Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm Still Here...

Lately, the combination of work, family commitments, and (hooray!) top-notch backyard rink conditions have meant that this isn't the most prolific blog on the internet.  However, while I was out flooding the rink this afternoon, I decided to take a few minutes when I was done and crank out a small article.

Yeah, in between the occasional snow storm and minus 25 wind chills, Joey and I have had some quality skating time on the rink this winter...just not since about a week ago; here's what has happened in that time. 

Today was the first flood I have done in quite a while, as a winter weather occurrence eight days ago brought first a little bit of snow, then a fair amount of rain, which was all topped off with about 10 more centimetres of snow.  I removed the 10 cm or so of snow to find that the initial snow and rain made a crumbly kind of rough ice that, if I was so inclined, could have been scraped off with maximum effort.  However, the next day the whole family left for Moncton for Molly's figure skating competition; while we were there, a big winter blast dumped 35 centimetres on the rink.  So, after we got home (and I managed to dig out the driveway) it was back onto the crumbly snow/ice with the snowblower.  In the few days since then, we had another dusting of snow which I scraped off today and the rink was finally ready for a flood.

You can kind of see the crumbly ice/snow wherever the water isn't.  I wasn't sure how the flood was going to work - I was concerned that it would only make a crunchier snow - but it turned out very well.

The forecast is calling for another 15 centimetres tomorrow, but I'm hoping there will be a few more good days of skating this season.  Next week is March Break, and starting on about Wednesday quite a few daily forecasted high temperatures are above that crucial zero degree line...

On one hand, it is good to see that winter is coming to an end.  On the other hand, I am always a little sad to see the outdoor skating season is also almost over.  Better get out there and enjoy the rink while we still can!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Getting Going

Hello and Season's Greetings!  If you have discovered Backyard Ice because it was recently mentioned in one of New Brunswick's newspapers, I'd like to send out a special welcome to you!  This little blog is almost two years old, and this is my 35th post about my experiences in "the roofless world of skating outdoors."  As of this writing, this blog has been visited over 1200 times by people in 10 countries.  Also, according to the statistics, my most popular article to date features (among other things) an old picture of my brother on a pond in Titusville (click here); one of my personal favourite posts featured an even older picture of my father and his three brothers on Shaw Lake.  I've also enjoyed writing about my experiences playing in the World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, which you can read about right here and also here.  I hope that you will take a look through my older posts.  And, if you would like to contribute an article about your own experiences building a rink or skating outdoors, I'd like for you to send a few pictures and an article to me at  I'd be happy to feature your patch of ice in a future article, just like I did when I featured a frozen pond in Johnville in this article from January 2011.
*     *     *     *     *
Well, this year's edition of my backyard rink really got going today; I would have liked to start sooner, but work has been a beast lately.  Anyway, in the article prior to this one, I hinted that for this season I would be trying a different approach to establishing the base of my rink.  (In past years, I have always waited for a few inches of snow, then headed out with the garden hose and some winter rubber boots and splashed around in the slush for a few hours for a few days; the result was always a good solid base of ice - if the temperatures cooperated! - albeit a very rough one.)  This season I am trying a base made of heavy plastic sheeting.  One challenge this presented was that the plastic came in a roll that is 10 feet wide and 150 feet long; my rink is about 26 feet by 46 feet.  So, the afternoon of Christmas Eve found Susie and me cutting and taping it up...

This was definitely a job that had to be done indoors; I was struck by how big 26x46 appears when you see it inside, compared to how small it seems when you are outside!  Anyway, after the carnage of Christmas morning was over, I headed outside to put the tarp down, build the boards on top of them, fold up and staple the plastic to the back of the boards, and start the water.  Regarding board-building, about halfway through the job I had to switch from drilling screws to hold the boards together to hammering nails - my cordless drill battery didn't like the minus 20 temperatures we had up here this morning!

Flooding with a plastic base is very different than flooding with an frozen slush base.  I only had to move the hose around once in a while, which gave me some time to bring in some more firewood and make a few minor repairs to the rink's lighting system.  Flooding, fixing lights, and topping up the firewood - that's multitasking, backyard ice style!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Some guys in Chicago were issued citations for using water from a fire hydrant to flood their backyard rink; you can read the article by clicking here.  They started off with a garden hose to flood nearly 4000 square feet of rink; I'm sure that this was taking much too long, so they decided to borrow 250 feet of fire hose from a firefighter relative and switched to the hydrant.  Great idea, but wouldn't the firefighter have known that it is illegal to use a hydrant & fire hose for anything other than putting out fires?  I think the word "borrowed" should have had quotation marks around it in that article!

Back here at my rink, I hope to write an article soon about the rink-building strategy that I will be trying for the first time this season.  Here is a hint...

Monday, September 5, 2011


This post is about skating in Central Park in New York City.  Despite the fact that Central Park has ice rinks in the wintertime, I am not actually talking about ice skating; yes, I know that this blog is called Backyard Ice.  However, the tagline of this blog is "the roofless world of skating outdoors" and I will comfortably place this article under the "skating outdoors" category!

I was in Central Park for the first time last year, when I was a chaperone for my oldest daughter Rebecca's high school trip to NYC.  My first reaction upon seeing the nice paved paths all over the place was, "man, I wish I had my inline skates."  So, when I was told by the powers that be around here that our family vacation this summer was going to be a trip to Manhattan, I said "fine, as long as I can go for a skate in Central Park."  So, I packed an extra bag with skates and helmets for my son Joey and myself.

Our hotel was on 8th Avenue, just a few blocks south of Central Park.  So, early on our last full day in NYC Joey and I headed out towards Columbus Circle, along with Backyard Ice's top photographer, Susie.  It was fairly early in the morning, and already the temperature was about 28°C with the heat index pushing 40°C.  (Check out this web page; it's a look at the weather on the actual day we went skating.)  Yeah, we managed to visit New York in the middle of a huge heat wave; in fact, on the very next day the temperature of 40°C set a new NYC record - the heat index was up somewhere above 46°C.  That was the day we left New York, and boy did our van's air conditioning get a workout all the way to Maine!

Unfortunately, Joey and I didn't have a whole lot of time to explore the park that morning...we were all going to an early Mets game, and we wanted to give ourselves lots of time to figure out how to get there on the subway.  (Sarcastic side note: it was just a bit hot underground at the subway station, and at the ballpark too!)  Also, even though we only went for a short skate, I was in desperate need of another shower.  Well, actually, I needed "another shower" almost as soon we stepped outside our hotel every day that we were there...

Here are a couple of action pictures I took of Joey wheeling through the park: 
Central Park is an amazing place.  You really can forget that you are smack dab in the middle of one of the world's biggest cities...until you peek up over the tall trees and see the huge buildings all around the outside of the park.  Oh, and on a day like July 21, 2011, a couple of Canadians who are used to considerably cooler summertime weather are pretty happy to find out that Central Park also has lots of water fountains...