Down on the Farm: Liberate the lawn
If we all just took a pill about our lawns, the world would be better off.
A lawn need not consist of all grass just because that's how it is at the golf course. A little clover, a patch of creeping charlie or a few dandelions never hurt anybody.
When the grass dries out in August, the clover with its deeper roots grows on, giving one something substantial to mow.
Creeping charlie smells spicy when mowed, as do the many mints that we have dismissed as weeds.
Bird's-foot trefoil, a legume which blooms in patches of yellow in late summer, provides nice color when the dandelions quit blooming.
Sadly, just to conform to an unnatural ideal, people call these plants "weeds" and angrily purge them from their yard.
Is it really worth pouring chemicals on the lawn to get rid of the impurities?
Do we really want our genetically-altered great-great-grandchildren to hop around without limbs, all so the neighbors can't whisper that we have clover in our lawn?
And moss. What's wrong with moss? It grows where grass won't. Just imagine you are in a rainforest somewhere. Put an elf or a gnome out there on the moss. The first dry spell, moss will disappear and you will wish for it back.
The quest for the perfect lawn is a waste of time, gas and chemicals. But it has deep roots in the human psyche.
Let's face facts: The perfect lawn is a gender thing. A perfect lawn is a sign that there's a male on the premises trying to emulate the golf course.
A perfect lawn oozes responsibility, virility and a successful conquest of nature. Man stuff.
Meanwhile, the manly chemicals drift over on the chaotic but lovable flower bed planted by the Mrs. and kills the flowers dead, which she suspects was part of the plan from the beginning.
Although the Mrs. realizes the lawn must be mowed, she has a soft spot for the blooming stuff and secretly wishes more of it would be spared.
We also mow way more than necessary. Both genders are guilty on this count, perhaps because we mow to stay sane.
Oh, to be busy, immune to the phone, immune to pestering, undeniably productive but busy at a task which requires no thinking and actually encourages day-dreaming.
As a contemplative activity, mowing is up there with sitting in a deer stand, recreational tillage, singing in the shower, or a late-night pitcher's duel on the West Coast.
Businesses fail because the boss uses his or her authority to keep busy with repetitive but meditative tasks, like mowing, which he or she loves to perform while neglecting the tangled, nagging, easily-postponed tasks of management.
It is much more fun to sit on the combine and go in circles than to manage the schedules and quirks of the three people you should hire to sit in the combines while you answer the phone.
Many people don't realize the joy of meditative tasks until they retire. They give up control of the whole enterprise at age 62, utterly shot, only to come back and drive truck at age 70 and enjoy themselves like they never did at age 50 when they were trying to get rich.
They may or may not have gotten rich, but now they know that true happiness lies in mowing. Or combining. Or driving truck for harvest.
For seventeen years, I was in management. I did very little mowing. Now, I have backed away from bossing and am mowing again. Happiness!
People don't realize that their yard reveals more of their personality than an ink-blot test. A perfect yard with round shrubs and a weedless lawn at Ma and Pa's means some poor offspring down in Anoka is deep in therapy working to accept their own imperfections.
To avoid even the appearance of neurosis, I have decided to limit my mowing.
No conquering of new territory in the ditch bank. There's no limit to where that could lead. No perpendicular mowing in a weave pattern to stand up the grass trod down by the wheels from the first pass.
Don't mow the whole yard when only one third of it needs it. Forget the fertilizer, it just makes for more mowing. Instead of complaining about a weedy lawn, celebrate its eco-diversity. Learn which lawn plants you can allow to grow and use in gluten-free, non-GMO, chemically-free salads.
Liberating your lawn will do more to save the earth than using your towel over again at the hotel. If nothing else, do it to avoid three-eyed great-great grandchildren.