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August 15, 2008


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This is an area where my principles come into a bit of conflict. On the one side, I feel compelled to let my grass grow a little bit longer than is commonly acceptable so that I can limit the energy I consume as well as the pollutants I emit. That reasoning butts up against my belief in establishing and sustaining community with my neighbors since it doesn't please anybody when my weeds grow tall. I'm not sure how I could resolve this one short of using a Wally Clever mower like my more committed brother and his wife do.

We've got the perfectionist retiree neighbor, too! We sometimes look longingly at his homogeneous blanket of green. It would be so nice to walk in with bare feet! But, oh well, our vision of perfection needs to change. A plus side, at least for me, is that if you ditch the homogeneity, you can create habitat for wildlife.
I just finished reading Second Nature by Michael Pollan. One topic he spends a lot of time on is the American lawn and how it began in one of the first planned communities in Riverside, Illinois. It was a reaction to the typical British fenced front garden; in Riverside, the houses were set back off the road and the front lawns were contiguous. It was a very interesting read!

My neighbor is not a retiree, but he is "scalper" who mows his lawn at least a full inch shorter than mine and regularly makes sarcastic comments about my too-high grass and aversion to RoundUp. (And, Yes, I've tried to explain why and educate him about the beauty of mulching mowers and a safe groundwater supply but that just makes me seem like more of a hippy to him.)

When some sort of creeping crud hit both our lawns I caved in and joined his use of a local company to spray chemicals in the front but I continue using only organics in the back. I'm a "lawn divided"!

Meanwhile, I'm hatching a subtle plan: I'm going to extend my landscaping around the house, replacing a modest 5% more of my front lawn with heat and drought tolerant perennials. It'll be a step in the right direction, at any rate!

I hate the smell and noise of lawn mowing. We used to use a reel mower, but switched to an electric mower, which is more inconvenient than a gas mower but quiet and no fumes! We leave the clippings on the lawn, which means that we do not have to fertilize, except for using organic W.O.W. for crabgrass control/fertilization.

Eventually we would like to convert most of the lawn to an edible landscape but that would require quite a bit of maintenance. I will have to wait until my son is older to get to that project!

I can still find myself romaticizing the soft, even, trimmed, verdant carpet and the smell of freshly cut grass even as I now recognize the fragile futility of this absurd and/or narcissistic ritual of the "lawn." In 1968, a perfect lawn may have been proof you took your suburban role and responsibilities seriously but in 2008 it seems like evidence of a crime.

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