Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Harvest

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Programs Coordinator Farmers harvested many of their crops through the summer and fall. One material, though, could only be harvested well into winter: ice. By late January the ice was usually thick enough (between eight and sixteen inches) to begin harvesting. Ice was an important element in food industries by the 1840s and it allowed people to keep food cool into the summer. Ice harvesters had to contend with the dangers of thin ice, not only for themselves but also the horses they used to pull sleds and tools on frozen lakes. When the ice broke under a horse, the horse began (quite understandably) to panic and flail to get out of the water. Every horse had a rope with a slip knot around its neck, and workers pulled the rope to choke it, keeping air in the animal and forcing it to stop struggling. Workers then slid planks of wood under it, pulled it to safety, and warmed up the horse from its cold plunge with blankets and exercise. Left: Ice Harvest, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-71466] Right: Ice Harvest on Otsego Lake, Smith-Telfer Collection, New York State Historical Association,4-1129

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