This year is on! Festivities start at 0900 on Saturday January 28, 2017. Updated for the 2017 season on post #74 I thought that I’d share something a little historic in nature that many folks may not have seen before or even realized existed. While it is not exactly bushcrafty, it does hearken back to a day when self sufficiency was the rule moreso than the exception. Yesterday I finally got the chance to take the family to the next town to the south of us to check out a really cool annual winter event. The Tobyhanna Ice Harvest. It is a recreation of one of the larger industries in this region historically. This year was the 20th Anniversary. It is sponsored by a local group who have salvaged an old rail car and ice house and turned them in to living museums, complete with many antique tools that were used on the ice ponds in the area. A little background. Aside from the tanneries that were present in this area due to the abundance of Eastern Hemlock, the other main industry in this region was the harvesting of ice during the winter. Ice was typically harvested several times per year when the ice got thick enough (typically around 12” thick). It was then stored in ice houses that were lined with bales of straw for insulation. The ice was then placed on rail cars to be shipped to NYC or Philadelphia to be used in people’s ice boxes to preserve food. If I recall correctly, the little lake that we attended used to produce an average of 600,000 tons of ice per year. The average worker used to make $1.50/day when at full production. We took the kids down to watch the show and I was very surprised by how much they allowed the public to participate in the event. They had people cutting ice with the large saws, moving ice with pike poles and loading the ice house. All in all, a pretty cool day spent participating in a long-forgotten trade from that era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries between when railroads expanded across the nation and when modern refrigeration became standard in most homes. How the process works. A grid of 2’x2’ squares is laid out by a sled with a plow-type cutter blade on one side that is pulled behind a horse. This grid allows the ice blocks to be uniformly cut for both ease of storage and uniformity of product for sale. A hole is chipped out using a large steel spud bar or chisel to allow for the saw to be used. The saws, typically around 5’-6’ long, were used to cut along the grid lines, releasing the ice blocks. The blocks were then pushed down a chute cut in the ice leading to the ice house. The blocks were carried up a ramp by a sled-type tool that was connected to a horse via rope. The horse hauled the ice blocks up to a landing, where they were then slid down another ramp into the ice house for storage. Here's a photo of the sled used to lay out the grid pattern. Here's a grid laid out.