New Fire Pit and Backyard Camping

Update:  A year later and the fire pit is going strong.  Hands down one of the best and most used outside projects to date. Please, please make one of these.  You'll love it!

Behold, fire . . . .

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I can't find a good picture of our old fire pit.  It was basically a hole in the ground with a few bricks around it.  A toddler death trap.  My safety conscious sister has been freaking out about it since Henry was born.  If I had a buck for every time she told me I needed to fill it in, well I would have had enough money to pay for the new one.  The thing is, I loved my fire pit.  We used it ALL THE TIME.  It is effortlessly entraining.  Come on over and we'll light a fire.  We spent countless evenings around the fire pit hanging out with friends.  And, now that the kids are getting older, they love bon fires too.  It was actually the first project we finished at the house.  When I say we, I mean Jason. While he was digging the foundations for the barn I informed him that I was going to dig a fire pit.  Of course, the ground was too hard.  So I had him stop and help me with the digging.  And then, I couldn't get the bricks to stay.  So he helped me glue them.  Basically, he did it.   We still joke about it all the time.  Every time I start a big project Jason always chimes in "is this going to be like the fire pit again?"  I loved the story behind it, it was a funny memory of the early days of our marriage.  Then last year, when there wasn't a fire in it, one of our friends kids sorta . . . fell in it. Yeah, not so great.  He was fine, but still it sorta drove home the point that is was dangerous.  We then decided that we would replace it.  But, you know how it is.  You get busy and another year passed.  Fast forward to last week.  We were having some friends over for a bon fire. The day before they came over, I asked jason if he could work on the fire pit.  It was starting to erode and the bricks were all falling in.  We have a low lying yard so the fire pit would act like a ditch and fill with water.  That is right, we had a two foot deep hole in our yard that is often filled with water in addition to an old cast iron fire place gate.   It was a baby death trap.  Well, my little suggestion turned into totally redoing the fire pit.  Yep, still going to be a running joke in our household.

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We (okay me) decided to fill in the exsisting pit with gravel, to help with drainage.  And, I sweetly asked Jason if we could move it a little.  Just a nudge.  Which, he did, with only a mild amount of grumbling.   When it came to building it, I told him I had seen a pin on pinterest where they built a fire pit out of retaining wall stone.  So he picked up a bunch of them, even though he told me he wasn't sure it would work.  He made a handy little circle guide seen above, which I later turned into more fence art (will post soon). And then set about the process of stacking the stones.  He kept saying "Jaime, this won't work these stones aren't meant to go in a circle." And I kept saying "but I saw it on pinterest."  Another hour later of not getting the stones to stack up he came in and started searching the internet to find out what he was doing wrong.  I popped up and suggested I show him the pin.  I showed him this post.  As soon as he saw it he looked at me and much more calmly than he had a right to be and said "jaime, those aren't retaining wall stones like ours."  Ooops.  To the untrained eye, they looked the same to me.  The stones in the post were made to be circular. At this point, it was 8:30 at night.  Our friends were coming over tomorrow for a fire and we had nothing but a big fat mess in the yard.  After some more thinking, jason got an idea.  He got a chisle and knocked the lip off all the stones (see them in the photo above?).  I wish I had a picture but it was too dark.  It is my hope that if someone is attempt to build a fire pit out of retaining wall stones they will find this site and know it is possible.  Maybe not ideal, but possible.  This is what the inside of our pit looks like, can you see where Jason chiseled the edges?

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You can build a fire pit with retaining wall stones, it just takes a little extra work.  Because, as Jason pointed out several times, retaining wall stones weren't meant to go in a circle (unless you cut some of them down to size).  Sorry for my irresponsible pinterest browsing.

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But, in the end, it turned out totally awesome.  And way SAFER!  I still think retaining wall stones are a great fire pit option, they are much cheaper than the stones that are made for fire pits.  All in all, this cost us around $75, that is including the several bags of gravel it took to fill in the existing pit.   We did talk to someone with a simular pit that said over time a couple of their blocks have cracked from the heat.  Because of this, we didn't glue the stones together.  This way, if one breaks we can replace it. These stones average about $2.50 a peice.  Oh see that dirt?  That is from moving it over, we are going to seed it but I am pretty sure the clover will take it over soon enough. Our whole yard is clover but I don't really care. We have a lot of shade and green clover is better than brown dirt.

In order to celebrate out new firepit (thanks again Jason) we decided to try our hand at some backyard camping in the ghetto.  We don't really live in a neighborhood were people camp in their yards (we do have an awesome fence though).  I think the neighbors have decided we are insane (but at least we aren't drug dealers!). I love to camp but we've been a little chicken to try it with our boys.  So we borrowed a tent from our friends (thanks Cassie! - we need to upgrade to a family tent) and set about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

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Here is a shot of the yard from the deck.  It is kind of a mess. I thought about picking up the toys that Henry has all over the yard but what is the fun in that.  Kids mean messes.  Speaking of kids.  Henry loved the tent.  We only made it to midnight.  The kids started getting fussy.  And Jason swears he saw a skunk through the tent window. Of course Henry pitched a holy fit when we got inside.  But, we told him he could play in the tent first thing in the morning and we let him sleep in our bed (which isn't the norm).

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And, first thing in the morning we headed outside.  We drank our coffee and played. It was nice.  All the fun parts of camping while still getting to use your own bathroom.  I still think we need to wait a few more months (maybe years) before the real deal.  But, we sure did have fun camping in the ghetto.

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PS.  I would like to add, this still was a lot of work.  It is one of those things that is a little overwhelming but it is also the kind of thing that I think is totally worth it.  Not even for the kids, as much as for us.  Yes, setting a tent up in the yard is a bit silly but I wouldn't trade the delighted look in Henry's eyes.  Or Alex's little grin and he played peekaboo with henry with the tent flap.  For me, I think being a good parent sometimes means making a little extra work for yourself.  It would have been easier to just stay inside but then we wouldn't have had the fun of reading "Where the wild things are" with a flash light in the tent.  Twenty years from now I won't remember the nights we did the norm, I will remember the night we taught Henry how to roast a hot dog and being curled up in the tent with Jason while we were being stalked by a sunk.   Sometimes a good memory is worth the hassle.