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The hot story of my backyard fire bowl

Alas, an article I read recently about patio heaters said that if you didn’t already have one, it was too late. Supposedly, manufacturers were caught short by the demand and you couldn’t get one for love nor money. Patio heaters and fire bowls were like bleach wipes and N95 masks.

Such dire pronouncements do not deter My Lovely Wife. To Ruth, it’s a challenge. A Web browser and a credit card are to her as a Walther PPK and a license to kill are to 007.

Fire bowls are basically gas rings that you hook up to a tank of propane, set alight, then gather around in a spirit of communion. It’s a campfire without the smoke or the foraging for dry wood. Ruth bought three.

She sometimes does this: Buy first, return later, especially if there’s a danger of something selling out. Last month on Amazon, fire bowls would disappear in the instant between when she first clicked on the description and when she clicked to add it to her cart.

I wasn’t sure I wanted a fire bowl. Would it be finicky, prone to eyebrow-singeing eruptions, more fireball than fire bowl? I certainly did not welcome the prospect of three fire bowls.

Ruth is the Nelson Bunker Hunt of odd objects, cornering the market in stuff I didn’t know we needed. Every other week during the summer, FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service delivered curious little boxes and bags. Inside were chair leg tips.

Chair leg tips are tips that you put on the legs of chairs. They’re made of black plastic or hard rubber and are the outdoor equivalent of the little adhesive felt disks you put on the bottoms of your dining room chairs to keep them from scratching the floor.

We had a screened porch built at the back of our house this year. When we moved the wrought-iron furniture from the patio into the porch, we noticed it was a bit beat up. The chair tips had long since disappeared, leaving dented, rusty, porch-floor-gouging, bare metal legs.

I learned that there is little standardization in the world of chair leg tips. None of the ones Ruth purchased fit. Or they’d fit at first, then pop off and skitter across the floor like an air hockey puck when someone actually sat in the chair. Some fit for a while, then popped off when the weather turned hot and the metal expanded.

Ruth kept ordering more tips until she found ones that worked. Now the chairs glide like butter — and we have a lot of extra chair leg tips.

I was afraid we might reach this point with the fire bowls: so many that our backyard resembled an oil field somewhere in Texas, where flames burn off excess natural gas.

But I’m glad to say we have only one fire bowl. Ruth was able to cancel one before it even arrived. The second one she unloaded on the neighborhood email list. It was a portable fire bowl that looked like the bottom of a cast-iron stew pot. It would have been fine if we were RVing across the country, but it wouldn’t do for the stylish alfresco entertaining we envisioned.

That left the third, which UPS delivered to our driveway in a big box. Ruth and I muscled it to the backyard. Inside was a concrete fire bowl, 26 inches across. Ruth set it up on the bit of patio that isn’t covered by the porch. She scattered lava rocks across its stainless steel gas ring and attached the 10-foot hose to the propane tank.

And one chilly night last week, she turned on the gas and lit it.

The effect is quite nice, actually: warm and inviting. My eyebrows were fine. My back got a bit cold, though. I wonder if another fire bowl behind me might make a difference.

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2020-11-15 14:03:00

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