Fire Pits: Part One

It is probably fitting that following a post on leaving wild corners in your garden I would be drawn to a recent post I saw on author Helen Yoest’s blog Gardening with Confidence regarding her organic creation of what she calls her Fire Garden. I found I kept thinking of her post and had the occasion to inquire about a possible guest post after she most generously reviewed my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! We have some things in common other than writing about our gardens. She’s a Pisces lady living in North Carolina who owns a Border Collie! As many of you know, so much of the first draft of my book was written while I lived in Asheville, North Carolina. And thus today I bring you this lovely guest post written with Helen’s permission, which I intend to follow with yet another on fire pits, as I am now inspired to have one myself due to Helen’s original post. Let me know what you think!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

The Fire Garden by Helen Yoest

I’ve often wondered if the childhood memory of the image of my Polish grandfather sitting out back of his Riverside, NJ home, near the grapevine by the shed, that had a coffee grinder on the far wall, touched me to the point of reliving any outdoor scene where food was involved. I can clearly picture him sitting in a chair, legs crossed, just staring at the ground. He was in his eighties. To him, it was a matter of just being outside. Not cooking out. Not kicking a ball with the kids. Not gardening, even, but enjoying the outdoor space just by sitting under the canopy of a shade tree.

Since my grandfather’s time, I’ve associated this type of behavior with people from countries other than America. Of course Americans sit outside, but not like in the manner of people from other countries. We tend to have a distinct indoor and outdoor flair. While we like to bring the outdoors in, for the most part, we aren’t as comfortable bringing the indoors out.

Some of my favorite movie scenes are of Europeans eating outside. A table would be pulled from the kitchen with a simple tablecloth to cover it, slightly off kilter, and everyday china and crystal on the table top. A rug might even be brought out along with candles and music and books and wine. If the weather was right, time was spent outdoors. It didn’t even have to be during the evening, it could be any meal, any time. In my book, this is living.
When we built the back porch, I envisioned every meal to be taken outside. It turns out I am the only one in the family that really likes to do this. It’s lonely out there.

Years later, something interesting happened. As the time came to take down the kids’ playground and later put up the chicken coop, I noticed something that I never expected. The Crape Myrtles I planted to frame that area had matured to a fine state, as did the red Maple. This development caught me off guard.

I planned the placement of those trees with other perspectives in mind, not for the sake of the playground, but from the view of the back porch. So when I stepped in the footprint of the former play set, I realized there was a new space. I’m not sure I could have planned it so well, and I’m also not sure I would have thought I needed to.

The new space is in the ell of the chicken coop and the garden house, and it’s shaded by the mature trees. It now sports three chairs and a fire pit. Only three chairs because that is what I had on hand. See, I didn’t go out and buy anything for this new space. I just pulled from other areas of the garden. If friends come over and I need more chairs, I can bring those from the inside of the house. This space is completely private. I knew it was a special place the first time I saw it all coming together.

Recently a garden photographer from Scotland was visiting. The first night we had dinner and conversation on the back porch. The next night, we had dinner on the porch, but then we took our conversation to the fire. The evening was magical. There is no other way to describe it. A fire adds so much mystery to a room, a space, an area.

My pit is crude, nothing fancy like Americans like to do, making something for the outside to look like something we have on the inside. Instead, it’s just made from a makeshift large copper tray sitting on top of some found rock. It is nothing short of perfection to me.

Now I’m one of those people who sits outside, with my legs crossed looking down at the ground or the fire or the chickens or whatever else I fancy. It’s not an event. It’s just a place to pass time, no different than sitting in a favorite arm chair or couch to read or watch a movie. Instead, I sit outside because I prefer to read and watch my life instead of someone else’s. And my beloved Border Collie, Pepper, is always with me.
From Septembers through May, on Sundays, my day in the garden, you’ll find me with a fire going. Join me sometime. I’ll make the time to sit with you in this special place so you can see first hand the magic of finding solace in the most unexpected places.


BONUS!! Helen has just generously offered to give a copy of her newest book, Plants with Benefits to one of my readers! Her book has been mentioned or featured almost everywhere, from the New York Times, to Birds and Blooms, The Weather Channel, and yes, was even tweeted by Dr. Ruth! Just leave a comment below and I will put your name in a hat and on Friday the 23rd I will pull the name of the winner and be sure you get a copy! 🙂

27 Responses to “Fire Pits: Part One”

  1. Thanks for posting! I enjoyed reading it as much the 2nd time as I had on Helen’s original post!

  2. Welcome, Nancy, and thank you! I can imagine. I thought about it for a week! Kathryn xoxo

  3. There are few things more relaxing than staring into the flames of an outdoor fire or poking about in it with sticks. Last fall we removed a pond that had become more work than enjoyment and replaced it with a fire pit. I’m looking forward to using it this spring.

  4. What a lovely, inspiring post! Helen’s ability to create such a beautiful, special space in such a simplistic manor has sparked creative juices to play in my own yard. Just wonderful!


  5. Hi, Lynn, and welcome! I’m inspired by your story and am also looking forward to same! California weather will undoubtedly determine which seasons are safe to use a fire pit, but I’m so there! Kathryn xoxo

  6. Yes, Antonia! Lovely, right? I hope to have a fire pit in place before your next visit! Love, Mom xoxo

  7. What a surprize! Helen’s post awakened my sleeping Polish Heart! Eating outdoors or if weather was raw, in my grandparents cave-like cellar with a coal burning furnace to warm us. Sitting outdoors at “”Busha’s” on the porch watching birds , just being quiet together ( she spoke little English) was
    Bliss! Thank you , Barbara (Bartoszewska) Stafford. Of course I had to marry a Yankee!

  8. I’m at the stage of life when we should be enjoying what we’ve already done in the garden. Instead I am inspired by Helen’s photos to turn an old syrup kettle upright and create a Fire Garden.

  9. We often TAKE IT OUT to the patio or further, beneath the grape arbor. I had not thought of placing a carpet beneath the seating area. Also appreciate Helen’s reminder that it need not be fancy. Our fire pit is looking rather weather- worn — but it WORKS! We can move it around easily too. Hurrah for longer days and many more chances to use that patio table and enjoy both alone time as well as friendship fun OUTSIDE in the garden! P.S. That embroidered table cloth is so crisp and beautiful!

  10. How fun to “find” a space in one’s own yard. I also have an area where I planted some conifers. I had no particular plan. When I moved an antique garden statue back there, poof! That little area has emerged with its own flavor and atmosphere. Delightful!

  11. How lovely to find your inspiring comments this morning! Barbara, I’m delighted to hear of your early childhood memories with your own Polish grandparents! Jean, I would love to see that syrup kettle converted to your own fire pit! Kathryn xoxo

  12. Good morning, Carol! Glad the carpet idea inspired you. Looking forward to a visit before too long! It sounds lovely! Kathryn xoox

  13. Welcome, Joan! I’m intrigued you’ve had a similar experience in your garden to find things fell in place and a new vignette opened up to your outdoor living. Lovely! Kathryn xoxo

  14. What wonderful memories and it so describes how many of us feel about our gardens and the peace and enjoyment we gain from them. I also have fond memories of my grandparents and gardening.

  15. What a lovely post! A beautiful complement to your writings, Kathryn! As one who has long advocated bringing the outdoors in/indoors out — esp. now living in AZ — I am smiling and nodding, yes! And with a brand-new puppy (Austr. shepherd+poodle, miniature) I am spending more time than ever in my garden!

  16. Hi, Lona and welcome! I am so happy to hear this post is kindling our memories of our grandparents out in the garden. I love hearing about them! Thank you! Kathryn xoxo

  17. Good morning, KathyAnn! Thank you! You are making me remember my time in Cave Creek, sitting outside under an umbrella with my two Border Collies, one still a puppy from a horse ranch there in Arizona! Is there anything more lovely than Arizona in the winter? Lucky you! And with a new puppy! Enjoy! Kathryn xoxo

  18. I so enjoyed your reminiscing, Helen. I have those same recollections from my childhood as well and I do agree that my relatives who came from “the old country” had a uniquely distinctive view of the outdoors that has stayed with and influenced me.

    Your fire pit IS perfection. I see nothing attractive about the “modern” contraptions I see for sale and I’ve been hunting for something that more closely resembles your very simple bowl.

    Thanks for great inspiration!

  19. I love the idea of keeping things simple and using what you have on hand in the garden. Often times it’s best not to overthink garden design.

  20. Hi, Nicky and welcome to my blog! I would agree! I love to see what Nature Herself contributes, to observe and learn firsthand. Thanks for visiting this morning and entering this giveaway! Kathryn xoxo

  21. Nothing more relaxing that sitting around a fire in the backyard. I just need to make more of a base for mine so it doesn’t kill the grass.

  22. I have been wanting to create a fire pit for my garden and you renewed my inspiration. Perhaps this is the year!

  23. Hi, Judy and Carol, and welcome to you both to my blog. I’m glad this post has inspired you. Me, too! Would love to see pics of your fire pits! The possibilities are very varied! Kathryn xoxo

  24. Thanks for the warm welcome, Kathryn! Hoping to enjoy many more inspiring articles. Keep them coming!

  25. And congratulations, Carol Yemola, for being the winner of this week’s giveaway! A copy of Helen’s book Plants with Benefits is on its way to you! Enjoy! Thank you for visiting and entering our giveaway! Kathryn xoxo

  26. Very much enjoyed your blog. Fire pits are catching on here in England but I think your table outside together with tablecloth reminds me of the afternoon tea we so much enjoy on the lawn in the summer. Great blog, Simon

  27. Hi, Simon and welcome! Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you are enjoying the post. How lovely that you have your tea out on the lawn in summer. Kathryn xoxo

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