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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/694

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for their interest to remove most of the snow layer. A little snow-ice on the cakes, however, makes them keep better. We shall see by and by that there are really very good reasons why the snow-ice from certain sources should not be used for drinking purposes.

At last the vicissitudes and anxieties of the growth of the ice-crop are over, and the "boss" decides that the cutting shall begin, A good deal of responsibility attaches to this decision, and many factors must be considered. If a good thick mass has formed, say from ten to fourteen inches, the sooner it is under cover the better. But if the weather has been tickle and warm, and the layer is only from four to six inches thick, it is a more difficult matter to decide. It is better to have six-inch ice in the houses than none at all; but if by a little delay two or three more inches could be secured, it would be an immense gain. But, on the other hand, while waiting for the added increment, warm weather or a freshet may suddenly come on, and the whole crop be lost. Repeated snows upon the ice are bad; an untimely breaking up of the ice by a freshet is worse. But if, during the freshet, the whole field is swept away, there is often still a chance for a new crop to form. About the worst combination of misfortunes—and it is not so very infrequent—is for the ice to soften, to be all jumbled up and mixed with dirt and débris of various kinds from above by a freshet, and then, before this mongrel and well-nigh useless mass can be swept down stream and away, to have the whole thing freeze solid on the spot.

The first step in the ice-gathering is to draw two long, straight lines on the ice at right angles to each other. With these as a guide, a part of the field is marked off into blocks of the proper size, and it then looks like a gigantic checker-board. Then other teams come on, drawing the ice-plows, which are long, narrow-toothed blades, running along the ice like great horizontal saws. One plow follows another along these narrow grooves until they are deep enough, so that long strips of the outlined cakes may be readily loosened by a saw. These separated strips of ice grooved off into cakes are pushed along in a channel which has been cleared through the ice up to the foot of the endless chain that runs up an incline to the houses. Here the strips are broken apart along the deep cross-grooves into cakes by hand-bars shaped like great chisels. The cakes are now caught upon projections from the elevating chain, moved by steam, and up they go one after another to the platforms at varying heights around the icehouses, or directly in at the main door. When the cakes enter the storage-rooms they are shoved along wooden runs or movable tracks to various parts of the chamber where layer by layer they are stowed away. Sometimes a single inclined plane with its endless chain leads up to a series of platforms along the front of the building, which tier above tier slope gently away from the top of the incline, so that the ice-cakes, leaving the chain at the center, are slid down the platforms