posts tagged with 'campfire'

oops, it's spring!

With all the drama and excitement around Elijah's birthday, it totally escaped my mind that the equinox was coming until yesterday morning when I went to write the date on the chalkboard. 21st?! Hey, it's spring! I know that the printed calendar says that Sunday was the actual equinox, but never mind that: we celebrated it yesterday night with a big fire (fires are good for all astronomical events). We grilled hot dogs and seitan, and then after supper we made a bonfire with lots of greenery from the wreathes and other decorations, and some branches of the Christmas tree that the boys brought out of the woods. It was quite dramatic enough, but we wished we had someone to share it with, so this evening we invited some friends over for a reprise. This time we had smores. Harvey said it was the first smores of the year; I have my doubts, but I can't remember the last time exactly. Either way, there's sure to be lots more before long: it's spring now!

everybody knows smores now

I remember a few years ago when I made my first perfect smore. It was before the wonderful fireplace we have now by the deck, before we even had built our first fireplace out in the yard: back when we were burning wood in the Coleman kettle grill. Innocent days indeed! Smores weren't so common in our life back then, so when I finally made a good one I was very excited, and took a picture. That's natural, I think. But now well-made smores are to be expected in our yard, since we make them on average of a couple times a month all year round, and we don't take pictures of all of them.

And it's not just us now! One of the few upsides of this pandemic is that lots more people have realized they need to have a place in their yard to have a fire—nice for entertaining outdoors at any time, and essential in the colder months. So naturally they're all upping their marshmallow-roasting game too. Last night we were circled around a charcoal grill with friends, and all the kids turned out satisfactory smores even in those somewhat difficult conditions (there's always flames with charcoal, apparently). I wouldn't have chosen these months of isolation and fear, but if we're dealing with a pandemic at least we get to enjoy lots of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers to ease the pain.

practicing for spring

There were some solid signs of spring at our house today. The snow is going fast—it's gone completely on the far corner of the yard—and this afternoon I shoveled off the bulkhead entrance to the basement. We need access for all the spring work that will be coming soon! More importantly, there was lots of outside playing. I've set the kids a goal of two hours a day outside in March, and that was easy for them to reach today. There was some tag, some imaginative play, and some baseball. In the picture below you see Zion in sweatshirt and long pants; he felt warm enough that not too long afterwards he was in shorts and short sleeves. I don't know if it was that hot, but it was certainly delightful to be out in the bright sunshine.

Harvey and Zion playing baseball in the street with snow on the lawns

spring training

To cap off the day I built a fire to grill hot dogs and black bean burgers for supper. Nobody was available to enjoy it with me as I was cooking, but after supper Zion, Elijah and I had a fine time around the embers toasting marshmallows for smores. Elijah was excited for what he felt like was his first smore in a year; I told him it was probably just a little over two months since his last one, but never mind, it was still special! I wouldn't say no to one more snowstorm and just a bit more sledding, but you know, I'm fine with spring too!


all kinds of learning

This past Sunday I titled one of our "moment" photos "playing with fire", because that's what the Bubble School kids are into these days. Both school days at our house last week they spent all their outside time making campfires and boiling water, and yesterday in Acton they were excited to do the same thing, with the additional fun of building a shelter by their fire pit (since our friends' yard isn't blessed, like ours, with a playhouse). Some of us parents were slightly worried about the possibility of conflagration—they were doing their fire-building in a corner of woods thickly carpeted with fallen leaves—but when I went out to check I saw that everything was so wet they could barely keep their kindling burning without constant effort from the lighter. So probably no conflagrations were likely, and we could rest easy with an occasional check-in glance out the kitchen window. Or so we thought!

No, the kids didn't set anything on fire (though they did succeed in getting the fire in their ring to be self-sustaining after a half-hour of sustained work!). But a neighbor was even more concerned than we were, and she came over and, after staring for a while, asked the kids if their parents knew what they were doing. Well of course we did! And as we heard the story afterwards, the oldest of our wonderful gang of kids—not Harvey, he's the second-oldest by a month and a half—had the presence of mind to answer. "Yes, they do, thank you," she said. "Goodbye!" (She emphasized afterwards that she said "goodbye").

Now of course, if they were hardened juvenile delinquents they would have scoffed at a question like that—or worse!—but our homeschool children are sensitive! There were some tears when they came in to report to us, and it took some work to reassure them that no, they hadn't actually done anything wrong. Some people just like to... involve themselves in other people's lives. It was too bad, but even as some kids were upset it was awesome to see how they supported and comforted each other. And even better, they went back out and relit the fire that they had stamped out after the neighbor's visit. And this time they set a guard to make sure they'd be ready if she came back!


marking the day when time has no meaning

New Years feels kind of strange this year; Thanksgiving and Christmas were both so low-key, and we very well may have let New Years Eve pass by entirely unremarked. Sure, we're glad to see the back of 2020, but as Leah remarked this morning when we were talking about resolutions, "why bother trying to do anything different these days?" Tomorrow will be much like today, I imagine. But one of our friends asked yesterday if we wanted to do something like a hike, and another friend said they weren't around until the evening and suggested a fire. So in the event, we had a pretty good party! I made pizza, friends brought cookies and hot cider, and for a couple hours we sat around the fire (at an appropriate distance, of course) and chatted about New Years hopes and movies and water heaters. Some of the time the kids played laser tag. It actually compared pretty favorably to some other New Years observations I've taken part in: there's no mess inside the house to deal with, and I didn't drink so my upset stomach is due only to overconsumption of pizza and cookies plus s'mores, eggnog, and maybe a bit too much cider. So now I'm ready for a new year. Here's hoping it's a better one!

solstice fire

Even when everything else is overwhelming it's nice to observe the turning points in the year, and none more so than the solstice. And even though we didn't manage to make wreaths this year, if there's one thing I can always handle, it's a fire.

our solstice fire under the 1st quarter moon

starting the longest night

Actually, it took a little more thought than usual, since it's hard to light a fire when the ground is covered with a foot of snow. But I was prepared! The day before the storm I built a cover for our fire pit, and then the day after I shoveled it off so melting snow wouldn't drip in. That meant that this afternoon when the sun touched the horizon we had a dry bed to start what we grandly called our solstice bonfire (just slightly bigger than the fires we would use to cook on). It went up beautifully with just one match; that's a good omen for the year to come, I think.

Some friends came by to share our light in the darkness, and it was fine. The adults (and Harvey) talked, and the littler kids played in the snow (after toasting marshmallows, of course).

Elijah and Harvey toasting marshmallows over the fire

bonfires are for marshmallows

Happy solstice, everyone!


our marshmallow habit

I've mentioned before how strange it is to me—someone who grew up almost without toasting a single marshmallow—how often we make smores around here. Though I guess it makes sense. We like having fires, and what good is a fire without a marshmallow to toast, and what good is a toasted marshmallow without chocolate and graham cracker? All the practice means we're getting pretty good at it.

Zion about to take a bite out of a perfectly made smore

what a smore should look like

This spring we've made smores when it's beautiful and sunny, and we've also made them when it's wintery cold (and various weathers in between). Sometimes we need coats.

Havrvey and Zion toasting marshmallows in winter coats (and bare feet)

but still with bare feet

Last fall I built a new fireplace (the old one is still there, but the new one is bigger and—more importantly—closer to the kitchen). It doesn't look like much, but it gets the job done.

our firepit made of masonry blocks


And of course, it doesn't matter what the fireplace looks like, because when the fire is going that's all anyone could have eyes for.

a fire

you can feel the warmth through the screen

Our pandemic stocks include lots of marshmallows and chocolate. You can be there'll be lots more sticky faces this spring.

Zion and Lijah with marshmallow and chocolate (respectively) on their faces

smore faces


vernal equinox, observed

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!

Zion and Lijah looking down a steep grassy slope in the woods

wide vistas

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.

Harvey and Zion crossing a stream on rocks

active explorers

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.

Zion roasting a marshmallow over our fire

vernal marshmallow

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!


the turning of the year

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!

kids around a fire

warmth in the cold

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.

Harvey and Zion by the fire at night

solstice night


creative campfire cookery

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.