Now that California has had a slight respite from the drought, there has been a certain amount of backsliding on water conservation and, to a greater extent, more lawn conversation.
Talking about your lawn is a major subject in California. In Oregon, no one ever discusses their lawn except in the context of it possibly starring in a revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Oregon lawn care chat is about at the same level of urgency as a discussion about the frightening possibility of a national cat shortage, but slightly below what to do about slugs, a major Beaver State concern. Your lawn was either A) completely out of control or B) threatening to climb up your neighbor’s second story window.
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I have always had a complicated relationship with lawn care. Growing up in Minnesota, the lawn was a sentence imposed by your father: “You’ll spend Saturday doing the lawn.”
The lawn was not my friend. In Minnesota and other Midwestern states, we didn’t have the dinky little lawns of California. We had vast green expanses where even the most modest home sat on an acre or 10 of arable land.
Here, a lawn is more of a punctuation mark rather than a novel.
And yet, we discuss it endlessly, as in: “My lawn is brown,” “My lawn is dark brown,” or “My lawn is blackened Cajun-style and has no molecular motion whatsoever.”
Where I lived, lawnmowers were more like John Deere tractors with air-conditioned cabs and 8-track tape players than the puny two-stroke engines of the California Lawn Lifestyle.
The happiest day of my life was when my dad bought a used riding lawn mower in 1971 to tame our football-field-size backyard, even if the catalytic converter set my leg on fire.
I have had many conversations about how to properly position the tires of my lawn mower so that the lines were perfectly even. No greens-keeper at Augusta or Wrigley had more detailed wheel-alignment chitchat than we did in Minnesota.
Here, the talk is more about how one can “accidentally” get more water onto their grass. “Night waterers” have become more hunted than Osama bin Laden. An unusually green lawn meant that people were getting up at 2:30 a.m. and, you know, spilling a 45-gallon coffee cup in the right place.
Conservation is usually not that much fun, and I have to say that I grew tired of shaving with my contact lens solution and flushing my toilet only when guests were coming over.
Last year, all lawn convos were about converting to low-water plants or just getting rid of the lawn entirely, discussed in the manner you would talk with a doctor about having an unsightly mole removed: “OK, let’s not watch that anymore and just burn that puppy off.”
I am currently working on a complete revamp of my lawn strategy. Since it’s already brown, I am now strongly considering the following options:
▪ Surgical airstrike.
▪ Getting a rototiller and chewing it all up.
▪ Parking a few large trucks from the late 1950s on it.
▪ Going with cement interspersed with boulders.
▪ 1,300 pink flamingos.
Anyway, I am hoping we have another El Niño year and can get a good deal on a bulk purchase of pink flamingos.
Failing that, if you’ve got a 1958 pickup you’re not using, send me an email.
Don’t bring it by yourself, though. I don’t want any trouble.
I’ve got a 45-gallon coffee cup to deal with.