Keeping Cool: People and Food by P.J.

I’m writing from the Mid-West – the sea of corn (mostly) and other grains. As of this writing we are getting some relief from the humidity. “Hearsay” says corn is a guilty culprit for contributing to our high humidity. Corn is in high demand for purposes of food and fuel. Besides corn syrup, a byproduct is humidity, and perhaps, rain – which eventually leads to the subject of this letter – ice. Something that I think will be tremendously missed, is refrigeration – either for food or humans. Having stated the obvious, think of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature, making ice cream, making gelatin set-up, or a cool cloth on a hot forehead or an ice-pack for a medical treatment – or just plain comfort. Even with the air conditioning on, there is a fan trained directly on me.

Oral histories, village histories, biographies, living histories, and diaries are all good sources for knowledge of sustainability. However, systems, germs, allergies, and knowledge keep evolving. Generations have been blessed with new technologies and new products (plastic, thermal coolers, etc.) and new insights.

Before there was electricity – and before refrigeration there was ice – harvested from a local water source – kept in storage – with sawdust!

The following are some random stories heard through the years:

  • Our village history reveals there was a building near the railroad track that stored ice. I do not know if the ice came by train or if it was harvested from a local pond. This area is only known for ponds – not too many natural lakes.
  • There was a house in our town that had ice delivered – probably stored in an ice box – the kind that had a drawer to hold a block of ice.
  • The ice house in our village kept the deceased on ice until the mortician from a neighboring town could arrive. (Hopefully not anywhere near the ice for houses!)
  • Our family seems to have a high percentage of births in August. In the 1950s before we ever dreamed of air conditioning (in either a car or house), my father took a garden hose and ran well water through a car radiator and set it in a small room on the shady side of the house with a window fan. He brought in the lawn lounger to make Mom comfortable. Our teeth would absolutely chatter! I was around seven at the time, so this is stretching the memory – seems that the radiator was in the room – but it may have been just outside the room under the carport. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, one would need a generator or solar powered system.
  • In a house that my father lived in when he was young, there was some sort of a hand pump and stone trough in the basement. They would place butter and food in crocks that sat down in the water.
  • My husband’s grandparents had a cold storage cupboard. A cupboard door opened to an outside wire cage with shelves.

Back to the evolved knowledge. If you do try storing ice in sawdust, use caution on the types of woods and lumber used to create the sawdust. Some woods – or parts of trees and shrubs – may be allergens or even poisonous! This may be a factor in not only the use of the ice, but also if the melted ice water is saved as “gray water” for other uses.

For our preparations for daily use, we plan on placing ice in thermal coolers (type used on camping and picnic trips) to keep foods cool. At the thought of raw pond water ice, think maybe during the coldest months, we will use safe drinking water and make ice for drinks and food and store it in our freezer chest.

Think I will add to the pre-TEOTWAWKI shopping list ice block tongs, ice saw and ice picks. Where is that “To Do” List with the chicken tractor, rabbit hutch. “Hi Honey, can you please pick up lumber and hardware to build an ice house? You know, TEOTWAWKI. Well, do you think we will need ice for next summer or the summer after. “

Thank You, James Wesley Rawles, for your blog site and books – may thousands of lives be saved and life more comfortable from your dedication in recording, editing and maintaining all this survival information!