A few years ago, we found buried blue flagstones in our yard. We have to believe that they were supplies leftover from its original build in the early 1950’s – the coloring of the stones is typical for flagstone in NY, the size of the stones matches the front of our home and planter in the living room, and most notably, why else would they have been dumped in the yard? Anyways, we were pleased to uncover them, clean them up, and then promptly let them sit leaning up against a tree in the yard while we decided what we should use them for. We have continued to find more since that initial haul, too. Flagstones in the pachysandra – weird. More buried near the barn – hmm. We need a good treasure map, our yard is like our own little quarry.
Stones like this wouldn’t lay well as a small patio (getting lightweight stones to lay level and stay grounded takes a lot of underlaying prep work, and probably lots of mortar) and we also didn’t have enough of them to do anything quite so substantial, but I know from previous experience that dry stacked flagstones make for a pretty wall, and hold up well to weather too (never had that soil runoff problem I anticipated).
We have all kinds of outdoor projects on our list these days – retaining walls to brush cleanup to giant patios to swings – but what I really wanted was an insta-fire pit to satisfy our summer cravings and make our temporary “is this where we want the fire pit?” location officially “yes, this is where we want the fire pit.” Though really, I guess this new fire pit isn’t really that permanent because what you’ll be seeing here are loosely stacked stones on dirt around a measured-to-code burn area – no dig, no cement, no grout, no adhesive. Its low-permanence paints it as something that a renter should totally bookmark for future inspiration, but as of now, as permanent as we are in this dwelling, this shall be our fire pit.
I’m not sure you’d remember this, but right on this exact spot back when we moved in two years ago, Pete gave his machete a serious workout while he destructed this here weed-bush:
The base of the weed was such that we actually hired a stump removal dude to come and butcher it out for us. And then, as many people would argue is the only way to fully eliminate the chance of an invasive species resurging, we started a small fire on top of it to help obliterate any remaining essence of that giant weed. That little fire turned into a spot that we eventually surrounded with giant logs, and that was how we decided that space would be great as a small campfire space. The logs are actually a perfectly good solution for a campfire, until they dry out that is, and then they’re just added kindling. These logs had spent the winter under snow, and then completely dried out in the first few weeks of springtime, and by the time we decided to roast s’mores some evening, they were adequate kindling and had to be extinguished at the end of the night lest they completely smolder down to ash.
Being that the stones for the project were completely irregular in depth and varied in length, I knew would make the whole process somewhat of a challenge, but it turned out pretty well. And it only took about 30 minutes to make it happen.
I started by removing the big logs and measuring out the 36″ square for the new fire pit. I tried hard to get this base layer both perfectly square and level so there was a solid surface to build upon. This involved insetting some of the stones into the dirt, but again, there was no mortar, no adhesive, just laid in our sandy-soiled Mother Earth.
It became apparent by layer two or three that keeping the stone level as I rose upwards was completely impossible, but I continued to build with small goals of pairing similar width stones along each edge to keep each wall layer level, layering each stone in a running bond pattern for stability, and doing my best to have each corner overlap to lock the four walls together (i.e. no wall would just flip flop over if we had our feet perched on it).
Working with stones of an uneven thickness left the walls varied different heights and not meeting up perfectly. In photos like this, it’s pretty obvious – and if I had added more stones to the other sides, this “tall” side would suddenly be dwarfed. It’s a backyard fire pit, you know? It’s perfect.
From above, you can barely tell that it’s not consistent all of the way around… an illusion of sorts.
Ready for summer and a season of backyard campfires? Us too.