Amishmen Cutting Ice

How do Amish harvest ice? Arthur Bolduc recently joined a crew for a day of ice-cutting in Knox County, Ohio to give an inside look into the process.

Ice is a necessity for those Amish who don’t use mechanical refrigeration, relying instead on ice houses. But the way they get their ice varies.

Amish in Geauga County, for instance, purchase ice stored in ice vending stations scattered throughout the community.

Others, like those in this story, or in this Wisconsin community, gather it themselves from frozen ponds.

Hauling Ice Slabs Knox County

In Bolduc’s story, Amish gathered at the Dennis Miller farm pond for the frolic, where ice had reached a thickness of up to seven inches.

Some interesting facts from the article at farmanddairy.com:

  • 25-30 tons of ice are needed to fill a 12 x 12 x 8 foot ice house
  • The Amish used a circular saw on a sled, supplemented by a chain saw
  • Workers wear “ice cleats” for traction (and I assume to avoid falling in the water, which can be deadly)
  • Each load weighs about a ton-and-a-half and is hauled by at least two or three horses
  • In a previous article on ice harvesting, Bolduc suggests the ice they gather is worth $5000 to $6000
  • The ice house may be a refrigerated truck body, but the preferred house is a two-foot-thick Styrofoam structure
  • 30+ tons of ice is enough “for even a couple of families” and may last into a second year

The article is a very interesting look into the odd Amish “harvest” that doesn’t involve crops.

Bolduc describes it as a “near carnival atmosphere” with women bringing hot drink and doughnuts and “friendly competition” of sliding ice cakes across the frozen surface.

Sounds like a fun day if you don’t mind the subzero cold.

Update: Karen Johnson-Weiner shares two photos of an ice harvest in the Heuvelton, New York area (home to a very conservative Amish community).

The ice house appears to be of wood construction, at least partially. And the ice blocks seem a good bit thicker than the ones in the photo above.

Ice Harvest Heuvelton New York

Wooden Ice House