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Posts Tagged ‘lawns’

A storm rolled through last night.

I’ve always loved good thunder and lightning, but this was next level. As I listened to the rumbles like drums and watched bolts of energy streak through the sky, I thought a bit about Mother Nature, and how we often seem to be playing catch-up.

When it’s wet, find a nice cave for shelter. If it’s cold, master fire. If it floods, head for high ground until the water recedes.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but our instincts, and now our infrastructure and our policies, often seem static or reactive. Particularly in times of great change.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get ahead of the curve?

* * *

Take pollinators, for example. (You knew I’d get to that at some point, didn’t you?)

In the US and Canada, my home turf, communities are full of bylaws governing what you can and can’t do with property in the communal sphere. It’s your land, but you probably aren’t allowed to grow a towering oak directly under a power line or leave rusting car parts by the sidewalk as a tetanus reservoir for children and dogs. 

That’s all seems reasonable, and on the side of the greater good. But what about redefining “good” to include not just aesthetically pleasing symbols of European aristocracy in a bygone era (aka close-cropped grass lawns), but also what we all need for a healthy and successful future?

Take this gentleman as an example:

Kansas City Man’s Plea For Native Flower Justice Unites Gardeners Around The World

He did what scientists and ecologists around the world are encouraging, and turned his yard into a pollinator paradise. My hat is off to him. But the city reacted by telling him to cut it down because it violated city code. I would argue that this is because they are operating on an outdated definition of what’s “good.”

* * *

recent survey asked teens how they felt about the job their elders are doing on climate, and the results were both predictable and cause for a bit of reflection. The kids are deeply disappointed, and they have reason. The good news is that many members of “Generation Greta” aren’t waiting around.

That’s not to say that nothing has changed. Solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines, the push for accountability down the supply chain, all good things. Even so, many of our current policies remain stuck in the past. We’re on the right path but we’re not going fast enough. And not everyone is moving in the same direction.

It’s time for the sort of thinking at which writers and creatives (and teenagers) excel: new ideas, new approaches, and a reimagining of what we can do now, even in the face of current challenges.

Even if it’s something as small as what grows in your front yard.

* * *

As I sat there last night in my cave, rain and thunder all around, I realized that our definitions aren’t all that will matter in the end.

And that it’s always smart to stay on Mother Nature’s good side.

* * *

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

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(today I bring you a dispatch from the wilds of suburbia)

I just mowed the front lawn. I hate mowing. We have an electric mower that’s great, it’s a small yard, no big deal, but it is not my cup of tea.

English estates popularized lawns, but it took America to democratize the things. I’ll cite a few lines from a nineteenth-century book based on Frederick Law Olmsted‘s work (via this excellent article by Michael Pollan), but the real push for lawns started in the 1950s.

“Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe, and your flowers its not too promiscuous decoration… A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house.”
— “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds,” Frank J. Scott (1870)

Pretty? Sure, if you like uniformity. But in terms of land use, water use, and pesticide chemical use, lawns are terrible for the environment. They are also a massive time suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olmsted’s take on keeping nature in cities and improving society through physical design, etc. But there has to be a better way.

We planted a clover-grass mix (yes, on purpose:), but by the time the clover is tall enough to flower, the grass is twice as high and seeding. The neighbors have beautiful, chemically-induced perfections of green. They look askance at our “grass plus” mix, and at the way we wave the weed control van on when it comes around.

And so to keep the peace, I mow. Even when the clover is flowering and the bees are buzzing and can’t understand why I would take away their glorious buffet. I’m not sure why either. I ask the bees for understanding, and I mow in slow motion to give them time to leave the all-you-can-eat-restaurant-turned-food-desert and under my breath I’m asking myself “What’s the flipping point?” I mutter it as I mow the clover, the edible wood sorrel and lamb’s quarters, and the wild strawberries that spring up under the bushes.

Except I don’t say “flipping.”

We’re still looking for ways to shift our lawn to something more useful, but it’s a process. Want to save time, money, and the planet? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The back yard doesn’t get as much sun, and only patches of clover flower there. I let them grow anyway.

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