Monday, July 21, 2008

We displease a neighbor

Deb and I spotted our neighbor Linda studying our front yard on Saturday.

“You guys have been busy,” she said. She didn’t look overly pleased.

“Yeah, and you should see the back yard,” I said. “It’s even nicer.”

Five weeks ago, we began a systematic demolition and reconstruction of our yards, front and back. We tore out trees, bushes, and hedges, then mulched them up with a wood-chipper. Then we replaced everything with plant life indigenous to the area — drought-resistant, low-maintenance stuff. We added a creek bed in the front yard that will siphon the rainwater from our gutters to the new trees we’ve planted. We created natural pathways through both yards. We placed flagstone in a few areas to create quiet spots for reading, meditation, wine drinking, and (for me) cigar smoking.

I’m sure Linda has no problem with any of that.

I suspect what’s suppressing her enthusiasm for our yards, particularly our front yard, is what’s missing.

What’s missing is lawn. You know, the stuff that every California homeowner is expected to have, the lush expanses of thick green carpet that provide a playground for giggling children and bouncing dogs.

We’ve got none of that now. Oh, we did have lawns, until five weeks ago. But our lawns were seldom green. Instead, they sported gopher holes, brown patches where our dog Cheyenne peed, and badass little mites that darted around your bare ankles during summer.

And we were forever watering the goddamn lawns. “Give them at least 45 minutes of water, every other day,” a friend once advised me. “That’ll keep ’em nice and green.” So I did that, diligently. But dead patches still cropped up, and the water bill skyrocketed. “These lawns need to be properly aerated,” my friend told me then. “If you’ve got some old golf shoes, ones with metal cleats, put those on and walk all over the lawns. They’ll love you for it. And you might want to buy some lawn fertilizer, too.” Screw all that. After ten years — ten friggin’ years — I was done.

So our new yard construction has, from the get-go, been built around a “no lawns” rule. In another week or so, our yards won’t look anything like any other in our neighborhood. While Ed, and Tom, and Jerry, and, yes, Linda either mow their own grass or pay someone to mow it for them, Deb and I will sit meditatively on one of our patios, nursing glasses of merlot.

So what if we don’t fit in with the rest of the neighbors?

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At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next step, start growing your own vegetables. Imagine the neighbor's reaction to 6 foot corn and 9 foot lovage :)

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Actually, Jorge, we have planted some tomatoes, plus an orange tree, a lemon tree, and an herb garden. Oh, and some strawberries. An artichoke plant will go in next January. Most of this stuff, though, is in the BACK yard, away from prying eyes.

At 4:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julie and I have done some of what you and Deb did. We still have some "standard lawn" in both front and back, but neither fits particularly well with the neighbors' lawns.

Our backyard garden also sports tomatoes, as well as squash (zucchini and yellow crooked neck), beans and pumpkins. Wisconsin won't support lemons and oranges, but we have apples.

Our "dressier" front yard has Queen Anne's Lace, purple clover and daisies in amongst the grass.

We also recently bought a chipper, but haven't yet really made a dent in much of the woods that have grown up in some areas, but will soon. We have plenty of places to use its output.

At 4:46 AM, Blogger Warren Bluhm said...

It sounds idyllic. We have some strawberries, raspberries, a cherry tree and a couple of apple trees. There's no treat like finding a fruity surprise just hanging around waiting to be plucked!

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Idyllic? Maybe. How could I have forgotten our raspberries?

They moved in from the more purely woodsy hillside and made themselves at home near a very old (now decomposing) wood picnic table. They seem to like its "protection."

At first, we only had a few berry bushes, in what was my son's playground years ago. Now we have many and Julie enjoys picking (and eating) the fruit.

We started a strawberry plant inside this year. (The cat has been molesting it.) I think maybe next year we'll plant more outside, also some herbs, especially basil.

I just came in from fighting off the mosquitoes in order to water the garden a little bit. It thrives, except for the melons. I'm not sure if we'll have our own melons this year.


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