Today, I have to mow the lawn

Today, I have to mow the lawn.

I don’t remember ever being a huge fan of lawns. Even as a child, I much preferred walking in the woods among the trees in dappled sun that couldn’t sustain an even layer of grass, but was enough for a huge variety of other, more interesting plants. Or along the foot-trampled paths that bordered the horse or cattle fields in England, lined with wildflowers and berry bushes covered in sweet treats. Even the deserts of Arizona, covered in hard packed dirt, but with bursts of life and color all over if you know how and where to look, hold more appeal to me than a manicured lawn.

When I see a lawn, I see grass. Not any of the good, useful kinds of grass either. Edible grains like chia, buckwheat, quinoa, wheat, rice, barley. Or grasses like bamboo that can be used to build. A lawn is not even allowed to grow up tall enough for nature to find it useful. Even ornamental grasses provide shelter or nesting places for birds or other critters. A lawn is just endless, flat green. There are no wildflowers in a lawn, no variety to the leaf shapes and shades. Nothing really to look at. Nope, a lawn is turf. It’s something placed by man to hold back nature, to cover and use up the dirt, to choke out the natural plant life (commonly known as weeds) that exist in that place for a reason. It provides no sustenance. And it’s so much work!

Today, I have to mow the lawn.

We rent our home. It’s a beautiful spot…an old brick farmhouse on over 300 acres of land. But 2 acres is ours to take care of, and most of it is open grass. We do have a couple of small gardens sectioned off, and some large flower beds around the main house area. I’m always working to expand these areas to increase the area of useful (although sometimes it just seems I’m increasing the area of work). But mowing the lawn is at least a 3 hour chore…on a riding mower…at that doesn’t include weed eating the edges of the beds and garden or around the shed.

With all the rain we’ve gotten lately, the grass has gotten pretty thick and tall. My poor 12 year old, neglected mower isn’t as young as she used to be, so I’m expecting a good 4 1/2 hours this afternoon, after the overnight moisture has completely dried to the bottom of the thick areas.

Today, I have to mow the lawn.

It will be a happy and sad chore. See, our lawn isn’t all turf. It is absolutely full of other stuff. I love to see what new things have managed to take hold and grow during my neglect of the “lawn.” Most would look and see weeds…heck, 5 years ago I would have been satisfied with “it’s all green when it’s cut” and called it good. Now, when I finally have to cut it back, I see a disappointing waste.

There are useful things in my lawn. There is life and medicine and food in my lawn. There are plants in my lawn.

Last summer, rain and vacation timing lined up just right to where the front lawn ended up growing taller than my mower could handle. We cut a swath right in front of the house, but left the rest to grow until it dried up and died back in late fall/winter. One day, after running around with the dog out there, my sweetheart came and told me he found some yarrow. Turns out, there were patches of yarrow all over the place! So this spring, I let a few patches grow, and was able to harvest enough of the flowering tops to make a gallon of tincture!

Besides the yarrow, I have found wild violets, chickweed, plantain, bitter dock, dandelion, chicory, lambs quarters, knotgrass, wild garlic, wild onion, shepherds purse, red clover, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, poke, speedwell, dead nettle and henbit, wild carrot, and a couple types of wild mustards I haven’t specifically identified yet all within 20 yards of the house. There are lots more other plants in the lawn I haven’t identified yet, and don’t even get me started on what is growing in the areas around the surrounding crop fields that have (mostly) been left to grow wild.

I’ve been able to make medicines, teas, salves and balms, insect repellant, skin care (especially good for my two teenagers), coffee substitutes, and dinner (and breakfast, lunch, and snacks) with all of the above, and when I need more, as long the turf doesn’t choke it out, it will be there for me.

Each year, I discover something new and wonderful out there in the lawn (I’m not great at the regular mowing thing) and each year, I dislike cutting it all back more and more.

Someday we’ll have our own little spot of land, and someday I’ll be able to just let it go and see what wonderful things nature will bring.

But today? Today, I have to mow the lawn.

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