A Weekend Into the Past; Ice House

old style canadian ice house.JPG

Ice what? Ice house! What's an ice house you say? It's man's ingenious idea before refrigeration. Have you ever wondered how people kept their food cold before fridges existed?

My parents own a century-old cabin between two major regions in Quebec. It was the "hotel" where people slept for the night before continuing on their horse-led trip between the two regions. The cabin directly next to ours was the "kitchen". Naturally, the "ice house" is with the kitchen.

daddy with his boy on frozen lake.JPG
mom and son on frozen snowy lake.JPG
frozen lake covered in snow with blue sky.JPG

Every year, our neighbors invite us to help them with "the ice". This means cutting giant blocks of ice from the frozen lake and bringing them into the insulated "ice house".

The modern way to do this is with an electric chain saw, an axe, ice pliers and a skidoo with sled. Obviously that's not exactly how they did it a hundred years ago. It was probably just with an axe, the pliers and a horse sleigh.

cutting ice blocks from frozen lake for ice house.JPG
putting ice blocks in ice house.JPG

First you saw the ice into a grid (making squares). Then you use the axe and slam it into a cut to detach the bottom part. Using the pliers you pick them up and place them on the sled (it's actually more of a side throw, lol).

The skidoo brings them up to the cabin and using another pair of pliers, someone stacks them into the ice house.

ice inside old style ice house.JPG

It usually takes about 4-5 hours depending on how many people join in to help. Once all is done, we enjoy a nice warm meal together and spend the rest of the weekend chill-axing. :P

You're probably wondering how the ice doesn't melt during the summer. The ice house is insulated. Simple as that... and all the ice piled up together creates this kind of "cold effect" which minimizes the melting time. As well, when we use the fridge, there is a separate door to where the ice is kept, so you aren't constantly letting warm air into the ice room.

I really enjoy these little escapes into the past. We may not have the opportunity to do this forever, but for now, I'm taking it all in. :)

Do you take part in any activities of the past?