Sunday, September 14, 2008


Oh, sacred September, one of my all time favorite months. Just the right balance of warmth and crispness, don't you think?

I'm messin' about in the garden these days. I've decided to pull up all the iris and day lilies. They need to be separated and replanted, with leftovers going to a couple of good friends. It may be the wrong time of year for digging up garden flowers for all I know. My gardening knowledge is very tiny, indeed. I know a lot about sitting, resting, musing and enjoying my garden...or a lake...or a tree...or even a rock for that matter. Its just one of the many ways I notice all the abundance that is around me. So if you see my digging and replanting this time of year as a gardening mistake, keep it to yourself please. I'm on a roll.

It was only a year ago, last October, when I wrote about The Speed of Life. The article was inspired by a sign that read: "Life is too short to wear matching socks." From there, I created my own "Life is Too Short" list. And top on my list was "Life is too short to mow the lawn." My friend, Madeleine, has taken this sentiment to a judicial, logical, and immaculate RANT. Mad takes it to the extreme. She not only says life is too short to mow the lawn, she argues that life is too short to have a lawn at all! I so enjoy getting Mad's occasional rants in my email inbox. This one I just had to share with you all. It's a great time of year, as we put our gardens and yards to rest, to reflect on just how much time and energy we have and where we care to spend it.

The more time I find for my favorite leisures, the more grounded I become. I'm amazed and impressed with my ability and desire to do little and, consequently, more.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~Annie Dillard

DOWN WITH LAWNS! by Madeleine Beaupré

What is it with this North-American obsession, anyway? Even a pure, dope-free virgin lawn requires SO much TLC from its owners, one has to wonder what exactly is it giving in return? One of my personal pet peeves is The Moocher. What has that got to do with lawns, you ask? Well, lawns are obviously big time moochers! Taking, taking, taking - always taking! And what does one get in return? Well, it does look pretty, does it not? Pretty, alright. Pretty useless, is what I say! Unless your kids are rolling in it from dawn to dusk. And, in that case, it had better be chemical-free, or your offspring will soon be of the glow-in-the-dark variety.

Now is the time to plan next year's yard landscaping modifications! And if you ask me, less is best when it comes to lawns! Please don't quote the line: "But its respiration cycle provides us with precious oxygen!" Because trees, shrubs, other plants and countless other ground covers can do that just as well, if not better! And, if you're like many of us, in need of some fresh air and therapeutic time while you tend to the yard, why not plant something you can actually use? Like...veggies! Yes, apparently this trend is truly catching on! Edible landscaping - now THAT is putting your money where your mouth is! Many vegetable plants are quite attractive, and you can literally reap what you sow!

Did you know that in North America, combined yearly lawn maintenance costs have soared to the equivalent of the total federal budgets of some third-world countries!!! To beef up my admittedly biased, arguably argumentative arguments, I took to the Net. While perusing various websites of a turfy nature, both pro and con, I came across acres of green information. Some was familiar (i.e., my hero, David Suzuki), but tons of soddy stuff I didn't even fathom, and much was just plain shocking, such as the following tidbit. I could not re-locate the original BNet article pertaining to one of my side notes, but here, in a nutshell, is the following projection: by the year 2010 (within the next year-and-a-half), in the U.S. alone, lawn maintenance costs will exceed $9 Billion. That's million with a "B", ladies and gentlemen.

It gives us a glimmer of hope to see legislation finally being enacted in many areas, amending laws to ban the use of wasteful water usage and of gardening chemicals for the sake of yard cosmetics. Finally. Was it maybe partly due to the fact that dogs, cats and little kids can't read those tiny flags they stick in lawns as warnings, after they spray them with known carcinogens?

However, our town, and too many others, still maintain and enforce by-laws which dictate the maximum height of your grass, AND require you to prevent it from drying out, under threat of stiff fines! Allowances are not often made for water shortages, except for the odd/even watering rule. If you're stuck on grass, reduce the size of the sodded area in your yard, replacing some of it with attractive alternative landscaping. At the very least, switch to healthier, more earth-friendly weeding and bug control methods. Many chemical-free products and techniques are now widely promoted, thanks to the efforts of devoted environmental activists, as well as more health conscious folks.

The photo is that of a neighbour's yard, which I have wistfully admired since its creation. It is an eye-pleasing blend of different features which I find quite striking. Note the strategic compromise of the aesthetic and the environmental:

Native prairie grasses, left long and willowy, can be admired swaying in the breeze. Rock gardens are a favourite of mine, for obvious reasons. And, if you must have lawn, then counterbalance that flat, unnatural view with low-maintenance plants indigenous to your climate zone. Shrubs are nice. And, of course, trees. As many as possible. Did you know that the USDA reports that one well-positioned shade tree can equal the cooling effects of five air conditioners?

I just cannot wrap my head around the strange concept that a manicured lawn enhances the appearance of your property more than other, more nature-inspired landscaping. But there it was, staring at me from my monitor: the definitive proof of this obsessive cultural phenomenon. An ad. It read something like this: "Have your lawn maintenance costs risen too high? If you are fed up with all that mowing and watering, call us for a free consultation! Our solution will provide your property with an enhanced appearance as well as cutting your costs significantly. Call today to inquire about our high quality synthetic grass! " Egad! Is it just me, or what?

Around here, in my little corner of the World, my husband is the self-appointed, long-suffering, sole custodian of THE LAWN. I have more useful things to do, like meditating in my muskoka chair. Or walking in the woods. Or rock hunting in the vacant lot next door. Or laundry.

Some of us (I) could never be bothered to cut, clip, trim, aerate, mulch, weed and feed and otherwise coddle and fret over our expansive acre of mixed woods and greens, with a good portion of clover, interspersed with the occasional sodded spot. However, in quasi-keeping with our neighbourhood's well-meaning but wasteful elevated horticultural standards, my misguided lawn devotee refuses to quit! I beg him: Let it go! If you truly love it, set it free! Move on with your life! But no: he feels socially obligated to (somewhat) regularly fire up the dreaded smelly pollution-spewing riding mower, haul out the gigantic evil-sounding shoulder holstered 100 pound whipper-slasher, and the squeaky wheeled push-and-spin feeder, as well as the long-handled telescopic saw pruner.

Even if he is already swamped in a backwash of a quazillion accumulated more pressing chores. ALL is postponed because...THE LAWN beckons! THE LAWN is hungry/thirsty! THE LAWN requires a haircut to remain fashionable! THE LAWN is upset with all those pesky little daisies and dandelions sprouting here, there and everywhere! I wonder when, exactly, did the court convene to decree that the bright and cheerful dandelion is a weed? At least you can make wine or salad with dandelions! I dare you to try serving your lawn cuttings for lunch tomorrow...

Not having obtained the desired stellar results so far in my endeavour to endear all home-owners in my acquaintance to my cause, (a few continue to imitate the ostrich when it comes to environmental issues), I have decided to quit re-hashing Al Gore et al., and change my tack. Instead, I will try to more subtly expose the gist of one of my main points: the time factor. All that time - and energy – which could be more happily spent on more pleasant activities.

To quote Andy Rooney: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."

Allow me to illustrate by means of a simple exercise borrowed from a grey-haired, white-mustachioed gnome-like being, who wisely explains the conscious use one should make of one's life span with the following analogy (also shnagged from Andy Rooney, in all probability): Unroll a measuring tape to 75 or 80 inches, representing an average life expectancy. Re-wind the portion you have already "lived", in my case, shorten it by 55 inches/years. Examine closely the remaining short bit, and ask yourself: How can I most enjoy this last fraction of time left for me to live life on this planet? If you choose to spend an inordinate amount of that time tending to the demands of useless but (questionably) aesthetically-pleasing blades of grass, then so be it. But others may re-consider...

Many long maligned so-called weeds are attractive, perfectly harmless and sometimes quite useful members of the plant world, just as deserving of a special place in our home environment as grass! Personally, I have observed that grass can be a very persistent nuisance, insisting on insinuating itself even where it is squarely uninvited. If you let it, it will take over nature wherever it can, unaccepting of the possibility that a homeowner may choose wild-flowers, or ivy or dogwood, or - nothing - in its stead. Grass can indeed become the weed! In fact, I often see grass as the unwelcome invader: in our rock gardens, graveled landscaping, flower beds, vegetable patches, driveway cracks and sandy beaches. Did you know that grass can thrive, unsolicited, in a full three-foot depth of beach sand? Yes, it can. I have seen it with my own eyes. As a matter of fact, right now, as we speak, I'm sitting here watching it grow.

a.k.a. MadMad
a.k.a. MadAgainstTheWorld(AndHappilyEnjoyingEveryMinuteOfItAsMuchAsHumanlyPossible)

"A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule." ~Michael Pollan

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