My dream of fields and forest

Published May 30, 2014
What’s the first thing we do upon buying land, whether to build a house or a business? Cut down the trees, bulldoze the fields, remove all the native vegetation and drive off the animals, plant grass, and apply poisonous chemicals and weed killers to make the grass grow and eliminate what random opinion has deemed weeds, all in the name of an unnatural monoculture. We use an incredible amount of human energy, gasoline, oil and chemicals in this country in pursuit of the stylized lawn, an image that I suspect is rooted in English country estates and encouraged by lawn care companies and societal peer pressure.
Grass is the default landscaping method for private property, businesses and public land. It shows a lack of imagination and foresight, both in the short term and the long — short term because owners don’t consider the amount of time and money they’ll soon waste enslaved to a monoculture that goes against nature’s way of doing things, long term because they fail to see the effects on their personal lives and the environment wrought by chemicals in the ground, air pollution, noise pollution and time that could be more productively spent.
I dream of a landscape free of power equipment, one where a person can sit outside and enjoy the silence of nature, not bothered by the stressful sounds of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, power washers and chain saws. I dream of a suburban landscape that looks rural, not urban, where the land surrounding houses looks wild and natural, inviting animals and plants to thrive and flourish.
But how would we maintain our property, you ask? The way we did for centuries before the urban internal combustion engine blight despoiled our country: with scythes and sheep. Cutting a lawn with a scythe would encourage alternate uses of landscape and smaller lawns because cutting grass by hand would quickly make a lawn look ridiculously large and thus discourage converting 5-acre township lots to large expanses of pointless grass. Sheep would provide nature’s fertilizer, and perhaps lawn care business owners who are put out of business in my dream could provide a sheep rental service for lawns and goat rental for briars and weeds. And a homeowner or business owner could sell wool from the sheep and make a little extra.
I dream of home, business and government buildings surrounded by minimal patches of grass and broad tracts of woods and native plants growing free, with paths winding through trees and tall grass inviting exploration and communion with nature, where we needn’t drive several miles to walk in the woods. I dream of people embracing nature rather than cutting, controlling, killing, mutilating and selecting what they think is proper and driving out what is not. I dream of time outdoors no matter where you are, whether in your backyard, on a nature center trail or entering a business, where you are free from the whining, buzzing and roaring of mowers, weed trimmers, chain saws, leaf blowers and power edgers, where people who formerly paid money to exercise instead use their muscles and hand tools to cultivate a natural landscape that promotes a pleasant outdoor experience and a healthy environment. That is my dream.

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