Ice harvesting warmly received in Freedom

Winterfest features old technology, do-it-yourself fun
By Ethan Andrews | Feb 05, 2019
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Prentice Grassi, right, Doug Lakin and Kate Flynn take part in an ice harvesting demonstration Feb. 1 at the annual Freedom Winterfest.

Freedom — Near the edge of the pond, Bennett Verbeck was trying to free a hundred-year-old saw from what he would later discover to be about 16 inches of ice.

"I told Myrick, worst case scenario, we can tie a rope and a buoy to it," he said.

Myrick Cross had invited Verbeck to give a demonstration of ice harvesting for the town's annual Winterfest, but the stuck blade wasn't his fault. It's just that, in the spirit of education, he handed off the saw to a beginner who didn't know to keep it moving.

Verbeck had three saws, including one from Cross's homestead, a house and barn assemblage across the field that still has an old ice cabinet. Cross said he only dimly recalls his family using ice blocks to refrigerate food. The statement seemed to say: I'm not that old.

After about 30 minutes of improvisation, Verbeck had freed the saw and set to work scoring a grid of 16-inch squares on the ice. In the old days, workers would have used an auger to start the job, but in the interest of time, Verbeck punched a few slots through the ice with a chainsaw.

Using antique saws — six-foot blades with cartoonish teeth and a pair of handles at one end — Verbeck started dividing the surface of the pond, enlisting two helpers with promises that it would warm them up.

Thirty minutes later, with four blocks outlined, he yanked the first out of the pond with pair of tongs to cheers from a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. The next three were easily fished from the hole as the ice cutting song from "Frozen" played on an iPad belonging to a local teen, who was quick to say it had been Verbeck's idea.

Winterfest was resurrected by Freedom Community Historical Society three or four years ago, and has been has been held at Springvale Farm ever since. The party, which had the feeling of a family gathering, centered on the frozen pond where teens and children skated.

In past years, vegetation poked through the ice of the marshy depression. This year, Cross brought in Brandon Suitor of B.L. Suitor Excavation, who dug it out to a depth of 12 feet in the center, making for close to an acre of clean ice.

The party unfolded in concentric circles. Adults hung by the perimeter of the pond, talking and warming up by a small campfire. Farther afield, snowmobiles looped the clearing, passing skiers on a hill overlooking the pond, and lapping a pair of draft horses with a sleigh driven by Drew and Jamie Houser of Two Tides Farm.

Across Pleasant Road, at the far edge of the Winterfest universe, families dropped into the Town Office to warm up with chili, baked goods and coffee. The event continued into the evening with a potluck supper and Freedom Follies, a local talent show, at the Dirigo Grange.

Blaze orange hats dot the landscape at Springvale Farm in Freedom Feb. 1 during the town's annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Skaters cruise a man-made pond at Springvale Farm in Freedom Feb. 1 during the town's annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Jamie Houser of Two Tides Farm waits outside the Town Office in Freedom with Pete and Harry, a pair of Suffolk punches, who were in town Feb. 1 to give sleigh rides at the annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Skaters lurch and tumble in Freedom Feb. 1 at the town's annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Dixie Newell, left, and her mother Maisie Newell watch the youngster's shot wobble into the net Feb. 1 at the annual Freedom Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Skiers climb a hill at Springvale Farm in Freedom Feb. 1 during the town's annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A small fire tempers the cold between rounds of skating, skiing and snowmobiling in Freedom Feb. 1 at the annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Bennett Verbeck, right, leads an ice harvesting demonstration Feb. 1 at Freedom Winterfest, with recruited helpers Doug Lakin and Kate Flynn. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Bennett Verbeck grabs a block of ice, freshly cut from a pond on Springvale Farm in Freedom during an ice harvesting demonstration he led Feb. 1 at the town's annual Winterfest. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Myrick Cross, right, shows an old ice box at his home on Springvale Farm, with state Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Holly Faubel | Feb 06, 2019 21:18

Let's hear it for Freedom!

 



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