Ice harvest set for Fields Pond

Posted Feb. 11, 2009, at 5:31 p.m.

ORRINGTON, Maine — “On Sunday, Feb. 15, from 2 to 4 p.m. we’ll go out on Fields Pond in Orrington and harvest a block of ice,” said Dr. Bob Schmick, Curran Homestead’s volunteer director of education programs.

“This will be a first for the Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum, so it is intended to be informal and experimental rather than a formal historical re-enactment,” he said. “Using authentic ice harvesting tools from our collection and substitutions for those we don’t presently have — but seek for future annual harvesting — we will cut a block of ice from Fields Pond and transport it up the hill to the kitchen of the Curran House, where it will be placed in our vintage oak and zinc-lined ice box for the first time in many decades.”

The Curran family once harvested ice from Fields Pond in Orrington. Many Maine farmers similarly utilized what ice they had on their property for personal and commercial purposes. At the beginning of the 19th century, ice harvesting was the seventh-largest industry in the United States, with New England exporting its renowned clear ice blocks to such exotic destinations as the Caribbean and India.

Schmick said, “This is foremost a learning experience for us and for those who join us. We welcome those people who have first-hand experiences with, or information about, ice-harvesting, and we’d look forward to any sharing of experience. We’ll have a warming center in our Sugar Shack at the farm, where hot cocoa will be available. There is no admission charge, but donations are always welcomed.”

Schmick said, “The Currans were among the sturdiest of a strong breed of farmers who settled on the rocky New England hillsides during the 19th century. They gave thrift, frugality and industry a new meaning even among a people known for those values.”

John Mugnai, Curran Homestead board president, said, “The goal of our project is to demonstrate for future generations the virtues of self-reliance, cooperation, industry and thrift which reflect the traditional American values practiced when our society was predominantly rural. By showing the earlier technology, we can demonstrate for young minds and recall to older minds how rural America lived off the land. The mission of The Curran Homestead is to enrich the lives of our children, offer our community many opportunities for wholesome family fun, and serve as an excellent educational resource through museum displays and hands-on activities and programs.”

For more information call Schmick at 843-5550.

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