Posted in Great Outdoors

A Poem So Lovely As a Tree

I’m going to put this right out there.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  If you came here for some great advice on transplanting a volunteer maple sapling, promptly hit that little back button on your browser and head off in another direction.

There are no trees in my yard, front or back.  I’ve been thinking about a tree since I moved here over 4 years ago.  If raking were all I desired, there are several neighboring trees that supply the leaves.  Yet I would also like shade and scenery.  Teasing my barren landscape, little maples have been popping up in the worst places.  This summer there was one growing inches away from the foundation of my house.  It was either move it or kill it.  I asked my friend Mary, being a master of many talents including gardening, if she thought I could transplant this volunteer sapling in my front yard.  She replied, “Oh sure!  Those things grow like weeds!”

And so it did.  The thing grew a good eight feet tall while I was waiting for the right time.  Today the neighbors two doors down are digging an unsightly hole in their front yard and messing around with their gas and sewer lines — we’re all pretty sure there are no professionals involved.  I figured with the possibility of the whole neighborhood going up in a mushroom cloud, there isn’t going to be anyone concerned with me planting what may very well be a dead maple tree by the time I get done with it.  This seemed like the perfect day.

Step 1.  I dug up the sapling, trying to preserve as much of the root as possible and, I’m afraid, not as much as necessary.

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Step 2.  The soil was loosened up by soaking with a garden hose, and a nice round hole was traced out with a spade.

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Step 3.  I dug the hole, making a little berm along the down-side to discourage water runoff.  At this point, I was laughing wondering if the neighbors thought I was starting my own sewer/gas-line project.

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Step 4.  The seedling was set with purchased topsoil to keep it in place — which is smack in the middle of my front yard.  Everywhere else seemed too close to the neighbor’s pine, the driveway, the city easement, or the house.  Smack in the middle it was!

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Step 5.  The side branches were pruned to encourage straight growth and lessen distress on the sapling.  Have I mentioned I do not know what I’m doing?  I sound good though, right?

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It’s been a few hours, the sun has almost set.  The top leaves look a little . . . sad.  This is where I plead for comments on ways I can improve this little guy’s chances.  I have always been pretty lucky with flowers, and can grow enough vegetables to keep the two of us and a rabbit in fresh produce for the summer.  I can grow weeds like you have never seen before.  I can NOT grow grass to save my soul!  But a poem so lovely as a tree?  We shall see . . .   We shall see.

Posted in Great Outdoors

In Lawns as in Life

Maybe I ought to take a minute to explain my situation.  I realize that my declaration of seeking peace, balance, wholeness, etc., sounds like I eat local, attend a power-yoga class, and wear sustainable clothing.  I am sorry if I have misled anyone.  I live in a meager home supported by a meager salary.  I like to grow vegetables because they are so good for me and taste better than anything I have EVER bought anywhere, but also to supplement my grocery bill.  My garden this year is disappointing.  Last spring I lacked the funds to buy new seed and replenish spent soil.  So I’m not heading out to Whole Foods in my hybrid each week.  Please understand, this quest is all about doing what I can with what I have.  I am simply your average Joe . . . er . . . Jean.

Just over four years ago I moved into my current residence.  I bought it as a small, four-bedroom rambler, which is now a two-bedroom rambler due to the addition of an office/craft room and a dining room.  There is a nice fenced-in back for Barney and Sabbath.  In the front is a yard with a pretty brick planter.  For the first time ever, I am the proud owner of my very own lawn!

There was a lawn at my marriage home, but aside from my occasional watering and mowing, it belonged to my husband.  It was also the envy of the neighborhood.  So, I thought, how hard can it be?  I know all the terms:  fertilizer, de-thatch, water, aerate, over-seed, pre-emergent weed killer.  Oh yeah.  I’ve got this covered. That first summer, I had nice green grass.  I followed the lawn-care calendar.  The following spring, the bottom third of the lawn was yellow and crispy.  I watered.  I watered some more.  But it was dead!

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Watering the Weeds

Since then, I’ve worked out that I had probably over-fertilized the first fall.  The dead grass left the ground unprotected.  The slight slope began to erode and now has lumpy divots.  Where grass failed to take root, weeds had no problem whatsoever.  The best advice I can get from friends and family is to hire a lawn service.  My checkbook says no.

Let me just say this.  I really don’t even agree with having a lawn at all.  Pouring clean water on grass when a large part of our global population has none to drink or bath in is terribly irresponsible.  Sprinkling chemicals that wash into waterways is criminal.  Polluting the air with the petrol-run mower and disturbing the silence of a Sunday afternoon ought to be considered the height of social rejection.

Yet here I am lamenting over my front yard for the sole purpose of fitting in.  What is wrong with this picture?  I have succumbed to the pressure of society in suburbia.  I rate my curb appeal against other plots, and find myself at the bottom of the competition.  I do not run the risk of having Bob up the street stopping by to ask, “You trying to make us look bad with that lawn?”  (I have heard envious neighbor dudes say that to one another.)

Here is my crossroad — I’m not just talking grass here anymore — for lawns and for life.

  • I can continue to water, keep things green and see what comes up, hoping for more grass than weeds.
  • I can dig the whole thing under and start new.
  • I can just spread some new dirt of the top, level it out, then sprinkle grass seed on top and water it well.
  • Or maybe I could rethink the whole thing and begin to plant native plants and ground cover that need less water, minimize the need for fertilizer, and require less mowing.

Why is it the option that excites me is the one that ignites such self-doubt?  Of course, I’m speaking about the last option.  There is so much to learn and a whole new way to think about my front yard.  It’s the area that is right out there for the whole world to see. I run the risk of Neighbor Bob walking down asking, “Sooo . . what have you got going on over here?”  Reading between the lines I would know he was thinking, “There goes the neighborhood.  Damn hippies.”

Seeking peace, balance, wholeness and all things precious in lawns as in life.  Wishing I didn’t worry so much about what everyone else thinks. Doing what I can with what I have.  Working on my own corner of the world because it’s already as much as I can handle. Trying to do the right thing.