Ice Carving

Today was a beautiful day for carving ice. Bright sunny skies, light winds around mid-day, warm temperatures in the high teens, just a gentle dusting of snow falling from blue skies. So I tackled the ice sculpture.

The ice build up around the spring overflow had grown immensely over the past month or so. The base was over two feet thick and about ten feet in diameter. At one point it had been long like the narrow prow of a ship but now it was a massive column of hardened water. A beautiful piece of art carved by wind and winter. Unfortunately, last night with the high winds the drinking hole for the pigs had frozen over solid.

You might remember that Pablo and others had suggested taking a sledge hammer to the structure. Given how much the ice sculpture had grown that was rather dangerous as well as hard work. The sledge bounces off the ice quite nicely. The pointed steel tamping rod was more effective. Using it I was able to chip down two feet through the solid ice pedastal to the ground and water. That left an overly deep hole that was hard for the pigs to access due to the depth. Not good.

Since I had to use the tractor to move round bales of hay I switched around and used the back hoe attachment to carve up the ice sculpture. A 48 horse power tractor makes short work of even a huge several ton solid block of ice like this and soon the pigs had access to water again. I estimate that the ice I removed was about 19,600 lbs or 2,450 gallons. There was still a considerable portion of the sculpture left when I got done. I did not shoot the requested video footage but Holly did get a still photo of the tractor at work.

One might not think of a back hoe bucket as an ice sculpture carving tool but it does a remarkable job. Not only is it powerful enough to quickly cut through tons of material but the leading edge is quite sharp on that scale. The result was the remaining ice revealed its layered depths and crystal caverns under the slicing motions of the tractor. I then threw a bucket of water against the still towering ice to clean off the chips. This really showed the colors and striations of the ice which contrast with similar veins in the rock and soil of the bank.

The image below shows a strange formation that was down near the base. The photo does not quite capture it but what I was looking was a large ultra-clear piece of ice with radiant lines in it. It looked almost like a jellyfish in the hollow central cavity where the water falls deep within the ice sculpture. I suspect that the ice was so clear because the water was chilled and moving such that it had lost the excess gasses. Otherwise those gasses would have formed air bubbles in the ice. But I am not sure what would have caused the radiant lines in a circle like that to be embedded within the ice. Ideas?

So, if you need an ice sculpture for your next formal dinner or reception just let me know. It only takes me four months to grow one and I have one heck of a carving tool for the final job. Free ice chips on the house!

18째F/9째F, 1/2″ Snow, Flurries, Sunny, High winds in the morning.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to Ice Carving

  1. pablo says:

    Very nice. Now does this mean the season is over or will there be more winter and ice?

    Also, if I buy you lunch and dinner, will you drive the tractor to Missouri and do some work for me? We could start with working on the pond.

  2. Hmm… Let’s see, it is about 1,000 miles or so, at 5 miles per hour, if I leave today I should be there in mid-April. I’ll certainly want to take you up on that lunch and dinner offer because at that point I’m going to be something fierce hungry!

    The gas is going to be a problem. I would estimate about $1,064 for gas plus maybe another $100 for oil for the trip. But I’m sure you’ll foot the bill. :)

    So, Pablo… When are you going to get a tractor? They are wonderful toys, er, I mean serious work tools. Yes, that was what I meant to say! :)

    As to winter, the ground hog didn’t see his shadow but that was because the dogs ate him before he had a chance. So, what does that mean? Around here we expect mud season to be starting any day now and that lasts for about a month. Right now the roads are still firm since temperatures are staying down in the teens but we had a couple of days last week when it got squishy and the town has posted the roads against big trucks until April 15th. That is a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. My guess? We’ll have another ice sculpture grow before it melts away for summer.

  3. ranch101 says:

    I still envy you your frozen ground – every time I go out into our knee-deep (well, most of it’s only ankle-deep) mud all winter long. Some days it’s all I can do to skate my way out to the barnyard never mind drag the feed cart. (Maybe sled runners would be more useful this time of year…)

    I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tractor for years. I think we’re going to within the next year or so. There’s just so much that could be done with that kind of equipment, even on a (very) small farm like ours. I’ve wasted too much time trying to deal with these big projects with my bare hands (and small tools).

  4. Leslie says:

    Hard to tell from the photo but the star pattern looks a bit like a fracture. Is it possible an over-heavy, over-zealous pig cracked the ice and then it re-froze?

    I can imagine you toting a bucket of water out to the ice sculpture, “just to clean it up a bit… just to see.”

    We bought a tractor recently and they *are* amazingly hard-working (fun) tools (toys). All you have to do is use it a lot, for any reason that is remotely plausible, and then remind yourself how much money you’re “saving” by not having to hire the work out. The ROI is incredible.

  5. Patti says:

    HAHAHA I so love your version of “Groundhog Day”!!!! I had a lovely ice sculpture on my house. wanna see?

  6. Walter,

    I don’t know who looks happier in that photo – you (or the pigs?)

    Strange what one thinks or reads when reviewing a post, the first thought that came to mind was *wow* all that water, sure could fill a cistern or two for a time….though I don’t imagine you have a water shortage problem there on the mountain.

    I’ve been reviewing a DVD on sustainable building, one of the features added to the site was a roof bases rainwater collection cistern run with a photovoltaic battery banked pump for non-potable household use. Seems it would do just fine for livestock watering as well. Something we’re considering for our future plans for property as we look forward to the first generation of Holtzman Family Farmers…

    Pre-PS. I like the Fire on the header, first thing I thought of was some boiling maple syrup there in Vermont – I could smell the flapjacks! Do you ever get around to any tree tappin’ your way?


  7. Hi Scott, yes, we’ve tapped for maple syrup and produced a bit. We have a 4,000 tree sugar bush up the far side of the north field – that is Sugar Mountain and how it got its name. The ice storm of ’98 destroyed a lot of trees so we took down all the lines and did a thinning cut to clean up and improve the trees. That was a two stage process that had to be separated by about five years. Now we’re giving the remaining trees a few years to expand their crowns before we start tapping again. I love maple syrup! Fortunately we still have a little from the last run because we have flapjacks and waffles weekly or more often – Sometimes even for supper!

  8. Evelyn says:

    That star pattern is caused by air bubbles. As the ice freezes, they are pushed inward & the lines are their trails.
    How does a kid from SoCal (who never saw snow fall until I was in my late 30's) know this? I used to make popcycles in the freezer & would see it often.

  9. Pingback: Sean

  10. Farmerbob1 says:

    Found some Chinese characters in the temperature line, Walter.

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