Overall I liked the book Lawn People Paul Robbins. I thought that it proposed many aspects to lawns that I had never really thought about much before. I think that I have generally taken them for granted and the fact that most people have and care for them trying to keep them neat and green and simple fact of life. I liked when it said that: “The lawn should be open; there may be allowed a few outlying trees shrubs and flowers, but the lawn is to be practically open, closely cut greensward, suitable for people to walk about on and children to play without obstruction. If this end is not accomplished, I consider the lawn a failure.” (page 28) When I first read this I felt that this generally met my own definition of a yard. Not that I necessarily consider anything short of this a failure but maybe something different than a lawn. Nowhere in this definition is there anything about the lawn needing to be the mono culture that most lawns have turned into today. People are so concerned with having the perfectly manicured lawn that has nothing but one species of grass growing in it. In our culture ones’ lawn is often perceived as a reflection on the owners moral sensibilities, to have a lawn full of weeds is a social taboo. People spend vast amounts of time and resources like fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, gas for mowing etc into keeping their lawns in tip top shape. It is a constant battle being waged against bugs, drought, and the natural life cycle of the grass like browning in heat/drought or going to seed. In 1999 a survey showed that 73% of household in the USA used fertilizer on their lawns. That is way higher than the percentage of people who voted in the presidential election (58%). More people are concerned with how good their lawn looks- which takes a huge time and financial commitment, than having a say in the leader of their country- which is free and demands a little bit of time once every 4 years. This is astounding to me that people are so concerned with their lawn and the image they portray o the world. everyone is trying keep up with the Jones’.
It is ironic that there is this huge competition for people to have the best looking lawn on the block. If you have a well groomed lawn the assumption that you are an upstanding model citizen. When in fact you have only achieved this status by pouring mass amounts of chemicals onto it, these then runoff into the rivers and pond leading to huge environmental problems. The runoff leads to algae booms that deplete the water of it’s oxygen which in turn kills all the fish and other organisms that used to live in it. The is 20,000 square mile zone in the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico that has dangerously low oxygen levels because of this. True some of this comes from agriculture as well, the use of fertilizer in food production should be cut down if at all possible, but at the same time it is one thing to use it for food production and another to overuse it just to create a good image. Fertilizer is way overused by home owners, they whole-heartily believe in the slogan that more is better- which is completely false -this leads to more runoff. People get crazy about their lawns, the lengths that they will go to is completely over the top yet it is seen as completely acceptable and excepted in our society.
It reminds me of a short story that I read in Robert Fulghum’s book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here is the story:
“Mr. Washington was a hard-core lawn-freak. His yard and my yard blended together in an ambiguous fashion. Every year he was seized by a kind of herbicidal mania. He started fondling his wed-eater and mixing up vile potions in vats in his garage. It usually added up to trouble.
Sure enough, one morning I caught him over in my yard spraying dandelions.
“Didn’t really think you’d mind,” says he, righteously.
“Mind, mind! — you just killed my flowers,” says I, with guarded contempt.
“Flowers?” he ripostes. “Those are weeds!” He points at my dandelions with utter disdain.
“Weeds,” says I, “are plants growing where people don’t want them. In other words,” says I, “weeds are in the eye of the beholder. And as far as I am concerned, dandelions are not weeds — they are flowers!”
“Horse manure,” says he, and stomps off home to avoid any taint of lunacy.
Now I happen to like dandelions a lot. They cover my yard each spring with fine yellow flowers, with no help from me at all. They mind their business and I mind mine. The young leaves make a spicy salad. The flowers add fine flavor and elegant color to a classic light wine. Toast the roots, grind and brew, and you have a palatable coffee. The tenderest shoots make a tonic tea. The dried mature leaves are high in iron, vitamins A and C, and make a good laxative. Bees favor dandelions, and the cooperative result is high-class honey.
Dandelions have been around for about thirty million years; there are fossils. The nearest relatives are lettuce and chicory. Formally classed as perennial herbs of the genus Taraxacum of the family aster-aceae. The name comes from the french for lion’s tooth, dent de lion. Distributed all over Europe, Asia, and North America, they got there on their own. Resistant to disease, bugs, heat, cold, wind, rain, and human beings.
If dandelions were rare and fragile, people would knock themselves out to pay $14.95 a plant, raise them by hand in greenhouses, and form dandelion societies and all that. But they are everywhere and don’t need us and kind of do what they please. So we call them “weeds,” and murder them at every opportunity.
Well, I say they are flowers, by God, and pretty d–n fine flowers at that. And I am honoured to have them in my yard, where I want them. Besides, in addition to every other good thing about them, they are magic. When the flower turns to seed, you can blow them off the stem, and if you blow just right and all those little helicopters fly away, you get your wish. Magic. Or if you are a lover, they twine nicely into a wreath for your friend’s hair.
I defy my neighbor to show me anything in his yard that compares with dandelions.
And if all that isn’t enough, consider this: Dandelions are free. Nobody ever complains about your picking them. You can have all you can carry away. Some weed!”