Mills in Alto Aragón – aceitero

Mas de Ribera (Arén)

Mas de Ribera is a small nucleus of some abandoned houses in very bad shape hidden in the landscape near Arén. The site is best approached from the N-230 (between Arén and Puente de Montañana). Near km 98 there is a spacious car park in front of a restaurant with the name Lo Pas D'Arán. Next to the restaurant is a smaller car park were also waste containers are stored. Walk to the end of this space and then left onto the gravel track. Follow the track past the warehouse and to the end at about 1200 m. Now make your way for about 400 m to the West. You should now be in close proximity to the buildings. The oil mill is situated a few steps to the North of the nucleus.

Pictures: 18.iv.2014

(1) Overview of the site looking to the East. The mill is left. Larger image

The mill consists of rather small workshop without interior walls. The space between the sections (storage, preparation, extraction) is minimal (6) with almost no free space left.

The construction is in a very bad shape. The roof came down and caused the press to collapse. The part of the front around the entrance (5) did also fell in and shrubs are claiming back their space.

The mill is built by hollowing out the slope of the hill and in fact only about half of the front, and the wall to the East had to be build. The rest had to be dug out.

One had to make concessions: at the end of the press a large rock protrudes (3). It would have been impossible to remove.

(2) The mill is built inside the slope.

(3) Press (left)
with large rock protruding from the wall.
(4) Hot water vessel at the foot of the rock in (3).

(5) The entrance with the workplace extending to the left and right.

(6) Part of the workplace situated left from the entrance.

The construction at hand is rather small. There is only a narrow passageway between the work­stations for the different activities going on in an oil mill. The floor space available is limited and it must have been no easy feat to squeeze everything in.

At first I wondered why not a bit more of the hillside was dug out: a bit deeper and a trifle wider. Why hadn't they built an entire front wall a couple of meters more away from the hill? That would have meant more floor space and therefore much easier walking around between the equipment. But then, after looking around a bit more, I realized that cost may have been an issue.

In my opinion, the owner of this mill may have had limited re­sources in order to build and maintain the installa­tions. Several peculi­arities seem to support that thought.

First the very compact setup due to the limited floor space.

Second the build of the cantilever beam (11 – 13). The cantilever of this type of press, prensa de viga y quintal, is necessarily composed of several distinct beams (see f.e. Puy de Cinca, Formigales, or Aguinalíu).

(7) Algorines – storage for fresh olives.
(8) Fixed end of the cantilever beam.

The examples show that as a rule wood for the beams is debarked and then edged and trimmed in order to obtain clean and straight sides.

Here, in Mas de Ribera, the situation is entirely different: almost raw trunks were used. The logs have undergone only a minimal debarking (12) and are only edged and trimmed were really necessary.

In order to make it all fit nicely together into a decent composed beam additional pieces of wood and metal were applied (11, 12 left).

The third hint can be seen at the free end of the cantilever: the tuerca (15) which holds the screw which moves the press up and down. The iron rods which hold this tuerca in place on the cantilever beam are far too long for the thickness of the tuerca. Several pieces of wood were needed (15) in order to make a solid connection. The rods, per­haps even the tuerca, may have been used else­where firstly.

Finally, the edge stone must have had a bad spot, or developed a fissure, and the stone was carefully repaired (17). At no other place have I ever seen an edge stone which was repaired.

(9) The marrano which brings the pressure of the press to the stack of olive paste.

(10) Pila: vessel in which the oil was captured.
Back to our visit.

Standing at the entrance we see the head of press (14, 15) straight in front of us. Looking to the left we have the view of (6) with from left to right the reception area with the algorines (vessels) for the newly arrived olives (7), then the press, and then a stone vessel (4) for hot water used in the extraction process.

From the entrance looking to the right we see the torno (16) with the edge stone, where the olives were crushed into an oily mass.

The algorines are built from thin bricks (6, left) which at the inside are plastered with a thin layer of cement (7). The basin for hot water (4, 6 right), however, is composed of natural stone that has been carefully cut to size and then also covered with a layer of cement. From a distance it looks like the vessel is cut from one piece of stone.
Below the cantilever, more towards the head than the marrano (9), one more container (10) can be found between the vegetation. It is a pila meant to receive the freshly extracted mixture of oil and water. Several pilas in a row are working together during the decantation step of the extraction process.

(11) The arm of the press is composed of large, irregular beams.


(13) The guiadera, a guiding beam with slit, about half way of the cantilever beam.

(14) The head of the press with the milling station for the olives.

(15) The head of the press: the tuerca which holds the screw.

(16) The torno, the edge stone in its bed.
(17) The edge stone, ∅ = 105 cm, was repaired.

The roller crusher (16) is situated in the same space as the cantilever, but at the other side of the entrance. The balsa del torno, the grinding area, has a diameter of 120 cm. The edge stone (17, from conglomerate) has a diameter of 105 cm.

Notice that the grinding area is bordered with nicely cut, flat, natural stone (17). In many oil mills the area is delimited by a row of flat bricks lying on their side (e.g. Abizanda).

Text written with pencil (18) can be seen in several places on the sides of the main beam of the press. However, we failed to decipher the text and we couldn't tell when it was written. Was it during the working life time of the mill, or only afterwards by visitors?

In a shed, next to the mill, a length of the husillo, or caracol, (19) was found. This is the screw which fits in the tuerca (15) and is turned in order to move the arm of the press up or down (see f.e. the mills men­tioned earlier on this page).

(18) Inscriptions on the beams of the press.
(19) The screw, caracol, of the press.

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