Friday, February 15, 2013

Homestead Living: Cutting Ice

When temperatures hovered near zero degrees and the ice on the lake and on the Iowa river was thick, it was time to cut ice. Block ice, of course, was a necessity, and cutting a large quantity of ice and storing it properly were matters of great concern to the men of the community. On a day determined by the Okonomiebaas (agriculture boss) and the men in charge of the icehouse, the ice making would begin and continue for several days. Nearly every man in the village joined the effort. The teamsters were up early harnessing the horses and preparing the wagons outfitted with special sleighlike runners. A second group of men spent the morning straightening up the icehouse and readying it for the first load. The majority of men were taken by sleigh to the Lily Lake or the Iowa River. Generally, East Amana, Amana, and Middle Amana men cut ice on the Lily Lake. Homestead made ice on the Iowa River, but later the men of Homestead built a small pond near Homestead where ice could be cut closer to home. High Amana and South Amana crews cut their ice on the Iowa River, and West Amana men traveled upstream to a deep oxbow known as Watt's Pond.

It must have been a long day out on the flat with the wind blowing in your face and the ice underfoot and a lot of hard work to be done. As Carl Schuerer of East Amana put it, "That lake, in winter that was a pretty nippy place, I tell you. If we would have a wind like we had a couple of days ago, boy, you couldn't stand it up there. No, it was a cold place."

Seasons of Plenty, by Emilie Hoppe

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