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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Rink

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: There's nothing like going with the weather when it comes to recreation. In Florida, that means backyard pools are popular. And in Canada's Ontario, backyard ice skating rinks are the vogue. Bob Carty sent us this audio postcard from one such frozen round at his neighborhood outside Ottawa.

(Skating, children's voices)

CARTY: You okay? What happened there?

CHILD 1: I plunged into a snowbank head first when I was skating too fast.

CHILD 2: He just couldn't stop somehow, and he just slammed into a snowbank.

CARTY: Are you okay?

CHILD 1: Uh huh.

CHILD 2: Don't try to skate backwards when you haven't even tried it yet, or practice. That's pretty much it. A bruise map is kind of like a map where it shows you where all your bruises are. Those kind of things.

WOMAN: When I was a kid, I remember the boys used to play hockey in my friend's backyard. And my brothers, I have three brothers, they would use me and other little sisters as goal posts. (Laughs) I learned how to skate with a kitchen chair. It had metal legs, and my creepy older brother tried to get me to lick the steel, but no, I didn't do it.

(Music up and under)

CARTY: How to make a backyard rink, by Howard Purchase of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. "All you need is snow, water, patience, and a cold day. When planning a rink, make sure your hose can reach the area where you are putting the rink. To start, pack the snow solid with a shovel or a rented roller, or have some children run around on it for a while. They love it, and it gets the job done. There are two ways to make a backyard rink: with plastic and without plastic."

MAN: The first year we started the rink, and tried to do the whole thing the traditional methods. You'd be out here, you'd be stomping down the snow, you'd put slush and you'd try to have just banks of snow on the sides. I was lucky that year because we had good conditions. Last year was a bad winter for making rinks. We didn't have any snow at the start. So what I was doing, I was out in the front yard, and I was shoveling all the snow off of the driveway. And wheelbarrowing it to the back. (Laughs) That wasn't enough snow, so then I started shoveling the front street. And then I started shoveling the neighbor's driveways. But it wasn't going anywhere. And so I finally broke down and started to introduce technology.

WOMAN: Jiffy Rink, priced $24.99. Instant skating rink the size of approximately ten feet by 20 feet. It's a big bag. And you fill it up with water, and then after it freezes over, after 24 hours it freezes over, there's that top piece you pull off. You just pull it right off and there you go, there's your rink.

MAN: This year I was planning to buy these bags again. And then my wife was on the Internet, and found out that there are companies out there that will sell you plastic sheets as liners for your rinks. And so we went and we ordered them on the Internet.


MAN: Why do I sweep? What you're trying to do is you have as flat a surface as possible when you put the flood down. Any little bit of snow, any little chip of ice or something like that, it's going to spoil that. I know it's sad. (Laughs) It's a pretty sad statement. But it's about perfection. (Sweeps) Making the perfect rink. (Sweeps)

(Music up and under)

MAN: I tell people I think my deepest thoughts at six in the morning, out there with a half-inch hose. And I suppose there is a certain satisfaction in making flat ice.

WOMAN: It's pathetic. (Laughs) He'll go out there. He's got the hose and he just drags it along slowly, like a snake.

(Water runs)

WOMAN: You know it's great, because if we had to go pee, we didn't have to walk down from the park. We could just scoot in the back door. And then we'd scoot back out and we'd be skating again. It would only take a couple minutes.

(Skating, children yelling)

CURWOOD: Our audio postcard of the backyard skating rink was produced by Bob Carty.

(Music up and under: "Crack your door and I come out, friend. Keith, have you checked out Ketchel's pond? He calls up Tommy Teller. Tom said the pond, it froze right over. So get your nets and lace your skates and get the hot chocolate for your mom to make...")

CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Next week: In Idaho residents are up in arms over Bill Clinton's last-minute order to ban more roadbuilding in national forests.

TIM BERNHARD: How would the people back in Pennsylvania and Kentucky feel if we wanted to go back there and promote roadless areas? Which I think it would be a great deal for me to take my grandkids back East and see this Daniel Boone site.



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