Winter Workspace in the Basement

My usual workspace is in the garage, because I love having the door open to hear the birds and make as big of a mess as I need.

However, we live in Wisconsin and the winters a bit cold.  And our garage isn’t heated.

So, natural solution – make a space in the basement!

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That should do the trick until spring.

Building a Backyard Ice Rink

Some of my fondest memories of childhood in Maine are of playing hockey in the backyard rink with my dad and brother.  Naturally I needed to make one for my own kids.

Size

I thought about going bigger but decided to go with a 24′ x 40′ rink:

  • big enough to do some skating
  • small enough to not take FOREVER to clear after snow 🙂
  • I could make it out of boards of all the same length.  I didn’t want to be messing around with cutting or different lengths.  All I needed to buy for lumber was 16 8′ 2×12 boards  – easy.
  • We can always get bigger next year once we have a little experience 🙂

Materials

  • 16x 8′ 2×12 boards
    • I’m really glad I went with 2×12 instead of something smaller.  It turns out that my spot isn’t nearly as flat as it looked to the naked eye and our deep end is almost to the top of those 2x12s!
    • 3 for each end (24′ dimension) and 5 for the long sides (40′ dimension)
  • 8x L  brackets for the corners.  I might have been ok with 1 per corner but am glad i went with 2 per corner.  It really helped with keeping it tight
  • 13x board joiner plate thingies
    • that’s a technical term 🙂
    • 12 is how many you need (the joints on the straight sides) but I got an extra one because who needs an extra trip to Home Depot if they break one?
  • Lots of 24″ stakes for bracing the boards
    • I actually bought 6 wooden 24″ 2×2  stakes and about 14 24″ rebar lengths.
    • I used all the rebar and not all the wooden stakes because my ground was frozen and the rebar was much easier to get into the ground
  • Big pile of screws for attaching the braces to the boards
  • Backyard rink tarp.  There are lots of these you can buy online, we got ours from Amazon.  Make sure you get one that has plenty of extra material, you don’t want to lay everything out and not have enough.  Ours is 50’x 30′.

Tools

  • Cordless screwdriver
  • 3lb mallet (the most useful tool I never knew I needed until I had one)
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel for clearing snow if you waited too long
  • hose that reaches from your faucet to most of where you want the rink
  • Random heavy stuff from the garage for holding the tarp in place while you are trying to get things ready for water

Construction

Step 1: choose a site

I chose my spot because:

  • it looked flat (it’s not!)
  • it was in the back yard where we have good visibility from the house so we can watch the kids if they are out there
  • reachable by the hoses we already own
  • close-ish to the trees and on the north side of our house, so that it gets less sun than other spots.  I think this will help us keep ice a little longer in the spring

Step 2: buy materials

No backing out now!

Step 3: measure out your rink

Pick a starting corner and measure it out so that you have the corners marked.  Measure the diagonals to make sure it is square (if the length of the diagonals are the same, your rink is square).  Adjust until square.  If you are off a little bit, not a big deal – it’s a backyard rink!

Here is ours with the corners marked out.  I also marked the midpoints on the 40′ lengths.

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Step 4: If you have snow, clear out the place where boards will go

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Step 5: Lay out your boards

If you used all 8′ lengths like me, this is super easy.

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Step 6: Start connecting your boards

I started in one corner and connected the two pieces together.  This made it balance on its own without me having to hold it up.  I then continued around the whole thing.

Also note that somewhere in there I cleared out the rest of the snow from inside the rink.

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Step 7: Finish the boards. 🙂

Lots of good shade!

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Step 8: place your stakes as supports

Put them in to make it nice and sturdy.  I put most of mine close to the joints to keep those from moving too much.

 Step 9: lay out the tarp and start filling with water

To lay out my tarp I basically placed it in the center and started unfolding.  The thing I wanted to stay away from the most was dragging it around.  There were too many sharp things like boards, rebar, etc that would tear holes in the tarp if I did that, and then it would leak when I started filling it up.  As it turned out I did end up with one small hole but it was slow enough that it wasn’t a big deal.

Once I had the tarp in place I put heavy stuff such as some extra lumber and around the edges and then covered the outside with snow.  This was to keep it in place and prevent the wind from getting underneath and whipping it around.

Then we put the hose in, turned on the water, and put the well to work pumping ~2500 gallons of water. 🙂

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Also note that most websites about building backyard rinks say to wait until you are ready to fill it up before laying out the tarp, and also to avoid windy days if possible.

Step 10: all filled with water – exercise patience

It’ll take a few days for you to have enough ice, depending on how cold it is.

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All frozen!

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In the picture above you can see the ice is a little rough.  After this picture was taken I started bringing out 5 gallon buckets of nice hot water from inside the house and tossing that on and it made the ice really nice and smooth.  About 5-6 trips coats the whole surface so it doesn’t take too long to do.

Step 11: enjoy!

My daughter’s first time out on our rink – incredibly fun, even if it was snowing and I was using the pickup’s headlights so we could see. 🙂

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Greenhouse Update

A few weeks ago I built a small DIY greenhouse.  The first use for it is as a winter extension for the coop.  Here it is after our first snow storm of the season:

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Inside it is nice and cozy – no wind and a good bit warmer than the outside. 

Here are our ladies hanging out and scratching around in the straw we put down:

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This has been a success so far, and in a couple months we can start using it to start some early plants for the garden.

I’m Hiring

There are all sorts of roles on my team that we are hiring for:

  • Developers
  • SDETs
  • BA w/SaaS Experience

Tech Stack:

  • AngularJS/HTML5/CSS/Etc
  • ASP.NET 4.6/5.0 (MVC)
  • C#
  • Microservices Architecture
  • Microsoft Azure

Perks:

  • Great team
  • Remote friendly
  • Rare opportunity to get in on a large program early on and help shape it
  • Really interesting business space

Reach out to me on twitter (@_brentonc) or leave a comment below if you’d like to hear more!

What a difference 4 weeks makes!

Our 8 chickens are about 5 weeks old now and we’ve had them out in the grass the last couple of days during the day.  They love it!

What’s really amazing is how much they have grown – here are two videos, the first at about 1.5 weeks and the second from today at 5 weeks of age.

1.5 week chicks play ‘grasshopper keepaway’

5 week chicks enjoying the grass and wary of the suspicious human with treats:

Chicks are here!

I got the call from the post office at about 6:45 this am letting me know that the chicks we ordred had arrived!  Drove down and picked them up – even before the folks there opened the door to the back room I could hear them chirping.

They came in a small box (we only ordered 8 chicks).

This is the box that the chicks were shipped in

Inside, they had some comfy bedding and were all huddled up!

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We put them into their brooder and at first they stayed huddled up (it hadn’t had much time to warm up yet so they were a little cold), and I checked each of them to make sure they weren’t ‘pasted up’ or anything like that.  Showed a few of them the water and a few mins later the food.

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A few hours later they are adjusting well, eating, drinking, pooping, and exploring!  We sprinkled some crumbles around to give them something fun to do.  One of them decided to push a bunch of food out of the food dish so I spread that around for them to peck at too, they seem to love it!

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Here’s a closeup of one (I think it’s an Easter Egger?):

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Anyway – adventures ahead!

DIY Chicken Coop

It’s been a while since I posted.  My family and I moved to a new home and we’ve been busy settling in.  The new place has ~10 acres of property, so there is an unlimited list of outside projects scratching the ‘maker’ itch! And since it’s summer, they are a great way to spend time outside getting some fresh air with the kids.

One of the things that we are excited about is being able to keep a few chickens for fresh eggs. In fact, we ordered chicks and expect them to arrive this week!

We plan to use some sort of mobile coop during the warm months, but for the Wisconsin winter I decided to build something a little heavier and hopefully more suitable to the winter. Below are a series of pictures of the build so far…

Early framing in the garage

Very early framing done. The beams on top are just balanced in place so we could get a visual of what it might look like

Some more framing in the garage

Some more framing in the garage

More framing in the garage.  At this point it was starting to get heavy enough that I was worried about being able to move it outside!

More framing in the garage. At this point it was starting to get heavy enough that I was worried about being able to move it outside!

Move outside and framed in the floor of the enclosed area where the chickens will sleep

Move outside and framed in the floor of the enclosed area where the chickens will sleep

Added the flooring.  The child was happy to have something to climb on.  :)

Added the flooring. The child was happy to have something to climb on. 🙂

More framing

Framed the nesting box door, chicken door, put in most of the roof beams

Here's the framing from the back

Here’s the framing from the back

Didn't take any photos for a few steps.  Here you can see we got the roof on, and the siding on the enclosure walls as well.

Didn’t take any photos for a few steps. Here you can see we got the roof on, and the siding on the enclosure walls as well.

Here you can see the window added, and what will be the front door ready to go.  The front and back walls will both be on hinges so the whole thing can open up for cleaning, repairs, and whatever else is needed!

Here you can see the window added, and what will be the front door ready to go. The front and back walls will both be on hinges so the whole thing can open up for cleaning, repairs, and whatever else is needed!

Started building the nesting box.  These side cuts were tricky for an amateur like me!

Started building the nesting box. These side cuts were tricky for an amateur like me!

Here the nesting box is framed and I've started adding some of the siding

Here the nesting box is framed and I’ve started adding some of the siding

Hey, that turned out ok!

Hey, that turned out ok!

Nesting box attached to the side of the coop.  Also, the front wall is screwed in place (hinges to come soon).

Nesting box attached to the side of the coop. Also, the front wall is screwed in place (hinges to come soon).

Added in some walls.  I'm told that chicken coops are pretty fun to play in!

Added in some insulation and walls. I’m told that chicken coops are pretty fun to play in!

Got the back door built and hinged on.  The hook will be replaced by a latch soon!

Got the back door built and hinged on. The hook will be replaced by a latch soon!

Put in some dividers for the nesting box.  Smartest thing I did here was to make the pattern with some cardboard first, and then cut out the plywood.

Put in some dividers for the nesting box. Smartest thing I did here was to make the pattern with some cardboard first, and then cut out the plywood.

Here's the view of the nesting boxes from where  the chickens will be.  I hope these look cozy enough...

Here’s the view of the nesting boxes from where the chickens will be. I hope these look cozy enough…

Kids still think the coop should be for them!

Kids still think the coop should be for them!

Found some very inexpensive laminate flooring and decided to use that for the floor.  Hopefully that makes it a little easier to clean out?

Found some very inexpensive laminate flooring and decided to use that for the floor. Hopefully that makes it a little easier to clean out?

Ok, that’s all for now.  We keep chipping away at it every day, but there is still a ton to do!  The chicks should arrive in the next few days, but thankfully we have a few weeks to finish up before the chicks move out of the garage.

Desk uptime

Well, we are moving to a new place on the other side of Wisconsin, near the mighty Mississippi.  And that means I need to dismantle the robot desk for transport.

Final uptime?  72 days, 2 hours, and 52 minutes.  Not bad.

Sleep tight Desk, I’ll see you in a few days.  shutdown -h now.

How to change the name of an Azure Subscription

A colleague and I both have Visual Studio Ultimate MSDN subscriptions, with corresponding Azure subscriptions, and have given one another access for various little things as we’ve explored Azure.

Unfortunately, this got confusing with our subscriptions having the same name, and has occasionally resulted in us creating things under the wrong subscriptions.  In the Azure portal it’s not too bad because you are also filtered by directory, but in Visual Studio and other places it can be tough to figure out.

For example, Get-AzureSubscription returns two subscriptions with the same name!  Which one is mine, and which one is Jack’s?

subscriptions

Thankfully, you can change the name of a subscription:

  1. Login to https://account.windowsazure.com/Subscriptions
  2. Click on the Subscription you’d like to renameportal-before
  3. On the right side of the page, click “Edit subscription details”edit
  4. Choose your new name & savemakeityours

Voila!  Subscription names are now much more clear:

Subscriptions