Letting some of it trickle out while trying to soak it all in

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grass farmer

I've become the most shameful kind of cultivator. I love grass. I'm not talking about a secret grow in the hills outside of town, I'm talking about something much more dark and dastardly than that. Wasting time, fertilizer, and square feet on useless grass. Tonight I raked and seeded past midnight, working towards a pure monoculture. I want creeping fescue and Kentucky bluegrass all around my home.

Growing up, grass tenders sat next to litterers and accountants in my head--both evil and boring. In Utah, water was a big deal. From second grade on, somebody was always talking about "the" drought. Through the nineties, the snowpack seemed to hover around 20-30% what it should have been year after year. I was sure the forced evacuation of the whole state was imminent. Our family would be OK, because Mom had hundreds of pretty well rinsed out Ocean Spray bottles filled with emergency water in the basement, but I worried about the neighbors and the city folk trapped in Provo or Salt Lake. You were reckless if you left the water running while you brushed your teeth and criminal if you watered in the daytime.

The worship of green was understandable in the gray and white desert, however. The idea of something wet and verdant after an afternoon of 105F at 4500 feet was sacred. And who can argue with sprinklers. Our automatic sprinkler system would deploy various water turrets and sprayers in the different lawn zones at totally unpredictable hours. Neither of my parents had any idea how it worked. The armored green box would blink its smokey red display in the garage over the toolbench, set in some Indonesian time zone. Intended to conserve, it ended up watering the lawn at 2pm with no shut off switch.

When Sam lived with us last year we built two raised garden beds on the edge of the lawn. I had to pester him several times to save the turf (which I was carefully using to cover a whole left by a septic tank repair the fall before). He looked as I reverently arranged the sod to cover the scar.
"I just can't get that excited about grass I guess."

But Sam! You don't own a home. You don't feel what I feel! Every inch is a project, and grass is a beautiful thing, a physical manifestation of excess and leisure. At least in Fairbanks it needn't carry the same stigma as it does in the intermountain west.

Fairbanks actually gets less precipitation annually than Orem (heck, it gets less than Tucson), but water is everywhere. Cool temperatures keep evaporation low and the boreal forest towers as a consequence. Sure lawns still take time, fertilizers fixed with fossil fuels, and multiple trips to Fred Meyers but they're worth it. Aren't they? Part of this obsession is domination. Here it's not a refuge from dry and dust, it's an orderly clearing in a chaotic forest. I want to hold the forest at bay--make a garden where my daughter can play. Part of it is homeowner brainwashing. Nothing makes my house look better than a smooth rolling carpet all around it. Some of it is human. Art is what makes us distinct right? Not even Homo erectus or neanderthalensis made scratchings in their caves like we did. My lawn isn't necessary but I slave away at it because I am human. I want to make sure they know I'm human.


  1. I am catching up on your blog and I must say that this post is the most surprising.

  2. Interesting. What surprised you (the depth of my depravity)?

  3. Once you and I were playing tennis. You were wearing oversized parachute patchwork pants, which frequently drifted below your boxers, with no shirt and you were sporting a thick beard. You sprawled your body out in the middle of the court and annouced to me that you loved knowing that people around you thought you were unappealing.

    I am just surprised that you are now a guy who likes cultivating grass. Right now, I find grass to be too much work to bother with but I think if I have kids I will want it to magically cultivate itself for my children to enjoy. I think I will get my wish at the hands of a wonderful man named Mike.

    You are the opposite of depraved.