Food preservation has always been a pressing issue for humanity. Oddly enough, there is nothing new today (except vacuum-dried, frozen in liquid nitrogen rations for astronauts). In general, the principles remain the same, but technology and quality have changed. These principles are: 1) thermal treatment — jerking, smoking and drying. 2) Preservation — for this purpose they use honey, various oils, salt, vinegar or vacuum keeping. 3) Cooling and freezing.

These three basic principles were used in ancient Egypt, as well as in the XXI century. There’s big literature about each of them, and I’d like to tell about the method which is the most interesting for me and the most important for Pavel’s farmstead.

I’ll tell about icehouses. They impress me most of all because they give autonomy without requiring energy. In addition, there is something mystical when in hot summer you treat guests with icy fruit drink in a distant village where there is nothing but wood, stone, earth and water. So did my great-grandmother from the Kaluga region. In my opinion, this is the real magic of the elements.

At Pavel’s farmstead there is an icehouse, or rather a special room for it. On the Internet there are plenty of tips on how to arrange an icehouse «with one’s own hands». Mostly these are sensible advice, but they fit only for modern farmers or summer residents. The most common phrases are «welded frame» and «concrete formwork». It doesn’t fit for us.

During preparation Pavel decided to build a two-section underground icehouse with backfill ground cellar, which is also a vestibule, that reduces heat loss. It was really hard to build the icehouse because of abnormal rainy weather at the end of summer. At the depth of about two and a half meters is a «stomach» for ice, actually it’s a freezer. This room is lined with a well chamber to prevent dislodging of the walls. It has a wooden layer with earthen ceiling, and a hole that connects all this with the cellar. The cellar is a square (1.8 m2) shade with two sloping surfaces. The roof is made of boards and clay layer 10–15 sm thick, the insulating layer of ground is about 0.5 m thick.

In theory, this construction should provide adequate thermal insulation and cold temperature even in June. In practice, Pavel needs a lot of efforts to make his icehouse «start up» although it’s frosty winter now. Pavel must provide the icehouse with proper ventilation and freezing, but his main task is to chop, stock and stack ice into the «stomach». Besides, nobody could guarantee that this was a good idea in general. Groundwater may wash away all Pavel’s ice and the icehouse  in spring, and it will become a fish farm. Let’s wait and see!