Amish in Unity, Maine recently completed their yearly harvest of ice. This ice is to be used in their ice houses for cooling throughout the coming year. Harvesting ice from local ponds is a common practice among the plainest Amish, though the Amish in this community don’t exactly fit the conventional definition of “plainest”.

From the report at

UNITY — A group of 30 Amish men and teenagers gathered Thursday for an annual effort to cut blocks of ice from a farm pond that were then stored in icehouses to keep produce cold for up to a year.

The labor-intensive work is normally done earlier in the winter, but farmer Stephen Smith said it was delayed by the unseasonably warm temperatures. They were able to complete the work ahead of the bitterly cold and gusty weather that moved into the region Friday.

The blocks were cut with chainsaws, retrieved and lifted with poles and tongs, and moved with a conveyor belt onto horse-drawn wagons to be distributed to icehouses. The estimated total was 300,000 pounds’ worth, or about 150 tons of ice. Smith says it’s meant for storing produce and other foods.

Stephen Smith lifts an ice block with tongs during this year’s harvest. Photo by David Leaming/

No idea if 300,000 pounds of ice is “a lot” or “a little”. But if I had to guess, I’d guess it’s probably neither, or rather, “just right”, in that they likely harvest about what they need each year, and did the same this year.

We’ve done a number of posts on this practice over the years, but I think this is the first one where the amount of ice was quantified. Ice harvesting is an activity that just “fits” with the perception of the Amish as living simply and off-the-land. Although most Amish don’t harvest ice and rely on other methods of cooling.

In these two posts featuring some nice photos by David Marvitz, we see separate harvests in an Amish community in Iowa with a bit more describing the process and showing the tools involved.

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