Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


I got lucky the week of Jan. 14 this year. I needed to go to Valparaiso, Ind. and Wapakoneta, Ohio. This happens once in a while, and when it does, I usually fly into Indianapolis and make a big loop. That is what I did Jan. 15-17.

So I missed the big storm and the near zero temperatures. I have heard from several residents of Highland County about how lucky I am to live where it is only getting into the 20s. There are some advantages to living in northern Georgia.

However, I have some friends in Highland County who I am sure are very happy about the recent temperatures you have been experiencing. I heard from one of them around the first of the year who casually remarked they had run out of ice.

For those of us who live with modern appliances, that would mean either filling the ice cube trays or checking on the water tubing that feeds the automatic ice maker. Not for these friends.

They need to wait for the ponds to freeze sufficiently to cut ice off them. For you see, they let nature make their ice in the winter on the ponds and they store it in coolers with very thick, insulated walls. One of these I have seen has 24-inch walls. This is vital for their family needs as well as their business needs, so having a long enough freezing spell to make sufficient ice is serious business for them. They need to gather ice that will last about 12 months.

You might have thought producing and harvesting ice this way stopped long ago and was done much further north than Highland County. Not so. It is likely happening within 15 miles of you this week.

This got me to thinking about refrigeration and air conditioning. I am old enough to remember my seniors referring to the refrigerator as the ice box (not my parents, they must have been just a bit younger than that era).

But then I got to thinking about all the equipment that must be built and all the electricity that is used to bring instant ice or instant refrigeration to our homes. Is this just a convenience or is it overall more cost effective and environmentally friendly (when you take into account the transportation) to do it the modern way or the natural way?

I don’t know.

I do know we have solar panels on our house that are connected through the air conditioning systems. The logic being when it is the hottest and we are using the most air conditioning, we are simultaneously using the sun to mitigate some of the electrical demand. The solar panels, despite being sold with the air conditioning system, do work year around and reduce our kilowatt hour usage by about 10 percent.

As for the ice, of course, the transportation costs are low, for it is stored on the farms and the labor this time of year is available. So, it is not quite the same as if this ice cutting activity were accounted for as a stand-alone business.

So, while you are grumbling about the temperatures here in the middle of winter, just keep in mind you have neighbors who are quite happy with the conditions.

As an aside, you might ask if they are keeping warm. From my experience, I can tell you they are keeping quite warm. Good insulation and tight windows keep their houses from being the drafty old barns that we lived in when I was a kid. Most heat the whole house with a gigantic wood-fired kitchen stove.

I can also tell you that wood stove is not just good for heating the house. The food, the desserts, the snacks that are prepared on those stoves makes most of our cooking with modern appliances look pretty sad.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.