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broad at least. I had not proceeded miles on the lake before I met with a crack; but instead of an opening, I found that at this place the ice had shelved up to the height of several feet; and I learned that this was an indication of there being an opening further on. At the distance of eight or ten miles from this place, I was surprised to observe the driver put his horses to their full speed: I could see no cause for it. In a few minutes, however, I saw the crack or opening, about five feet broad: we were at it in a moment; it was impossible to check the horses, or to stop and consider of the practicability of passing, or of the consequences; the driver, without consulting any one, had made up his mind on the subject, the horses took the leap, and cleared the opening, carrying the sleigh and its contents with them. The concussion on the opposite side was so great, however, that the runners of the sleigh were broken, and there was a great chance of our being thrown, by the violence of the concussion, out of the sleigh, into the gulf we had crossed this had very nearly taken place; but I was fortunate enough to regain my
seat. By the help of some cords, we repaired our damage, and proceeded on our journey. We met with several other cracks, but as they were not in general above a foot or two in breadth, we passed them, without fear or accident. When the ice is cleared of snow, which was frequently the case, I could see that it was about a foot in thickness; yet it made a crackling noise as we went along, and seemed to give to the weight of the sleigh and horses, as we advanced, which produced sensations not very pleasant.
There are a great many islands in Lake Champlain, which are generally inhabited; you find inns on them, too, where you can get provisions, and beds if necessary. I shall embrace another opportunity of making some observations to you about this Lake and the surrounding country; but for the present, shall, in my next letter, communicate to you some further particulars relative to the Canadian winter.
THE range of the thermometer in Canada, is very extensive.
The heat in summer
runs into as great an extreme, as the cold in winter. The range, during the last twelve months, has been no less than 120 degrees; and, what is not a little surprising, it has reached 60 degrees precisely, on each side of the freezing point (32). In summer the thermometer rose to 92, and in winter it fell to 28 below zero. I have been told, that the cold has been known in this country to freeze mercury, the thermometer having fallen below 40 under zero.
The severity of the cold has its advantages as well as disadvantages. The quantity of snow with which the ground is covered, renders it necessary for the farmer to house all his cattle and sheep, and to put
his hay, straw, and corn, under cover.So soon as the ground is covered, and the frost completely set in, the cattle and sheep, which are destined for winter use, are killed; and also poultry of all kinds, before they have lost any of the fat they had acquired during the summer and autumn.No salt is necessary to preserve them: they only require to be exposed to the frost for a short time, and they become as hard as ice. When in this state, the poultry, and indeed the beef and mutton too, are packed in casks or boxes amongst snow, and at the end of four or five months, are still perfectly sound and good. I have to-day (10th May) eat of a fowl which has been killed upwards of four months; and I really think it could not easily be distinguished from a fowl killed but a few days. Frozen meat is thawed by keeping it in cold water about twelve hours-warm water would render it useless.
After the meat is hard frozen, the principal thing to be attended to, is, to preserve it from the external air when the temperature is above the freezing point, which is frequently the case in March and April.—
Snow being a good non-conductor of heat, answers this purpose: blankets, too, are frequently used. The frost not only preserves beef, mutton, and poultry, but also fish, so long as you can keep it in a temperature below freezing. The fish market, during winter, is pretty well supplied, owing, not a little, to the great industry of the people of the United States, who come even from Boston to Montreal, a distance of 420 miles.
Provisions of all kinds are more plentiful, and consequently cheaper, in winter than in summer. The market is supplied from a greater extent of country. The lakes and rivers being frozen, and the people without work, they bring to market all sorts of meat and poultry, from a great distance. Being hard frozen, it can be stowed in their carioles without receiving the least injury from the great length of carriage.
Good beef and mutton are sold at from 3d. to 4d. per lb.; good fat fowls at 20d. to 2s. per couple; turkeys 2s. to 2s. 6d. each; geese and ducks in proportion: so that the expense of housekeeping in these articles, is not great in winter. In summer, as meat is supplied in the towns by the