Winterizing: wood for the fire pit

I had some daylight left, so I decided to see how far I could get on another thing on my to-do list before winter.

Some clean up of the pile of larger wood, by the fire pit.

We may not have been able to use the fire pit over the summer, due to fire bans and unsafe conditions, but we should be able to use it in the winter. 🙂

Among the dead trees I cut down, leaving tall stumps until I can come back with a chain saw, there are three spruce stumps that form a triangle.

I decided to take advantage of that.

My reciprocating saw got quite a workout today! I was able to cut to fire pit size, and move the enter pile of larger wood, and even get some larger pieces in the “kindling” pile!

The disturbed area by the tree with the tire around its base is where the pile was.

The tall stumps worked well to keep the stacked wood in place. We can also use them when we put a tarp over the wood. We can even nail it in place, so the wind won’t blow it away.

Yeah, we plan to get cheap tarps. Actually, there is at least one I saw in the barn that we can dig out and see if it is still usable.

Another job I can mark off the to-do list! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Temporary

With the recent rains and the cooler temperatures, I decided it was time to figure out how to burn the rotten wood I had cleared out of the old wood pile.

I had a bit of a conundrum.

The burn barrel was full, along with a bin beside it, but I didn’t want to use it, because it’s so close to the big pile of branches we’ve been clearing out.

The best place do a burn is in the outer yard. After walking around and deciding on the best spot, I hooked up the remaining usable hoses to the one new hose I got. It gave me a total of 150 feet, but it wasn’t enough to reach where I had wanted to set up. I had to set up closer. At least this put me on a gravel base.

I dug out a large metal ring that has been sitting in the spruce grove for who knows how long, and rolled it over to use as a fire pit. Bits and pieces of rusted out metal broke off the inside as I rolled it over that I had to go back and pick up. The last thing I need is to have one of those slicing open a tire. I also found a sheet of metal near the barn to use as a base.

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Foil packet fire pit cooking: preparations

I am really looking forward to our cookout this afternoon, and have been doing some preparations for things beyond hot dogs and corn dogs. 🙂

I’ve got 4 foil packets now sitting, ready and waiting, allowing several hours for the seasonings to work their magic. Here is the first one I made up.

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The base of this one is a packet of mixed baby potatoes. I stabbed them all over with a fork to allow the flavours in. The rest is mix and match of what I had available. A couple of carrots, a leek, and some asparagus (there was a good sale on those recently. 😉 ). They were tossed with Rosemary Lemon Salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.

This amount ended up being split between two foil packets. I used a double thickness of heavy duty aluminum foil to wrap them in.

This is something I’ve done before, using whatever vegetables and seasonings I had, and cooking it in an oven. Today will be the first time I’m doing this over a fire. I can hardly wait!

I am also trying out two versions of cabbage.

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I’d found a recipe and instructions online, modified slightly for what I had on hand. This is one cabbage, outer leaves removed and cut into 8 wedges. The cut sides are spread with softened butter. In with is is half a medium onion, Scarborough Fair Garlic Salt, pepper, and extra garlic powder.

Because you can’t have enough garlic.

These were also wrapped with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.

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With this version, the only thing I changed was to toss everything in olive oil, instead of buttering the wedges.

As you can see, some of the leaves of cabbage came loose. Before wrapping it up, I took one out to give it a taste.

Wow.

I am totally still craving it right now. I think this is going to be a future salad; raw cabbage chunks tossed, with the same seasonings, tossed in olive oil. It was so, so good!

You know. When I was a kid, I hated cabbage. We used to grow lots of it, and my mother used it to make sauerkraut, or to wrap cabbage rolls. I don’t recall us ever eating it raw. My mother’s sauerkraut was incredibly strong – at least to me – and I didn’t like it. As for cabbage rolls, I loved the filling. Hated the cabbage. I still am not a fan of cabbage rolls (for a Polish person, that’s heresy! 😀 ), and it’s because of the cabbage leaves. I’ve since eaten and enjoyed sauerkraut, cooked in bigos – something my mother never made – but that’s about the only time I’ll eat it.

Anyhow…

These cabbage wedges were also wrapped in double thickness, heavy duty aluminum foil.

Along with these, I have cut a pineapple into slices (with the core still in; otherwise it falls apart) to cook up on the grill for desert.

It should warm up to -4C by the time we’re going to start cooking over the fire. It’s going to be a beautiful day! I am so looking forward to it!

The Re-Farmer

Fire pit tester

I was thinking of things to do for the cookout we have planned on the weekend. Being such a warm day today (we’re hovering around 0C), I wanted to do some more to prepare the fire pit area. I figured we may as well try something new, while I was at it!

While looking for ideas, I found the idea of wrapping the wiener in bread dough and cooking it over the fire; hot dog and bun, all in one. This is something we’ve done before in the oven, but not over an open fire.

When I was at the grocery store earlier today, I spotted some frozen dinner rolls, uncooked, and decided to cheat.

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Prepping the fire pit

I was able to head out and work on the fire pit area, including getting a fire going to clear the pit out for a future cook out.

I ended up being out there for about 2 hours!

After getting as much snow out of it as I could with it full of wood, I made use of the fire starter cubes I picked up while in town earlier. I figured it was the most efficient way to get a fire going, with all that snow.

I was right. 😀

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First Wiener Roast of the year!

Last night, we decided to take advantage of the lovely evening, and have our first wiener 20180603.wierner.roast.fire3roast of the year! 😀

When I was a kid, we used to have these quite often.  I would go into the bush with a machete-type knife (we even found it while packing away my parents’ stuff!) and cut dogwood branches for roasting sticks.  They were perfect for it, naturally growing long, straight and supple.  Sometimes, I could get ones with a perfect Y shape.  The bark came off easily, and I would strip off the top several inches, then sharpen them to points.

At the end of the day, we’d get a fire going, roast wieners and stuff our faces with hot dogs, then finish off with marshmallows.  When we were done eating, it would be quite dark, and we would start burning our roasting sticks until the tips were glowing, then wave them around in the dark, using the red tips to create shapes of light in the air.

Sometimes, my parents hosted parties, and their friends from the city would come out with their kids, and there would be dozens of people all over.  Most of the time, though, it was just us kids.  We had a blast!

20180603.wierner.roast.tableThanks to the burning my daughter and I did earlier, when I cleared the yard to mow the lawn, I had a nice pile of sticks ready to set up for a fire.  We brought the hose (of course) and chairs.  We were thinking of moving the picnic table over, but it’s in serious need of cleaning, so the girls brought out one of our small folding tables, instead.

We’re going to have to invest in metal roasting forks soon.  I picked up a package of wooden roasting sticks along with the S’mores kit, and they are a bit too flammable and bouncy! 😀

I had hoped my husband could join us, even if just to sit on his walker while we roasted wieners for him, but he had to lie down for the night, before we even started. 😦

It got to watch a beautiful sunset while we set up and got the fire going.

 

I’m going to have to get out there with the weed trimmer. *L*

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The outside cats were all over the place, checking out what we were doing!  Rolando Moon staked out a spot on the log pile to watch us.  The hose sprays water at where two hoses join, and at the nozzle, and the cats played with the spray!

At one point, while I was sitting and eating, Rolando Moon actually jumped up onto my knee!  That’s a first.  Even the friendliest ones are still quite stand offish, so this is a big step in at least Rolando Moon’s comfort levels with us.

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Ah… perfect for toasting those wieners!

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We made some S’mores – that’s something we never did when I was a kid.  I didn’t even hear of them until after I had my own kids.

I find I really enjoy toasting marshmallows, and getting that perfect state of golden brown on the outside, and all melty on the inside.

Problem with that is, I don’t actually enjoy eating them.  Too sweet!

None of us are all that big on sweets, so while the hot dogs disappeared quickly, there’s still lots of S’more making supplies! 😀

Best part was, the entire night, we only saw one mosquito!

There is at least that one benefit to the dry spring we had!

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After a while, we just hung out to watch the fire die down.

I hope we will be able to do this often.  Even if we don’t have wiener roasts, to at least get a fire going and enjoy the evening.  We have a lot of wood we need to use up, and will be adding more as the clean up continues, so why not? 😀

It was a fantastic evening!

The Re-Farmer

West Yard; fire pit area clean up

Another wonderful day of yard clean up today!

And a photo heavy post to show for it. 😀

After all the clearing I did yesterday, we had a lot of wood to breakdown and move out.  The rain was holding off, so my younger daughter and I started on the big pile.  As I was de-branching and cutting down the dead spruces, I was thinking of where we were moving it all and how we were running out of space.  With all the rain we’ve had, we could actually start burning some of it in the fire place.

So that’s what we decided to do.  My daughter would get the fire pit going, while I continued to break down the spruces.

Wet as things have been, we still weren’t going to take any chances.  My daughter started by getting the hose ready.

So far, we’ve got two hoses going; I found a shorter one we’d been using on the south and a much longer one I’d hooked up to the tap on the north side of the house, to use on the flower garden I’ve cleared up and started to layer.

The long hose got moved to the south side when my daughters cleaned out the eaves troughs, and as long as it is, it wasn’t long enough to reach the fire pit.  Adding on the shorter hose still wasn’t enough.  Is there more hose?  I remembered a long hose in the side of the garage, so she went and got it.

It turned out to have several major holes and breaks in it.  She tried patching it with duct tape, but two were so bad, the water just sprayed out from under the tape.

I checked the garden shed.  Turns out there were two more hoses there, so I grabbed the heavier duty one.

No holes, but it did leak right at one end, where it was attached to the first hose.

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We just put that part of the hose over an area of dry grass, so it could water it. 😀

We’re going to need to buy new hoses.  Several of them.

All in good time!

That done, my daughter got a fire going.  Then she sprayed all around the fire pit, and the trees by the fence line, and basically anywhere else she felt might be at risk from sparks.

Because we err on the side of caution when it comes to that.

As she started working on burning one of the piles of small stuff.  We had one pile of larger wood, then a second pile for little branches.  That one got huge, fast, so a second pile had been started of those.  Which is why I wanted to start burning it.  There’s just soo much of it!

In the photo above, you can see the beginnings of a pile of green wood, waiting to be broken down.  My daughter and I had already removed the old awning I’d taken out from under some maple trees, and it’s now on the pile of stuff outside the yard we plan to hire someone to hall away in the fall.

After I finished breaking down the three sections of dead spruce trees – they had so many branches that needed to be cut off before I could cut the trunks shorter – I decided to stop with that pile, and start helping my daughter.

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By this time, she’s almost cleared up the smaller pile of little things.  As I watched the fire, I couldn’t help but feel my paranoia creeping up.

See those spruce tips in the background?

I am really not happy about how close the fire pit is to the spruce.  Spruces are just big resin torches.  Plus, there was all the other brush and undergrowth.

I started to break down the pile of green wood and stacking it against the back of the log cabin.  These will sit to dry until next year, where they will be used as fire pit fuel. I expect that pile to get rather larger before the summer is done!

Finally, I went under the branches of the spruce tree and started clearing under it.  The lowest branches were all dead, so I took them to my daughter to break down and start burning.  Then I started cutting more branches for as high as I could reach with the hand saw.  The branches were still hanging down to the ground, so I got the pruning saw and kept going.

20180601firepit.area.spruce.clearedWhat a difference just a few minutes of cutting made!

I cleared a bit of underbrush as well, uncovering the remains of an old wagon and another electrical cable spool.

After getting under the spruce tree cleared, I tackled the big dead branch by the old gate.  I wasn’t sure how much I could clear of it, because the break was so high.  Turns out it’s been dead for so long, I could just pull it away.  You can see part if it in the above photo.

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Here’s the rest of it.  I’d already started to clear away some of the smaller branches when I took this photo.  That huge piece of tree was just dangling there, for who knows how long.

Getting it down made us feel MUCH more comfortable with a fire.  The wind was blowing towards the fence line, so any sparks would have gone right into that area.

After getting this down, we decided to really give the pruning saw a workout and get the dead branch from the maple tree on the other side of the fire pit.  This branch had actually been long enough to reach over the fire pit, but I’d already broken some of it off.  Still, it was rather close and low enough at the end to be a concern.

Did I mention the pruning saw is awesome?

20180601firepit.area.dead.maple.branchOh, how good it is to have the right tool for the job!

We took turns sawing at it.  Because of how high it was at the trunk, and how thick it was, it didn’t take long for our arms to start loosing circulation! 😀

Much to my surprise, this branch did actually have a few living twigs on it, so part of it went to be burned, and part of it onto the greenwood pile.

That done, I just kept on clearing along the fence line.

20180601firepit.area.fence.line.beforeHere’s how it looked before I got back to it.

After breaking down the big dead branch I’d just pulled down, I moved the wire spool and started clearing more under that area, then just kept working my way towards the gate, separating the living from the dead.

Most of it was dead.  Dead for so long, that I was pulling bushes right out of the ground, without having to cut anything.  Or even yank hard.  My daughter had so much dead wood from what I was pulling out of here, she stopped taking from the main pile completely, until I was done.

20180601firepit.area.fence.line.cleanup.garbageOf course, there always has to be at least one surprise! 😀

This picture is from the base of the tree I’d pulled the big dead branch out of.

That is some sort of garbage.

It’s IN the tree.

That piece of garbage has been there for so long, the tree has grown around it.

I also found some old beer cans and even a juice box, but nothing else that was grown INTO a tree!

Though some saplings growing through the fence wire came close.

Here is how it looks now.

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One side of the old gate is now CLEAR!!  Yay!

I am at a loss, though.

The barb wire gate is still there, just like it was when I was growing up.  Then that picket fence got added.  I don’t know when.  It’s actually attached to the posts of the barb wire gate with more wire.

Why would someone essentially block off an entire gate?

At some point, we’ll need to re-fence the yard, and I’d like to keep a gate here when we do.  It’ll be much easier for the septic cleaners to get to the tank from this end, then going around the house from the other side.

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Here is the mostly cleared fence line.  There are still little things I’ll need to get back to, and I’ll need to decide if it’s worth keeping some of the long, scraggly bushes. (I don’t plan to cut back what’s on the other side of the fence this year.) They’re living, and some are even blooming, but now that the dead stems that were holding them up are gone, I really don’t know how well they’ll stay up on their own.  It wouldn’t take much to break them.

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While clearing stuff away, I found a big metal ring that would actually work well as a fire pit, if we ever needed to set up another one.  It’s slightly smaller than the metal ring that makes up our fire pit now.  I didn’t try to move the remains of the wagon, yet.  There is more dead wood back there to clear away.  The spool, I’ve just left there for now, making sure not to block access to the side of the log cabin, as there is more dead wood to clear away in that area, too.  There’s also a mostly dead maple tree, but that will need a chain saw.

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And here we have the green wood pile, after my clearing away of the fence line.

There really wasn’t a lot of green wood from there to add to the pile.

Though more clean up will be needed, especially of all the dried leaves on the ground, the entire area is now much less of a fire hazard then it had been!

Once we finished breaking down and burning the deadwood I’d cleared out of there, my daughter and I continued to break down and burn more from the big pile.  You know; the one we’d originally started the fire to start getting rid of! 😀

It was awesome.  My daughter even brought a couple of chairs and made a carafe of lemonade for us to enjoy while we kept feeding the fire.

Our first fire of the year.

By the time we wound down for the day, there was a huge new pile of ashes in there.  Since we are only burning wood in here, it will be a great addition to the layers I am building up on the flower garden, when it comes time to clear it away.

I am so loving this kind of work.  I missed it so much!

The Re-farmer