When my Christmas to-do list seems overwhelming, when I can’t sing another carol or bake another cookie, when my fingers are aching from putting wrapping paper and ribbons on presents, when my eyes are bleary from online shopping, that’s when I like to take a break from the holiday rush at Bear’s Mill. For me, spending time in the country is always calming, and since Bear’s Mill sits along Greenville Creek, a scenic stream that meanders through miles of Darke County farmland, the bucolic drive alone is a great way to decompress.
During the holidays, Bear’s Mill always looks naturally festive in its woodsy setting. I love how seasonal evergreen boughs and pinecone decorations stand out against the mill’s American black walnut siding, and at this ultra-busy time of year when every day is a blur, Bear’s Mill has an authentic, timeless quality that is a joy in its own special way. With its hand-hewn timbers and pairs of French buhr millstones, the gristmill has been a landmark and gathering place ever since Gabriel Baer built it in 1849. After Terry and Julie Clark bought the abandoned mill in 1978, they resumed the milling operation and turned it into a one-of-a-kind attraction complete with an art gallery.
Today, the Friends of Bears Mill is preserving it for posterity, but Terry Clark is still the miller and often gives tours to visitors.
He tells folks how the antique equipment works; describes the nutritional benefits of the “cool” grinding process; and entertains everyone by explaining the origin of common phrases like “run of the mill” and “keep your nose to the grindstone.”
Throughout the year, I like to buy Terry’s freshly ground cornmeal and whole wheat flours at the Bear’s Mill store, and during the holidays, I always keep the mill’s pancake mix on hand.
The mix makes it easy to eat local and treat my family to a tasty, hot-off-the-griddle breakfast on Christmas morning.
The store also carries a wide variety of Christmas décor items, high quality culinary equipment, ornaments, and apparel and accessories that range from leather handbags and jewelry to warm socks and mittens.
It’s a pleasure to shop for gifts and stocking stuffers in such an historic, no-stress boutique, but when I’m searching for something special for a hard-to-buy-for person, my go-to place is the pottery section of the Bear’s Mill gallery. Featuring the work of Julie Clark and other members of the Millrace Potters Collective, it’s chockful of beautifully designed and executed stoneware creations that are sure to please and impress.
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