Mills in Altoaragón - aceitero


Formigales is a small village in the La Fueva region. From L'Ainsa take the road to Campo and after 13 km turn right to Tierrantona. Keep on the main road until you find Formigales, Troncedo and Graus signposted to the left. Past the village of Formigales there is a sharp turn to the left; here a track goes down into the valley of the Barranco de Formigales — the mill of Solanilla is higher up on the same rivulet. Walk the track and you will soon find some dilapidated shack. Now try to find a weak trail going down: it leads to the mill. At the time, the building was in a terrible state, but the huge cantilever press was still strong and worth to be protected and preserved.

Pictures: 13.IV.2012

(1) The oil mill almost invisible in the landscape.

From a distance, the mill is almost hidden from sight. That is because of the abundant presence of Ivy but also because the construction is built leaning against —almost into— the slope of the valley. For the same reason the mill is built in three levels.
The lowest floor opens with a wide, double woo­den door (2). It is the main entrance —left corner­stones of (2) are just visible leftmost in (1). On one of the panels kind of an unfinished flower of life is drawn (3) —see also the mill of Labuerda (pict. 29).

(2) Main entrance
(3) Engraving on the door

There is another, narrower, door at the highest level (1 center) and giving access to a small space which protrudes from the rectangle formed by the rest of the construction. It is the place where the olives where crushed.
There is a stone (4) resting in a simply circular embalse without a dedicated wider stretch where the mash could be scooped up. It is a cramped space and I am not sure that the narrow path around the embalse could accommo­date a mule pulling the stone around.
Also, given that the main entrance is elsewhere, this configura­tion does not seem very practical as all fresh pro­duce had to be carried two levels up from the entrance. Unless, of course, reception of the olives to be pressed was done at the small door here. But then there is no obvious place where to store more than a only a small amount of fruits in waiting. In order to avoid fermentation, resulting in lower quality of the oil, the olives had to be proces­sed soon after their arrival, but even so, sufficient storage was required.

(4) Ruello, runner stone, in its embalse. Notice the year 1784.


From the milling station a series of steps (5) leads down to the middle level where the press is. Working one's way 2 meters down on narrow steps with a load of mash —and then 10m more to the far side of the press (6)— again must have been less than desirable.
The press is of the cantilever type, prensa de viga y quintal, and, given the general state of the site, in a rather good condition: only the vertical guiding beams, guiaderas, in the middle are gone. See e.g. Panillo for a complete specimen.

(7) Tuerca with caracol

The free end (7, 8, 11) of the prensa is peculiar. The shape of the tuerca, the block which holds the screw, or husillo, caracol, is very irregular. Compare it with the regular shapes in f.e. Trillo, Aguinalíu or Castilsabás.
Notice also the empty hole and the rusty head of a metallic bolt at the front (7). The tuerca consists of a front and a back half held together by two rods. The cleavage between both parts is not straight. I there­fore presume that the block must have split by accident and then was repaired (5 shows the back).
The finish of the top of the beam is not symmetrical (8) and the two holes make it look like something (but what?) was attached to one side.
Next to the press, at the lowest floor, there is a couple of decanting vessels, pilas (9).

It is also worth the effort to browse the site and take a closer look at how the parts of the press are bolted together (5, 7, 10).

Don't miss the items which look a bit like a cricket bat (12). These beams with handles are called trabones or lavijas. The former were slided into the slits of the vertical beams at the back (virgenes) in order to block the fixed end of the beam and the latter into the guiaderas in order to lock and support the beam in a horizontal idle position.

(9) Decanting vessels

(11) Connection between beam and tuerca; see also (8)

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