Straight From the Historian’s Mouth

Honored am I to present Dennis Picard, historian and director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts, who has graciously commented on the post, “Farmer Boy Science.” Dennis has written two wonderful articles for the Homesteader:Filling the Ice House” for the Winter 2006-2007 issue and “Creating Clothes for History” for the Winter 2007-2008 issue. I am looking forward to seeing the boots, cap, and shirt he created for the displays at the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Malone, NY.

In his comment, Dennis mentioned that the Wilders were wrong to pack the ice blocks in sawdust. I asked him why (my big question word lately), and this is what he told me:

The sawdust isolated the individual blocks and allowed air, but more importantly, water, to seep between each block, therefore subjecting each block to the transfer of cold away from the block and into the water.

Without sawdust packing, Dennis told me, the ice blocks freeze together into one big block, which helps the ice stay colder.

I’m guessing the Wilders were thinking of convenience when they separated those blocks. According to the chapter in Farmer Boy, one block at a time would be dug out and used for ice cream, lemonade, and cold egg-nog. I suppose that digging out a single block was easier than chipping off a hunk of a huge block. When you think about it, it was the 1800s version of ice cube trays!
Big Ice Block

Ice blocks of the past

Ice Cube Tray

Ice blocks of the present

Spoiler:

The next post you see here will be about history, but of a very different kind that Laura Ingalls Wilder had no connection to whatsoever!

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