Thursday, June 09, 2005

State of the lawn
In some fields, three occurrences of something are all you need to declare a pattern or a cycle. Every fourteen months or so since I started blogging, I've written about the state of my lawn. This is number three, but since I'm a humanities guy, I think I'll call this a tradition.

This might be the year that my neglect finally eradicates the last of the real grass from the lawn. When we moved in, our house was ninety years old. The soil is mostly gravel (I think we're on the end of a glacial moraine) so the lawn was never much to brag about. Still, the realtor had hired someone to mow it and sweep the walk and the yard gave a fairly lawn-like performance. As soon as the realtor left us alone with it, the lawn's true nature emerged.

Most lawns strive toward the Platonic ideal of a golf course. Golf course grass is made up of one or two types of dark green, fine-bladed grass that that spreads in an even mat and only rises a few inches above the ground. A small amount of clover might be mixed into some lawns for nitrogen and texture, but that's about it. All other flora is strictly forbidden and quickly shown the door if they dare show their green faces.

My yard is almost an anti-lawn. It's made up of a plethora of invasive weeds, aggressive native plants, and coarse, tall, mounding grasses. During the winter, a few species of crab grass are dominant. They fill the center of the yard with mounds of wide-bladed grass with stems that rise about knee high before producing lovely heads of grain. In the corner of the front yard is a clump of uber-crabgrass that rises almost shoulder high on me and arches completely across the sidewalk as if it were trying to clothesline a jogger.

In the spring, at least three types of dandelions appear: true dandelions with shiny leaves and straw-like stems; false dandelions with fuzzy leaves and fibrous stems; and mutant giants that grow three or four feet tall and the produce a clump of a half-dozen blossoms. At the same time the dandelions appear, a number of other wild flowers try to take root in the yard.

In early summer, as things start to get drier, smaller flowers begin to appear. The only one I can name is a variety of yarrow that only grows about four inches high and seems almost unique to my yard.

I should mention here, that I'm not the bad neighbor with ragged yard who provides dandelion seeds to the whole block. Most of my neighbors have some of the flora I'm describing. Instead of yarrow, most of the others get tiny little pink flowers on runners or tiny white daisy shaped flowers. One house, near the psycho cat, has tiny violets growing up through their grass. Theirs is the only yard that has them.

My yarrow grows in places where the grass has been mostly replaced by moss and some other tundra-like ground-huggers. One of my neighbors has almost nothing but the moss and it looks pretty good. I wouldn't mind if mine colonized the rest of the yard, but I don't think it can penetrate the crabgrass zones.

Last winter, clever wife decided we needed bird-feeders. Unfortunately, we have urban squirrels. Every morning after she filled the feeders, the squirrels would come by to take the best parts. They would swing around on the feeders, contemptuously flinging away everything except the sunflower seeds, which they would bury in our flowerpots. When the squirrels were done the birds would arrive and feed off the ground. This seemed to feed everyone, so we didn't worry about it too much, but now a large circular area of the back yard is growing millet. I think it has a better color and texture than the crabgrass that was there before, so I might leave it.

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