Posts Tagged ‘fire pit’

Autumn Preparations

This past Sunday we had planned on doing a big hike but life intervened, and my husband had to work. September is arguably the best time of the entire year for hiking.  The temperatures are cool but sunny, with brilliant blue skies; the leaves are starting to change; there are also no fallen leaves as yet to cover tree roots, potholes and other tripping hazards; the lack of leaves also makes the hiking trails still visible; and best of all, NO BUGS!

Rather than hike alone, which I can do any other day of the week, I decided to use the day doing all the chores that would put our house into “autumn mode.”  We will be leaving Maine this weekend for the duration of the Jewish holidays, and returning next month when the cold has already set in, so spending the day preparing the house in this way was quite sensible.

First I went through our closets and drawers, making two piles:  “Put Away” and “Give Away.”  The put-away pile is all our short-sleeved and lighter weight shirts, pants and my skirts, and socks.  Then I brought down our huge storage bin of warm clothes, and filled the closet back up, this time with turtlenecks, sweaters, and down vests and jackets, tights, wool socks, and long underwear. Next to the front door/mudroom I replaced the bug net hats and bug spray with wool hats, gloves, and blaze orange vests (for hunting season, so we won’t be mistaken for a deer by hunters who might be a little trigger happy).  I also brought out the winter blankets.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

Then, with some regret, I started uprooting my garden.  The temperatures are such that at this point, nothing is going to ripen further, and weather reports are now calling for frost at night.  So I decided to pick whatever was left (a few red peppers that never got red, a couple of tomatoes and lots of green tomatoes, the rest of my kale and Swiss chard) and put the spent plants into my compost bin.  I turned and smoothed out the soil and added a few scoops of compost.  I will plant lots and lots of garlic in October, so now the space is ready.  I am pretty much done with fishing for the year (although I am hoping to try ice fishing for the first time this coming winter) so I dumped the tub of live worms that were stored in my fridge into the garden soil.

I cleared out the veggies.  Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I cleared out the veggies. Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I also replaced my tired purple petunias by my front door with some cheerful purple asters.  Right now every store in rural Maine is fairly bursting with mums and asters (and pumpkins, which came in early this year, and corn, which came in late).

Asters at my entry

Asters at my entry

Then it was on to the screen porch.  We took out the screens; I hosed them down and once they were dry, put them into storage until next Spring.  Acrylic panels went up in their place.  The nice thing about the panels is that when the sun is out, even in freezing temperatures, the porch gets to about 65 degrees thanks to passive solar.

Our screen porch.  The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

Our screen porch. The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

I scrubbed the screens and stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

I scrubbed the screens, put them in the sun to dry, and then stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

Next came the wood shed.  Currently we have an over-abundance of cut and split wood due to some trees we took down last year.  They have been drying outside on the wood pile all year and now it was time to stack the pieces neatly inside the wood shed.  Our house is so energy efficient that despite last year’s long and brutal winter, we only used 1.5 cords of wood!  (Typically people might use 6 – 9 cords to heat a house sized like ours, so this is really fantastic.)  We still have plenty of wood stacked in the shed from last year, so I could only bring in about 1 cord’s worth as there wasn’t room in the shed for more due to the wood that was already there.  So I got out some large tarps and covered the wood pile, where it will continue its “seasoning” process (drying) for another year.  I also gathered kindling and put that in a pile, and brought several logs into the house since we will be using our woodstove for the first time this year any day now (according to weather reports, evening temperatures will be below freezing by the end of the week).

Stacking wood in our shed

Stacking wood in our shed

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Once my husband finished work, he did the final year’s weed-whacking (the bees, who get grouchy in colder temperatures, were not too happy with him getting close to their hives, and a dozen started swarming him.  He was lucky to get only one sting.) I removed the summer tools from the shed, cleaned them and put them in the basement along with tomato cages and flower boxes, and took out the autumn and winter tools (rakes, shovels, and the long-handled scraper that takes excess snow off the roof) and put them where they’d be handy when needed.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

The weedwhacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes.

The weed-whacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes that held flowers.

By now I was getting hungry and a bit tired.  That’s when I remembered the huge kosher rib steak that’s been sitting in my freezer for a special occasion.  I originally planned on grilling it for our 37th wedding anniversary last week, but we ended up going to a friend’s wedding on that day and we had dinner there.  I thought a grilled steak would be a great way to officially end the summer.  So we put some logs on our fire pit, made a campfire, and when the fire died down I started grilling the steaks for my husband (I don’t eat red meat) and a turkey burger for myself.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we'll be ready to start grilling.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we’ll be ready to start grilling.



We ate dinner outside around the fire, just relaxing, breathing the nippy air, and reliving and relishing summer adventures and looking forward to Fall.  Life is good.

Steak:  It's a guy thing

Steak: It’s a guy thing



Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning in rural Maine is quite different from my hometown.  Besides the usual closet changeover from winter clothes to summer clothes, and washing windows and screens, we have to remove the acrylic panels from our sun porch, wash them before storing, and then wash and install screens panels in their place.  There is also a sense of panic that I have to accomplish any outdoor tasks RIGHT NOW before bug season reaches its peak and stepping outdoors becomes temporararily unbearable. We also needed to rebuild our fire pit.  Unfortunately when the snowplow pushes the snow to the side of the driveway, it moves the rocks from the fire pit in the process.  So we have to level the gravel with a rake, put the benches back in place, and gather and rearrange the large, heavy strewn rocks in a circle to create a new campfire zone each Spring.


First campfire of 2014!

This year I had a new challenge:  getting the sand off my driveway.

I still have several layers of sand to remove from the bottom part of our ridiculously steep driveway

I still have several layers of sand to remove from the bottom part of steep driveway

Last summer after seeming non-stop torrential rains washed out the bottom part of our driveway, and with every excavating company overwhelmed with work, we couldn’t find anyone to lay another 4″ layer of gravel to rebuild the damaged driveway.  We finally relented and had several dozen feet at the steepest part of the bottom of the driveway paved with asphalt.  The good news is that we no longer need a 4×4 to make it up our driveway in inclement weather – a bonus for guests who visit us from the city who don’t have AWD vehicles.

The downside is that when our Plow Guy had to sand the driveway during this long, snowy and icy winter (you plow for snow, and spread sand on the ice to provide improved traction), there was nowhere for the sand to go on the asphalt part of the driveway once that ice melted.  Due to repeated treatments, the sand was 4″ deep in places.   Now that the snow is long gone, the sand was creating the opposite problem in Spring:  it was making our driveway precariously slippery in dry weather, and muddy after a rain.  That sand had to go, but how to remove it was a problem to be solved.

Along Maine’s main roads, and in commercial parking lots, huge “sweepers” clean and sweep away the sand.  But there is no such service in my area for private driveways.  I’m in a hurry to get this job over with for three reasons:  1) The sand-coated driveway is slippery when I walk it and I’m afraid of taking a nasty fall; 2) Bug season will get worse, and make it intolerable to labor outside for more than a few minutes at a time; and 3) my driveway needs to be cleaned before the Town’s road maintenance sweeper comes by to clean the street, because when it rains the sand runs down the steep driveway onto the road, and if it does that AFTER the road crew comes, the street will once again be sandy and they won’t come back a second time.

At first I tried sweeping with an outdoor broom, but the sand was just too thick, and the area to be swept is simply too expansive.  Next I tried shoveling the sand with a dustpan into a wheelbarrow, but the wheelbarrow was not only too heavy to push when full of sand, there was no way to evenly distribute that sand when dumped without judicious and tiring use of a rake.  I have to be careful not to dump the sand on the other side of the road next to the pond, lest the Department of Environmental Protection accuse me of destroying the integrity of the soil next to the pond (worst case scenario, subject to fines!).




Unfortunately the only technique that seemed to work was to take a dust pan and bend down to the ground and scoop up the sand.  As mentioned, I couldn’t effectively use a broom to push the sand into the dust pan, it had to be done by hand.  Bend, scrape, fill, dump – – it took me two hours and more than 100 dust pan loads of sand removed – – and by the end of that time not only had I not finished (I hope to finish it this Sunday), I was utterly exhausted. I did as much as I could until I could do no more.  Calling it quits for now, I trudged up the driveway, peeled off my dusty, sandy clothes, and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours!


Amazingly, I do not hurt nor do I have any sore muscles anywhere.  Ditto for when I dragged the sixteen, 40 lb bags of compost from my car into the yard for the raised beds for my new vegetable garden a few days earlier.  In my old (and weaker) life these chores would have been overwhelming, unpleasant tasks and undoubtedly I would have paid someone else to do them for me.

To my surprise, I am finding that I actually enjoy physical labor.  With so many of my friends unwell, I feel so blessed to be healthy enough to be able to do this by myself and know I am getting physically stronger and more capable every day that I live and thrive in Maine – –  even if I ain’t no “yungstah.”

S’mores Are in My Future

Next week is a momentous occasion:  eleven of my grandchildren ages 1 – 12 and two of my married kids and their spouses will be joining us for a fun-filled vacation at our house in Maine.

We devoted today to getting ready for the happy onslaught.  We thoroughly emptied and scoured our attached garage, unrolled an area rug and put several futon mattresses on the floor.  Our garage is now The Bunkhouse.  Better yet, the kids can make noise there, downstairs, during their week-long slumber party, and not disturb the rest of us.

Last year we cleared some more of our land for a future garden patch, but hadn’t yet gotten around to splitting the wood from the trees we chopped down and chunked into logs with a chainsaw.  Our procrastination paid off for a change, as the logs would come in handy for seating.  We chose several hefty chunks and rolled them (they were way too heavy to carry) to our campfire site (our fire pit is little more than a bunch of large rocks in a circle of gravel that my grandsons hauled for me during last summer’s visit, but it functions beautifully).

On Friday I visited Lovell Lumber and picked up several 12′ planed  pine boards, which were cut for me by the owner into 6′ lengths.  What’s kind of neat about Lovell Lumber, besides the fact that it is just down the road, is that you really appreciate the story of where wood comes from and get to see the process of turning a tree trunk into a wood board.  Huge, heavily loaded monster logging trucks  (open tractor-trailers) full of newly cut pine from local forests rumble in on a daily basis.  Lovell Lumber has many outbuildings in their always-busy lumber yard, each one filled with loud machines geared to a specific purpose in the lumber-making process, with sawyers and planers (workers) wearing sound-cancelling headphones who operate the heavy, very dangerous  machinery.  The object is not only to strip the bark from the logs and cut it into wood used for flooring, framing, furniture or paneling, but also to keep all human limbs and digits intact.

My husband is drilling the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches; while I'm busy swatting mosquitoes.

After drilling holes into the wood, my husband ratchets the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches.   I’m otherwise occupied swatting mosquitoes.

Next it was off to the hardware store, where I bought 4 1/2″ long hex bolts and some Thompson’s Water Seal.  While fighting off mosquitoes, my husband then drilled the bolts through the pine boards into the logs, and voila!:  instant benches.  I’ll coat the wood with Thompson’s Water Seal tomorrow.  These benches should come in handy when we sit around a campfire and roast hot dogs and toast marshmallows and of course, make  s’mores.

We are very excited about so many kids coming!  But undoubtedly by the end of their stay we’ll relate to this comic a little too well:

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston

For Better or For Worse