Howell Farm reopens to the public on January 28 for the ice harvest.
Will there be enough ice on the pond to have the harvest this year? It's still too early to tell, but conditions so far have not been favorable. The forecast for the week ahead calls for highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. That's not cold enough for ice, and four inches of solid ice on the pond are required for a safe harvest. It usually takes about two weeks of freezing temperatures for 4 inches of ice to form on our pond.
Farmer Jim, a highly-respected weather predictor, has a hunch that the temperature will turn just cold enough starting in mid-January to allow for a minimal 4-inch Howell Farm ice harvest on January 28.
Here's some more information about ice harvesting, gleaned from a blog post I wrote in 2008 as a Howell Farm intern:
- Ice must be tended like a winter crop. When it snows, the ice needs to be cleared off, or else the snow cover can act as an insulator and prevent the ice from getting any thicker. In other cases, the snow can get trapped under a layer of ice that freezes on top of it, creating ice blocks prone to breaking apart at the weak layer of snow.
- The ice house at Howell holds about 25 tons. Ice stored properly there -- with sawdusk insulation -- can last three years. (A block of ice will melt about 30 percent each year.)
- A hundred years ago, if there were a warm winter with no ice on the pond, the farmers would have had to buy northern ice shipped down from Maine.
- Back in the day, if you wanted a cold drink, you wouldn't drop ice into your glass, you'd put your glass or bottle into the ice bowl. That's because there could be some nasty things in the ice itself (dirt, mud, animal waste, etc.).