By Eileen Majors

Sundial Beyond sundial bridge Eileen

There is nothing like getting back to basics. And nothing is more basic for a backyard feature than a simple sundial for telling time. So why not put one together in your backyard? It’s sure to draw the interest of family and friends alike.

Start with a flat spot that receives good sun throughout the day (preferably in gravel or dirt patch). Pound a Tiki torch or other tall stake into the ground to use as the center of the sundial. You may need to loosen the soil by moistening it, or if that fails, by digging up and then replacing the dirt, packing it down with enough water to make placement of the stake easier.

Once you have the stake in place, wait for the top of the next hour. If it is (for example) 2 p.m., then see where the shadow falls and mark it with a rock labeled 2 p.m. Be sure to set a timer so you can be reminded to do the same for each hour of daylight. You will end up with a half circle to cover 12 hours of the day. You may need to finish the next day depending on what time you got started.

The time you spend waiting for the next hour allows you to paint the times onto your rocks and secure each rock after it is placed. You can also use the time between setting down the rocks for household chores or to watch your favorite TV shows. It may seem like a long process but if you bought a template to build your sundial, it would need to be designed for your specific latitude and longitude. Choose rocks that are fairly flat on one side. To secure a rock and keep it from moving, dig a shallow hole directly beneath it, about the size of the bottom portion of the rock. Add dirt as needed and add water to pack it securely in place. Note: If you build your sundial during daylight savings time, you may want to adjust it for non-daylight savings time, or if it will primarily be viewed in summer, you may wish to include a sign on the Sundial denoting: Daylight Savings Time.

If you want to be as accurate as the ‘Sundial Behind the Sundial,’ by this method, you would need to repeat the process each month to see where another rock or place mark is needed. (See photo of center rock-Sundial Behind the Sundial) The Sundial Behind the Sundial

Most of us have seen the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding. If you have not, it is worth a stop when you are passing through on I-5. If you have time, stay and enjoy the many adventures the park has to offer. You can also view the sundial on Google.

On my last trip to the park, after taking some pictures of the angel statues with the family,  we walked across the Sundial Bridge with the morning hikers of the day. As we stopped to figure out what time it was according to the bridge, a man told us of another sundial just up the trail, which he said, “keeps very good time.” We ventured down the path in the direction he pointed, and along the way we discovered the reason for the park’s name.

Turtle Bay, on our right, revealed dozens of lazing turtles sunning themselves on logs. A little further up the trail on the left we found the sundial made of rocks. We also discovered why it keeps very good time. The large, odd-shaped rock in the center shows viewers where to stand according to which month of the year it is. When a person stands on the rock and, if necessary, points both arms above his or her head straight up with hands together, one can tell the time by the cast of your shadow. Find out more about sundials at