Monday, January 16, 2012

Backyard Rink Chronicles


So I've been waiting and waiting to do my second annual backyard rink. I ordered a new, larger tarp (30x50), planning on a 25x40 rink. (Last year I did a 15x25 rink.)

The weather just hasn't cooperated. We're in the midst of something like the 4th warmest winter in recorded Rochester history. Until last week we'd only gotten trace amounts of snow - and we normally get ~ 100 of snow per winter here. Now we've had 15 inches, against an annual average of 43 to this date. Last year we'd gotten 65 at this point. For comparison's sake, St. Paul, MN gets 56 inches of snow per year, on average.

Before the climate change people get all geeked up, let me get back on point.

This weekend was supposed to be two good things for backyard rink-making: cold and long.

So I went out Saturday and bought the rest of the materials I'd need, and started putting together the frame.

As you probably remember from last year's inaugural Backyard Rink Chronicles series, I am not Mr. Handy. But this year I felt as though I knew what I wanted to do, and how to do it.

Instead of using extra pieces of 2x8 as backplates where two boards come together, I screwed L-shaped metal pieces to join the 5' sections of 2x8 together at the bottom of the back of the boards, with a "foot" sticking out on the outside of the boards. I used flat metal pieces screwed into the top of the back of the boards to add further strength behind the seam. The frame came together much more easily than last year.

One mistake I made was not getting the frame set up before it started snowing. As a result, I decided to take my tamper and tamp down the snow inside the frame. I assumed the weight of the water would ultimately tamp the snow down, but I figured starting with as flat a surface as possible would aid and speed the flooding/freezing process.

You will also recall that I had some trouble with uneven ground last year, the result of which was that I had one end of the rink that ended up being basically 7.5" deep in ice, and barely any ice at all at the other end.

Since I was going for a much bigger rink this year, I oriented it differently. When I got it laid out and the snow tamped down, however, I noticed that the long side farther from the house is much lower than the long side closer to the house. I went back out and got a couple 2x4 foot pieces of project board and laid them down in the deepest corners in an attempt to even out these deeper areas.

Then I laid out the tarp, with a huge assist from my wife.

After that, I started flooding. Actually, I had to unfasten the two hoses we forgot were still attached to the spigot first. Oops. That required a couple pots of boiling water.

THEN I started flooding. Immediately the water started pooling on the far, deeper side. It was also cold enough last night, and the stream of water slow enough, that the water started to freeze within maybe 10 minutes, where it pooled. I flooded enough to get the water touching the entire far long wall, the entire far short wall and about half of the total surface area under water.

But, I noticed that the water was getting materially closer to the top of the boards in some areas, in particular in the far corner. So I decided to stop flooding and let it freeze over night.

This morning, what had been flooded was mostly frozen.

And the forecast for today is mid-30s with a chance of some rain or freezing rain in spots tonight. Ugh.

I'm concerned about the fact that I don't have water across the whole surface yet. I'm thinking about lifting up the tarp where there's no water and shoveling out as much of the snow there as I can, in an effort to lower that area.

I'm hoping to leave what's in there now to fully freeze. Then I'm hoping that, when I resume flooding, the new water will fill in the uncovered surface. Any water that floods over the already-frozen parts I could squeegee off if it gets too close to the top of the boards. I could also add another 2x8 on top of the existing one in the areas where it's getting close to the top - I have enough extra tarp to do that.

I'm not going to flood today, it's too warm to freeze.

The next few days have lows in the teens, so maybe some favorable conditions.

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