One of These Days


I bought the old ice box pictured above from an antiques dealer who was going out of business. I think I paid $300, but I can’t remember for sure. I do remember thinking I got a pretty fair deal; it’s made of oak and was in real nice condition. We slapped a coat of wood sealer on it and called it good.

The dealer operated out of a room attached to the back of an adult novelty store – a porn shop, in other words – which he owned. I guess porn was more profitable than antiques, hence the sell-off. He was a nice enough fellow. It was late at night when I picked up the ice box, otherwise I would’ve spent a bit more time chatting. I would’ve liked to hear a bit about his career path. Or maybe not.

Anyway, soon as I got the box home, I went and drilled a pair of two-inch holes in the back, one up high, and one down low. Then I drilled a pair of matching holes through the exterior wall in our kitchen. Then I cut two pieces of PVC and stuck them through the wall and into the correlating holes in the ice box. Then we had a passive refrigerator.

For at least 6 months out of the year, mechanized refrigeration in Vermont is absurd. Think about it for a second: Right outside your door, you’ve got the biggest natural fridge money can’t buy. Right inside your door, you’re paying the utility for the dubious privilege of powering a plastic box to recreate essentially the same conditions that exist for free on the other side of a few inches of drywall, insulation, and siding. That’s the sort of thing that drives me nuts. Penny, too. Actually, Penny more.

The ice box isn’t perfect. If it gets real cold, stuff in the bottom freezes a little, though now that we’ve lived with it for many years, we can predict when this will happen and rearrange accordingly. If it gets above, say, freezing, it doesn’t remain a perfect 38.4-degrees. But that’s not a problem. Americans are obsessed with keeping their food cold. They think if their leftover meatloaf gets above 40, they’re gonna die. Our leftover meatloaf gets above 40 all the time. Not dead yet. A little sick of lukewarm leftover meatloaf, maybe, but dead? Hell, no.

We still have a fridge. It’s on the porch, and we use it from about now until November. We’ve considered using the ice box all summer, filling it with ice to keep things cool. It wouldn’t be that much work. It’s the way things used to be done, and we even have the significant advantage of having chest freezers to make ice for us. But we haven’t got there yet. One of these days. We’ve got a pretty long list under the heading “one of these days.”

One of these days, we’ll start crossing some of it off.



22 thoughts on “One of These Days”

  1. A wild thought: run your cold water supply through a loop (or two) of metal piping (perhaps with fins) inside this magnificent oak refrigerator before it heads off for sinks, toilets, & spigots. Every time water is drawn, new cold will chill the ‘fridge.

  2. I love your logic. I’m not a food refrigeration nut either. I always use my deck table to store pots of soup, stew and other things too big for the fridge.
    The one that drives me crazy is people getting hysterical about their frozen food in a power outage. Two Augusts ago, it took me 5 days with the lid up, freezer turned off, to thaw some dog meat frozen to the bottom. People should be as worried about the antibiotics lurking in their CAFO meat or the Roundup in their veggies.

  3. This sounds like my frustration with the fact that, although California has dwindling water supplies, houses are just set up to use new water for everything. This includes gardens. Seems to me water can do two or more things before it leaves your house to go out onto the garden. You may have given me the courage to make some holes where I need to in order to capture an obvious and useful resource. Thanks!

  4. When we lived without electricity in a mobile home with five children, there was a regular refrigerator there. So what we did was use the top freezer for our refrigerator and just lived fine without a freezer. We would fill a smallish plastic tote with a block of ice in the warmer weather or snow when it was available and that was it. We did just fine with that small space feeding our large family.
    Our son Isaac came up with an idea like yours before and it is one we will probably consider when the refrigerator that came with the sale of our house finally dies.

    1. I was wondering if someone would notice that… yeah, it was the only exterior wall space we had available. There’s a heat shield between ’em and the ice box is insulated.

      But not ideal.

    2. I thought the same thing, CJ! but I also figured Ben must have had that worked out since it seems to keep it all cold for 6 months of the year, and that’s the 6 with the cookstove definitely roaring. Love this icebox, Ben, magnificent!

  5. What about cutting a little ice on that pond that Fin was jumping into? It seems like cutting ice as a home biz might have some possibilities. I have only done it a couple times, helping someone who actually uses ice for refrigeration It is pretty intense, bobbing ice cakes on a slippery surface SO close to the edge…..

  6. That is one beautiful piece of furniture! I’m glad to hear you actually use the cold to refrigerate things. I live in the low desert and that wouldn’t be an option for us. However I do think building a root cellar could be an interesting idea.

  7. That’s cool! You and Penny are unstoppable. And yet the list probably keeps growing if it’s anything like our list. You just reminded me to keep celebrating the progress that’s been made, it helps in the face of all that still waits to get done.

  8. Nice work. I like it. I did read something similar where a rectangular hole was cut into a wall, right through to fit a wooden frame. On the outside opening a mesh was affixed to keep out naughties. On the inside a wooden door was attached via some hinges. The back of door, top, bottom and sides were lined with styrofoam. A few shelves later and a winter fridge was born. The photos looked real good although the outside view may have been a little odd with cartons of milk and so on. Perhaps a wooden “back” could be offset a little leaving a biggish gap all round but hiding the contents could be fashioned but I don’t recall that mentioned.

    Happy living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s