Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thinking on the lawn

I've been thinking about our lawns of late. Ceredwyn and I are a bit conflicted about maintaining any spaces of short grass, partly for reasons of time - any lawn here is tricky to work on, since our land is mostly sloped, and sports many tricky features: trees, roots, rocks large and small, moving animals, multiple garden plot boundaries and wood piles. It's also hard to get the kids to take a hand, typically.

There's also the argument that lawns are simply bad in terms of household economy. They take up water, time, and space, all of which could be better allocated towards sustainability efforts. And we have followed this argument to its logical conclusion at several points - this year I tore up a fine lawn spot on a well-lit spot, turning it into our new potato patch (and moving the sod to a shadowy location).

So why do we keep up any yards of flattish green? A few thoughts, mulled during yesterday's mowing before the rain.

-accessible avenues. We humans simply use these lawns every day to get places. Hauling wood, taking food to goats, carting compost stuff, we cross the grass. Longer grass would ultimately be a problem, since it conceals obstacles (of which we accumulate plenty, with falling bits of trees and whatever the dog leaves about).
Yes, there are alternatives. Grass-less dirt paths are terrific, and I've made and maintained a network of these (more in another post)... but note that I wrote "maintained". They need to be kept clear of fallen debris, and also weeded. Gravel is useful, but expensive, and we need to dedicate our efforts there towards our driveway (also another post). Paving is awful. Flat stones can be sweet, and I'm working on one right now, but it takes some time to build anything. Lawn swaths, in the meantime, simply work.

-aesthetic variation. The lawn patches appeal to me because they're different from most of what we see up here.
It's the opposite of the suburban lawn cult. I've never been fond of those inter-house greens, iterating across subdivisions in patchwork. Up here in Ripton, though, it's a different matter. Most of the visual scene is covered in trees, not grass. We see more dirt than grass, often enough. The eye detects leaves and wood, mostly. Which isn't bad, of course. That display sets off lawns by texture and angle, planes of variation. Lawn patches are interesting, pleasant.

-the satisfaction of work. I admit to feeling pleased by the feeling of having finished moving, of seeing the myriad exposed blade-tips and fallen tops. It's a simple pleasure, akin to that felt when completing cleaning a room, or tidying a mass of stuff: tangible accomplishment. Also the image, that satisfaction, can persist for a while, as the grass slowly grows back. To say nothing of the sensual delight of the scent of newly mown grass.

That shadowy patch I mentioned above, which I sodded? It's a thrill - a small one, but still - to see the grass growing enough to be mown. It was a mixed space of dirt and weeds previously.

What do you think? Is our lawnwork nonetheless a problem for sustainability? Are we being foolish, or is this sensible?


Alison said...

We're letting large portions of our yard revert to meadow, and have long considered converting the short bits (paths, Calvin's play area, etc.) to clover. We actually have a fair bit of clover interspersed with the grass as it is. It stays pretty compact, so would require little mowing. Around here it needs almost no upkeep in terms of water, etc., and (if you can grow it up there), the goats would probably love it. About the only downside we've seen has been that the bees love it too, which can be an issue for small bare feet.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

How tall does it get, with the clover?

pumpkiny said...

Is it possible to use the portable fence to move the goats around the lawn and have a multi-purpose space?

Years ago I went to a grazing workshop (at and heard about how folks do this w/sheep ...dunno about goats as they are way more mischievous... =)