Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Pathology of a Well-Tended Lawn

This being summer, yardwork is on a lot of homeowners' minds (for the record, I live in an apartment, so I haven't done yardwork in years). I never fail to be amazed at the time and expense which people devote to growing a useless, monoculture crop around their houses. The stereotypical, oft-mowed, well-watered American lawn is an imitation of the sheep-cropped, rain-soaked pastures surrounding the manors of the aristocrats of the green and pleasant land of our cultural forebears. We ape the overseas aristos the founders rebelled against, but we employ petroleum-fueled machines to replicate the grazing of animals, a process which transforms the indigestible grass into foodstuffs and textiles. You waste valuable resources to grow a plant which you don't use... hooray, suburbanites! Why don't you deep-six the lawnmowers and purchase sheep to maintain your lawns? That's a nation of sheep I could get behind (uh, this is not a reference to the slippery slope to beastly lovin' that Rick Santorum is obsessed with- honest). Yeah, I'm picturing a nation of sheep, to which we could delegate the whole lawn maintenance thing, not this sort of nation of sheep that a certain member of the blogroll sang about:

I am especially bemused by the suburban weekend squire's campaign to eradicate the simple dandelion. Let me get this straight- you are going to dump a bunch of chemicals on a place where your children play in order to kill an attractive, useful plant so you can grow a plant that is useless to you (unless you get yourself a ruminant that you plan to shear and milk periodically).

If I were ever to own a home with a yard, I'd probably devote a decent patch for a vegetable/herb garden (who am I kidding, I'd just let the weeds, but only the delicious ones, run riot). I'd also plant some wildlife-friendly perennials- friends don't let friends plant annuals (unless they're edible!). I'd also make sure to devote some space to a small bocce court. The well-maintained lawn? Not my style- that's the sort of thing that's appropriate for moist, green lands with large ovine populations.

I'm sure that climate-appropriate, environmentally-friendly landscaping is a trend that is becoming more prevalent, but it seems that devotion to the 19th century aristocratic land management patterns of a foreign land still seem to hold sway. With gasoline hovering around the $4/gallon mark, this may abruptly change.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The nation of sheep gets my goat.

Jennifer said...

I've always thought goats would be nice. :)

Our neighbors hate us because we allow other green things in our lawn and don't use chemicals. Of course, I'm sure enough of their chemicals leech out into ours... I try not to think about it.

In one large shady spot in the back, where grass does not like to grow, we have a lovely expanse of violets. I love it. It surrounds a tree and part of the swing set. My one neighbor keeps telling me he knows how we can get rid of it and find the right kind of grass that will grow. We thank him and ignore.

Triplanetary said...

If you moved into a suburban neighborhood and tried to tend your lawn your own way - rather than the conformist way - you might be up against some serious obstacles, depending on how hardass your neighbors are. There are ordinances and statutes about these kinds of things, and breaking the pattern of identical lawns will piss the other suburbanites off at any rate.

But that's why I prefer apartments, too. 'Cause seriously, fuck yardwork. If I had a balcony or access to the roof, though, I'd totally grow a few tasty vegetables.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

we don't have much lawn, and I lackadaisically take care of what we do have. Amusingly enough, after the excavation last fall mushed up much of hte back yard, the grass came back better than it ever did.

The biggest patch we have, really, is the streetside; most of that is clover, these days.

Smut Clyde said...

Lawn-mowing is a Victorian invention. Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

Smut Clyde said...

Indoor bocce!

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

Well, I wrote a long fucking comment. It was kinda grumpy, too. And Blooger ate it. Maybe it's for the best.

Anyway, I am for zero lot line (for people who don't have pets--i have 5) properties and rock gardens.

mikey said...

Oddly, and mostly because I'm a Bay Area boy, I have frequently found myself living in "wealthy communities". Now, my interest in a well tended yard cannot be measured, and is somewhere below zero if that is possible, but the neighbors often band together to pressure people like me to put SOME effort into the consistent appearance of their yard.

My approach tends to be to make sure NO water gets on the expanse of yard, and the grass dies and the weeds turn brown and grow slowly, if at all. When the neighbors complain, I tell them they are welcome to mow the weeds, as I have no interest in such matters. Eventually, the neighbors adopt my front yard as a charity project and life is good - along with the occasional discovery of new plantings blooming without personal effort on my part...

Glennis said...

In our last three houses we've owned, we've had gardens but also included a patch of lawn about the size of a large area rug - it does add a pretty feature to a garden design. No "weed-and-feed" for us - and some folks are experimenting with alternate lawns, using chamomile or thyme interplanted with the grass or even replacing the grass.

A small lawn can easily be mowed by an electric mower.

And grass clippings make a good base for compost.

Jules said...

We're waiting for our OCD neighbor to become satisfied with his lawn and starts working to make our lawn suitable company for his. Provided he doesn't bother the violets (a sign the lawn is too acidic, le gasp!) I don't care.

We (that is the S.O.) do like to plant flowers. My job is to dump water on stuff and yank out any weeds I know to be invasive. Die morning glory, die.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

There are ordinances and statutes about these kinds of things, and breaking the pattern of identical lawns will piss the other suburbanites off at any rate.

My rule of thumb is "never live in a community that frowns on clotheslines".

Die morning glory, die.

But... you can get high on the seeds!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I ran the first paragraph after the video embed through Translation Telephone and got this:

I want a high-profile advertising, Lions teeth destroy suburban home, I'm very confused. I do not get the cheese to try a bunch of chemicals that play the child is to kill plants.