Back in the fall, the weather reports predicted that this winter in Chicago would be one of the worst in memory. We were supposed to have more snow and more freezing temps in December than ever before.
We were excited. Last year, our entire family was converted from winter haters to — dare I say it? — winter lovers!? Of course, we still prefer summer, or fall or even spring. Winter is definitely not our season of choice. But we had so much fun last winter that we were kind of looking forward to it.
Our house was a winter sport wonderland last year. The kids figured out how to use recycling bins to pack huge bricks of snow and build tall snow-boarding hills. My husband built an ice skating rink in the backyard. And we had that awesome blizzard to provide a playground of snow!
When we heard the prediction for this winter, we decided to make our skating rink bigger and better than before. Our plan was to start construction Thanksgiving weekend and be ready with a pond full of frozen water by Dec. 1.
But then... it didn't snow. And the temperatures didn't drop. December was mild, and we barely got a dusting of snow. We couldn't believe it when the first two weeks of January felt more like spring than winter! We started getting used to playing outside in 40 and 50 degree weather.
Finally, the snow came today. CapableDad has been working overtime in the backyard to get the ice rink ready before the temperature dove into the 20s. Here's the step-by-step of this year's skating rink construction project.
First, we decided to move the play structure so we could extend the rink by 10 feet.
Next, he built a frame around the area, which is about 30 by 40 feet.
Our yard is fairly level. However, it does decline by about eight inches from the front to the back. To save on the cost of water, my husband put wood pallets in the back of the rink. He and two friends collected the pallets from all sorts of places.
The frame on the very back of the rink is about three boards high and it's only one board high on the front. The goal is to have five inches of water on the most shallow part of the rink.
They were working hard all day yesterday and into the evening. The temperature was in the mid-50s most of the day and the kids were playing without coats!
The guys put plywood across the pallets and then filled in the step to the ground with leaves and grass. The kids thought this made a great stage.
Next they had to lay the huge piece of plastic across the frame. My husband bought the plastic at Home Depot. One piece isn't wide enough, so they used duct tape to attach two pieces and secure the seam in the middle. This step is crucial. If you leave any gaps or holes, the water will leak through and you will spend hundreds of dollars watering the lawn!
They don't actually attach the plastic because it could pull and rip. They just laid it across the area and over the frame. As we added water last night, we tried to remove air bubbles and get the thick plastic to lay as flat as possible.
We filled the rink halfway last night. We got several inches of snow this morning, which added to the water level. It will take several days to freeze. We still need to add more water, which will help smooth out all of the bumps left by the snow.
I read that the temperature is supposed to get back into the 40s next week. We're hoping it's not true. We are actually cheering for more snow and more cold so we can put on our skates soon!