I Wish I’d Said That

This bubbled up in my New York Times feed today.

by Robert Wright

As I’ve told my neighbors, I feel bad about lowering the value of their property. I mean, it isn’t my goal to have a front yard that, by standard reckoning, is unattractive. The unkept look of my lawn is just a byproduct of a conclusion I reached a few years ago: the war on weeds, though not unwinnable, isn’t winnable at a morally acceptable cost… (click the headline for the whole column).

I need to clip this and shove a copy in all my neighbors’ doors. Several years back, the old farts next door approached David, my yokel gardener, while he was running the mower. (This is the household where the wife, eighty-something, occupies her dotage by carefully watching the curbs for any unfamiliar car and leaving nastygrams on the windshields of those parked without the local zone sticker.) Could he, they wondered, do something about the dandelions on my lawn? David told me about the encounter but reminded me that, of course, he din’ like to put anything on the lawn that i’n’t organic, which suits me down to the ground, even without taking into account the three rows of organic vegetables he sharecrops on the sunny side of the house. (This is how someone whose car is old enough to drink whisky can have something as grand as a “gardener.”)

I remember coming indoors from that conversation and throwing things at the walls. Who the fuck do those old toads think they are, the lawn police? I kept toying with the idea of erecting a poncey little sign in front, you know how suburban people do, christening the house “Dandelion Lodge.” After years of my Albino Ex — who liked to call me Butt Woman — referring to the house as “Buttarama,” I was looking for something with a little more cachet. Somehow I just never found time for the project.

Mr. Wright’s article puts heart back into me. I need to find a sign painter.


14 thoughts on “I Wish I’d Said That

  1. Well, of course you are preaching to the choir here at The Havens. For an interesting point of view on the ubiquitous suburban lawn, I recommend Michael Pollan’s book “Second Nature http://www.amazon.com/Second-Nature-Gardeners-Michael-Pollan/dp/0802140114/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271859546&sr=8-1 in which he discusses his father’s method of dealing with the “lawn police”.

    Several years ago our neighbor to the west invested in a lawn service called “True Green” (an oxymoron if I ever saw one). The result was a lawn that mostly was a monoculture of grass except for the strip along the street where our fair city had thoughtfully provided a mixture of clay and limestone rock as “topsoil” after they “fixed” our street. That stubbornly refused to do anything except look sickly, even with the copious quantities of chemicals the service provided on a weekly basis.

    The real interesting part was the following spring when the robins were migrating through and there was a flock of about 500 of them foraging in the neighborhood. It was instructive to see how in my yard there was a robin hopping around about every 5 feet and a similar number across the street, but in his yard NOT ONE ROBIN. They stopped at the fence, if one landed in his yard it would stay there about 3 seconds before leaving. This dearth of robins continued for 4 years AFTER the lawn service was discontinued. Now, the property has a few of them using it, but still apparently reeks of chemicals or has no worms, you make the choice.

  2. I have a very nice lawn. It’s surrounded by half an acre of weeds — which this time of year look almost like lawn also, being short and green. Come the August drought it’s a moonscape. Anyway, my fortuitous expanse of Wimbledonia notwithstanding, nabes with perfect front yards creep me the hell out. Especially if they have coordinated shrubbery. I feel like passing through with a regiment of orcs bearing firepots. So the author’s suggestion that a perfect front lawn might not really be an economic necessity resonates with me. Ineed I think I would prefer some short-cropped rattiness. The idea of moving in next to a magazine cover yard is sort of intimidating. What kind of neighbors would they be, whose lawn is a putting green? *shudder*

  3. I’ve had conversations that were thinly veiled complaints about my lawn. It is actually a rather lush lawn, but it contains un-whittey-tighty dandelions and a few other things.

    My feeling about this? Buy me out. I’m more than willing to move. Just give me a check that makes me happy and I’m gone.

  4. Australia is mostly recovering from 2 centuries of lawn idiocy, imported by generations of colonists from European countries where rain is abundant into a climate totally unsuited to swathes of manicured lawn. But its still an on-going battle in the ‘burbs.

    Personally, I love a good weed – they’re so determinedly robust and devil-may-care.

    Tell your neighbours you get a large grant from an organic soil institute to keep your lawn natural. Nothing speaks louder than cash to that type.

  5. Around here we actually have official Lawn Police. Our Fair City has deemed it economically proper to employ a person which they refer to as the Compliance Officer. In their inifinite wisdom they have passed an ordinance which makes it against the law to allow your lawn to get taller than 8 inches. If it does, and if the Official Busybody notices, you can get a citation and a warning. If you do not knuckle under and mow the lawn, they will send a city crew to do the job for you and then tack the cost onto your property taxes as a lien. This really puts the hurt on landlords whose tenants are “supposed” to be taking care of the yard of the house they rent. And considering the City’s money problems (which are legion), the cost of employing said OB is absolutely idiotic.

    Oh yes. He’s also supposed to make people keep the trash picked up, and not allow dead cars to proliferate unless they are a licensed junk yard. Oy.

    • The dead cars thing I can actually get behind, as a couple of people round the corner from me do this, and it is far more unbeautiful than any overgrown vegetation could ever be.

    • We have such an officer here in our beloved city. Actually, the regs are pretty helpful and sensible, but busy bodies and gossips, especially one’s trying to burnish their reputation as “outstanding members of our community” will drop a dime on the slightest pretext.

      I have it in my rental contracts that the properties, inside and out, are to be maintained properly and according to codes, so if I have a problem, you bet I cover myself with some fine print and a willingness to toss the renter.

  6. “Hey, could you do something about the dandelions in your yard?”

    “Hey, could you do something about your face? Because I want something more presentable to punch if you ask me that again.”

    I guess this hypothetical conversation is why I’m not a homeowner. Well, that and I’m allergic to cut grass.

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