Fanning for Pillows

Jamie Heap
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Cumberland Perfect Sleep Company uses antiquated technology to increase pillow production

Gary Ebanks operates an 1880s fanning mill that he and his wife Bridget recently purchased to increase productivity at Cumberland Perfect Sleep Company. a Joggins-based company owned by Bridget Ebanks, that specializes in making buckwheat hull products such as pillows. Buckwheat hull pillows, which conform to the shape of one's neck. having a cooling effect to them.

JOGGINS-Who would have thought that an antiquated piece of 19th century farming machinery would play such an integral role in a 21st century business?

Several weeks ago, Bridget and Gary Ebanks purchased two 1880s fanning mills to increase productivity at Cumberland Perfect Sleep Company, a burgeoning business the couple operates out of their home on7704 Shulie Road, Joggins.

“Our business started to take off with Christmas at the Coliseum in Moncton late last year,” stated Cumberland Perfect Co. owner Bridget Ebanks. “We sold about 200 pillows over that weekend. We learned that trade shows were the way to go.”

Bridget Ebanks, a musician who developed frozen shoulder syndrome from playing a guitar for 3-5 hours per night, six nights a week in the Grand Cayman Islands over a decade ago, first became interested in buckwheat hull pillows when she was a marketing director for an Ottawa-based chiropractic company. She claims that buckwheat hull pillows enable her to get a pain-free night of sleep.

The Cumberland Perfect Sleep Co. has sold such buckwheat hull products as pillows/pillow covers; cooling ties and scarves; doo rags and now bolster pillows, at the Blueberry Harvest Festival, Wallace and Area Museum, the Amherst Artisans’ Market and at the Northshore Antique Tractor and Engine Club’s 14th annual Mechanical Fair at Verstraten Farm in Lorneville where Gary Ebanks received leads as to where he and Bridget could purchase their two fanning mills.

“We were looking into buying a fanning mill from India for $5,000.00,” stated Bridget Ebanks. “Then Gary found out that he could buy two locally for less.”

The previous owners of these seemingly antiquated pieces of farm machinery, that tend to sit in people’s barns collecting dust, were Hope Harrison and Ted Embree.

Historically, fanning mills were used by farmers to clean such coarse grains as wheat, oats and barley, discarding the husks or shells in the process. Conversely, Gary Ebanks utilizes the fanning mill, which provides him with a good workout, to save the husks off buckwheat provided to them by an undisclosed Maritime farm.

“Every three months, an eighteen-wheeler brings us 3,000 pounds of buckwheat that we refrigerate for 48 hours,” stated Bridget Ebanks. “From now until Christmas, that same eighteen-wheeler will be coming every three weeks.”

The Ebanks purchase their fabric from Dayle’s Department store and Fabricville.

“It used to take five hours to clean one-and-a-half feed bags of buckwheat before we got the fanning mill,” said Gary Ebanks. “Now, a whole bag of buckwheat can be done in 20 minutes. That fanning mill (Ted Embree’s) is still in great shape.”

The Ebanks will be selling their wares at the Maritime Rockabilly Festival.

Phone (902) 251-2410 or (902) 694-3312 to ensure that the Ebanks are home before travelling to The Cumberland Perfect Sleep Co. in Joggins, Nova Scotia.

If you have a Facebook account, you can view a video of Gary Ebanks operating the 1880s fanning mill by visiting the following webpage.

For more about the business, visit





Organizations: The Cumberland Perfect Sleep Co., Cumberland Perfect Sleep Company, Wallace and Area Museum Northshore Antique Tractor and Engine Club Verstraten Farm

Geographic location: JOGGINS, On7704 Shulie Road, Moncton Grand Cayman Islands Ottawa Lorneville India Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Boyd Bare
    September 01, 2015 - 10:21

    Hi I'm looking to sell a real nice fanning mill here in BC it's exactly like the one in the pic. How much is top dollar for a good working example?