posts tagged with 'campfire'
We learned this evening that the equinox was actually a couple days ago; never mind, we celebrated it today. The 19th was rainy, anyway! Today was beautiful, if chilly, and a Saturday without much in the way of obligations gave us lots of time to welcome the summer half of the year in the proper fashion: by getting outside!
To make the day extra special we took a trip in the car—the first in eight days!—to Concord's Estabrook Woods, which we last visited just under a year ago. It was a great choice—despite a startling number of cars at the trailhead the woods are big enough that we barely saw anyone, and we spent two and a half lovely hours exploring a very steep hill, vernal pools and a real pond, a couple of streams—one with a spillway waterfall. The best part was the sunny spot we found by the pond for our picnic lunch. We haven't been feeling particularly cabin-fevery, but still it is nice to get out a bit.
There was lots of playing outside in the afternoon, then towards evening we built a fire. After it had done its part cooking our supper it transitioned into a (very small) bonfire to greet the spring and roast us some marshmallows. We burned the wreath that adorned the front of our house for three months; more because we needed kindling than for ceremonial purposes, but it still seemed nicely symbolic.
Of course, the coming of astronomical summer doesn't mean the weather automatically turns lovely. There's cold rain in the forecast for much of the coming week—and you know we're not getting out of the house to any indoor activities. So it's a good thing we got as much outsiding as we did today!
Our holiday season began back on December 19, when we hosted a solstice party for our homeschool coop friends. A little early, sure, but with the month's schedule full of events we needed to get it in when we could. And if you ask me it was a good day to do it since it was the coldest day of the winter so far (and since)—though some of the guests questioned why the first half of the gathering was a walk in the woods. I said that was the way to experience the dying of the year. Plus, it made our fire all the more welcome!
With the fire roaring I read everybody a solstice story, and then most of the kids ran inside as quick as they could and played in the warm house the rest of the time. That's fine, playing inside is also a traditional midwinter activity—moreso that marshmallows, probably, which is the only thing that kept any of the kids outside.
On the solstice proper we attended a wonderful caroling party bursting with Christmastime cheer and lots of good food (I was also bursting by the time we headed home!). We were among the first to arrive and also the first to depart, due to Lijah's tiredness; but that was fine because it left the rest of us, who did not fall asleep in the car, plenty of time to have our real solstice fire, the one in the actual dark. I promised the boys that they could stay up and keep the fire going all night or for fifteen minutes, whichever came first. As much as we all wanted to stay out longer, that was about right.
Last week at book club our hosts had a fire and lots of pears from their tree, so of course the kids worked on roasting pears over the fire (seen here). They discovered that it's quite hard to make them entirely delicious just holding them over the flames, but that wrapped in tin foil and cooked in the coals they came out pretty good. Yesterday it was our turn to host a book group with some of the same people—and the ones with pears brought some, so naturally there was a call to repeat the experiment. This time one of the kids asked for a skillet so she could slice the pears and cook them in butter. Unfortunately the fire was so hot the pear slices burned in the pan even faster than they would have over the flames; I don't think the sugar they added to the pan helped any. Then after they gave up on pears, the kids collected about a half-cup of iris seeds and toasted them in the skillet. Checking with online resources revealed that irises are actually fairly poisonous, so they didn't taste the seeds. Harvey also declined to eat the eggs I cooked in the same pan this morning, which maybe makes sense; but I can tell you they were as delicious as usual, and I haven't gotten sick yet. That was my experiment.
This morning I was looking back over my photos for the past year, trying to find something for a slideshow for work. I was interested to see that I had strong memories of moments that I'd photographed and then posted on the blog, but more hazy recollections of unblogged pictures. And things I never photographed at all? A couple weeks in the past, they might as well have never happened! That's why I take pictures.
Today was unphotographed, but we did some fun things. It was summery hot, and we spent a lot of time outside. Most of the afternoon the kids were one place and I was another, but come evening we reconvened in the yard around a fire—plus a couple of Jacks from the neighborhood who stopped by to play with burning sticks. We cooked hot dogs and then marshmallows. I brought out my trumpet to play "Summertime". It was that nice. When you see the "moments from the week post" on Sunday, imagine something from the evening in there.
One of my favorite things about cooking on the fire is the leftovers. A couple years ago when we brought some leftover chili back from a camping trip I was delighted to find that, when reheated, it had a wonderfully smoky flavor that totally complemented the other tastes in the recipe. (I hadn't noticed the day we cooked it; then, everything was smoky.) Now that we have our own backyard fire that we use all the time we get to enjoy that smoky goodness much more often, and on purpose. Like the zucchini I grilled yesterday.
Last night we cooked some chicken and a little steak, and I also through some slices of summer squash on the grill. They were delicious, but since I was the only one who ate any there was lots left over. For breakfast this morning I chopped some up and put them in an omelet that Harvey and I shared; he was suspicious ("what are these green things?!") but when he tried one he agreed that they had practically no vegetable taste at all. Just smoke. Then this evening I made my half of the pizza with mushrooms and more of the zucchini, and feta cheese. So powerful was that quarter cup of chopped squash that Lijah almost keeled over from the smell when he came into the house just after the pizza came out of the oven. He didn't like it; to me it was just perfect. Tasted good too.
Who knows what all those smoke particles are doing to our system—probably cancerous or something. But right now, I'm going to say it's worth it!
We celebrated the Fourth of July in our traditional fashion today, with a full day at the fair in Concord. More about that later. But the fun didn't end when we got home—after an hour or so indoors in front of the fan to recover, we cooked hot dogs on the fire, and then smores. It was our second smores evening just in the past week, never mind all the other times we've made them this year, which got me to wondering... how did we become a household where such things are possible?! Clearly, building the fireplace helped.. but even before that we were toasting marshmallows over a wood fire in the kettle grill. Maybe it's just that we like being outside, and there's no finer outdoor dessert than smores?
All round, outdoor cooking is the best. Obviously when it's as hot as this it's great not to have to heat up the house; in weather like this even the vacuum cleaner feels like it's pumping out an unbearable amount of hot air, to say nothing of the stove or the oven. But the food is tastier too over the fire. The other day I made beans and as leftovers their noticeably more delicious than stovetop beans—delightfully smoky. I also made steak and peppers for fajitas, which was fine, and tortillas, which I felt was pretty impressive (they didn't taste particularly smoky, but I still think rolling them and cooking them outside was pretty cool). Today Leah—who doesn't eat hot dogs—grilled tofu and zucchini, stir-fried ground turkey, and made rice all over the fire. I didn't taste any of that, but I guarantee it was all wonderful. And of course fire-cooked marshmallows are infinitely superior to those prepared any other way. I hear some people even eat them raw! Not us, not when there's a fire going!
Harvey and I picked up some wood from the town forest this morning, to keep our fire habit going. A big white pine fell across one of the paths a couple months ago, and someone kindly cut it up to clear the way. Because it was so thick, the anonymous caretaker had to saw it into 12- to 18-inch segments, so they could be moved—just the thing for a pair of firewood hunters without a chainsaw. I'd had my eye on them ever since the tree came down, in case we ever had a need for firewood; well, now we do. The cargo bike carried five of them nicely, plus an assortment of smaller stuff. Then the only problem was splitting them. We have an axe, but that doesn't work so well with logs as big as these (it's not so sharp either). So while the boys were playing at a friend's house I picked up a splitting wedge from the hardware store.
Since the liquor store is just a couple doors down, I also got some beer—because what goes better together than dangerous sharp tools and intoxicants?! I have to say that in my cold-weather anarchist/hobo outfit of boots, carharts, and fleece coat over hooded sweatshirt I felt very manly as I purchased my wedge and my mallet and my Cambridge-brewed beer. Then I went home and split all the logs in the cold drizzle. It was very satisfying.
We're pretty busy around here, and not only with making fires (though mostly that). I also broke my camera somehow, so that kind of puts a damper on my blogging, the way I've been doing it the last couple years. But we go on somehow.
We love showing off the fireplace, and now there's lots of wood to burn. You totally should come over and check it out!
On Saturday we built a fireplace—fire ring?—in the backyard. Basically I dug out a circle of grass and then we put some stones around it. We made a fire right away to test it out, which was a little hard to see. It worked better in the evening.
I'd been thinking about having a more fun place to have fires for a while, but I was waiting for it to get cool enough to make it worthwhile. It wasn't over the weekend, but I went ahead and did it anyway. You can enjoy marshmallows regardless of the temperature.
Besides it being plain nice to have a place to sit around the fire, I'm interested in increasing the appeal of our yard to the kids. Can their own fire compete with video games at the neighbors' house? The jury is still out, but now that they're learning how to build the fire and light matches themselves the attractiveness is growing. I wonder what will happen when they have their own kettle to cook in? Clearly this is an ongoing story... cold weather has come in earnest now, so we'll see what the next chapter brings.