When I took B out for her morning walk today there was actually almost a hint of a chill in the air. Fall is coming, which always triggers conflicting emotions in this seasonally-dependent line of work, but fall brings with it the prospect of evening fires. We don’t have an outdoor fireplace (yet) but we do have a couple of nice big firepits. With the heat of summer I’ve missed evenings spent around the firepit, Bonnie on her bed gnawing on a stick while MJ and I talk and watch the flames dance. Fire can be a wonderful focal point AND gathering point for your backyard. Here are some ideas to knock it out of the park this year.
1. Make sure your firepit is big enough
Some of the box store firepits are between 25 and 30 inches in diameter. That’s adorable, what are you going to burn? Candles? Unless you love cutting everything into itty bitty little chunks, get a nice big firepit. I think the cast iron one in the picture is one of the best I’ve found. It’s from a company called Fire Kettles in South Carolina, and you can get them up to 5 feet in diameter. You can also purchase a standard base or the deluxe footrest base shown. They’re not cheap – the 60 incher and a deluxe stand will set you back $1600 plus freight – but this could well be the last firepit you ever need to buy. They’re beautiful and tough as, well, iron.
2. Close to the neighbors? Keep the smoke down
A while back I wrote about the smokeless Zentro firepit. Then, a few months ago, I got to see one in action at Shenandoah Stone in Harpers Ferry, WV. This thing really does work! The secret is in the design, as it encourages better combustion of the wood. They say good fences make good neighbors, but a fence won’t stop billowing smoke from smoking your neighbors out of their kitchen. If your firepit will be close enough to you neighbors that smoke could be a problem, check out a Zentro firepit.
3. Go all out and cook some pizzas!
A wood-fired pizza oven is the perfect weekend relaxation engine. You need to fire it several hours in advance to get it up to temperature so there’s no replying to work emails right up till cooking time. And let’s face it, it’s a fun communal experience for you and your friends. It’s worth noting, however, that a full-on professionally built pizza oven isn’t an inexpensive proposition. Still interested? I design outdoor kitchens and wood pizza ovens. You should contact me.
4. Go cheap and cook some pizzas!
A few weeks ago I discovered this guy Eric’s YouTube channel, gardenfork.tv. In the video above he talks about how to build a dry-fit, pretty much portable, brick oven. Does it work? I haven’t tried it, because MJ’s concern (rightly) is that if I build a temporary oven I’ll be satisfied and won’t get around to building the real one. But if you want brick oven pizzas and you don’t have $5k+ to spend on a wood oven, this could be a good solution.
5. Keep it low profile
There’s something incredibly appealing about a firepit that’s sunk into the ground. I think it’s a primal instinct sort of thing. Just remember a) your sunken firepit needs to drain somewhere lest you create an ashy swamp, and b) be sure to come up with a way to keep people from falling in. We don’t like to set friends and family on fire.
6. Go with gas
Don’t get me wrong, I love a wood fire. But wouldn’t it be nice to flip a switch and have the fire pop into view, and not smell like a campfire all night? The best part is that when it comes to gas firepits and fire features you’re not limited to the tacky crap they sell at the box stores. For example, the folks at Raw Urth Designs in Colorado not only make firepits, they make these amazing gas-fired fire features that you can virtually guarantee your neighbors have never seen before. Go on, live on the edge. Be the trendsetter in your crew.
7. Find local artists who do crazy stuff
Imagine Metal Art is based in Ontario, Canada and they certainly qualify as doing crazy stuff. How amazing is that firepit? If your goal is to be just like everyone else on the street, that’s easy. If you want people to remember the BBQ at your house, let your freak flag fly!
Do you have a really cool fire feature in your yard? I’d love to see it! Go ahead and share it on the Revolutionary Gardens Facebook Page so we can all oooh and ahhhh!