Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fire! Robots! Weekends Well Spent

It’s a wonder what a good night’s sleep, a little jet lag, and some hyper potent 7/11 quasi coffee will do for a guy 3500 miles from home. I’m fresh as a freaking daisy bathed in summers eve feminine wash.

What you may ask does this have to do with home improvements? Stump removal and firepit installation and the like. Nothing, absolutely nothing, I’m just trying to provide a glimpse into my current state of mind. To battle a little homesickness, and meeting burn out I figured I’d pen a blog about my recent foray into firepit installation.

This particular home improvement started as is becoming custom, on a total whim. We have had a pine stump in our back yard since I took the tree down with a bow saw, a tree stand harness and WAY more luck than I deserve (whole new story for another blog) three years ago. I got an email from Becky on a sunny Friday afternoon stating that our neighbor had wrangled a stump grinder from work and would come on over and grind out a stump for us while I was at work.

AWESOME!!! Right?

No, there is no possible freaking way that I was going to let anyone else grind that stump out for two reasons; 1) I’ve been mowing around that lawn pimple for three years occasionally hacking at it with it axe out of frustration. Removing that stump was now disappointingly high on my bucket list and no one was going to take the satisfaction of that particular demolition away from me. 2) Have you seen a stump grinder? Those things are freaking sweet - all gasoline fumes, whirling chains, cutting heads that could dismember an ox. Hell yeah! Put a beer in one hand and the controls for that thing In the other and that’s more fun than shooting carnies at an all night meth bender. (Please see the pic below, I had no idea this particular stump grinder was what my wife meant by “stump grinder”. Paint a pin up girl on one side of it and call it Stumptmuousprime, it was perfect).

Once I got home and convinced my neighbor that I was mentally stable enough to operate this beast, I set the tracks in motion (that’s right, tracks, this thing could climb over a Hyundai while it threw death and destruction every possible direction), and in a disappointingly small amount of time I had reduced the offending stump to so much mulch, and created a MASSIVE hole in my lawn. Becky and I had talked jokingly about installing a firepit in lieu of the stump for many years. Now, suddenly we were faced with the reality of having what was either the start of a fire pit, or the beginning of a really crappy piece of lawn. We opted for flames.
Installing a fire pit should be simple and cheap; it’s a hole you plan on burning, regularly. It’s as simple as it gets, line a hole with a steel ring so your hole does not suddenly become, a non hole, tamp some sand in the bottom, and back fill with a little rock for drainage and WaLa let your inner pyro go. Nothing is ever that easy. Within a few moments at our local home improvement box store, we realized that in ground fire pits are not en vogue, unless there gaudy and come with a pergola. We try not to be too terribly gaudy and a pergola in the middle of our lawn for no apparent reason would give our lawn that douche flair we’ve been trying to avoid. We popped into a lawn decoration specialty place and inquired if they had a plain steel ring we could use for a fire pit liner and the man enthusiastically pointed to a perfect example of what we wanted, nice thick steel perfectly round black simple. We decided that was what we had to have, it was perfect. We sauntered back to the now oddly cheery man to inquire about the price and with an absolutely straight face he said $300.00. After the mix of emotions ranging from despair to murderous rage cleared from my head, I realized why he had that wide Cheshire grin cutting the bottom half of his face in two, he was nuts. Totally freaking batshit insane, there was no possible way we were going to pay 300 bucks for hole. We left. Plan B was decided quickly thereafter, we would buy one of the gaudy above ground fire rings (steel not terribly thick but serviceable) and submerge it below grade hiding its hideous leaf motif and working to keep our hole a hole.

Once our plan of action was in place it was relatively simple to finish digging out the hole, and tamp in the sand, place the ring, backfill with gravel, level it off and place some retaining wall bricks around the top and call it done. All in all this was one of the least technically challenging projects we have tackled, and it involved axes, large dangerous gas powered tools and a totally arbitrary reason to burn shit and drink beer. Not every project is this easy, but I try to enjoy them when they are.

Try not to cut off a finger.