Monday, April 16, 2012

Fuck the grass.

Given some water and strategic windowsill placement, the yacon starts have regained their proper appearance!  While I do enjoy getting healthy plants in the mail, I'm a little worried at how big they are already.  Hopefully I can get them through to this year's "safe from frost" date and into a garden bed before they take over the kitchen and start making demands.

Tonight I indoor-seeded some basil (Purple Petra, Genovese, and Tulsi) and squash (Lemon, Pen. Crookneck and Pipian from Tuxpan).  I've never had much luck direct-seeding squash, so I thought I'd try to remove some potential-for-error by starting it indoors.  My best sources say that this can work fine so long as you don't let the starts get rootbound or disturb the roots when you transplant them into the garden.

Pipian From Tuxpan squash seeds are huge!
Today was a picture-perfect day to work outdoors, and sadly I had to spend it on routine lawn maintenance.  By the time I was done mowing the entire property (around 3 acres or 1.5 tanks of gas in the Ariens) and string-trimming around trees and garden beds, I was both plum tuckered and plastered with shredded plant matter (to which I am ironically allergic).  The itchy loss of an yet another otherwise productive day is but one of many reasons I loathe the American fetish of lawn cultivation.  Why, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you!

I can confirm that I killed two snakes and one frog today during my mowing excursion.  I spied their gruesomely mangled corpses strewn atop an even plateau of green as I rode my roaring mount around the required concentric paths... and I can only assume that I killed more whose remains happened to display less dramatically.

Now, here on the farm we have nothing if not plenty of frogs and snakes, and I'm not one to cry over every individual drop of milk (or, in this case, snake blood) that's spilled... but that's at least three distinct beneficial organisms that are now wholly removed (save for their decomposition) from my ecosystem... for no real purpose whatsoever.  They died, along with my usable work day, because somewhere down the line our society decided that everyone is supposed to have a lawn.

As best I can determine, our American fascination with lawns represents an ironic and masochistic impulse to symbolically and retroactively compete with the landed elites whose idiotic policies our ancestors braved a dangerous trans-Atlantic voyage to escape in the first place.  It's a holdover from the days when ownership of land was a sure sign of personal status, furthered by the means and willingness to arbitrarily maintain expansive areas of a variety of plant (whose natural height is several feet) at a  height of just under three inches tall.

This stunningly logical ritual comes to us from the same society that at one time saw the wealthy gentry building largely windowless mansions complete with the facade of previously existent windows because the presence of bricked-up windows was seen as a status symbol at the time.

The culture of lawns also plays directly into our delusions of power over nature.  The violent act of "cutting the grass" is in fact nothing more than a scheduled assertion of our dominance over nature, a flashing neon sign regularly reinforcing the idea that we alone control the land we own... not only it's borders and obvious contents, but also the exact manner in which the organisms within shall develop and exist.

But in this instance, as in all others where we imagine our human goals and methods to be superior to those of nature, we are humorously mistaken.  The poor bastard who is forced to spend his weekends shirtlessly riding a smoking machine in circles around his property (and I must unhappily include myself in this group) has found a master in the grass, and never himself becomes the master by doing so.  If I live to be a hundred and twelve, and mow it down until religiously until my last day alive, it matters not.  Given enough time, the grass will win.

So why do we bother?

The grass on my lawn does not provide me with anything.  It does not nourish enhance the soil in any way, and the meager benefits it does provide (aesthetic appeal, erosion control) could easily be achieved with a variety of other plants that would also provide a greater benefit besides (lawn-space lovers please note here that my primary gripe here is with the grass itself, not the usage of space).

Even the benign varieties of grass constantly fight and compete to choke out and kill any tree, shrub, or vine I attempt to plant in it's midst (and has succeeded on more than one occasion).  The more obnoxious strains (quack grass, for one) prove themselves on a daily basis to be a pestilent weed without equal.  

Due to the size of the lawn, I have been forced to spend thousands of dollars on specialized equipment and fuel to maintain it in the accepted way, a process whose accomplishment itself consumes not insignificant amounts of my quite meager (and thus quite valuable) free time.

So, in short... fuck the grass.

The only consolations during my long mowing expeditions are the fantasies I allow myself, of turning over large areas of what is now neatly mown grass to productive pasture, where some manner of mammal (I want goats, Leah wants alpacas, and I'm pretty sure we both want pigs) can make better use of grass' perpetual nature than I can on my own.  My mind dances and twirls with childish delight as I imagine a large auger bit tearing through the sod, the fence posts going in, and the fencing being pulled taut.  I plot out the fence lines constantly... which animals might fare best where, how many I can reasonably hope to support on the space I have, etc.  I picture stepping out the back door and towards the treeline... not into an endless flat lawn, but a pastoral pasture complete with a small earth-topped shelter to house my as-of-yet imaginary critters.

It is usually at this point that I am forced to stop the mower to scrub a loose fistful of airborne clippings from my eyes and mouth.  Even in it's temporary defeat, the lawn laughs at me.

A man can dream, can't he?

1 comment:

  1. I agree that too much lawn is bad, and you accurately describe some of the history and underlying (and largely forgotten) reasons why having a lawn is so popular. But I have to admit it: I like lawn space. It's not because I want to elevate my personal status, but because I love being able to walk around in the yard without wading through tall weeds, and I like having a place to entertain outdoors, play games, have picnics, etc. I feel like replacing that space with plants or animals makes it unusable for a lot of recreational purpose. I think we have to consider that having and utilizing open space may not be a bad thing in and of itself. We don't have to have monocrop lawns, and we certainly don't need huge expanses of open space if we aren't using it. But I think some is desirable.