Success, after failure, is sweet success indeed.
Remember the part where I said that what I thought was flat wasn't exactly flat? Well, after two days of looking at the six inches of standing water at the "deep" end of the rink/wading pool that the 50+ degree weather over New Years weekend had created in my backyard and deliberating with my father (who was in town to visit), I decided to bail. Literally.
I broke up what little ice remained, and bailed water out of the rink/pool until there was only about two inches of standing water at the "deep" end. There was a secondary value to this humbling exercise which was to prove that my backyard can handle (read: drain) a significant amount of water dumped on it in a short amount of time.
The plan at that point was to let what was there freeze before adding more water. Now, because of the pitch, this meant that there wasn't any water at the "shallow" end of the rink. About the last couple feet, actually. So, freeze at the deep end, then add water incrementally and let THAT freeze before adding more, and eventually you'd have the whole surface covered, and with ice.
So, once the weather turned colder again, I did just that. A little water, then let it sit overnight. Then a little more the next day, then freeze overnight.
Friday night, I went out and walked around on the ice. A little water was coming up over the edge of the ice at the edges of the deep end when I walked on it. But not much. There wasn't ice all the way to the corners of edge of the shallow end, but it was close, and the rest of the ice just looked pretty good. So, I laced 'em up and gave it a spin.
*chorus of angels*
I put down one more coat of water and went to bed.
Got up Saturday and took a look and told the kids it was go time.
My friend KJ (of 100 Watt Jones, Russoville and GTRCMBSHP fame) had sold me some skates that his daughters had outgrown. So we suited the girls up and out we went.
I've been dreaming of skating with my kids in the backyard since they were born. Six winters of building up my expectations about what it would be like.
They still fell short of the real thing.
It was awesome.
We had the folding chairs out there for them to push around, but my eldest quickly abandoned hers as so much amateurism and worked her tail off. She went from completely dependent on the chair for balance to actual skating (push-glides, carving fish, gliding and turning, etc) in one freaking day! Couldn't get the little rink rat off the ice, either! We played HOCKEY together and she was one-timing my passes back at me! Bliss. My youngest - the more cautious of the two - progressed from 100% dependent on the chair for balance to walking around on the ice without benefit of anything for balance. By the end of the day we were all having a blast.
I went out mid-day and bought a 6x4 net, a bucket of pucks and a couple kid size sticks. Not knowing which hand the girls are, I bought one lefty and one righty.
We strung Christmas lights over the rink so we could see as it was getting dark out. My wife brought out her computer and played the skater's waltz in homage to her late grandfather who used to make a backyard rink and play the skater's waltz for the enjoyment of the skaters. We had hot chocolate and a space heater set up in the garage to serve as an ersatz warming house.
I loved every minute of it.
About the ice/rink. The ice is soft. I think that's going to happen no matter what. There are some pockets of air that we punched through fairly easily. But water and an overnight freeze seem to have filled them in nicely. There's a little bit of water coming up over the edges, particuarly in the deep end still. While it doesn't help the softness of the ice, there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it at this point, and at some point (provided it stays cold enough) I figure most of what's down there will have come up to the surface and frozen or evaporated.
Frankly I was too tired last night to perform any maintenance. But it also snowed a couple inches so it was good that I didn't have water standing there when it started snowing, because it freezes so bumpy and would have made it hard to skate at all today. I plan on shoveling it off today and flooding it once before we skate on it.
The corners of the shallow end took a beating - even with us not skating within a foot or so of where the ice stopped. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that to be honest.
All in all it was a magical first day. The kids loved it, and they've got the bruises on their knees to prove it! I loved it, and I'm psyched for more fun today.