Remembering the days of self-reliance, from cutting ice to canning fruit
Tuesday, March 7, was a gray and dreary day, at least early in the morning — freezing rain, fog, and just plain rotten. The Old Men of the Mountain endured all this by traveling to Duanesburg for the comfort of the Duanesburg Diner to have breakfast.
For some reason, the weather spiked conversation about cutting ice from frozen ponds in the winter to be used in the summer. One OF mentioned that his family owned Warner Ice Co. and they cut ice from Warner Lake and stored it in large ice houses with sawdust to sell in the warmer months.
Some of the early OFs remember the ice house on the farm where they cut ice to use in the summer — especially for the milk cooler. Cutting the ice from ponds was hard work, and the ice just looked cold with the blue-green color of the fresh cut ice squares.
How times have changed. Now our refrigerators dispense ice through their doors, or we just place a glass in the door of the refrigerator and cold water comes out.
The OFs discussed how many of them still have these ice-cutting saws stashed away someplace. If there ever happens to be a disaster that knocks out the power in the winter, some OFs still will be able to resort to the old ways and cut some ice.
However, if the problem happens in the summer, there will be lots of bad food out there. It was added that, with the increasing use of wind and solar power, the problem will be less likely that refrigeration or heat will shut down because many people will have their own source of power.
The storing of food, and the lifestyle on the Hill, means most of those on the Hill do have rather large stashes of food because they can’t run to the store every day and many have to shop for weeks in advance. Some of the OFs have extensive gardens and can or freeze this produce. The OFs put up jams and jellies, veggies, turkey, chicken, sauces, maple syrup, and some OFs even make their own brew.
Listening to these conversations on conservation, this scribe had a sudden thought: Wouldn’t it be neat if in these large apartment complexes that rise many stories in the air would have on every fifth floor nothing but dirt, and each four floors could have their own community garden? Nah! This would never work, because those floors of dirt would not make enough money for the owners of the building.
Idling means less eating
The OFs continued to discuss food but this time it was how much less they eat as they get older. They all said they could not pack it away like they used to.
But one suggested that’s because they don’t do anything to work off all those calories the OFs used to suck in. The analogy used was an idling engine does not use as much fuel as one going 60 miles an hour and we are all in idle mode right now.
“Not me,” one OF said. “My mode is, ‘I am completely shut down.’ But I still need my can of beans every now and then.”
Learning by observing
The OFs then talked a little bit about their educations and how they learned to do what it is that they do. The OFs said some of their knowledge came from schooling but a good part of it came from watching and learning.
One OF said his father did not talk much and was a very hard worker, at which most OFs chimed in that was the way with their dads also. The OFs felt that to be on the good side of dad was to learn how he did things and then the Young OF would do it the same way.
There were no how-to books thrown around, nor Google to run to, so the Young OF had to SOR (see, observe, and remember). That little phrase this scribe has on the bottom of his handout to the students in his art class, but it also applies to how to make an apple pie alongside Mom at the table, or how to weld two pieces of metal together alongside Dad in the garage.
Going to the dogs
As the OFs entered the diner in Duanesburg, they saw a new sign on the door. This sign caused some of the OFs to mill around outside, waiting for other OFs to show up.
The quandary here was the sign read, “No pets or animals allowed in diner except service dogs.” The OFs who were staying outside were considered animals and were waiting for an owner, which would be another OF, to bring them in as “service dogs.”
This attested to some of the OFs having a well-deserved reputation as being animals, although at their ages now the animal OFs are completely harmless. (It takes so little to amuse us).
The Old Men of the Mountain who made it through the freezing rain and fog to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg were more than expected and they were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Roger Shafer, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, and me.