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Ice Bowls

January 25, 2011

Notable homesteader Harvey Ussery of Countryside fame once wrote “the homestead revolves around five gallon buckets.” I chuckled reading his observation, thinking about our ubiquitous “sheetrock buckets” and our utter dependence on them. They dispense the twice daily grain rations for goats, chickens, ducks and pigs, but are also employed as vitamin dispensers, egg collecting pails, water buckets, slop pails, collection buckets for cast-off produce from town, and blood, guts and feet buckets during home butchering. We also use them as fishing bait aquariums throughout the year and compost and worm casting tea pots in gardening season. Needless to say, we reserve certain buckets for some of these specific uses. The rest get rotated around until they crack, which sometimes takes years of abuse.

Lately, I’ve been going balmy trudging around the homestead with a wagon load of three full water buckets, sloshing out all over the place, to satisfy our farmyard customers. In very cold weather the buckets have to be filled indoors, adding to the workload.I suppose I could tighten the bleeder valve on a basement pipe and turn on the water to an outdoor spigot, then reverse those steps when finished, but with my luck I’d be called away from my duties and the pipes would freeze. So it’s buckets and bathtub for me. And I must admit I’m getting a bit tired of lugging those buckets, and maybe even tired of looking at them.

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered a new use for our five gallon buckets today. The temperature rose to a pleasant 34 degrees, melting the ice in the frozen waterers just enough for me to release it and replenish. The goats were yelling at me as I wheeled the water wagon to their paddock. I flipped over their outside bucket and pulled it off to discover that the very bottom, in the very center, was still liquid. Pretty good for a five degree night, and great for our Toggenburg Rya who discovered the water in its ice mold and set about to drain it dry. Two of the waterers in the barn (filled yesterday) were empty, but the third, by the door, was frozen, and I flipped that one over to find an even better mold – this one frozen only an inch thick on the sides and two inches on the bottom. Luna the Saanen goat was happy to drink the water held within.

The pig’s water might have been the greatest. After I flipped it and let him drink the water in the ice bowl, I thought about what a great party accessory these ice bowls would be, especially for a summer party on the beach. Fill it with fruit, or stacked sushi, and when the treats are gone, let it melt away into the sand. Of course, it would take an open space in the chest freezer to accomplish that goal in summer, but this is where my mind goes when it’s 34, mudluscious and the days are getting longer. I couldn’t resist giving the idea a try with the boar. I went inside and grabbed the bowl of pig treats from the morning – slightly old bread, tomato tops, fried rice, some neglected sandwich crusts and a touch of ignored chicken noodle soup – and I put it in his bowl. He didn’t seem too impressed. Why get all fancy for a pig? Which is something I hope you won’t be asking yourself if you try this ice bowl trick for your next cocktail party.


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