hobby of the collector is sitting in the middle of her garden in bright moonlit night to enjoy the moonlight and feel the confidences of the stone mills around her. Especially, her four most favourite stone mills are four legs of her bed. She loves them and wants to live near them even when she sleeps. They seem to be indispensable to her life.