I was outdoors this morning, raking leaves and silently cussing the grass. Spouse and I hold different viewpoints about the necessity and maintenance of a lawn, and while I gave into his desire for a lawn many years ago, my argument has proven correct over time: we live in a meadow, and lawn-grass is not happy here. Now, as I rake leaves from the spotty, weedy, too-long ryegrass, I get exhilarated by the exercise and the crisp autumn air but steamed at the need to rake at all.
We don’t rake the meadow; it takes care of itself. This is what “low-maintenance lawn” means, that nature takes care of things without human intervention.
Besides, I have never harbored a yen for the classic British lawn—acres of clipped greensward don’t appeal to me. I always feel the great lawn is missing something: trees, a bed of flowers, a crescent of blooming shrubbery. Great lawns’ main appeal for me is that there are edges all along them. Edges are interesting. Large, plain, even swaths work mostly to draw my eye elsewhere. While our meadow acts like an open space, it is ever-changing and often full of movement. Lawns, by contrast, are static. We mow the meadow once a year; the lawn requires considerably more time and gasoline consumption to stay in bounds because it is meant to be more-or-less unchanging.
Except that we live in a meadow. The expensive grass seed loses out to plantain and dandelion, chickweed, henbit, ivies, wild onion, queen-anne’s-lace, cinquefoil and other invaders that thrive on acidic soils that go dry in summer and turn to mud for months, circumstances that the thin-rooted, superficial, stoloniferous lawn-grasses cannot abide for long. I don’t relish the fight against nature, and my suggestion is to “naturalize” our lawn, even though—of course—the majority of these weeds are non-native species. But then, so are the lawn grasses.
I should mention the grazers, as well. Rabbits. Mice and voles that tear up the root systems of lawn grasses. Deer:
A digression on the subject of deer—
This morning, I was startled by the sight of a large doe skirting the frost-covered goldenrod stalks quite close to the house. It’s deer-hunting season here, and there’s often an increase in the herd activity around our property as individuals and small herds lie low or avoid areas where there are hunters. This is one individual with whom I have long been familiar, a three-legged doe whose territory has included our yard for at least five years.
(In the photo, she is third from the left, the largest one; her right foreleg is missing)
She has borne a fawn every year but this past spring (the year before, she had twins—a male and a female). Some years back, I watched as she delivered her offspring in the meadow, which elicited a poem. In fact, she’s inspired several of my poems, so I owe her a debt of gratitude.
She was back-lighted by the early sun and, as usual, a bit graceless as she ascended the hill on her three good legs. The sun behind her outlined her in white, just as the dry weeds were also rimmed with white, and she didn’t seem to mind that I had joined her. She just kept going until she vanished into the woodlot. I walked to the bottom of the hill and looked for her tracks in the soft lawn, followed them along the edge of the meadow, three hoof prints instead of four, one a bit deeper in the soil.
Well, we make our compromises, we do what we can with what we have, we choose our battles. My spouse has his lawn, I have my meadow, the doe treads her uneven path through survival at the edge of the suburbs.
I may as well pick up my rake and stop cussing the grass.