In the previous post, I talked about how I acquired 50+ pallets in order to make boards - a cheap version. I had many people say it wasn't possible, I guess I proved them wrong. It was a lot of work but it was the basis of things to come.
Something else occurred during the previous season that would ultimately change the look and feel of my backyard rink. Our neighbour, a dear friend of my wife, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She was a mere 36 years old and had a daughter smack dab in between the ages of my two girls (3, 4, & 5). They were all great friends. When I found out that she wanted a playhouse built in her backyard so that her daughter could have some special memories of their time together after she was gone, I was more than willing to lend a hand. You see, I lost my father to cancer in 1996 when I was only 26 - he was only 56. I was 3 provinces away, working a contract job in high-tech, saving up for an engagement ring and didn't have a lot of money to be spending on flights home. I couldn't do anything at the time to help him, my mom or my older brother, but gosh darn it - I was going to help her with her dream.
Word got out by some remarkable people who organized the entire project and everything was donated - wood, windows, shingles, hard work, even the food to feed everyone. You could also say that I took over this 'dream' as a foreman would take over a construction site; I was taking afternoons off from my job in order to coordinate deliveries, installing shingles, siding, windows (lost part of my thumb with that task) and even hardwood flooring. In the end, we ended up with a beautiful playhouse with better windows and construction than most houses these days. Also in the end was a lot of left over lumber, in particular, 8 full sheets of 3/4" plywood as well as 8 full sheets of particle floorboard. I offered my neighbour the going rate for all this lumber so that she could put the cash in a trust fund for her daughter. She refused and told me that for all the work and effort I placed into her dream, she was going to donate it to me for my rink - as long as I taught her daughter how to skate. I guess karma does exist. After lugging all that wood across the street, I now had some endboards that even Al MacInnis couldn't put a puck through - maybe.
December finally rolled around and I started hauling out all those pallets again. I started installing them and had 3/4 of them up on December 15th - it was a Friday and I was more than likely on my Christmas vacation. I stopped for supper and checked the forecast - I knew snow was coming early this year but what I saw I didn't expect. In the forecast was 20 centimeters of snow - or about 8 inches - this meant that I had to finish everything tonight and get the tarp down. I scarfed down supper and was back at it. I busted my ass that night and got everything installed including the tarp as the snow started falling. By the end of the next day 24 cm of snow had fallen - almost 9.5 inches. I packed it with my lawn roller the next day but it was not near cold enough to start flooding. I had to wait another 2 weeks before the temperature dropped enough to start adding water - December 30th was the first flood. On January 5th, I had an ice base but it was no were near level so I fill the rink with more snow from the yard to bring up the low places. I flooded for the next two days and skated for the first time on January 7th. If you have built a backyard rink from snow, you know that those first skates are always pretty rough but you have to do it.
By now, it's the middle of January and the cold snap is about to hit in Ottawa which means a lot of late nights of flooding. Skate as much as you can on the ice because believe it or not skating actually helps create a smoother ice surface. My journal entry from Jan 17 reads - "Bought Meg new skates and helmet; Temp @ -10; Shot the puck around after work then Girls skated on the rink; Ice is looking good - 9PM light freezing rain." And that middle line 'Girls skated on the rink' is why we do this, am I right? Another great journal entry from this year comes on February 16th - "Meg and I shovelled the rink" - she was 5!! By the end of the season, we had about 25 skating days with the final day coming on March 8th. Also with the new end boards and the chicken-wire, there were a lot less lost pucks.
I couldn't help but include a video of my 5 year old skating with her 10 year old cousin - or should I say 'out-skating':