Around the old campfire

There’s nothing like sitting around an open fire, watching the tinder catching the spark, the flames curling the bits of kindling, sending bits of embers into the air, as the flames consolidate and grow. During the early evening or under the beauty of the starry night sky, a fire sings its own song adding a different rhythm to the chorus outdoors. Warmth, protection, a source for cooking—campfires are practical but they are also fun. My family loves to camp away from home but anything that helps to extend the special memories we make in the wild after our return home is a good thing. We have found that in our simple backyard fire pit.    

We roast marshmallows, tell stories, sing songs, and enjoy being together outdoors around the warmth of the fire pit. When we recently visited family in Michigan, we wanted to share our fun with those we loved. Who wouldn’t want to visit, run free in their large open yard with cousins we haven’t seen in too long, and roast marshmallows for those great tasting s’mores we HAVE to make around the fire pit, even in a Michigan summer? I told the grandparents what we hoped to do during our visit and quickly discovered that their large open yard great for running free, jumping on the aging trampoline, and playing in the sandy swing and play area did not include a fire pit fancy or simple. Hmm…s’mores do not taste the same without a fire pit.  Who doesn’t own a fire pit? Is this a Minnesota tradition? No, we discovered it is alive and well in Michigan as well as everywhere else. Grandpa had one waiting for us when we arrived and we enjoyed our own version of camping in their backyard too.  

Recreational fires have been around as long as the people who build them. Backyard fire pits are not new either. A little research shows that they have generated discussion for many years over air quality, especially in urban areas where people with breathing problems and fire pit smoke are in close proximity. But with a lot of consideration and care, fire pits still can bring people together. And that is exactly what we found in Michigan: family and fun around a fire pit. We continued our family tradition and made some great memories on our visit—some of them involving a fire pit and s’mores. Minnesota cold temperatures do not need to keep you away from enjoying a backyard fire pit. For more information on the benefits of firepits, go to the CopperSmith website.  

A special use for our fire pit comes in late March when the snow is still covering the ground. We tap the maple trees in our front yard and several of the neighbors have permitted us to tap theirs as well. My boys have given to naming the buckets we hang on the trees. They're always excited to cheer for the "Little Bucket Champion" as we make the rounds to empty the buckets. As we collect gallons and gallons of sap we dump it all into the kettle over the roaring fire, a process that we repeat for several days. By keeping the fire going all day long we're able to produce several gallons of syrup when all is said and done. Whitewater State Park holds a maple syruping event where the instructors recommend boiling the sap outdoors to save the kitchen wallpaper from pealing. Though we don't have any wallpaper, we see the value in boiling outside as much as possible before finishing the syrup making process indoors.

For us, maple syrup production has come to mean that winter is nearing an end and spring is just around the corner. And what has become a family tradition is all made possible by our backyard fire pit.

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