Campfire Club

Ahhhh… outdoor campfire season is upon us once again. I do try to get outside and warm myself by some flickering flames year-round, but from May through October it is always a little more favourable to casually cooking and gathering around a pit of hot embers.

So I did last night.

Sadly alone….?

Or maybe…advantageously alone.

Reluctant to waste a great opportunity to enjoy a perfect Monday evening in spring, I rather took it as an opportunity to indulge in two of my pastimes. Not only did I light a fire and enjoy a small outdoor cookout, but I tried my hand at recording some more video footage of the whole experience.

I hardly need an excuse to set up a grill experience on my firepit. I mean, it helps immensely to have someone to share it all with, but even our small family seems to struggle to converge our precious free time with great weather and perfect opportunity. Sometimes you just gotta get out there and do your thing, even on a lonely evening. All that said, it never hurts to add another reason to break down those barriers (and create a positive space to fill in my over-planned life) by planning to share those lonely backyard fires with someone… anyone, and if I can’t convince my family, friends, or neighbours to wander by for reals why can’t that “anyone” be with my internet friends?

I’m gelling this whole multimedia creation process, the effort to make more videos and record a podcast to accompany this blog, and part of that gelling means turning sparks of inspiration into creative opportunity.

So, a new video series… a series of one so far… called the Campfire Club:

And if nothing more, I think a good chance for me to break out my firecraft skills at least once per month, record some grilled eats over those hot coals, and share the fun here in a format that transcends words.

If only I could let you taste it, too.

Stir Fried Campfire

It had been far too many months since I had found myself with a good day to build a small campfire in the backyard. But Saturdays, even chilly ones in mid-Spring, can sometimes avail themselves of enough freedom and opportunity to reignite something interesting, sometimes literally.

My plan to have winter fires outdoors this past cold season was met by a couple struggles with weather, timing and general distraction. I lit up the pit a few times while there was snow on the ground, but by choices of days were never ideal and I spent multiple hours outside in the dwindling light of dusk trying thaw the ice from the bottom and sides of my fire pit for long enough to sustain a flame of anything worthy of the name.

So with the snow consistently melted and the remaining autumn leaf litter cleared, I dusted off everything — pit, grill plates, benches and tools — late yesterday afternoon and burned a couple hours worth of wood to both get rid of the winter remains and kick-start another season of backyard cookouts.

I not only slow-grilled a pair of thick pork chops for nearly an hour, roasting them slowly over the coals and smoke, turning them into deliciously flavored hunks of savory meat, but I also attempted a simple stir fry: rice.

Basic white rice finds itself in our home cooked meal rotation often enough that we usually have a cup or two of day-old rice in the fridge. My wife was planning on simply microwaving our leftovers to accompany the chops, but I suggested instead that we fry up some rice over the already-to-cook fire.

Some scrambled egg, a few finely chopped veggies in butter, a heap of left-over cold rice, and some soy sauce, all step-wise added to my twelve inch cast iron pan, and sizzled up to a toasty brown with the smoke and the flame licking around the outside.

It was delicious and nutty and savoury, and the perfect side to go along with two caramel-toned smoked pork chops that followed the bowl of stir fried rice through the backdoor and to the kitchen table.

Sometimes I wonder what the neighbours must be thinking, but I guess if they could smell my outdoor cooking they’re probably mostly jealous.

A Neglected Blog Update

I really hate writing those posts that wax apologetic for not writing for some span of time, promising to do better, and lamenting that life is just so busy that — gosh! — if only there were an extra hour each day…

I’ve been refocused other places, and in the blur of spring snow storms and back to work and another mess of COVID infections in every other person I know, I’ve not had too much interesting to write about.

Not too much…

A little bit.

I’ve been running a lot. I ran a ten miler (sixteen klick) race on the weekend, a race for which I aggressively overdressed as a result of waking up at 6am while it was still frosty outside for a 9am start when the sun had turned it into a nice day. I’d been training really well, too, completing a two week streak at the start of April as I ran every day to get into the spring fitness mode, and started the annual hill training regimen. The icy sidewalks cleared just as March ended and despite a few mornings with fresh spring snow the trails have been ideal for plodding along and burning in some mileage. All that said, and as April nears an end, I’m solidly bagged and could use a breather for a day or two.

I’ve been drawing a lot. It seems odd that an old obsession has resurfaced so acutely in my life. My back-to-work bag is half-stuffed with sketchbooks and pens alongside my laptop and folios. I spend lunch breaks finding quiet places to sit and draw little mini artworks downtown. And back at home, I’ve been taking courses in watercolour, mostly online but in a couple weeks an in-person flower-painting session in the local conservatory, as I hone my painting skills and start to generate images that are more than just muddy smudges on expensive paper.

I’ve been getting ready for adventure. Last summer we had bought ourselves two inflatable kayaks. The first was a cheaper model that was more of a toy, but it was in stock. The second was backordered, significantly higher end (as far as inflatable recreational sports equipment goes anyhow) and didn’t arrive on our doorstep until the fall as the waterways were starting to ice over. I’ve unpacked all that equipment and I’ve started making some plans for some down-river excursions as the days get a little warmer (it’s snowing again this morning as I write this!) A day-long traversal of the city by kayak in June seems like a great idea.

And I’ve been cooking. Re-adjusting my bread-baking schedule around back-to-the-office has been a small challenge and reminded me why I didn’t do it so much back prior to pandemic times. And having cleaned up both the barbecue and the outdoor firepit, this upcoming weekend is looking hopeful as the seasonal inaugural outdoor cookoff, with some grilled meats and veggies atop an open backyard fire, complete with whatever I can think to cook in those cast iron pans that have been wasting their adventure potential indoors on a gas stove rather than over open flame.

I’ll write more soon. I promise.

If only there were another hour in the day.

Friday Fires, Winter Snow Edition

When I checked out of work for the week at the end of the day today, the sun was still high enough in the sky for it to be considered daylight.

Itโ€™s been cold for most of the week, that deep, chilling cold that makes it difficult to do much besides curl up on the couch and watch bad television. We tried taking the dog for a walk mid-week and turned around because between the icy sidewalks and the brutally cold wind it was simply stupid and dangerous to be outside.

So, that it was merely a few degrees below freezing after work and still light out, I decided to light a fire.

I mean, I literally had to shovel the fire pit out of a knee deep snow drift in our backyard, and trudge a path to the firewood at the back of the yard.

It took nearly an hour to warm up the bowl enough that it would burn longer than a few minutes without going out, but after a while I got a nice flame going and was able to sit for a half an hour and sip a drink while I fought off the evening cold with the dim flames.

It felt good.

I mean, there is something grounding about sitting beside a fire after spending the week staring at screens, something that is tough to explain but ultimately results in a bit of respite for oneโ€™s mental health and general peace of mind.

I may need to hit up the grocery store for something interesting to cook over a fire this weekend, now that (after all that work shoveling and melting) Iโ€™ve primed my pit up properly for winter.