Lawn Edges / Lawn People

Annotated Lawn Edges (see below)

Of course I am a lawn person: I grew up in suburban America, am middle class, white, etc. If you grow up in that kind of social and cultural context, and don’t obsess about lawns then there is clearly something wrong with you.

That said, I am fully aware of the Lawn People critique of the lawn. Indeed, I find myself strongly influenced by the most general premise suggested by the book’s title – that “my people” (White, middle-class, suburban, American) are lawn people: lawns exert some kind of agency over me and mine.

Indeed I suspect some variety of panpsychism is adequate for grasping this situation – in essence, all matter has some sort of mind, however you may define mind.

I arrive at this not via some absurd new age belief (“everything is alive!”) but via simple logic. We have been dealing with dualisms (and their problems) all semester in this class.

Dualism: a world of binaries: mind/matter (humans/nature, civilization/wilderness, etc.)
  • w/mind emerging in humans, mysteriously, magically, at some point
  • emergentism underlies most Western philosophy”
  • if one is not into such mystery and magic, by default…
  • …overturn dualism: Monism: mind and matter are not ontologically distinct
  • Physical reality consists solely of rearrangeable particles of matter
  • Mental states are neither reducible to, nor entailed by, physical states
  • Mental states are real
  • There are no truly emergent properties

…which opens up a whole slew of curious possibilities, including attributing mind to all matter

So there you have it: lawns have some kind of mind and it is somehow responsible for the call we, my people that is, hear and heed. When it comes to grass and humans, who, asks Denis Wood, domesticated who?

That said, I am a long-time adherent of many facets of the lawn. I am not necessarily into the chemical induced monoculture (but used to be).

From an early age I recall my fascination with our lawn and the lawns around us. The powerful dangerous (sublime?) machinery, the magic powder my dad applied every spring, the tender combing of its snarled locks with rake (metal vs plastic?).

I recall how proud I was when I was first allowed to mow the lawn, and happily did it until I left for college. At college I would longlingly watch the guys mowing the lawns with their big mowers. While my greatest interest would be street sweeping (in a Elgin Pelican), mowing lawns on a big machine is certainly in second place.

Of particular interest have always been the edges of lawns. At a young age, I believe about 7 or 8, I took to edging the sidewalk with an old kitchen knife I found in the garage. It took me several days of sawing to get the grass cut back from overlapping with the sidewalk, but it was worth it. What a change! What a great look!

I asked for a lawn edger, but my dad didn’t think we needed one. So I kept at it with the knife for the next half dozen years, until he finally purchased a manual edger for me. What fun!

With the kids I don’t have as much time to obsess as much as I would like, but still, the lawn and its edges call me. To wit, a few photos:

So our sidewalk is a bit imperfect, but in Columbus you have to arrange and pay for sidewalk upgrades and that isn’t happening soon. Nevertheless, I was out edging a week or so back. Some good results (check marked above) but also some issues. There is this spot, lower left on the photo, where the lawn is sunk down below the level of the sidewalk. Grass grows up and over the sidewalk quickly (note photo above, one week after edging, and the grass is already out of control).

Also, grass works its way into the gap between the sidewalk blocks and, as you can see, I forgot to dig the soil and roots out of an area in the lower right corner of the photo. This too is a problem where the front walk meets the sidewalk (a big, soil infested gap where grass cannot resist growing). Beyond that, on the top of the photo, you can also see some good edging results.

Here notice my work at edging the grass away from our old cut-stone curbs. These are literally slabs of cut rock, about 5 feet long and 2-3 feet deep. Many have a letter stamped into them with a chisel, and were installed when our neighborhood was subdivided around 1918.

No one, and let me emphasize NO ONE edges grass away from the curbs in our neighborhood. What is wrong with all these people?

While edging exposes the cool old curbs, it does also make the imperfections visible, but that is part of their charm. Note above that the grass has started to grow back over the curb already. I think this is because it gets stepped on when we are getting into our cars.

Also, as noted by the arrow and the “yes” you will see that I scraped the gutter clean of debris, making, in essence, a parallel edge to the lawn/curb edge. Columbus does not do a good job at street cleaning. There are many good reasons to keep streets clean (for example, all the junk in the street and gutter is kept from going into the sewer system). We get our street cleaned maybe once a year, and since there is no stipulation that cars not park on the street that day, the street sweeping guy mostly just drives up the middle of the street, missing the gutters.

Thus our gutters are typically clogged with debris. I cleared out a bunch of leaves, some garbage, gravel and even grass starting to grow in the junk (with a worm or two). How can everyone else tolerate clogged up gutters?

I also find that non-sidewalk edges are important to consider. Here note my low stone edge separating the lawn from the garden. This is built from local limestone and I carefully considered the curve to be both aesthetically pleasing and mathematically precise. It is a bit out of kilter after the winter, and the kids walking on it, but don’t worry, I plan to adjust it back to perfection soon.

You DON’T do edges with stupid plastic stuff, or bricks. That is just annoying. Note our neighbor’s work in the lower left of the photo. I must say it horrifies me.

The lawn, of course, is nicely defined and pleasingly contrastive here. It is early in the season, and a bit scraggly, but will begin to fill out with all sorts of neat stuff besides the grass – clover, creeping charlie, some deep-red ground cover, and other assorted “weeds” that together make a really nice, durable, drought resistant lawn. I do remove dandelions, but only after they flower. They tend to spread out and kill off other stuff around them. When they die and go away, you are left with a small exposed area of soil. It’s sort of like having your pants zipper down, something you just don’t want everyone to see.

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