Icehouse/Icebox

I set this round bale of straw down after the big snow.  We had a big melt this past week and all the snow around it melted, leaving the bale sitting on its own block of ice.  It got me to thinking about the insulating properties of straw.

There is an old building on my Dad’s home farm.  The building is called the Icehouse.  Back in the days before rural electrification, people would cut chunks of ice out of lakes or streams and put the ice into their icehouse.  Then they would insulate the ice with wood shavings or straw.

People had an Icebox in their house to keep food and beverages cool.  There was a place to put a block of ice.  When one block of ice melted, they would go get another one.  Maybe you’ve heard someone refer to the refrigerator as the icebox.

In Henry David Thoreau’s classic, “Walden,” he tells about the time he let a young man warm up in his cabin.  He had fallen in the cold water of Walden Pond when he was out cutting ice.

Thoreau provides details about the process of cutting out ice, which he observed 100 men doing over a span of 16 days.  They made a stack of ice weighing 10 tons.  They covered the stack with hay and boards for insulation, and didn’t open until July.  Even after it was exposed to the air and sunshine, Thoreau says the stack didn’t fully melt until September of the following year.

2 Responses to Icehouse/Icebox

  1. chainey says:

    Along those lines, you may be interested to see the episode “The Refrigerator” in the documentary series The Secret Life of Machines. There’s some interesting archive footage of ice being cut from the Great Lakes. I was amazed to discover that some countries actually imported ice!

    (See the info at bottom if you need a player to view these)

  2. curiousfarmer says:

    Thanks, Chainey. Never knew that. How many businesses have come and gone?

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