this post should more accurately be titled, “people who live in houses with grass”, but that wasn’t as catchy…
i have been doing some thinking about our whole previous front yard garden situation and how it began with the tearing up of our front lawn. i realized that the destruction of that precious jewel of americans everywhere- the much-adored lawn- allowed us to think outside the box and dream of something else existing in its place.
but most people never get that blank canvas.
most people move into a house and the lawn is just there.
and they dutifully water and weed and slave away to maintain, to the best of their ability and slightly past what their resources will allow, to keep up that lawn in the closest approximation of a green carpet that they can get.
they put down chemicals to fertilize and nutrify and colorize and whatevericate their lawns into some semblance of fakery so that they can have what they think they should have and what they think everyone else around them is going to have- even though everyone else around them is chasing the same impossible false ideal lawn that they are.
so where did we all go wrong?
a long time ago in a land far away (england, if you must know), some wealthy people wanted to show off just how wealthy they were. so instead of putting their land to a practical use and growing food to eat or pasture for their livestock like sensible people would, they decided to be completely foolhardy and grow something completely useless.
i’m not making this up. if you don’t believe me, check your history.
they planted grass that would be completely ornamental in order to show off how much land they had to utterly waste.
the more land they had to put to no use at all, the more wealthy they were, because the more excess land they had to squander.
and that is the history of the lawn.
fast forward to us, here and now.
we have thrown off the monarchy and many of the archaic laws of feudal england. but guess what we have stubbornly clung to?
yes. we still prize our wonderful and useless lawns. they are status symbols of achievement, although i doubt if anyone could articulate why they cling so passionately to their lawn or guard its existence so jealously or fight for it so strongly.
especially when it looks so cruddy and fights us every step of the way.
because it is the rare homeowner who doesn’t grumble and moan over his lawn woes. from weeds to grubs to unknown plagues, our lawns seem to vex us at every turn. we spend money hand over fist fighting these patches into compliance, yet they give us nothing but grief.
so why do we do it?
is it really so hardwired into our collective unconscious that we must prove that we have “made it” by showing off that we can own a lawn?
and if we could all start with a clean slate and a clean mind, how many of us who thought it through would really choose to put in a lawn???
let me ask an even more poignant question: if people were given data about water usage and chemical toxicity and soil problems and food supplies and all of the issues surrounding why people have chosen front yard gardening, how many of them do you think would choose to put in a lawn then?
in our neighborhood in oak park, we were an almost perfect example of a community. our kids all played together. if someone was sick, six pots of soup showed up on the doorstep, and probably a plate or two of cookies for good measure. any time there was a good sale at the store, you could count on at least one neighbor to call and ask if you wanted her to get you a few cans or boxes, and if you needed someone to drive carpool for you it was never a problem. we never had to worry about borrowing a bike pump or a pair of rollerblades from someone, and a cup of sugar or an extra dozen eggs was rarely more than one or two doors away. we looked out for each other, and we all felt safe on the block. none of us had money, but we all had peace and security and that was way more important. nobody sweated that we couldn’t afford the latest car or new gutters for our houses because the neighbors were all in the same boat. there were toys on everyone’s front lawn and if you left your trash cans out or forgot to shovel, someone on the block was likely to remedy that for you so it wasn’t a big deal. we all knew that you would get it for them next time.
so it was more than a bit concerning that when i put a veggie garden in my front yard some people went berzerkers.
all of my immediate neighbors loved it. the first day we had about 30 kids come over to help shovel the dirt into the boxes. the next day we had even more. right from the start it was a source of curiosity, but in a very positive way.
i had already spoken to my friends on the block about it, and they thought it was a very cool thing. they knew that as a homeschooling mom i was constantly on the lookout for interesting and engaging projects. this was right up my alley. as news spread onto other blocks, people came by to look and to ask questions, and everyone seemed very receptive.
but i guess someone didn’t love it.
clearly some people went nutty.
and all i did was dare to desecrate the idea of the sacred lawn.
remember, i wasn’t preaching to anyone.
i wasn’t encroaching on anyone else’s property or trying to convert anyone.
i wasn’t doing anything smelly or in any way invasive.
i didn’t even rip up my lawn to do it.
all i did was replace a big muddy pile of dirt in my front yard with an orderly raised bed vegetable garden.
and someone somewhere just lost it.
because i dared to not have a lawn.
now that’s some food for thought, huh?