I recently learned that the area around my house that the kids play on is not a lawn but a cropped meadow. Ken Druse, writing in The Passion for Gardening: Inspiration for a Lifetime, describes a cropped meadow as “simply the grasses and non-grass plants (or forbs) that were already there, cut short (and never pampered with herbicides, fertilizer, or even extra water).” Oh. I thought that was a lawn. And ours doesn’t even look cropped these days, not after the two weeks of incessant, yet intermittent rain. (It never rains all day; it just rains enough to keep the grass too wet to mow, and when the grass is dry it looks like it will rain any minute, although sometimes you realize later that it could have been mowed if you had only realized it wasn’t really going to rain. How’s that for a weather report?) It’s amazing what’s growing in there: milkweed, Malva alcea ‘Fastigiata,’ roses and lilacs (yeah, the lawn mower will get those suckers–sorry, couldn’t resist), and the hated, dreaded Pastinaca sativa. Not to mention every traditional lawn weed known to man, as well as every forage grass known to domesticated ruminants.
Out here in the country, where every “lawn” is surrounded by hayfields, hedgerows, and ditches, no one bothers to weed their lawn–er, cropped meadow. There are too many sources of reinfestation to make that a worthwhile use of one’s time. And we’ve got better things to do with our precious well water than water the grass in a drought, for crying out loud.
So, we had an enlightened lawn long before people were enlightened about these things, and for all the wrong reasons: not because we were concerned about a monoculture of grass being a poor habitat for supporting life, but just because it was easier, simpler, cheaper, and more sensible to do it that way. And also, let’s face it, because no neighbor called to complain about the dandelions blooming in our yard, because they had their own thriving patch of dandelions, violets, Quaker ladies and what have you.
The only other time I can remember our family being ahead of the crowd in terms of the latest fad was when we started raising Araucana chickens. How were we to know they were Martha Stewart’s favorite breed? At the time, we’d never heard of Martha Stewart. The first time I flipped through her magazine, what did I see but an ad for Martha’s fine housepaints in Araucana egg colors. Now I see she’s even got Araucana soaps. But we’re not up-and-coming enough to pay 24 bucks for a tin of soap, I’m afraid.