Friday, August 10, 2007

Adventures in Lawn Care

I'm not one of those neighbors whose lawn is the envy of the neighborhood. For one thing, I seem to have a deep-seated unwillingness to water the lawn, especially since watering involves dragging around a hose and sprinkler attachment. (And sprinkler attachments never really seem to work right for more than three goes.) The next town over has been on water rationing (yes, here in the midwest), doing a water only every other day at most thing based on address numbers or something. I'm not sure why my town isn't rationing, but since we've gotten so little rain this year and last, I'm not wasting water on the lawn. (The river is low, and when it's low it tends to smell pretty disgusting, even from up on the bike trail. I choose not to think about this when I wade in during the spring, even though the disgusting is there beneath the abundance of water.)

For another thing, I seem to be growing wildflowers in my lawn. I choose to call them wildflowers. Others might call them dandelions, or weeds, or something.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your viewpoint), my next door neighbors have an even uglier lawn. Last summer, the side of their lawn got pretty ugly. So late in the summer, they dug it up and put in new sod. Except they didn't get quite enough sod, so there were bare rectangles of dirt. And then they didn't water the sod, so it died. Did you know that when newly installed sod dies, it sort of curls up at the edges of each rectangle? True!

Just this past week, they dug out the dead sod again. Early this week, two huge piles of sod appeared. It's Friday now, and the two piles are still piles. Have you heard about the heat wave through the midwest? It's not nearly as bad here as many places, but I'm guessing the sod piles aren't ideal for storing sod in the heat. I could well be wrong.

My back "yard" is divided into two areas (as are most in my neighborhood). We're sort of on the top of a steepish hill, so most households mow near the top, and let the sides go wild. I've got a few trees in my steep back area, including a maple I planted. I'm slowly adding to my garden, and I expect in the next year or two to add a couple more trees down there.

What with the dryness and all, I haven't mown much lately. The grass hasn't really grown much, but the prairie-type plants that thrive through it all sure have. So I mowed them this morning.

As I was mowing along, I noticed a plastic stringy thing, the kind of plastic strapping material that gets used to hold together all sorts of big packaged stuff, the kind that's nearly uncuttable. I get all sorts of plastic junk in the yard (and down in the valley below me) from either the neighbors or the highway. (People are disgusting and careless; where are those don't litter ads from the 60s?) I didn't want to ruin my mower (which is already challenged by the prairie plants), so I picked it up and put it aside. But when I went to throw it out, I realized it wasn't plastic at all. It's a shed snake skin! How cool is that? VERY!

I measured it, and it's over 23" long (I didn't straighten it very well because it's sort of delicate), but very slim. I've read that Timber Rattlesnakes sometimes can be found this far north, but there's no evidence of rattles on the skin, so I'm guessing it's not a rattler. I don't think there are any other potentially dangerous (to bigger critters such as humans) snakes around.

Can I say how jazzed I am that some snake's been in my yard?

I'm imagining that it eats insects, but maybe will grow up to eat voles and stuff? Eat snake, eat! I'd be eternally grateful if it grew big enough to eat the rabbits!


  1. One of my favorite radio people lives over near you. Yesterday she was talking about finding a 5 foot pine snake in her house. After freaking out and figuring out how to get it out of her powder room, she looked it up and found out that it is the most common snake in your state --

  2. That is great that you have a "wild" lawn!! As a kid, I always hated that my dad had the yard sprayed to get rid of the dandelions. This year, he overdid it and his perfect, immaculately kept lawn completely died and turned a nasty brown. He has spent almost the entire summer seeding and re-seeding. I feel bad about the lawn, but it is funny. Apparently, people he knows actually stopped by to take pictures throughout the summer. This will haunt him for a long time, but I suspect he will return to chemicals in the spring.

  3. Our lawn is far from wild, but I tolerate some weeds because treating them would kill the wild violets that bloom in the spring.

    It is far better to water a lawn (wild or not) deeply once a week than every day or two. Frequent watering leads to shallow root growth and weed problems, so water deeply and only when the grass shows severe stress. Similarly, taller grass helps shade the soil and conserve water, so mow at the upper limit of what your grass (prairie?) needs.

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