Have you cleared out that fridge yet? Or still plowing through holiday leftovers? I had to creatively re-arrange mine just to fit all the extra Christmas goodies in.

When I moved into my current home, I went without a refrigerator for a few weeks. Fortunately it was the dead of winter, so the windowsill made a makeshift fridge for a while.  That wouldn’t work anymore.  I don’t have enough windowsills.

We’ve looked at how Amish keep their food cold numerous times. Some use gas- or propane-powered refrigerators and freezers, or may make use of freezers owned by English neighbors.

More traditional Amish use simpler means, such as ice boxes and ice houses.  You can see one in this post on an ice house in Amish New York.

Some Amish get their ice from ice delivery services, or ice kiosks.  Ice may also be cut and gathered by hand. Photographer John Hart has taken some excellent photos of Amish in Wisconsin harvesting ice for the Wisconsin State Journal.


Poles are used to guide the ice blocks. Photo by John Hart

The Amish in these photos are taking their ice from a pond in Green Lake County (a little over an hour north of Madison), home to an Amish community of 12 church districts (Kingston/Dalton area).

Obviously, the Amish in this piece are well aware of the camera, another real-life example contradicting the idea that Amish reject photography outright.


Loading ice into an ice house in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. Photo by John Hart

The Amish also contribute comments to the article by Barry Adams, which gives a nice account of how it all works:

Colder weather makes handling the 12-inch-by-18-inch blocks of ice easier, Miller said. Warmer weather weakens the ice and causes the 12-inch thick blocks to begin melting, making them more slick.

This ice, you see, has staying power.

The 1,500 blocks cut Saturday will be used to keep food cold year-round and helps make ice cream in the summer. A few blocks in a deep freeze box, which sometimes are old, non-working chest freezers, can last four to five days. There is no central ice warehouse. Instead, each Amish family has its own icehouse that can hold 200 to 250 blocks of ice. Built with well-insulated walls more than a foot thick, ice has been known to keep for two or even three years in an icehouse.

It’s funny to me that the Amish here are doing something which no doubt seems very “Amish” to casual-knowledge observers–gathering the rawest form of cooling fuel, taken from nature itself.

At the same time, they’re letting the rest of us in to view it, which would probably seem very “un-Amish” to the same people.

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