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Ramblings about grass.

April 14, 2012

Grass is something I think about a LOT around this time of the year. Now is when I notice some of the old-timers spraying the cracks in their driveways with herbicide before a blade of grass sets up camp, unaware of the risks associated with it. And now is when we start seeing swaths of orange under vines in neighboring vineyards…   I often wish I could unlearn what I know about herbicides, so I could happily spray away the grasses and weeds that threaten to take over the garden beds every spring. But instead, grass, for me, has become something of a dirty word. The toil and effort to hack away at the runners and reclaim my garden is something I dread all year long. Toil with a hoe, or spray everyone you love with cancer. You just can’t win either way.

I know my old-timer neighbors are laughing at me.

So, imagine my surprise when some of our dearest friends told they were going to dig up their community veggie garden and plant a lawn this year. The announcement happened over dessert, which might have helped soften the blow a bit, but it was a struggle to keep my feelings to myself. All I could see were beautiful vegetable and flower beds that had been so carefully tended through the years, over-run by that heinous green stuff. All the work it took to beat down the ubiquitous Oregon grass and grow food… all for nothing. I drove home that night with a lot of inner turmoil, which in all fairness might have just been from eating the dessert. But I went with it anyway, because in my life,  all breakthroughs are preceded by inner turmoil.

After a wet March like we just had, I had been getting impatient with the cold and clammy soils… too wet to till or fork up, each spadeful comes up like clods of wet cement. Usually, I’d have some potatoes coming up by this time, but now, I’m still battling the dreaded, f-ing grass. Lately as a last resort, I’ve been channeling out my frustrations with the weed eater. After going through 3 cheap Fred Meyer weed eaters in the past year, I finally cracked and bought myself a reasonably good one for my birthday last fall. And it has been a tremendous investment. What seemed to be an insurmountable expanse of grass just seems to vanish under that whipping orange string, leaving behind the most perfect of mulches.

Grass clippings. Grass clippings mixed with red deadnettle and dandelion leaves. Perfect.

I am beginning to see these knee-deep grasses as something of a boon now. Free mulch! No more hefting 100lb bales of straw, this stuff is lush with nitrogen and soil-building power. No more needing to shovel yards and yards of compost to build soil… just a sprinkle of it now, and a thick mat of grass clippings and we’re ready to go!

I LOVE grass now. For it’s potential, for it’s ability to hold the soil in it’s place during these monsoons we’ve been having, for all the fertility it gathers up from the earth in such ready-to-use light, fluffy mulch. Not to mention, our alpacas and chickens love the stuff. I even catch Pacha tasting it once in a while. And most of all, I love how the color leaches from the clippings after it has been cut, returning all of it’s life energy back into the soil where it belongs.

So, I’m coming to terms with our friends’ decision to forsake the family garden in favor of a grassy patch to enjoy throughout the summer.  It’s almost ironic, which is what Portlanders do best after all. If urban farming has become mainstream in our area, then counter-culture would steer us towards planting more lawns instead, right?  What they don’t know is… when they’re not looking, I’m going to put a chicken on it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. jonbasile permalink*
    April 15, 2012 7:24 pm

    You’re such a good writer! What about instead of seed bombs you could throw chicken bombs!

    “through a bird on it”

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