As was stated earlier, our original plans for the patio were to have the brick smoker and fire pit built along with possibly a Dutch oven pit and grill. As we got deeper into the plan, the evolution started to become quite dynamic and it seemed ever other day brought a new change to the overall design.
One of the websites I had discovered was part of a group of sites called “The Lexington Collection” authored and maintained by a gentleman named Dave Lineback somewhere around Lexington, North Carolina. I was intrigued by his methods and recipes as well as his take on the history of BBQ, especially in his area. What I was most interested in was the smoker he had built on his property which became the basis of what my original idea was.
He had named his creation “Wilbur D. Hog” and according to him, was a good way to get authentic smoked barbecue. It included two separate parts to the structure; one being the coal hearth where the wood was burned down to usable coals and attached to it on the other side was the smoker. The smoker area is two separate chambers, one above the other, with the coals being placed in the lower chamber and the smoking grate above it. Both chambers on the smoker side included doors and the whole thing has dampers built into it to control the smoke and temperatures.
The original intent was to build a reasonable copy of Wilbur with just a few modifications plus the other included items so we got the bricks and began planning our spring and summer project. But, this ended up not coming to fruition.
Once the weather cleared up, we began the process of getting things going. The area we had chosen not only already had an old beat up storage shed on it, but also had a big Pine tree that needed to be removed. Our lot is in an area that has a bit of a slope so there was also a small terrace that was held in place with several large rocks. The design also meant having to remove the big deck off the back of the house and replace it with a smaller, more practical size.
Before we got going the first thing was to call blue stakes and have them mark any utilities that could be lurking below. This is where things started to take a turn. Unknown to us, the phone line from the corner of our lot to our house ran smack dab right through the middle of where we planned to excavate. The costs associated with moving the line, etc., were quite high so we decided to change the plan. This also meant that the original size of the area would be cut down considerably but we forged ahead with the thought that things looked as if they would work out.
We should have gotten a clue as to how things were going to go when we cut the old pine tree down. Because of where the shed was placed and the proximity of the tree to it, the tree had to come down first before we could disassemble and remove the shed. No problem, it was small enough that we could drop it into the corner of the fenced area and in my younger days I was no stranger to falling trees. I had spent many days over many summers cutting firewood with my father so I was confident in my abilities to get the tree down with no harm, no foul.
My wife, the trooper that she is, was enlisted to help. I was a little worried that the way the tree had grown it carried a lot of weight on one side so I placed a rope up in the branches as far as I could get and instructed her to keep tension on it so the tree would fall away from the shed, and her. Little by little I cut away at the trunk and all was going well right up until the tree came loose from the trunk. As the wood cracked and began to separate, I looked up just in time to see the rope go slack and the tree twist about 30 degrees, just enough to transfer all the weight of the branches right over the corner of the shed. The sound of aluminum being crushed is a very unique sound and was only slightly more surprising than the look of complete terror on my wife’s face. I’m sure she thought I was going to be extremely upset but since we had no plans other than to see if we could give the shed away to someone, it actually was more of a help. By tearing open the corner of the shed it gave easier access to some of the structure inside and made pulling it apart a little easier. This story still gets a lot of mileage amongst family and friends. The worst thing about it was as the dust was clearing all I could hear in my head was my father chewing me out and how glad I was he wasn’t there to see this all unfold. For me to miss the mark on dropping such a small tree, I figure he would still be shaking his head.
Once the shed was down and the tree cleared we started moving the rocks around the terrace out of the way, a very cumbersome task at best. More measurements were taken and it became clear that since the amount of area we now had to work with had been significantly shortened, if we stuck to the original plan of putting the brick pit in it would take up way too much of the patio area and not be very practical. So, change of plan…again.
The overall plan was finally settled to include just the concrete for the patio, a concrete retaining wall to hold the terrace back and also replace the deck. All in all it turned out very nice but I was left with what I was going to do for a smoker.
The more I thought about the brick smoker I realized it was maybe not a good plan after all. Besides being too big for the area, it also was not altogether practical in that it couldn’t be moved and once it was in place I was stuck with it. I worried that after it was built that it may not perform like I wanted or might end up being too small or too much work to use. It was decided that we would look for a better solution, one that would be more beneficial to the overall scheme of things and with the money I saved by not building something more permanent, I had a decent amount left over as a good start for one that would better suited for us. So, we got rid of the bricks and the search began.