Archive for the ‘Landscaping’ Tag

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


Pulverized Concepts


The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession

England’s Old Lawnmower Club

Growing Native

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

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Another Aunt, Another Bad Lawn   2 comments

Morgan Family Home

Here we have a picture of another part of my family, and another rather interesting lawn.  The photo is circa 1905, taken near Graham, MO.

The matriarch of the family, front and center, is Lucy Farrow Morgan, who would be my Great Great Great Aunt, AKA Great Great Grandaunt.

Also identified is the man sitting on the left, her son-in-law Philip Daise.  I’ll assume that he’s using the lawn ornament as a hat rack, though I have no idea what that is or how it’s working.  His wife, Mary Alma Morgan Daise, is sitting center left.

And this lovely family doesn’t seem to care that their “lawn” is rather tall.  Perhaps my ancestors are trying to tell me something….

Morgan Family Yard, Up Close

Any Lawn Care Advice, Auntie?   2 comments

This photo is of my Grandmother Baugher’s Aunt & Uncle.  Don’t know exactly who they might be.  The photo was probably taken in Nodaway County, Missouri, in the early 20th century.

We now get some historical perspective on how my ancestors believed a yard should be treated.  If you read Get Off My Lawn! a few days ago, you know this is a current subject near and dear to my heart.  If you didn’t read that article, you can do so now.

I’ll wait.

See how the couple tended their yard, I mean garden?  And by tending, I mean how they let it grow.  A couple of more years, and they won’t be able to get in the front door.  They’ve already anticipated that, so they’ve moved their living room furniture out into the yard.

And I thought yard care was difficult.  Thanks, Aunt & Unc, now I know how easy it can be!

Grandma Baugher's Aunt & Uncle


Posted January 14, 2013 by henrymowry in Genealogy, Photography

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Get Off My Lawn!   9 comments

What is it about old people?  Why must curmudgeons scare young people off their lawn?

Don’t know, don’t care.  I am one.  Get off my lawn.

Back in the day, we bought a house that didn’t even HAVE a lawn.  People that don’t do the work call it “sweat equity.”  Velda called it a “hobby.”

The ground was so hard a rototiller wouldn’t scratch it. We had to go get the industrial strength, self-propelled, so-big-you-need-a-cart-to-transport-it monster to beat the ground into submission.

Hobby, indeed.

But with the help of a couple of friends, we got several hundred square feet of turf installed.  We had a lawn; people didn’t have to get off of it … but I was young then.  I actually hired people to get ON the lawn.  Luis the gardener took care of the lawn at that house, and he followed us to our current lawn.  He was followed by Jin the gardener, and that’s where the story takes a turn.

I got old.

So now, I’m going to fire the gardener and take back responsibility for my yard.

I’m old, so now I’m a gardener.

So Get Off My Lawn!


New York Times on the Greek Island of Ikaria where people garden

UK Yahoo on why old people garden

Gardening for seniors

Posted January 10, 2013 by henrymowry in Living Life

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