Harvesting Tradition

By Alice Maggiore

February 4, 2012 Updated Feb 4, 2012 at 6:29 PM EST

East Meredith, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A warmer January means there are fewer ice patches. Still, the ice was thick enough for an area museum to follow through with a tradition that's more than 20 years old.

Ice harvesting was really important in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It's the equivalent to our modern-day refrigerator.

Hanford Mills Museum staff use an ice saw to cut through the surface, then they break it up.

There's score marks, which sort of look like a grid, to help them see where to cut.

Then, they follow the 60 pound cube with a pole, and use big tongs to get it out.

The kids weren't allowed out on the ice today, because the ice was only about 6 inches thick, but they still got to help.

They used wagons to bring the ice back to the Mills' ice house.

"It was a normal process of the winter around here, this area. They would harvest the ice, put it in the ice house. It would be used for the icebox," says Bob Adair, an employee at the museum.

Dairy farmers relied on it as well.

"If they didn't have a good cold spring to put their milk in through the summer, they would have a water vat to put their milk in and then they'd put a block of ice in it to help keep it cold," says Adair.

If the ice is packed well, it can hold for up to 8 months, through October.

Everyone at the museum is excited and looking forward to summer.

That's when they'll use some of these blocks to turn ice cream for a big July Fourth celebration Hanford Mills is planning.

The community looks forward to the ice harvest every year.

The museum has held it since 1988.