Skating on Thick Ice

By Cam Mather

Recently I had the greatest day of my life. Well … after my wedding day, it was the greatest day ever. Oh … and the days my daughters were born … it was the best day ever after those days. Oh, and the day I put up the wind turbine … and my new solar panels. Anyway, recently I had a red-letter day here at Sunflower Farm.

Living life on the edge like I do, this is not a surprise. Some people freebase off of mountains and other people skydive. I live an equally exciting life; sometimes leaving the water in my rain barrels even after the temperature has dropped below zero degrees (Celsius). I know, it’s crazy, it defies all logic, but I do it anyway. During the fall when I no longer require the water from the rain barrels for my gardens, I attach hoses to all of my rain barrels and I run them into the pond to help fill it up for the skating rink. This summer the pond was really low so any extra water helps. I leave the rain barrels out for as long as I can without letting them freeze. I got most of the barrels drained properly in December before the big freeze up. But just before New Years we had a major thaw. So I put a couple of garbage cans under my downspouts. I figured that I could use rainwater to flush the toilet. Why use any of my limited electricity (at this time of year with short, cloudy days) to pump water when it’s falling from the sky?

But I forgot to dump one of the garbage cans when it froze up. When I found it, it had started to freeze all around the exterior, but not on the top. I poured the water out of it and was left with this amazing massive ice glass. I’m thinking I should fill it with beer and drink from it during the Superbowl. Oh wait, I wonder if my lips would get stuck to it.

The Enormous Icy Beer Glass

It works great as a candleholder at night too. Very Martha Stewart-ish! No, it won’t bring about world peace, but it was a fun distraction.

The Ice Lantern

I’ve always fantasized about having an icebox. Before modern refrigeration this is what everyone used. A block of ice was placed in the upper chamber of the icebox, which kept your perishables cold in the lower compartment. My dad has a great antique icebox at the cottage that I’ve had my eye on. I live surrounded by lakes. A hundred years ago teams of horses and men with long saws would cut blocks of ice from frozen lakes and store them in sawdust until they were needed. Human ingenuity is a marvelous thing. Plus I have lots of sawdust!

Antique Ice Boxes (from wikicommons)
Cutting Ice on the River (from wikicommons)

Then logic takes over. My new energy efficient fridge uses about 20% of our home’s daily electricity consumption and it’s awfully convenient. So as much as an icebox sounds like a great idea, I’m probably better to just stick with my refrigerator. Especially since my fridge is “solar-powered.”  But it still appeals to me a lot. And I’d love to have an icebox in our dining room. I just think it’s so in keeping with an 1888 farmhouse.

After my fun with my giant “ice glass” I decided to check out Fifth Depot Lake. We had had a thaw and then it all froze again and we hadn’t had any snow. So we went down to visit our friends Sandy and Ellen who live off grid on the lake. It was fantastic! It was a dream come true for someone who loves to skate as much as I do. The entire lake was a massive skating rink. The distance you can cover on skates with ice like this is unbelievable.

It’s also fun to check out the things that have been frozen in the ice.

Some of the bubbles looked like a giant footprint.

An unfortunate frog must have emerged during the thaw then got frozen in the ice.

This waterweed must have been stirred up at some point and was frozen as well.

Sandy and Ellen and Michelle look a long way off here, but I could skate to them in about 30 seconds, honestly!

There is something truly invigorating and terrifying about skating on a piece of ice that is as clear as glass and is about 5 or 6 inches thick. There had been ATVs on the lake so I knew that it was more than strong enough to hold me, but there’s always that element of danger that makes it even more of a blast.

We didn’t begin skating until later in the afternoon so I wasn’t able to skate the whole lake. But I burned a lot of calories and the feeling of my inner thighs the next day told me that it had been a good workout.

The next day it snowed so I can’t go back. The opportunity has passed. Days like that are very rare. That moment is now just frozen in time for me in these photographs but it reminds me of why I moved to the country and why I continue to sacrifice potential income to live here. On a Monday afternoon when I should have been working in the office I had one of the greatest skates of my life. You can fly to all the resorts you want and try and recreate those phony happy model moments you see in their ads, but I could never enjoy myself more than when I strap on a pair of skates and enjoy skating across a frozen lake. On my deathbed I will not be saying I wish I’d spent more time making money. I will be racing down a frozen lake like a rocket. This love is deep in my Canadian soul.

Photos by Cam Mather and wikicommons.

2 Responses to “Skating on Thick Ice”

  • queen of string:

    I am absolutely in agreement with you about not regretting making more money. I am definitely from the school of working to live and not the reverse. Currently taking a year off to decide what to do next. I once lived in a house in the UK with an ice house. Basically an underground room where lumps of pond ice cooled the food. With the space you have that might be achievable ( and useful) for you too.

  • Bruce:

    Looks like a lot of fun. We don’t often get that down here in the Las Vegas desert. Last time I saw frost it was on the ice cream I took out of the freezer.

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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