Not all Porches are created equal

November 16, 2009

This article talks about the science of creating a good front porch. Steve Mouzon did a lot of observational research on porches and found that, “there is a clear distinction between porches people will sit on and ones they won’t, and it’s based on how close the front edge of the porch is to the sidewalk, and how far above the sidewalk it is.”

His original article is here and it details more of the specifications for porch building and the observations that he made- such as how usuable porches are either farther back from the sidewalk or raised above the sidewalk because otherwise people feel vulnerable. The railing height and hedge placement also play a role in making a livable front porch.


November 16, 2009

pg3 “Lawn people worry a lot about what they do, although their behavior is not always altered by that belief.”  Pretty common problem for a lot of environmental issues, people are concerned but the concern is about something so abstract that their actions do not reflect their attitudes

pg13 “And as we shall see, the demands of turf grasses are an immediate and profound influence on homeowners, which set people about the tasks that keep them busy throughout the growing season. Who’s to say which species domesticated which?”

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sesame street goes green

November 11, 2009

Sesame Street Goes Green at 40–But Warming “Too Scary”

Lawn People

November 11, 2009

Aside from perhaps one of the most painful styles of wtriting that i have had to personally put up with, i thought this book was full of interesting facts aside from the authors thoroughly cryptic and bold theories; this book requires patience that i, and probably many, simply do not have for in leisure reading, thus i apologize for not being near schizophrenic in depth of analysis. However, I( was intrigued with the styarting thought of where the lawn actually came from and how it evolved? Starting in France in the 1500’s, and moving to England in the 1700’s, the lawn became a majestic status symbol of only the highest classes of manor estates, diverging largely in ecology from the meadow to the monoculture, requiring intnesive labor and the mere job of cutting with a scythe was a job for multiple workers that would have taken many hours. The style of these lawns, Robbins did not describe very well, but one could imagine a typical/stereotypical English estate, whewreby the landscape would have extensive and would hjave showen character- nothing like today’s suburban l;awn. We progress to the Americas, taken here and showing up in Southern farm mansions, in addtion to New England court houses and common greens etc, as an evolved  asset to social activities- not at all for the common person and their private property.  What did the landscapes look like? Can you unimagine the lawn as Robbin would challenge your imagination? Downing’s respected taste and style of lawns were more or less congruent with the majestic aura of English estates; only lawns shoul be as flat and open as possible, as unnatural monocultural as possible. Olmsted brought it home with his influence on City parks all over the country, most notably New York City’s.

When considring the intrioduction of the lawn, the thought does not escape one’s mind of how this all escalated into the chemical lawn monoculture of today and the extent of it throughout suburbia everywhere. I believe this is a phenomenon that can be attampted to be explained by almopst any academioc discipline, but when taken all together, I think Robbin is only right in his last chapter when explaining that it perhaps, just sort of happened as a result of chaotic events and mentalities throughout American History, and not necessarily a product of anything signifant or symbolic, but certainly capitalism and conformitism/social human nature has influenced and maintained this random commonality throughout the nation. I believe that the rest cannot be explained, that it is phenomenon of evoltuion and mass-psychology that is simply too complex, (even for Robbins), to explain. Furthermore, of personal opinion, i believe that the environmentalism has almost nothing to do with it, and this reinforced by the fact that it simply has not prevailed as an issue amongst consumers or the industry that perpetuates and m,akes possible the associated environmental harm (though the later culprit can be understandable- their making a living afterall). I think the apolitical ecological thinking described so in depth by Robbins can be simply explained by his mentioning of the fact that people just simply do not have the time, or the assertion to make these choices as a priority over the ones that rule their life, like other people for example- Its simple and it makes sense.

“Grass people invade Congress”

November 11, 2009



My Experiences With and Thoughts on Lawns

November 11, 2009

Since I’ve lived in an apartment my whole life, my own experiences with lawns at home have been non-existent. However, I guess some of my first lawn memories are from first or second grade, when I used to go onto other people’s lawns to kick or blow dandelion seeds so that they’d disperse everywhere. When I visited my grandparents’ house in the Catskills of New York, their wide open lawn surrounded by woods was always the center of social activity. To my knowledge, they didn’t use pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. While many lawns are monocultures, at the time at least, their yard always seemed full of diverse little micro-habitats. In some areas, near the ferns, there would be soft, mossy patches, perfect for lying down to watch the stars or to pitch a tent and go camping. Closer to the road, there were lots of mushrooms, which were always a point of fascination for me, my brother, and my sister. On some nights, when we went camping behind the house, a particular species of fungus would light up. My grandparents also had a small garden; I loved to help by picking string beans or uprooting beets. Certainly, this was a lawn with a lot of personality.

I personally think that lawns have come to dominate far too much of the American psyche, eating up too many chemical inputs and money, and wrecking havoc on natural ecosystems. I am a strong advocate of using lawns for something more useful, like dedicating some space to small gardens. I also believe that public spaces are vital in any society; however, we should ask ourselves if the best land use is truly a monoculture of non-native grass. Perhaps we could also devote more space to native plants or grasses. Growing up in D.C., the shabbiness of the National Mall at times has been interesting to observe. Often, the grass can be brown in places, with some areas that are even bare dirt. The Mall gets a lot of usage, so this accounts for much of its condition. However, might it be possible to use different (native) grass species that are more adapted to the climate and rainfall of the region? Is it even worthwhile to have such a huge patch of lawn there? Perhaps parts of the Mall could be relandscaped to include other native shrubs and plants that produce food. Of course, enough space would have to be preserved for big gatherings.

In conclusion, I was fascinated by the fact that many lawn chemical companies actively try to discredit the consumption of dandelions. instead of incorporating these plants into your diet, many companies advocate spraying with pesticides to deal with the “problem”. For this reason, I’ve looked up a number of recipes for dandelions, including for wine, salad, syrup, and dressing. They are available here.

Lawn Bowling 101

November 11, 2009