Why Do I Even HAVE A Lawn?   1 comment

My Grandfather was the one who mowed his yard with a horse.  Shown here with 4 generations: my Grandfather, Great Grandmother, and my Great Great Grandmother Baugher is holding my mother.  1930.

My Grandfather was the one who mowed his yard with a horse. Shown here with 4 generations: my Grandfather, Great Grandmother, and my Great Great Grandmother Baugher holding my mother. Looks like a nice lawn.  1930.

I am committed to taking responsibility for my lawn.  As I confronted the truth of my G G G Aunt’s lack of lawn care, though, (pictures posted here and here), I began to question my assumptions … and remember my beginnings as a lawn care professional.

Mom tells me that her family didn’t have a lawn mower when she was a kid.  This would have been in the 30s … and she remembers her father cutting the blue grass perhaps 2 or 3 times a summer … with a horse-drawn mower.

Why Do We Have Lawns?

Dr John Falk theorizes that we want lawns because we evolved on the savannas of Africa.  Our roots lead us to prefer grassy areas with scattered trees.  So why don’t we want monkeys in the trees, I wonder?

Lawns started with European nobility, actually.  Louis XIV was the first to have a green lawn; his gardens at Versailles set a standard that the European aristocracy aspired to for centuries.

Lawns were one way that the rich could differentiate themselves from the working class.  If you could afford to keep a lawn, that meant you didn’t “have” to cultivate that land to feed your family.  You had more land than you needed, so you could just plant grass that you couldn’t even eat!  Conspicuous consumption in a pure form, as pointed out to me by Ed Darrell, who writes Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

In the New World, it wasn’t until after the Revolutionary War that America’s leaders adopted lawns as well.  Washington and Jefferson both had extensive lawns around their houses.  Lawns didn’t make it to the common man until suburbs began to be built after the Civil War, according to Virginia Scott Jenkins, author of The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession.

Once you have a lawn, you have to cut it.  In the beginning, that was done with goats, sheep … and serfs.  And thus began man’s love affair with the Saturday afternoon ritual of cutting the grass.

Here's a picture of the riding mower that I used from elementary school through high school.  I even earned a dollar now and again.

Here’s an illustration of the 1965 Craftsman riding mower that I used from elementary through high school. I even earned a dollar now and again.

But … I Live In A Desert!

Lawns aren’t normal in Southern California.  Well, they are normal today, but they aren’t native.

California’s native animal species regard lawns as no different from concrete!  Native species prefer the shrubs and grasses native to the chaparral climate that my area has.Xeriscaping 1

That’s what they can live in.  That’s what they can eat.  Imported grass?  Not their thing.

My newfound love of native plant species would work very well for a xeriscaping effort in my yard.  And wouldn’t I prefer spiny succulents and dried grasses that require almost no water and less care instead of the high maintenance blue fescue grass that will require an incredibly needy 2 hours a month to maintain?

So, what should I do?  I could keep the current lawn, meaning I have to buy a lawnmower and all of the wonderful tools necessary to keep a luxurious, soft, inviting green lawn.

Or, I can tear out all of the grass that we had installed 7 years ago and replace it with a native xeriscape that is friendly to both the water supply and the native animals.  The downside, unfortunately, is that I’ll need to avoid walking barefoot across the lawn, feeling the grass between my toes.

I’m pretty sure the last time I did that, it was 2005.

Xeriscaping 2

More

Pulverized Concepts

mumpsimusthought

The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession

England’s Old Lawnmower Club

American-Lawns.com

Growing Native

Posted January 23, 2013 by henrymowry in California, Living Life

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