Friday, December 28, 2007

Rinky challenges

There are few things as magical as a backyard rink on a mountainous rural property flanked by mature evergreen forest. Especially late at night, with a warm fire, pyjamas, hot chocolate and a readaloud story awaiting. This I know.

This I forget: building a rink here stinks. Every year I forget.

Challenge #1. BC weather. We get proper winter here, but we don't get long stretches of deep cold that making freezing a rink quick and easy. Nights regularly get to -10 C but often days reach to or above the freezing point.

Challenge #2. Our yard is not level. Three or four inches off level would be manageable, but the 30 cm (12") difference we're dealing with from the high to the low corners of the yard is a huge challenge. We have to flood until things start to overflow, then stop, wait for a freeze, and then build up a snow-and-ice dam along the low edge. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Challenge #3. Our rink liner is full of very small holes. We try to patch them, but there are always some miniscule ones we miss. Even a very small hole can empty an entire rink over the course of a warm-ish 24 hours -- or prevent the water from staying in in the first place. Deer wander through our property every day, and they don't see the rink liner as off-limits. Deer have hooves. Even if we patch all the holes, many new ones inevitably appear each year.

Challenge #4. Our water pressure is very low and therefore water flow through a hose is insufficient for 'spraying' a rink. The water dribbles out the hose. That's it. It takes many many hours to fill a rink. We love that we're on our own gravity-fed water system, reliant on neither a public utility nor electric pump. But my oh my, the flow is slow.

Challenge #5. We have no garage. We have no 'dirty' area of the house that is somewhat protected from the weather in which to store a hose so that it remains unclogged by ice. So every time the hose is retired from its labouriously intermittent job of filling the rink, it needs to be carefully and painstakingly drained of every last drop of water.

Challenge #6. Our outdoor tap is a long way away from the rink. Meaning we have to use a very very long amalgam of hoses to reach from tap to rink. Making the draining of said hose a prolonged and not-always successful endeavour. Already this year we've had to pull all 100 feet of hose into the house to thaw an iced-up clog.

Challenge #7. Our outdoor tap is subject to freezing up. It's on a standing pipe, coming right out of the ground. There's a funky stop-and-waste valve well below ground level that you access with a long tool by reaching it down a long blind tube. Supposedly this clears the standing tap of water each time you use it and prevents freeze-up. Not always successful. Twice already we've been out with blowtorch and block-heater attempting to thaw the standing pipe.

So why do I attempt this every year? Well, because there are few things as magical as a backyard rink on a mountainous rural property flanked by mature evergreen forest. Especially late at night, with a warm fire, pyjamas, hot chocolate and a readaloud story awaiting.


  1. Challenge #1 - we haven't gotten proper winter here yet either and our rink is currently a big pool of slush!

    Challenge #2 - I hear you clearly on that one!!!! We still have one end without slush. We're waiting for it to turn to ice before we add more water but judging by we might be waiting awhile. My biggest fear is that it's going to be perfect rink weather the 2-3 weeks we plan to head south this winter.

    Challenge #3 - we bought a new liner this year, last year Emily put her skate blade through ours (let them on the ice too early) so though we haven't had our rink freeze up good yet, we haven't lost any water.

    Challenge #4 - can't help you out with the initial filling of the rink, but could you omit the attempt at spraying and instead opt for a rinkrake? google rinkrake - they're inexpensive to buy and even more inexpensive to make and I understand make the rink surface far smoother than spraying. We are going to build ourselves one this week.

    Challenge #5 - We have a garage but it's not insulated so we can't simply leave the hose in there, it will still freeze. After we use the hose we must get as much water out as possible and then we haul it indoors, down our carpeted basement stairs (usually soaking them in the process) and into the storage room. It's not the greatest situation but it's all we can do.

    Challenge #6 - I am better off than you on this one. Last year we were a long way from the tap, this year the rink location is adjacent to the tap, a mere 4 feet away. Makes life much easier, having the shorter hose.

    Challenge #7 - our tap too always freezes up. Well not so much this year because nothing seems to be freezing. But normally it's frozen and we always have to torch it to get it flowing. The siding around the tap is, oh, just a "little" warped from heat damage.

    Yeah, rink making isn't exactly a joyful experience. But you are right, the end result can be very magical. I may not have the mountains or the rural property, but the magic is there just the same.

  2. Man, I'm cold just reading this! I cannot tell you how cool I think it is that you can build an ice rink in your backyard for the winter (even with the difficulties!)

  3. that sounds like heaven to me..... challenges and all! lol To be able to grab mine and my kids' skates and glide around the backyard! I'm still waiting for some decent snow down here in the lower mainland to enjoy some neighborhood sledding. bring on winter!


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