Skipper’s Night In: The Backyard Bonfire

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You and your wife need a night to relax, to let loose, but you don’t have the cash for a couple hours of babysitting and the $20 plus for a basic date. Looks like another night in. But all is not lost, noble skipper!

Few date nights are as easy–or as cheap–as the romantic backyard bonfire. Why, if put a little work into it, it won’t cost you a thing! It all starts with a decent fire pit.

Ingredient 1: The pit

A fire pit need not be an expensive purchase (heck, it need not be a purchase at all!).

This fire pit from 1939 used a broken car fender as a fire guard.

All you need is a shovel and something to set around the pit to prevent the fire from spreading. Here’s your how-to:

  1. Select a spot in your yard that’s fairly distant from anything that could catch fire.
  2. Dig a hole about a foot and a half deep with a diameter of about three feet.
  3. Set some stones or bricks or anything that won’t catch fire around the rim of the pit.

What could be simpler? Of course, building a fire pit doesn’t make you bonfire-ready. You also need:

Ingredient 2: Wood

Ah yes, the sacrificial gifts of our friends the trees. Wood is easy to spot in household accoutrements, but it’s surprisingly difficult to come by in the form of firewood when you need it. That’s why you look beyond the yard. Where do you go?

  • Craigslist.com almost always has firewood for free, usually in large logs that need splitting. If you have an ax or a sledgehammer and a spike, that’s great. If you don’t, well, you’ll need something smaller. You can throw a couple of these massive logs on your fire to keep it going longer, but it won’t do the trick.
  • Burn piles at construction sites generally have wood in many different sizes, but much of it has been treated and isn’t good for cooking on or breathing. Be sure to ask the landlord before nabbing it, too.
  • The local DOT chops down branches pretty often. If you’re planning your night in ahead of time, giving a call can land you quite the haul.
  • Friends with woods in their yards. Rule of thumb: if it snaps, it’ll burn.
  • As a last resort, you can stop by Walmart or some gas stations. But seriously, aren’t you supposed to be saving money?

Or take a slab from a handy donkey.

A nice thing about splitting wood yourself: you typically get chips along with the bigger pieces. This provides kindling that you can build to a good heat before lighting the main fuel.

Ingredient 3: Personal touch

This is your date, skipper, not mine. Do it your way. As you do, take these thoughts into consideration:

  • Do you want snacks?
  • Do you want friends (they can bring more snacks…)?
  • Do you have a baby monitor?
  • Do you want to build the fire while it’s still light or wait until you’re ready to chill?
  • Is your landlord going to fine you for building a fire pit in his yard?
  • Do you have mosquito repellent (for summer) or blankets (for winter)?

And don’t forget the hot chocolate. Or something stronger.

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