Friday, May 14, 2010

The Saturday lawn edition of Naked City

Two lawn-related items of interest popped into my inbox this week – just in time for your weekend. If you have a suburban lot as I do, you know that lawns take time. The darn things grow and need mowing. The darn weeds grow much faster than the lawn. Because I don't like too many chemicals we are plagued with ground ivy and clover and crabgrass and things I don't know the name of. I have spent 20 years battling wild onions (the best solution I have found is to dig up the whole clump, dirt and all, even though it leaves the ground looking as if you'd been hit with some sort of miniature bombardment blitz). I'm afraid to jinx it but I think the dig it all out technique seems to have worked.

And I really do enjoy gardening and yard work. Up to a point. Mowing the lawn is beyond that point, and it takes time away from the things I really like: planting and harvesting flowers and veggies. My husband hates it. Our teenaged daughter hates it unless she is being paid really really well and it's under 85 degrees.

So I felt kinship with Ventura, Calif., City Manager Rick Cole, who decided "No Lawn!" Ventura is on the coast, northwest of Los Angeles, and it sounds as if grass isn't any easier to grow there than in Charlotte, where our summers are too hot for cold-weather grasses and our winters are too cold for hot-weather grasses. Cole writes a city manager's blog. Take a look. (As a wonk I confess to being as interested in the entries on California taxes as on lawns. Apparently the California state government is raiding municipalities' property tax revenues. Shhh. Don't tell the folks in Raleigh!)

And I laughed at this offering from Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, occasional correspondent as well as limerick writer. He can't trace the original authorship online. The first reference I saw on a search came in 1999 and it was being shared even then. It's possible I was the last American not to have read this.

The Lord and St. Francis

“Winterize your lawn” the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I’ve fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die anyway. Now I’m supposed to winterize it? I hope it’s too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest things we’ve come up with outside of thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four step chemical dependency.

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:

“Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started aeons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles”.

“It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord, The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass.”

“Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?”

“Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.”

“The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.”

“Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.”

“They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”

“Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”

“They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”

“No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”

“Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”

“Yes, sir”.

“These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.”

“You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.”

“What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”

“You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away.”

“No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?”

“After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”

“And where do they get this mulch?”

“They cut down trees and grind them up.”

“Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?”

“ 'Dumb and dumber,' Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”

“Never mind. I think I just heard the whole story.”


James said...

That's hilarious; just eschew grass lawns!

DroidDude said...

I have long argued that cutting the grass interferes with God's earthly plan. Unfortunately not cutting it interferes with Wife's earthly plan. Guess who wins?

Anonymous said...

When expressed like that, the "ideal" lawn as perpetuated on TV (along with the idea that if your lawn doesn't look that way, you are an inferior life form to those that have lawns that do look like that, also perpetuated on TV) looks extremely silly.

Brendan said...

I grew up with my father loathing the cutting of grass. I watched every year as he systematically killed it off and replaced it with the annual deposition of the dreaded pine straw. Not fun to play in, but we could ride our bikes over to the nearby elementary school to play in grass if we wanted to.

consultant said...


Take out grass. Plant shrubs and perennials. Try hosta and daylillies for starters. They are drought tolerant and tough as Marines. Put in lots of shrubs, almost any will do. They're pretty tough.

For those who need some grass to keep their sanity, leave small strips here and there.

Once you do this and see how much time and money you've saved you'll wonder why you hadn't done this years ago.

A different topic:

A scientist at my alma mater (Cal), calculated that BP broken pipe has been leaking @1 Exxon Valdez every 4 days.

Will that 5" pipe BP inserted in the broken pipe work?

Why won't BP release new video of what's going on? Why are govt. oversight agencies bascially signing off on just about everything BP says? Why are Bush appointees still working in the Interior Dept.? Why does all of this sound like the spoon fed stuff we heard in the run up to the Iraq "War"?

Brendan said...

My father is an environmental toxicologist who worked on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and he's now been hired as a consultant by BP to assess how much this is going to cost them. He has always stayed clear from government agency work because they consistently ask scientists for their opinion on things such as the environmental impact of deep water drilling in the gulf, and when the agency gets an answer that does not favor their political constituents, they shop around until they find (ie, pay) one to say what they want.

I don't think people realize how many political decisions are made without regard to the warnings of scientific experts. We should demand that these agency decisions to NOT heed scientific reports are made in the public spotlight.

There are legal requirements for notices and hearings on all of these decisions, but there is no requirement that these public notices and hearings be made widely publicized.

We must demand more transparency from a government that is supposed to be governing by the CONSENT of the governed.

consultant said...

When govt. and private corporations merge, we (the American people) all lose.

That's what's happened. Bush/Cheney completed the circle that effectively started under Reagan. Govt. is the facilitator for big corporations and wealthy people. That's why everything is all screwed up.

Clinton slowed the process a little, but just a little. And the guy I voted for, Obama, seems to be working with far too many people left over from the Bush disaster.

All of this has happened while our once pretty great newspapers got distracted from their important role as independent sources of information in the community. Now, they too are mostly voices for national and transnational corporations and groups. In other words, they speak to or for the average American's interest.

No one is watching the store. Who's going to make govt. or industry transparent if the two are working together for the benefit of latter?

In the case of this oil spill, we have essentially an unprecedented man made ecological catastrophe. Without rigorous testing, we're going to have people eating toxic fish. Entire species of sea life will be wiped out.

Here's the kicker. In a measure of how far we've fallen as a nation, if mother nature and luck manages to keep most of the oil away from our beaches, the news media, BP, and all levels of govt. will quickly forget about this catastrophe. A few months from now everyone will act like nothing ever happened. Seafood prices will rise, some seafood will vanish from the menu, but we'll plod on waiting for the next installment of Dancing With The Stars.

consultant said...

"In other words, they speak to or for the average American's interest."

That should read, "they no longer speak to or for the average American's interest."

Jumper said...

What kills me is that the desirable varieties of grass would re-seed the lawns for free if left to grow long every so often, but that's a big no-no letting the grass grow long enough to seed.

misswhit said...

While I don't particularly enjoy cutting grass it is good exercise--my 90 year old father still cuts his lawn and is happy he can do it.
We do try to expand our natural areas each year. But I will have to say in defense of lawns--where are the kids going to play without neighborhood lawns? (the kids in my suburban neighborhood to play outdoors all the time) Remember, we hate cul-de-sacs--so we don't want them around for neighborhood ball games. We don't have many schoolyards that kids can walk or bike to (neighborhood schools--how selfish). And unfortunately there aren't many municipal neighborhood parks around.
Also--my mulched areas seem to be a haven for snakes, not always of the good kind. So I appreciate having grass on which to safely play, picnic, etc.
One more thing--will the suburban bashing ever end on this blog?