Back when our three children were younger and they were just getting their skating legs under them I would build a little outdoor rink on our garden spot for them to practice on and they spent a fair amount of time out there zooming around. It seems like I did that every year for years and years but I think it was only five or six times before the kids had other things to do and/or a whole great big indoor rink to do it in.
Now the tradition has been passed on and I’ve got to flood a rink for the Grandchildren. I haven’t built one of those little rinks in quite some time but now that the Grandkiddies are getting their skating legs under them I decided, with very strong persuasion from their Grandmother first, to build a rink in the side yard for them.
This winter hasn’t been the best for rink building, though, even if you use the cheating method, as it was either too cold or too warm, if you can imagine. I had the opportunity to be a professional ice maker during my Parks and Recreation days but these backdoor rinks are a whole different animal. Thus the “cheat”.
Making ice sounds like the simplest of chores, doesn’t it? We live in Canada for heaven sake. You pour water where it’s freezing cold and…voila!....ice! Well, yes and no. In an indoor rink you have a mostly flat floor with boards and a refrigeration system cooling said floor to the exact right temperature and you have a variety of hoses and boom sprayers and all kinds of stuff to make the job a little easier.
There are a few more obstacles when you’re building a skating rink in the outdoors, the least of which is that it is…outside! The first time I did it on the garden it took hours and hours and hours of building up the ice to get a good seal on the ground and cover up all of the lumps, (I didn’t say I was a smart ice maker, did I…should have spent a bit more time leveling that ground before freeze up…duh).
Anyway, that’s when I discovered the old rink-in-a-bag trick. Yup, rink-in-a-bag. You buy ‘em at the local hardware store and they come in a few different sizes and you kind of level the ground some and lay out the soon-to-be-rink-bag, then you stick the garden hose in the filler hole and fill the bag, which looks like a giant see-through air mattress by the time it’s full, and then you go do something fun while the water bag freezes solid. Could take hours…could take days. They weren’t that big as a rule, 10 feet by 20 feet and few inches thick, so I would just put two together to make it a bit bigger.
I am happy to report that this year’s version of our little outdoor rink is finished. Finally. It was a real struggle at times…fighting the snow and then it was minus a-bazillion and then the stupid bag didn’t fill right creating a void bubble and damn you gotta hate those void bubbles, and then it started melting, but, you know, other than that, it went okay, I suppose. It’s done.
The Grandchildren will get their first skate on the finished product this weekend and old Gramps is going to get his skates on, too. We’ll have a little wiener roast over the fire and drink hot chocolate and skate with the lights on. It’s going to be great!
With all of my whining and sniveling about our nasty Canadian winters I am still a Canadian boy at heart and, as with all things, you just have to make the very best of any given situation and enjoy the simple pleasures whenever you can.
“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.- Anton Chekov (1860-1904).