Hanford Mills Ice Harvest

Hanford Mills Composite 2

By Liz Clancy Lerner

A rare occurrence took place on Saturday near Oneonta: kids were waiting in line to do manual labor. It was the annual Hanford Mills Ice Harvest where the public was invited to help the museum fill its ice house.

It's a day of education, but also one of practicality -- the ice that was harvested will be used to make ice cream for Hanford Mills' Fourth of July celebration this summer.

And despite on and off rain, hundreds of people circulated through the grounds to help.

The entire process of harvesting ice is a methodical one and many tools are needed. Here's how it works...

Ice used to be harvested for a variety of reasons: it kept food cold in ice boxes, ice cold water helped separate cream from milk on farms, and chipped ice was used in railroad cars to keep food from spoiling.

To harvest the ice you need the proper tools. Hanford Mills let visitors use the same types of tools that were used hundreds of years ago.

Hanford Mills Ice Weigh

First, ice plows (or modern day saws) mark the ice on the pond in a grid-like pattern. Then a long ice saw cuts the ice.

Hanford Mills Sawing

A breaking bar breaks the ice free and then an ice hook and ice tongs are used to grab and move the ice.

Hanford Mills Ice Hook

The ice is then put on an ice grapple and the ice is pulled up a ramp and then to an ice sled for a trip to the ice house.

Hanford Mills Kids Mom Pull

The ice is then stored compactly with saw dust, which acts as insulation.

Hanford Mills Ice House

People of all ages had fun sawing, pulling and heaving the ice.

Hanford Mills Saw People

But the ice harvest was more than that: there were opportunities to view cooking and blacksmith demonstrations, make snowmen, and ride on a horse-drawn sleigh.

Hanford Mills Caramel

Hanford Mills Horse Drawn

Hanford Mills Snowman

Hanford Mills Ice Sculpture

Hanford Mills is open May 15 through October 15th and while the Ice Harvest is over, the Mill offers ice harvesting and a variety of other demonstrations to school groups by appointment.

Find It

Hanford Mills
73 County Highway 12
East Meredith, New York 13757


The draft horses are really magnificent animals.

It was a great day! Food was good. Activities wonderful. Looking forward to next year already- first Saturday in February.

Living History is a wonderful thing.

this is so gratifying to see..I invite any kid (or kid at heart) to "live history" through manual labor, every Saturday at my 1920s era house. WATCH! the circa 1979 clothes dryer tumble dry clothes with the efficiency of a tortoise! VACUUM! the hardwood floors with our 12 year old vacuum! WASH! dishes the old fashioned way BY HAND, with hot water right from the tap! SCRUB! futilely at 85 year old bathroom tile! PREPARE! an old fashioned stick to your ribs meal in our crummy 1965 kitchen! no reservations necessary..just show up at around 9am any Saturday when old timey activities commence...

Rebecca, that comment made my day. I think that's exactly how you get kids to do chores, you make them sound really fun and exclusive, like "when you're old enough you can rake the leaves."

Living history is a great thing. And, agreed Mr. Galt - I think that each time I see those horses.

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