Friday, November 16, 2012

Born free: Returning my yard to the wild

I’m slowly but surely letting my lawn go back to nature.

Which means, eventually, the yard will have less grass that I have to mow and more nature that I can just sit back and admire.

When I lived in the suburbs, an expansive green, trimmed, weed-free yard was important. It was as much of a symbol of a successful middle-class life as the two cars and the two children. It meant that I had arrived as a grown-up.

Now I’m living in a much-less suburban environment. And I’m even more grown-up to the point where I’ve joined the ranks of the working retired,so my priorities have shifted, and those priorities don’t include worrying about a lawn.

In this more rural life that I live now, I don’t have neighbors who judge how green or trimmed or weed-free my grass might be.

Our property is enveloped by trees, mostly pine, and the accompanying amount of wild shrubs and undergrowth. Within this patch of forest is our house and good-sized lawn.

As Jane and I get older, and as we think about just where and how we want to age out together, we think about changes to the house - how to make it more accommodating as we get older - creating an honest-to-God dining room, for example, to better host big family functions.

And I think about how best to manage what happens outside the house: storm drainage, snowplowing, and caring for a big yard.

It takes me about an hour to so to cut the lawn using a rider mower. It would be a difficult task with a push power mower, an impossible task with a push lawnmower.

Looking down the road of age, I’m thinking I need less lawn, so how best to let Mother Nature reclaim what was hers in the first place?

There is an area within a stand of pines that I’ve stopped mowing. It was difficult enough as it was, with tree roots starting to create a hazard to the mower blades. Now, it’s starting to fill in with leaves, pine needles and scrub growth.

I’m looking at other areas of the lawn that also might be abandoned in the same manner: Don’t worry about the grass, let the leaves, pine needles and scrub growth take over, just like Mother Nature used to do before Man decided that fertilized and watered and green grass was a better idea.

I’m not totally abandoning the idea of lawn. There’s still a piece of my suburban self that likes to look out from the picture window to the lawn and imagine it cut against the various grains in the style of the Fenway Park outfield.

But, as I continue to get older, that notion will be supplanted by the vision of installing artificial turf in the style of the Kraft Stadium football field.

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